Yesterday I picked up Helen at daycare, and she had a meltdown as we got to the front door. I think she wanted to play outside, and I was wearing shoes that hurt, and a linen suit that I just wanted to get OUT of already, and if she could just pick herself up off the porch and come inside for a minute ... well, you and I both know she's almost two, so that didn't work. So I hauled her up and carried her in, and that's when the meltdown started. I changed my clothes in my bedroom while she laid on the living room floor, wailing.
Usually when she gets to wailing, she wants her pacifier. The pacifier is for sleep time only. She knows this. I tell her this whenever she asks for it, and a quick distraction usually works. This time, it didn't.
I tried ignoring the fit. I tried reminding her that she doesn't get anything by crying, that she needs to ask nicely, and to say "please" if she wants something.
Ah, who are we kidding? Toddlers learn to throw fits because that gets the attention - negative or positive, it gets the attention because parents usually react to a fit. Normally I use distraction and it has been successful in the past. But I think she's at the age where independence and a need for control is rearing its ugly head. Last night, distraction wasn't going to work at all. So I tried very hard to just ignore the wailing. Occasionally, if she seemed to quiet down, I would remind her that she needed to ask nicely for her pacifier, instead of screaming for it. Hearing my voice seemed to make it all much, much worse.
It was about 30 minutes of pure toddler fury. At times she was so upset, watching this little girl have a gigantic fit, complete with the stomping feet and the flying fists, was actually pretty funny. I hate to say that I laughed, but I really, really did.
She finally stopped crying and wandered into the kitchen. I came in, and she showed me something she had pulled out of the cabinet. She wasn't crying anymore. I asked her if she was ready for dinner. She was. She got whatever she asked for, as long as she said "please." And it worked. The rest of the evening was fine.
This morning when she woke up, she went into full-throttle fury mode again. The difference was, I had about 4 minutes to get out the door for work. So I didn't have time for the ignoring, or the patient reminding about asking nicely. Parenting books never tell you how to deal with a time crunch like this, and all I knew to do was to keep moving, with a struggling crying toddler who was furious at me for not giving her a pacifier. So everything was no. No pants, no shirt, no sandals. Oh, ESPECIALLY no sandals.
I had worked so hard to get a clean diaper and clothes on a squirming target fighting me every step of the way, and of course I was having my own little meltdown about starting the morning this way. Somehow, it wasn't nearly as funny as it was the day before. So I decided I'd head to the car, strap her in her toddler seat, and have some free hands to put the sandals on. We headed downstairs, and as I grabbed my purse, Helen kept wailing, "No sandals, no sandals!" through giant, sobbing tears. Walking toward the door, I replied, "Oh no, Helen, it's ALL sandals, ALL the time!"
I got the sandals on. I dropped her off at daycare. I MIGHT go get her tonight. We'll see.