He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Anatomy of a Toddler Fit

Picture the following scene with  me (if you have or have had a toddler, I promise it won't be difficult...)

I am sitting at my kitchen table working on email.  It's late afternoon.  I try not to do much email in the hours between when the big girls get home from school and dinner but it's the weekend and everyone's tired.  Abbey and Maddie are at baseball practice, Naomi is watching TV (don't judge, it's been a long week), and Anabelle comes wandering into the kitchen from the living room where, until now, she's been playing happily.  

She holds up a Veggie Tales DVD.  "Watch Bob?" she says, and bats her eyelashes..

"Not now, baby," I say (admittedly somewhat distracted).

"Watch Bob?" she says again holding out the DVD.  (she continues to stare me down)

I pay more attention.  I hold her precious little face in my hands.  "No Anabelle. We're not watching Bob now.  Naomi is watching Disney." (this is great parenting at work, people) 

"Watch Bob? Watch Bob?"  She sees a bit more frantically and quite a bit louder.

(I'll try distraction...) "Anabelle," I say, "Did you go with Daddy to get ice cream?  Did you get a balloon?"  (she and Naomi had just gotten back from a daddy date at McD's with Jason)

(distraction does not work..... this time)   "WATCH BOB!"  she yells and then proceeds to throw the DVD to the floor followed by throwing her body to the floor at which point she begins rolling around on the floor all the while screaming (or more like loud whining- EHHHHHHH) and occasionally glancing at me to see if it's working.  It's not, I assure you.  I am quite adept at ignoring loud noises and/or chatter and/or constant chatter in my house (only when necessary)

I continue to ignore.  She stops.  She climbs up beside me on the bench at the kitchen table.  

"Mommy, phone".  She picks up my phone and begins a conversation with Jason.  "Hi Daddy, How you?"  (the DVD is still sitting right in front of her on the table but long since forgotten)

"Mommy, water?" she says, reaching for my water bottle.  

I hand her my water bottle and open it for her.  She drinks some.  I put the top back on.  

"MOMMY NO TOP!" she screams and glances around her quickly.  (I know what she's doing.  She's looking for something to throw.  She begins hurling things when she gets angry.  Just yesterday she hurled a cereal bowl of milk to the floor after eating all the cheerios out of it because I told her no.  It was a lovely scene, I promise)  She spots her sippy cup and before I can react she grabs it and hurls it to the floor.   

Bad move.  

Daddy is sitting right behind her and before I can say anything she catches his eye.  He raises his eyebrows at her and points his finger.  He doesn't even say no.  He just looks at her.  She climbs into my lap and buries her head in my shoulder.   I attempt to turn so that she has to look at him.  She turns her head the other way. 

"Anabelle, look at Daddy," he says.  She peeks up.  "Do not throw your milk," he says.  She buries her head again in my shoulder but eventually goes to him for a hug and soon starts playing again.

"Mar-mallow?  Mar-mallow?"  She asks, standing in front of the pantry.  "Not now," I say.  Instead of becoming frantic, this time she moves on quickly (to the other cabinet).  "Chocolate? Chocolate?" she says (baby girl knows all my stashes and by the way, can say chocolate clear as day... again, don't judge).  I offer her a bowl of pretzels from the cabinet and she is happy.  "Yay! pretzels!"  she cheers.  Whew! Fit avoided that time.  Yesterday that might have been a full blown melt down like the DVD, today, not so much.  

Today "watching Bob" caused a major meltdown while "no" to marshmallows was (quite shockingly actually) readily accepted.  Tomorrow it could just as easily be the reverse.  Sometimes, toddlers are easily distracted by offering something possibly just as appealing, while at other times they are tunnel vision focused on the absolute one thing they simply don't see how they can live without.   Other times,  no matter how hard they try and how in tune mom is with their somewhat unique communication style, they simply cannot get across what it is they want thus causing a fit or a retreat.  

(here's Anabelle the other day when she retreated after yelling "watch Bob" and "eat muffin" (as she was watching Bob and eating a muffin, but somehow I was just not doing things quite right).  She got so frustrated that she hid behind the chair with lovey- but still where she could see Bob, of course)

I started thinking how very much like my relationship with God these toddler fits can be.  I see something that I am absolutely determined that I MUST have.  God, in His infinite wisdom knows best and somehow allows it, sometimes not.  Sometimes I can be distracted with offers of things He knows will be better, other times there is no way I will focus on anything else until this one thing is resolved.  

However, the big difference is that no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, I will never have to hide in frustration because my Creator is simply not understanding what I am trying to communicate.  He always understands, and He always knows best.  I'm hoping in any given situation I'll have the wisdom to accept and learn from His discipline.  

Is He allowing something that maybe is really not all that great because I'm being stubbornly persistent?  

Is he distracting me with a better option that I would see if I would simply listen?  

Is He holding my face in His hands and simply saying "no, my child" and waiting for me to accept?  

No is really not fun.  But sometimes necessary...

She's back at the kitchen table where she finds the big girl's deck of Set cards.  She begins counting the cards and tossing them to the floor.  She gets stuck on "eleben" (her favorite number) and then keeps counting, occasionally yelling "set!" just like when the big girls play the game.  From behind me Jason mumbles, "she's making a huge mess...."  I smile and nod and we both allow her to continue.  Yes, there are cards on the floor, but nothing is being broken and no one is getting hurt.  And she's happy.  Flinging cards, yelling numbers, thinking she's bigger than she is.  I'm choosing not to fight this battle.  The battle that would follow if I put limits (or heaven forbid!) completely prohibited the card throwing. 

And I'm thankful.  Because I know I can choose.  Choose to let her be free and happy, while praying for the wisdom to know which battles are worth fighting.    And I'm thankful to serve a God that often allows me the same freedom.  He molds and shapes and disciplines when necessary, but in His love He allows me to be me.  He knows exactly which battles are necessary to mold me into the person He wants me to be.    Here's hoping I'm learning to listen!

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."
Proverbs 3:11-12