Tuesday, August 25, 2009

moon spotting

The road through toddlerhood is apparently a very bumpy one indeed. The mood swings we go through in a day are nothing short of incredible. Today was a great example of seeing my girl go from being the cutest, most angelic thing in the world to being a little naughty in a sort of charming way to devolving into a screaming, kicking, hot mess all within about a 20 minute time span. It's a pretty incredible skill - simultaneously being the cutest yet most obnoxious person I've ever met.

I've read - and agree - that toddlers just don't have a filter for their emotions the way adults do. They haven't yet developed that sense of restraint that most of us spend our adult, professional lives perfecting. Unless your Michael Scott, you probably don't walk around your office speaking the truth. I mean really speaking the truth, the kind of truth that says things like, "your obnoxious perfume does nothing to cover up your cigarette smoke breath" or "if you would just get to the point, this meeting would be over already".

Really, what Dora is giving me is complete honesty. She's just wearing her heart on her sleeve. If she sees I'm about to leave for work in the morning and she's not ready for me to go, she wraps her arms and legs around me and screams. If she feels like running around the restaurant yelling because the food is taking forever and she's bored, she does it. I can't say that I don't agree with what she's trying to express - it's just that frequently what she's expressing isn't convenient or socially acceptable.

Today was one of those days where she was all over the place, and rightly so. I had a full work day, and had to return to work for a public hearing at 7. For some reason, I thought I could fit in there a previously scheduled social arrangement - a meeting of my postpartum group at the Brew and View, a local, casual place where you can eat pizza, drink beer, and watch movies. I've only been there one other time, with the same group, and the food was okay and atmosphere just about right for screaming wild toddlers.

It is always great to see these friends of mine, who I have marched alongside on the road through early motherhood. Together we have seen our own share of ups and downs - difficult babies, breastfeeding troubles, marriages under stress, illness, losses of loved ones, anxiety. It's pretty amazing, actually, to consider all this little group has gone through in the past 2 years. We can look at each other, and we just understand, even without saying a thing.

Our kids ran around while we visited, trying to order food, prevent toddler disaster, and have meaningful adult conversation all at once. The waitress was less-than-impressed by our group, the service was horribly slow, and, honestly, the place smelled like a toilet. At one point Dora and her little friend Silas discovered a video game featuring two guns. They played around with them for a while, and although I of course want to keep that kind of playing out of Dora's life as much as possible, Silas' mom, Emily, and I just looked at each other and smiled. What can you do?

The food arrived minutes before we had to leave, so we wolfed down what we could. I had ordered two slices of pizza with pesto, broccoli, and corn - aiming for an Avalanche pizza veggie rainbow experience. It was okay - not Avalanche, but good enough. Dora got interested in the pizza right when it was time to go, so when I put the second, uneaten piece in our to-go box, she grabbed it and ran away from me. I basically had to tackle her, grab the to-go box, and carry her out of the place kicking and screaming. She fought getting into her car seat - performing her famous back bend while repeatedly yelling "no, no, no". We drove away, me apologizing and her crying. At a red light, I opened the to-go box and picked a broccoli floret off the pizza and handed it to her, expected her to bat it away and continue crying. But no, she took it from me, and all the rest of the broccoli I offered, instantly quieting down to eat it.

I smiled as we drove into the sunset, heading towards a friend's house so I could return to work for the public hearing. Moments earlier, I was in one of the unhappier levels of toddlerhood - kicking, screaming, hot mess stuff. And now, my child, my perfect little angel, was being comforted by BROCCOLI! How perfect! All of my hours in the kitchen, all of my homemade foods and frozen baby purees - perhaps they have finally paid off!

After the hearing I picked Dora up from my friend's house. She had been crying when I left her but had a great time with Aurelie and her daughter, Clara. They ran around the yard after bath time, chasing the dog, while Aurelie and I chatted and swatted mosquitoes. We were all ready for bed - even the dog - but of course I had to face one more toddler meltdown when we got in the car. Toddlers are surprisingly strong - you really have to manhandle them sometimes to get them into their seats. She was screaming and crying, but as we drove down the road she got distracted by the bright moon overhead, pointing it out to me again and again, saying "more moon, mommy" when it disappeared from sight.

I realized tonight that there's another beautiful thing about that harsh, sometimes impossibly difficult toddler honesty. The silver lining of the mood swings of this age group is that the niceties of life elicit an honest, visceral, even primal response, too. Beauty, love, simplicity, nature, a bright moon in a clear night sky, a tasty little piece of broccoli - they can evoke as much positive emotion as buckling into the car seat can evoke negative emotion. It's a reminder, once again, that one of the most beautiful joys of parenthood is that of being reintroduced to the wonder of the world around us. You have no choice but to ride along with your child through each days ups and downs. And as hard as that is, you have no choice but to see the beauty while you're at it. So, look up, look closely - can you see it? Moon, mommy!

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