Apologies for leaving you hanging three months—a quarter of a year!—to find out if Sasha ever got back in the tub again. It took about a third of that time to get it to happen and there have been a lot of other intense things in the meantime that have made it impossible for me to post, including: a move—immediately preceded by a prolonged 104+ fever (her) and immediately followed by strep throat (me), more refusing to poop (her); screaming and kicking and refusing to bathe (her); sitting in the tub naked playing with bath toys and talking about how fun it is (uh, me); intentional peeing on the rug (her); methodical ripping of a favorite book (her); and a hitting, spitting, and biting one’s mom in the ass phase (me . . . no, just kidding, her). We are on the tail end of it all and I am finally starting to feel like I can see the faint twinkling of the shortest part of this LST.
I mentioned in previous posts that I was talking to a social worker about the poop in the tub thing and as you can imagine from that litany above, our conversations got pretty involved over time and eventually crossed over from the realm of Fascinating Research for My Blog to the realm of Things I’d Rather Keep Private. But there is a big thing I want to share, which is: I think the hardest part about the transition from babyhood to toddlerhood, for me, has been the shift from saying yes to just about everything and attempting to satisfy every need to saying no to just about everything and setting concrete limits. I don’t know exactly when this shift happens. Maybe around walking? Talking? I got a lot of great feedback from the social worker about the toddler-mother relationship, and maybe the thing that offered me the most relief was hearing her say that most of your time as the mother to a toddler is spent either getting them to do what they don’t want to do OR getting them not to do what they want to do. When I heard that this was normal, I felt a little less crazy for spending the majority of my days in these pursuits.
Regarding the bath, I finally just got fed up with trying to sponge bathe Sasha on the bath mat. One day I just said, “Sorry, you’re taking a bath tonight. This is what people do. They get dirty and they wash. You are a person. You are dirty from playing in actual dirt today. You will wash.” Of course, she put up a fight, and we had to basically force her in the tub, which didn’t feel good. But somehow, even though she wouldn’t sit down, we kept her in that tub. The next day, with some coaxing, she sat down in the water. The coaxing was probably something along the lines of, “This is how people take baths. They sit down.” I find myself saying things like that without even thinking now. This is what people do. Or don’t do. People don’t give you milk when you whine. People who lie face down in the exit of the grocery store don’t get to go to the grocery store with their moms. And, with some repetition and the right tone, it works most of the time.
Because there have been more limits around here, I’ve also made an effort to give Sasha some clear control over some things. Like, I try as much as possible to play follow-the-leader type games, where she’s the leader. Or, on Fridays when I pick her up from school, she gets to decide where we go and what we do. (Usually this means a two-part adventure, involving collecting small items that fall from trees and getting a treat—a cookie or bagel or orange lollipop.)
We talk (or I talk?) a lot about using your words when you’re angry and taking deep breaths and crying it out. There was one time this summer when Sasha actually cried through her anger, finally stopped, and said, “Mommy, I’m happy now.” We had a little celebration about that. Sasha also has a pillow that sits against a wall, where she knows she can go if she needs to cool down, and she knows it’s safe to punch it if she really needs to hit something.
If you are into early childhood psychology and feel up for reading something on the clinical side, check out The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant. It spells out what the hell is going on with your kid during this confusing stage (from birth till three years) and gives some fascinating and scary examples of how seemingly normal relationships can get very complicated.
The last thing I’ll leave you with about this LST is a little more wisdom from the social worker. She said something to me along the lines of, Don’t strive for perfect days; strive for perfect moments. Ever since I’ve had that in the back of my mind, the perfect moments have become more and more plentiful. Some days are better than others. But just trying to savor the perfect moments as they’re happening has made me much more sane. Here’s one:
On a hot rainy day in August Sasha and I were trapped in the house all day. The rain seemed to be letting up so I threw on our shoes, grabbed an umbrella, and we made a run for the car with the intention of going to go to the library. It started pouring again almost as soon as we got outside and the umbrella barely helped. But we sprinted (as much as one can sprint with a toddler), both of us yelling dramatically, “Oh no! Oh no!”—one of Sasha’s favorite things to scream. By the time I got Sasha in her car seat it was hailing—hailing!—so I pulled the door shut and stayed in back with her. The sky darkened to that shade of gray-green that you usually only see when a hurricane is coming. Hail balls attacked the roof of the car, the windshield. It was so loud we had to shout to hear each other. It reminded me of my wedding, also drowned in a summer hail storm. And when I say drowned, I mean that in the most romantic, thrilling way.
It was a hail storm that intoxicated everyone that was there. And it made for the best dance party I’ve ever been to, where people who didn’t usually dance danced solo in the middle of a circle or with someone twice their age (or on a pole!). So I sat there in the car with Sasha, laughing with her about this crazy hail—a little afraid but mostly ecstatic, thinking about a day when she didn’t exist but which was also a direct line to her existence. And we called her dad and held the phone up to the window so he could hear the relentless pelting of ice on metal, with us, as we waited for whatever was next.
P.S. She threw her last pacifier in the garbage this morning!
How is everyone doing? Any new LSTs to report?
SubmissionsI'm looking for moms and dads to interview about surprising struggles in early parenthood. If you'd like me to consider your story, please email me.
We Can’t Stop Reading
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