In addition to my daughter’s Christmas gifts, I bought a tiny Minnie Mouse necklace. It was on sale, and I knew she would love having a piece of real, “big girl” jewelry.
I set it aside from her other gifts. Instead of putting it under the tree, I had plans to use it as an incentive to motivate her to work on some tasks.
There is this list in my head of stuff I want her to do.
1. Poop in the big toilet instead of the little potty. Somehow, my delicate three year old creates these man-sized poos that are a pain to clean out of her froggy potty.
2. Go the the bathroom and pee in the appropriate urine receptacle of choice– toilet or froggy potty– instead of going in the pull up we put on her at night for “just in case.” Emily has awesome bladder retention and usually stays dry all night, but then insists on peeing in her pull up in the morning, instead of using the bathroom. Yuck.
3. Sleep through the night in her own bed. Until we moved, Emily wanted nothing to do with sleeping in bed with us. She had her own little crib next to my side of the bed and she stayed in it all night. This was partially due to the logistics of our two bedroom apartment, and also partially due to my separation anxiety. When we moved, we did away with the little crib and presented our darling daughter with a pink, Hello Kitty ensconced bedroom of her very own. She’s been a trooper about falling asleep in her own bed, but in the middle of the night, she is trooping up to our bed.
“I don’t yike being awone in my woom,” she says. “I too scared and I want da mama.” I get it. As someone who has always struggled with the horrible, creepy fear of the dark, I would do almost anything to prevent my little girl from feeling terrified. Buuutttt. . . sharing our bed makes things tight and uncomfortable and my husband and I are back to sleep-deprivation-mode, which is really no fun.
4. Don’t struggle so at nap and bed times. This one is pretty self-explainatory. Like any feisty toddler, Emily gives us a run for our money when it comes to getting into bed.
5. Don’t be sneaky. With our son, we could have wall papered our house in chocolate and he wouldn’t have ever dreamed of nipping any without permission. Emily however feels perfectly entitled to helping herself to snacks of her choosing (usually candy first thing in the morning). She knows it is not pleasing to us, so she will go into her room and hide in her closet to munch. It is actually kind of funny, and it never makes us particularly angry (unless there are major crumbs involved). She has the most expressive little face, so we can always tell when she has done something cheeky.
6. Give up the damn bubby already. The kid is three. Enough with the pacifier already. She mostly only uses it for sleep now, and sometimes in the car, but I hear her smacking away on it and visions of orthodontic bills dance before my eyes.
It crossed my mind to make a chart of some sort and make her earn stickers or smiley faces or stars, and when she filled up the chart for all her good, honest, cooperative, toilet-learning choices, she could have the necklace.
Sometimes I get it into my mommy-head that I need to be fine tuning my children to get ahead in the mommy-game.
I caught myself feeling a bit anxious to get these traits programmed into my toddler as quickly as possible. Buuuttt. . . on the other hand, things are flying by so quickly already. I look at pictures from last Christmas when she had no hair and was still in diapers, and I marvel that the same child is streaking through my house in her Hello Kitty underpants, her curls a tangled halo around her face.
She’s turning into such a cool, little human. She is tough as nails and not afraid to express her opinions, or speak up for herself, but she also has an amazingly tender heart and shows an aptitude for giving and caring. The combination of these traits simply make me glow, and suggest I might be doing something right as a mom.
So what if my kid sneaks a chocolate now and then? In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter much if she stays dry in her pull-up this week, or next week, or six months from now? If parenthood has taught me one thing, it is that children do stuff sooner or later. Then it is done, and I wonder why I made such a fuss over it in the first place.
Karma blessed me, anxious-rule-bound-control-freak-that-I-am, with two humans who are fiercely independent and strong-willed, and who complete my mental to-do lists on their own, sweet schedule, usually making a lot of noise, clutter, and chaos in the process.
My relationship with my children teaches me a lot about letting go. . . of expectations, of rules, of my nearly obsessive needs for organization and predictability.
Emily won’t want to snuggle with me forever. She won’t always need me to wipe her little tush. Her worries and fears might not always be so easy to soothe with hugs and kisses alone, and my life will feel cavernous with all the spare time from not tending to a toddler’s every need.
When you become a parent, people tell you to cherish every moment because it goes by in the blink of an eye. Truer words have never been spoken, however they do little to describe the breakneck pace to which life accelerates after having children. It is a constant circle of joy and loss and joy and loss and joy.
I put the little necklace up on top of my desk. I might still use it as an incentive for her. But I wrote a new to do list. It only had one item on it:
Catch that squishy, squirmy little imp who smells like honey and speaks with a lisp and hug her up like there is no tomorrow.
Because time waits for no mom.