You Can Always Play With the Unicorns

Connor is a busy, busy bee! At some point within the last month, she entered the phase where she repeats every word she hears — from me, her dad, the TV, school.

Sometimes, it’s endearing, like when she’s learning new words and phrases. (Yesterday we were bird watching, and she said, very matter-of-factly, “Let’s write down all the observations in a notebook.”)

Other times, it’s full-on shocking.

What did you just say…?

So…in the Trader Joe’s parking lot last Sunday, which unfortunately is one of the places I GO HAM because some drivers are extra nuts on the weekends, someone rudely stole the parking spot I was just about to pull into. Reflexively, I said, “Are you f*cking kidding me, lady?” which was followed two seconds later by a sweet, high-pitched voice in the back seat that echoed, “Are you f*cking kidding me, lady?”

RUH ROH! Time to lock down the “colorful” language, Karen!

Also, when Connor isn’t repeating everything she hears, she’s saying N.O. to everything else.

“Connor, will you please pick up your toys?”

“No.”

“Babylove, let’s go upstairs and get ready for bed!”

“No.”

“Cocobaby, how about we get into your car seat so we can drive you to camp?”

“NO!”

I’ve read that it’s a common developmental thing around this age… Toddlers are starting to feel independent and like having a sense of control over the world around them.

Redirection: err day, all day

Because I don’t want to spend the whole day fighting her or giving timeouts (Have you tried to reason with a toddler? It’s a fruitless endeavor.), when “no” happens, I do lots and lots and LOTS of redirecting.

Like, if I say, “Connor, let’s go to the potty before we leave for ballet,” and she says “no,” I try different tantalizing ways to get her up the stairs, like, “Why don’t you show me how you count your numbers? Tell me many stairs it takes to get to the top!”

If she says “no” to that offer, then I might try, “How fast can you make it up the stairs? Want to show mommy how quick you are?”

And if that also gets a “no,” I’ll go with something like, “Can you walk up the stairs on your tippy toes? Can you show me how to do it?”

Basically, come at it from different angles until she says “yes” to one of them.

Then, once she’s up the stairs, I’ll use a similar tactic to get her to the bathroom: “Want to hop like a bunny or a kangaroo to the bathroom? It’s your choice!”

And when we finally, FINALLY make it to the toilet, things just keep rollin’ from there. “Oh, look! We’re at the potty. Did you know that mommy’s underpants are purple and have a bow? Do yours have a bow? Oh, yours are purple, too? THAT’S SO COOL! Listen, while we’re here, why don’t we have a seat on the potty? You don’t have to pee, but if you’re sitting there and you want to, go right ahead.”

Redirecting takes a lot of patience and creativity, and tasks take 10 times longer than they would if she just did them, but gosh, it adds so much harmony to our day. Otherwise, everything — I’m talking EVERYTHING — is a massive battle.

Anyway, it’s working for us…for now.

This is the easy stuff?

And I realize that these things are probably small potatoes compared to the challenges ahead. I’m constantly reminding myself to enjoy this phase because it just gets harder from here.

Like, last week at her summer school/camp, her favorite teacher and closest buddy were both on vacation, so the first thing she said when I picked her up was, “Mama, when I was at the playground today, I asked someone to play with me and she said no, so I played by myself, and that made me sad.”

I swear, my heart broke a little.

I didn’t know now to respond (hello, first time mom here, and there’s no playbook). I took a few breaths and said that playing by yourself can feel very lonely sometimes and that I understood how she felt. I said it was so brave of her to ask someone new to play because it takes a lot of courage.

As we walked home, I mentioned that there’s always lots of options to still enjoy yourself at the playground if the first person you asks says no. You can ask another friend to play, or making up a game to play by yourself, or pretend you’re playing with unicorns (which is my personal favorite).

She was like, “OK, mama.”

I wasn’t sure it sank in, but later that week she brought it up again and said, “I know I can go on the playground and ask a different friend to play, and if they say no, I can always ask another friend, and if they say no, I can play by myself.”

So, yeah, that’s what’s happening in toddler life right now. In a nutshell, it’s basically me trying to get to bedtime every night without leaving any deep emotional scars!

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

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