I learned two valuable lessons from Sadie Diane tonight.
First. Never put an enraged toddler to the breast. She will bite. You will bleed.
Second. Don’t confuse informed force with providing options. It may lead to rage.
To explain the second lesson (I assume the first is pretty self-explanatory), allow me to tell you the story. See, for months now, bedtime at chez Edwards has been a pretty easygoing, nonviolent affair. We’re pacifists, after all. Enter the toy cell phone. (Sadie has very few noisy toys, but she’s been increasingly desperate to play with our phones. She’s not the most careful with things, so I thought the time had come to go ahead and get her a little flip phone, and I did just yesterday. To say that she loves it would be an understatement.) Now, normally I’ve got a keen eye for ridding her room pre-bedtime of any toys that might cause her trouble winding down. Guess I missed one.
Oftentimes, like when she’s playing in the driver’s seat, but it’s time for her to get in her car seat, I’ll give her two options. She can climb into her car seat on her own, or I can help her into it. Much of the time, she chooses to do things herself. And she seldom makes a big deal if I “help” her.
As it turned out, this little tidbit of parenting wisdom does not apply when trying to get Sadie to hand over a still-new, awesome, noisy toy at bedtime. Not surprisingly, she elected not to give up the phone. So, I took it. By brute force. Because I’m the mama. Because I could.
Screams, tears, fit of rage.
Enter: Trevor. Unable to calm her down.
Enter failed attempt at breastfeeding as a calming technique, only to result in a bleeding boob: Here.
Enter swearwords yelled at top of lungs: Here.
Re-enter: Trevor, armed with his own phone. Rejected. Sent back for play phone.
Now, you might be thinking, Oh, jeez, you caved in, and her tantruming won. Not so, I believe.
While all of this was going down, my mind was racing through what had happened and what my remaining options were. What I realized was, I hadn’t genuinely presented Sadie with a choice to make. That tool (trick?) only works if she’s actually open to one of the choices.
So we started over. I pulled Sadie into my lap and let her play with the phone until she’d calmed down. Then, I told her it was time to put the phone nite-nite, and that she could not nurse until she had put it away. For the next 10 minutes or so, we went back and forth about the phone. Sadie would take it to her table, but kept coming back with it. We told the phone goodnight; we gave it goodnight kisses. I started working on getting Sadie interested in one of her baby dolls. I patted it’s back; I sushed it. Finally, Sadie had set the phone on the table, and I saw my opening. I made a crying sound and told Sadie that her baby was ready to sleep. She came right over, without the phone. She nursed, I put her to sleep, and I haven’t heard a peep from her since (knock on wood).
I think the important thing is this: I knew Sadie wasn’t taking that phone to bed. I had two options–I could either continue on with the “I’m the boss” tactic, and she could worn both of us out in the tantrum. Or, I could put a little of the power back in Sadie’s hands. She left the phone behind, but she did it on her terms.
I think we both won, and I feel a touch wiser from the experience. Of course, you can bet your sweet ass I’ll make sure that phone is way out of sight before tomorrow night. And every other.