Monday, March 19, 2007

Wipe that smug smile off your face (or, how I came to realize that I do not have all the answers)

It always astounds me how different my two children are. They are such polar opposites, that I almost wonder sometimes if one of them was taken out of the house and raised by another family under the cover of night while the rest of us slept.

For example, Peanut was (and for the most part still is) a fantastic eater. Always willing to try anything, she was the child at the party who turned her nose up at chicken nuggets opting instead for the baked brie and grilled vegetables. Mark and I took this to mean we were the proud winners of the Adventurous Eating badge, and we wore this badge proudly, smiling smugly as other parents stared gaped mouthed at our two-year-old chickpea- and onion-salad eating miracle and saying, “Yes, she’s just such a great eater. She’ll eat anything at all.”

We figured we had every right to be smug, since these amazing eating habits could only be the result of the healthy eating standards and strict food rules we’d enforced since the day she began eating solids.

Until Loaf came along.

Loaf subsides on cereal, fruit, bread and vegetarian hot dogs. Once in a while she’ll eat an egg, or a bit of turkey or ham and tonight I practically did back flips in the kitchen when she ate a few spoonfuls of corn. Thank God for fruit, or I’m sure she’d fall victim to scurvy or rickets or some other disease of the nutritionally deficient. And if there is ever a wheat shortage in this country? I fear she may actually starve to death.

So much to my chagrin, Loaf, raised in the same household with the same food standards and rules, will turn her head in disgust at the presentation of anything outside the foods mentioned above. Even a new fruit can cause several minutes of battling, with Loaf turning her head and somehow making “eewwwhaaa” sounds while tightly pursing her lips together.

And maybe it is “second child syndrome,” but I find myself less and less willing to fight the daily Food Battle. Aside of waving a white dishtowel, I’ve done everything else to surrender. She wins. Each day I serve her up the standard fare and pray that one day she’ll simply evolve on her own into a good eater.

Another area where they are vastly different is temperament. For the most part, they're both pretty laid back, but Peanut’s meltdowns are far and few between and usually only come when some other trigger – exhaustion or an empty tummy – pushes her sensitive psyche over the edge.

Peanut tiptoed through the Terrible Twos. I barely even noticed that she was two until suddenly she was three, and truth be told, this past year has been much more challenging then two ever was. I remember thinking parents who complained about the Terrible Twos had to be crazy. Or exaggerating. Or somehow mishandling the situation. I was wrong.

You see, with T-minus five weeks until her second birthday, it has become painfully clear that Loaf intends to take the Terrible Twos by storm. Whereas Peanut tiptoed through them, Loaf is going to steamroll over them, along with any fool who dares gets in the way of What Loaf Wants.

Unfortunately, What Loaf Wants is often not Safe. Or Practical. Or Sanitary. And thus, Loaf does not get What Loaf Wants and Loaf decides the way to deal with this is to shriek at the top of her lungs for many minutes at a time.

You may have read about that experiment where someone plays a tape of a crying baby to a roomful of adults. The tape is exactly two minutes long, but when asked the adults swear it went on for 5, 10, even 15 or 20 minutes. When listening to something unpleasant, time slows down.

Let me assure you, this is not the case in our house. Loaf really does shriek (there is just no other word for it) for an unbelievable, and quite frankly, unreasonable period of time. For example, today as we left the gym, Loaf wanted to walk rather than be carried back to the car. This was fine for a bit, but we were literally in the farthest spot in the parking lot and Loaf wasn’t exactly making a beeline back to the car. She kept veering up onto the snowy embankment and stopping to pick up balls of hard snow and turning to walk back toward the gym. I let her go about three-quarters of the way and then I picked her up and carried her. And that was where Things Went Horribly Awry.

She screamed all the way to the car (estimated time: 2 minutes). She screamed while I buckled her and Peanut into their car seats (estimated time: 3 minutes). She screamed as I got into the car, buckled my seat belt, backed the car out and left the parking lot (estimated time: 2 minutes). And then she screamed halfway home (exact time: 11 minutes). After the screaming stopped, she kept crying on and off for the remaining 8 minutes, as well as for an additional estimated minute or two after we arrived home. So no, I am not exaggerating about the scream-time this kid logs. It’s quite substantial. And today is not an isolated incident.

So I’m writing this today because I am at a loss. Having not dealt with this with Peanut, I find myself absolutely perplexed about what to do about this behavior. My goal tonight is to surf the internet for answers. I figure I’ll start by Googling “Terrible Twos,” followed by “Shrieking Child,” and finally, “Pint-Sized Terrorist.”

Aside from that, the only thing I can do is appeal to the mystery family who must be responsible for one half of this equation. If you’re reading this, and you’ve been taking Loaf out of the house in the middle of the night, I’m asking you nicely to knock it off! You’re not doing her (or us) any favors. And while I know she’s incredibly cute and snuggly and really sweet a lot of the time, you’re just going to have to leave her to us. She’s ours and we have to be the ones to screw her up. At least then when she’s in therapy in 25 years and blames us, she’ll be on the money.

On the other hand, if you were taking Peanut out in the middle of the night to teach her good eating habits and a relatively collected demeanor, I beg you. I plead. PLEASE COME BACK AND FINISH THE JOB! You’re obviously much better at this than I, and I can admit this now. I’ve wiped my own smug smirk off my face for good – I promise.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my very humbled self is off to Google.



Blogger ryssee said...

Very funny, good story! Before you know it though, you'll be writing about missing them being this age, so enjoy it! It will be funny to pull out this blog instead of old faded pics when they're old enough to read this! :-)

Love, Ris

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Nanax2 said...

Remember labor? You ride the terrible twos like you rode labor (or giving up smoking). The wave begins, crests, declines. When it declines you pant - or breath deeply, depending on which relaxes you - until the next wave comes. At some point a three year old will emerge and you'll cope with a whole host of new challenges.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Oh boy, Oh boy...oh BOY! said...

I read your blog yesterday, snickered, chuckled but didn't feel the urge to relpy UNTIL TODAY... my 19 month old who is in a hurry to catch up to his big borthers, is doing EVERYTHING early! This includes (but is not limited to) AMAZING temper tantrums. The kind that you want to video tape just for kicks later. He will stop long enough to look to see if you are watching, once he has your attention he will start all over again. I am not talking just a sceaming thing either, I am talking full-fledged arms waving, feet kicking, convulsive TANTRUMS! Oh well...we'll just have to build a third shelf for HIS Oscar awards!!

9:10 PM  

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