I read this description of parenting that really hit home: Unpaid Intern to Toddler. That’s it. That’s what I am. I can now update my LinkedIn profile because I have a suitable job title… Hooray!
I love my son. God, I LOVE my son. I love him so much that on a daily basis, my heart nearly explodes. I love him so much it hurts. And sometimes, literally, it hurts. Like when my adorable little weeble kicked me – so hard – in the eye socket last week. One minute, he was giggling and rolling around while I was tickling him, and then WHAM, my eye got it good. I was convinced I’d end up with a black eye (and was already coming up with a better street cred story of how it happened).
He of course, didn’t mean to hurt mommy. He has almost no control of his limbs nor awareness of his strength (seriously, how can such a tiny human be so strong?!). These things are bound to happen, and are as unavoidable as they are unintentional. Mommy really ought to have better reflexes (mommy is only operating at like 50% on a good day – shhh, don’t tell).
What I would think is avoidable is the nightly torture we call brushing teeth. It all started off really, really well. I was convinced my (perfect) son took after me with his natural-born attention to oral hygiene. He actually liked brushing his teeth… what good luck! Then one day, everything changed. Why, who knows (does he know and won’t tell me?). And now, as he announced to his dentist the other day, “Brush teeth… fight.” (Yup, that sums it up.)
I try so hard to do things the right way. The loving way. The ‘I don’t want him to end up in therapy over this’ way. I’m not an inherently patient person and things that are illogical are tough for me, but I know that’s basically the definition of a toddler and so I try not to let it get to me. Tonight, I decided to try a new approach. I let little man piddle around the house while I sat in his room, waiting for him to come to me to brush his teeth. He would pop in every once in a while to check up on me, and I would announce that I was still waiting for him to come brush teeth (what fun!). I waited and waited, while he played and played. At the 20 minute mark, this conversation happens:
Him: Mommy, come see orange spoon… orange spooooon!
Me, sing-songy: Darling, I’m sitting right here, waiting to brush your teeth. I can come see anything you want me to after we brush teeth!
Him, walking away: Ok, thanks… Thank you.
Him: 1. Me: 0.
(At least he’s polite?)
At 30 minutes, while he was on the “phone” (calculator up to his ear), I scooped him up playfully and in a fun-loving, monster-muppet voice said, “Let’s brush those teeth!”
He seemed amused, and I was lulled into a feeling of satisfaction that my well-devised, patient parenting technique had paid off. He readily brushed his bottom teeth, and with only some coaxing, his top teeth (halfway there!), but when it came to “inside the cheeks,” it all fell apart. Long story short, “brush teeth fight.”
That’s what’s so hard about being a parent, especially the parent who is in the trenches 24/7. It’s a nonstop head game. I’m at the mercy of a maniacal dictator, with nowhere to turn for amnesty. He could as easily hug me and ask for “more kisses!” as he could kick me in the eyeball. He changes his mind as quickly as the wind turns. He’s 100% something one day and 0% the next, without warning or explanation. I know I can’t win, but I can’t stop trying either. One day it will come together and one day this phase will morph into the next and the next, and I’ll no doubt wish for it all back, because he will never be this cute or this crazy again. So tomorrow we wake up and begin again. And tonight after he went to bed without our usual cuddles, I’ll lay down next to him and give him all the cuddles and more, because I’m already missing him.