By Jessie Peele, author of Cupcakes and Running Shoes
Raising a toddler is starting to feel like that 4th of July contest they used to do at my neighborhood swimming pool – the one where they grease a watermelon and toss it into the deep end, and the first person who can dive down, retrieve said watermelon, and successfully swim up to the surface and put it on the edge of the pool wins a pack of Now & Laters or something.
It’s hard. It’s entertaining. It’s frustrating.
Toddlers are magical, wild, curious little beings. Beings whose emotions turn on a dime. Beings who have more willpower than is humanly possible. Beings whose lives seem to be over if you put Cheerios in their snack cup instead of raisins. Beings who will all of a sudden scream with absolute, unexplained terror during bath time when, just 24 hours earlier, they splished and splashed to their heart’s content.
Beings who will boycott bedtime for SEVEN.STRAIGHT.HOURS.
Last Sunday, my daughter, Cameron Kate, pretty much decided she was going to take a night off from sleeping. And by take a night off, I mean stand in her crib and scream, “MAMA! DADA! ALL DONE NIGHT-NIGHT!” from 7:40pm to 2:50am.
We tried everything.
We checked her temperature, no fever. We checked on her in elongated intervals, gave her Ibuprofen, changed her diaper, even rocked her to a dead sleep (which we NEVER do) and then oh-so-slowly we’d place her back into her crib when BAM SHE WAS AWAKE AGAIN AND IMMEDIATELY STARTED SCREAMING.
At about midnight my husband, TJ, said, “Ok, we’ve just gotta let her sort this out on her own.” I agreed, though we all know it is MUCH harder for a mama to listen to her screaming toddler than it is for a dada. Within minutes, my hub was snoring away while I had my eyes locked on the video monitor. I mean, how much longer could she REALLY keep this up?!
It had already been over four hours.
All of a sudden she started trying to climb out of the crib. She pulled herself up on top of the crib rail and was balancing with her belly on the bar – head leaning toward the floor, feet hovering over the crib mattress, Superman style.
I shot out of our bed and TJ abruptly woke up and told me I needed to calm the heck down.
He assured me she would not break her neck. I wasn’t convinced, so I kept my eyes glued to the monitor while my child went back-and-forth between standing in the crib and stomping and screaming, and teetering her little body dangerously over the edge of the rail.
I was a mess. My emotions went from being scared, to exhausted, to emotional, to frustrated. And finally, at 2:50am, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I went into her room and climbed into the crib with her.
I guess TJ woke up and realized I was missing, so he ventured into Cameron’s room, and said, “Where ARE you?!”
“I’m over here!” I whispered. “In the crib!”
“Get out, you’re going to break it!”
I was too tired to be insulted.
With ninja-like stealth, I attempted to ease my body over the rails when she woke up. My wonderful hub then decided to make a pallet on her floor, pull out her crib mattress, and coax her to sleep with him by her side.
We all finally fell asleep around 3:30am.
My alarm went off at 6:02am. Hello Monday morning!
I managed to make it to work and called the pediatrician as SOON as they opened. After all, SOMETHING must be wrong with my kid. Who screams and boycotts bedtime for SEVEN.STRAIGHT.HOURS?!
A long talk with the pediatric nurse and pediatrician, a podcast, and some research later, we had our diagnosis – I am the proud mother of a TODDLER.
A toddler who is too smart for her own good and stubborn as all get out. A toddler who tries my patience, who will lean over, smack my leg, look at me and say, “Time out?”
Like the 4th of July watermelon game, I have to keep striving to find the humor in it all. Because really, when she’s lying on the kitchen floor screaming, “NO CHEERIOS!!!!!!!!!” like the world is ending, how do you not giggle?
And have you ever watched grown people try to swim holding vaseline-covered watermelons?
These moments are fleeting. And one day I’ll miss the way she crinkles her nose when she’s up to no good, the way she knowingly pushes the limits with a sneaky smile, the way she sometimes prefers to sleep on my chest instead of her crib.
And while each and every day I thank God for choosing me to be her mama, because I love her more than life itself – I also ask God for the patience, enough deep breaths, and enough bottles of wine to get me through the toddler years.