Thursday, April 02, 2009

4/2/09 The Turnaround

I still remember the advice we got from several sources -- including an expensive child psychologist expert -- when I exasperatedly asked what to do when toddler Gabriel would throw a huge fit in our driveway and refused to come inside. Inevitably, the advice dodged the question and handed him control: "Just let him." Yeah, but what if I don't want my 2-year-old screaming in the driveway -- or screaming inside because I carried him in -- for 45 minutes every day while I'm trying to make dinner and take care of other children? What if I find the whole situation disruptive, distracting, and unacceptable? I'm allowed!

What should I do?

I finally concluded -- largely thanks to the non-help of experts, that there really was no answer, and that I had to handle each new iteration as its own episode, and choose one or two aspects of the situation to focus on, grit my teeth and stick it out. That's how I got through Gabriel's difficult and painful toddlerhood.

The memories rushed back today as I pulled a grumpy Katrina out of the car, and she threw herself on the ground and shouted "No!" when I asked her to bring her lunch inside. Shades of the past! Meantime, Gabriel, the Original Sinner, agreeably took his own lunch inside, chuckling at his sister's antics.

What should I do?

Well, despite this re-enactment bringing up my PTSD, I was able to stay calm and do what I often do when I just don't know what else to do: take pictures. And incredibly, my attempt to document a reincarnated moment turned it around.

Katrina started off having a tantrum in Gabriel's driveway-tantrum spot, but then found that her lunch bag made a fine rabbit in a pinch, and started "hopping" the bag up and down until she was laughing and relaxed. This is what those experts are thinking of -- a normal rich array of possible responses on the part of fickle toddlers, induced by distraction and not reacting to the tantrum. That never came close to working on Gabriel. Katrina isn't exactly textbook in toddler response, but she's at least in the library. Gabriel wasn't.

And then she was very funny and agreeable the rest of the evening, even volunteering to go pee in the little potty once, and making it happen. Definitely her brother's sister, but thankfully no carbon copy.


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