Of germs, toddlers and tantrums
Well, we survived our first full-blown toddler tantrum. It wasn’t pretty, and I almost cracked . . . but when the dust finally settled on Monday evening, I felt stronger for it. Mostly.
Oliver is suddenly 14 months going on 4 years old. Now that he’s beginning to process ideas of cause and effect, we can’t always give in to his demands — especially for off-limits objects. Like the grimy TV remote, say. Even with all our constant hand-washing, anything our paws frequently touch is going to need disinfecting. It takes relentless effort to clean every surface we touch: cell phones, door knobs, steering wheels, computer keyboards. Work I don’t necessarily do daily. I’m a risk-taker, you know?
I’m not really a germaphobe. But given Oliver explores everything by first trying to eat it, I’m leery of letting him have anything that could be gross. Or dangerous, obviously. Or easily broken.
So . . . just about everything. Especially all the stuff he actually wants.
Now that he’s on the move, all bets are off. I already look back with bittersweet longing to the days we could sit Ollie on the floor with blocks, put on “The Muppets” and drink our much-needed coffee without a fear of third-degree burns.
Children’s toys are worthless to him now. All those colorful blocks, safe stuffed animals and towering stacks of touch-andfeel books? Please. He wants the good stuff: the easily-tipped-over chairs, the choking-hazard bottle caps. And whatever you’re holding, of course.
Oliver has baby radar. If my hand is anywhere near the TV remote, a piercing shriek and lunge will follow. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the other side of the room — or even has his back to me. Oliver seems to know when I’m even thinking of pressing a button, and he wants that remote like he’s never wanted anything in his young life.
After many months of this daily fight, I finally relented.
And knew immediately made a mistake.
Now that Ollie is older and the teething situation seems to have I’d calmed down (for now), I’m less willing to let him gnaw on random objects. But after wiping it down, I let him have the remote because I realized I could change a setting to keep him from actually controlling anything. He doesn’t want his toy remote, of course — just the “real” one. Letting Ollie hold it would make him happy, I reasoned, and I could stop playing keep-away with something I use all the time. Win-win.
And all was well in Ollie Land — until the biting started. If I had anything resembling a decent singing voice, I think I’d have a hit with my newest jam: “No Eating, No Biting.” No eating, no biting. No eating, no biting. No eating, no biting. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 87,000 times. And Oliver does not care. Like everything for toddlers, I suppose, it’s a game. We’re working on “Ollie, no-no-no” and its more serious variant: a single “no.” But our stern expressions seem to amuse him. The more I tell him not to bite something (disinfected or not), the more he wants to do it. I reach for the remote and he pulls back. I finally take it away — and he screams. And screams.
In my calm, cool, patient moments, I think about how confusing this must be for a 1-year-old. He’s allowed to chomp on some things (toy rings, cups, blankets), but not others (lint, leaves, jewelry, pool noodles). He doesn’t understand what is baby-approved and what isn’t, you know? That’s our job to teach him.
Much of parenting to date has required reminding myself that it’s about doing what’s best for Oliver, not what’s easiest for us. It would be convenient to just hand him the object and bring the hysterical crying to a stop, but that’s setting a dangerous precedent: the almighty cry-andget-what-you-want.
But oh, how I desperately wanted to give him that stupid remote.
In the midst of the ensuing meltdown, I dug deep for the patience I don’t always possess. He was confused and angry; I was tired and frustrated, too. But I comforted my son even as he pushed me away. I guess that’s parenting, too. Ollie did eventually calm down . . . even though it took some distraction — in the form of food — to soothe him. I might still be getting the hang of motherhood, but I’m no stranger to snacks.
There isn’t much some chocolate — or Gerber Puffs — can’t cure.