We can’t please toddlers for a pretty simple reason: they can be impossible to please.
At just two years old, our son is a mighty force to be reckoned with. He is sweet, so, so sweet, and loving, and kind. He is generous with hugs (I want a big hug, mommy, he frequently asks), and he has me wrapped around his soft little finger.
I am silly putty, molding clay, Play-Doh, a pliable form that bends to the will of this boy of mine with the bright, energetic eyes and the dimpled cheeks I kiss dozens of times daily. He too is an irrational beast of a thing.
Take this excerpt from one recent breakfast:
Child: I want yogourt, mommy.
Me: OK, you can have yogourt.
Child: I want my Buzz Lightyear bowl, mommy.
Me: OK, let’s get your Buzz Lightyear bowl.
Child: No! No! No! I don’t want my Buzz Lightyear bowl! (Insert desperate crying here as he shoves aforementioned Buzz Lightyear bowl across the kitchen table.)
Me: OK, then you don't have to use it. Here is your yogourt (note: yogourt is served in a non-Buzz Lightyear bowl).
Child: No! I want cereal and yogourt . . . and applesauce! (Insert more desperate crying.)
My internal voice, edited of curse words: Seriously? SERIOUSLY!!? You’re acting like a dictator . . . and I am not a friggen grocery store! What the bleep is your deal?! Coo-coo banana, coo-coo banana, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
And so it goes. It’s Ozzy Osbourne’s "Crazy Train" (the drug-free, family edition) and The Rolling Stones’ "You Can’t Always Get What You Want" all rolled into one.
Once the bar has been set, it seems to be the endless job of toddlers to try and raise it again and again, just for the heck of it.
Thankfully, my son isn’t big on temper tantrums, but when one does begin to bubble, I try to circumvent it with a hug and kiss or by speaking calmly to him. I will offer to help, find a clever distraction, or ask for his assistance with something, such as bringing a bowl or plate to the kitchen for me.
Sometimes, though, the tantrum state is too far gone and destined to explode into a picture of chaos, complete with a rush of plump tears and a red screaming face and the dramatic climax of him tossing his body to the ground like a political martyr.
Ignore. Ignore. Give him space to let it all out. I remind myself to do this whenever he has entered this whirlwind state of heightened irrationality and nuttiness.
This is harder to do in public, no doubt, particularly when passersby include smug, childless couples or moms out with their perfect, sunny-faced toddlers (moms who’ve basically lucked out at this particular time, but still think they have a right to be smug about it).
All parents (even smug ones) eventually learn that the toddler brain is a very complex work in progress.
Constantly growing and developing, kids at this age are easily frustrated, while also trying to exert some control and exercise independence.
They are learning how to be guided by us while mastering their individuality at the same time.
These smart little creatures are also learning exactly when and how they can get us to do what they want.
And sometimes we need to bend. This helps send the message that their ideas and needs matter. It tells them they are valued.
“Two more minutes, mommy,” my son said this morning as I tried to hurry him out the door to get to daycare.
He had just thrown his shoes across the floor in protest, because putting them on means we’re leaving.
“Want to read a book, mommy?” he asked, gently patting the empty spot on the sofa beside him and looking up at me with big, round eyes.
"Here, mommy, come sit down."
He wanted just this one thing—more time with me, his mommy.
There is nothing more important than this, I think.
So I say, “Yes, sweetie, I do want to read a book with you,” and snuggle in next to him, for the pretty simple reason that right now, in this precious moment, he is so completely possible to please.
Want to read more by Tanya Enberg? Try these! Does Making Your Morning Yoga Class Stress You Out? That's One More Reason To Go; We Stayed in a Tiny One-Room Cottage and Survived; and Is Becoming a Mom in Your 20s Better Than Waiting?
Jittery with bitten nails, a jumpy heart rate and too many coffee refills, I knew there was only one way out of this state — yoga.
Must do yoga.
It was this thought that prompted me to race around the house one recent morning to try and make a 9:15 class (even though exercising at my own pace on my own schedule is much preferred).
There was just enough time to get there, though it required skipping that next cup of coffee, which wasn’t a strong selling point for getting out the door.
Yet, I resisted that coffee, made of freshly ground beans in our swanky new Italian coffee machine, and left for class. For without it, I couldn’t think straight (the yoga, I mean).
My head was busy and in need of slowing down. Thoughts were scrambling over one another and in some cases skipping, leaving them completely unfinished.
There was a nasty tension headache caused by teeth grinding that needed dealing with, as did the small space between the eyebrows that hurt from furrowing.
It was Tuesday and I needed it to be Friday.
As a regular visitor to yoga (which to be clear isn’t the same thing as being a dedicated yogi but, rather, a person who regularly starts and stops yoga), the benefits, such as improved flexibility, strength, focus and relaxation, are indisputable. However, the slowness of the practice can be difficult for a certain type of person, say a Type A-ish, coffee addicted, deadline driven kind of person, for instance.
The first observation I made after arriving was that the class was filled to the brim, which made me think of coffee.
Then I was annoyed at the students taking up more space than they needed and those who had placed their mats in such a way that disallowed room for others.
While rolling out the yoga mat in an awkward spot at the back near the arm weights, a curse word or two rose to mind.
Soon this was interrupted by a soothing, transcendent voice that carried through the room, guiding the students into a gentle pose.
“Try to identify where your tension is,” the instructor said.
OK. It is here. And here. And it is in this spot in the upper back and along the neck, where deadlines live. And it is in this room where nobody makes room for anybody else and out on the streets where aggressive pedestrians hog the sidewalk ... It is everywhere.
“Try to locate your breath,” the purveyor of calmness purred. How the hell does she do it? Exist so calmly? Is she rubbing it in?
I went searching for my breath and panicked when I couldn’t find it — until I realized it was being held, gated by two tightly sealed lips. It released like a balloon gradually losing its air.
Soon, from behind the hoods of my eyes, tears were forming, though they weren’t the kind of tears that would come streaming out right there in the middle of class making everyone uncomfortable.
It was the feeling that arrives when one’s breath deepens and connects to the mind, the relief of sifting through all the junk to make a bit of extra room for clarity.
Yoga, as it does brilliantly, had begun its familiar process of ironing out the stress and of lengthening the limbs and the neck — especially the neck. It began to unwind the mind.
Still, nobody would say I was relaxed or ethereal as I rolled up my yoga mat thinking about what had to be done next, but it was a start.
A week later I returned to class without racing out the door. I found a nice spot waiting for my yoga mat. My nail beds were slightly smoother and my mind a little less like a jumpy Chihuahua than it had been.
When the instructor asked us to locate our breath, I found mine right away, eagerly waiting for deep inhales and exhales and, for one full hour, I successfully set aside thoughts of deadlines and to-do lists and yes, even that next cup of coffee.
Read more by Tanya Enberg! Try these: We Stayed in a Tiny One-Room Cottage and Somehow Survived, Is Becoming a Mom Better in Your 20s? and 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting a New Mom.
“I’ll try it for a day or two, but I doubt I’ll last a week,” I said to my husband.
We’d just arrived, along with our two-year-old son and Maggie-the-dog, to a teeny tiny Georgian Bay cottage we’d rented for a week.
The cottage was 500-square-feet, snuggled into the aptly named Snug Harbour.
Everything was tucked neatly into one square room, all except the bathroom, which was outside, and a far smaller bunkie, where my son and I slept.
But we were in glorious Georgian Bay and I should’ve been toppling over with giddy exclamation marks!
I was not.
After dissecting the premises, we learned there was no safe way to reach the water to go for a dip.
The cottage, perched high on a craggy rock formation, was certainly big on drama, for other than the boating dock, every point leading to the water’s edge snaked down from a vertical drop.
There is something about vertical drops and two-year-olds that just don’t mix. Oh, yeah . . . the potential for injury or death . . . that’s it!
I looked around and couldn’t imagine staying.
What I did imagine was the unimaginable—our son falling off a cliff or wiping out and hitting his head on some rugged piece of granite or teetering into the rocky water below.
As I contemplated the cramped and potentially dangerous getaway that stretched out before us, I could summon up only one descriptive—stress.
What happened next, however, was surprising and nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I had some of the best times I’ve ever spent with my family.
We puttered around in the motorboat and explored the water, wandered the Pancake Islands, and spent many lazy afternoons at quiet, tucked away beaches accessible only by boat.
From our vantage point we watched a pair of minks scoot by and a family of oily otters dive elegantly under water.
We hiked the stunning Franklin Island, along with the postcard-perfect Snug Harbour Lighthouse, and picked wild blueberries. We leisurely barbecued steak and perfectly salted garlic potatoes and took the boat out to get ice cream cones that melted and dripped down our chins.
We canoed to the marina for dinner one night and drank wonderful wine and made wonderful toasts.
When our son napped, my husband enjoyed good cigars and fished. I read dusty cottage books and magazines—a collection of short stories by Alice Munro, The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks, and old copies of The Atlantic—until my eyes grew heavy and dropped away from the pages and settled into breezy afternoon slumbers.
We snuggled and laughed and watched the sun dip each night, brushing the sky with brilliant shades of orange and red, and in the morning we ate stacks of pancakes slathered in maple syrup.
The days at once lingered and travelled too fast.
As time went on, we felt refreshed and happy, our spirits lifted by the beautiful magic of Georgian Bay.
In that cottage, we had the space to eat, drink, think, and be.
We had each other; we had everything we needed.
A week together there wasn’t long enough.
“I don’t want to leave. Maybe we could just stay,” I said sadly, as we packed our belongings, knowing that we couldn’t, and that soon again our lives would become busy and crowded, leaving us to wonder how we were ever going to fit it all in.
Want to read more by Tanya Enberg? Try these! "Would You Dare to Camp with a Toddler? Here's How," "Why Leaving the Kids Behind on Your Next Trip is a Great Idea," and "Top Canadian Tourist Attractions to Add to Your Big Bucket List."