This blog is Day 26 of my 30 days of motherhood blogging challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m sharing diary-style snippets of my life as a working mum to one cheeky toddler. Consider this part creative experiment, part self-therapy. Feel free to play along at home! You can read days one to 25 here.
This morning, Zoey cried from 6.30 am to 7.30 am. An hour of crying – real tears – all because she didn’t want to eat breakfast at the table.
I prepared our porridge and sat calmly at the table at 6.30 am and invited her to climb into her high chair (really, it’s more like a normal chair as we’ve removed the tray).
Zoey wanted to sit on my lap, instead. But I’ve decided to nip this habit in the bud. It’s becoming exhausting for me and I don’t believe it’s best for her. I want her to learn to sit in her own chair at the table. I’m also trying to encourage her to eat regular meals as she’s having bowel troubles which are causing other problems, like waking up in the night hungry, becoming reliant on laxatives, etc.
So, I continued to invite her to sit in her high chair and put her on the floor every time she tried to climb onto my lap. I stayed calm and kind and tried to ignore her tantrum and clearly articulate what I needed her to do. She cried and cried and cried.
I thought she would cave after about 5-10 minutes and realise she was hungry and climb into her high chair.
At 7.10 am (40 minutes into the crying), she was still refusing to get into her high chair and I started to feel stressed. I needed her to eat breakfast so I could send her to daycare on a full belly, not on an empty tummy and in tears. But if I caved now, what would that teach her? I needed to be firm – kind but firm. So I explained that I would count to three, and if she didn’t climb into her high chair, I would lift her up and strap her in myself.
As I got to three, she sprinted away from me (laughing) so I had to chase her and then strap her into the high chair (not an easy feat). I didn’t enjoy it one bit. She thrashed and screamed and sobbed at the injustice of it all, but she did start eating her porridge. I fed her one mouthful at a time (which she gobbled up in between dramatic sobs) and she finished the whole bowl. She didn’t stop crying the entire time, but I guess you could say I ‘won’ that battle? Maybe tomorrow she will cry for 50 minutes instead of 60 minutes?
Once she finally finished, we had a big cuddle and I thanked her for sitting in her special high chair. She stopped crying and seemed fine. And I thought, wow, this is parenting. Enduring a 60-minute tantrum first thing in the morning because you believe it’s best for your child. Playing ‘bad cop’ because you believe it’s best for your child. Not letting your child have everything they want.
I’m going to be straight with you: this is a huge struggle for me. I’m a people pleaser. I want Zoey to like me all the time. I hate seeing her cry. I hate waiting out her tantrums. Every cell in my body just wants to give in and make her tears go away. But I know that would be detrimental to her and that she needs me to set expectations for her, to create healthy boundaries. It’s hard but I know it’s essential.
Earlier this week, I caught up with my Dad and his parting comment to me (after observing me interacting with Zoey) was “just remember, you’re the boss.” And I laughed because it doesn’t feel that way. I don’t even want to be Zoey’s boss. I want to be her gentle guide or teacher! And most days, she feels more like my CEO than the other way around. But some days I need to pick my battle and hold steady – to be the calm, non-negotiable rock in her toddler storm. Some days, I just need to count to three, pick her up, strap her in her high chair and feed her porridge while she sobs.
I love my strong-willed, spirited little girl. She’s got endurance! I think we’re going to have some long stand-offs in our time. I’m off to pick her up from daycare now. I wonder how dinner will go…