Choices

Sophie is thirsty, but she wants milk, not water. She wants it in the blue cup, not the yellow cup. But — and here come the tearful screams — she absolutely does not want the sippy-cup-cap on the cup. She doesn’t want the cap off the cup, either. She wants that cap to be precisely halfway on, halfway off.

And then she wants help cleaning up the dribbled milk.

All of this gets communicated in whining grunts, escalating quickly into desperate screams, despite my repeating, “Use your words, please.”

I used to subscribe to the parenting philosophy of offering a kid limited choices. Not, “Do you want to go to bed now?”, but “Which pajamas do you want to wear to bed?” I thought this was a nice way of giving young kids some sense of control and sense of consequences.

That was the theory. In practice, Sophie takes this to extremes. She wants to wear her gray socks, not the white ones. No, she’s changed her mind: she wants to wear her black shoes without any socks at all. And she wants those shoes on the wrong feet. No, mama, not that foot, this one! THIS ONE! She will whinefully scream, clawing desperately at her shoes, sometimes progressing to banging her head on the floor (or on my collarbone: that’s a favorite of hers, ask for a hug and then bang her head on my chest) until she gets her way.

I have actually let her go an hour or so wearing the left-sneaker on the right foot. It drives Ben crazy.

Sophie has had a cold for a week, her little nose is red-raw, she’s not sleeping soundly, and last night she didn’t eat much dinner, so — of course — being hungry, tired, and achy-sick, she’s been irritable lately. She doesn’t know it’s because she’s sick. She thinks it’s because the sippy-cup-top is not perfectly balanced between on and off the way she wanted it. We’re trying to keep her warm, rested, and satisfied, but yesterday the only thing that accomplished that was baby-tylenol, which I only give every six hours.

In between the drugs, I tried teaching her how to take a deep breath. I tried just hugging her. I tried teaching her the phrase, “It’s not a big deal.” I tried telling her that her whining was getting incredibly annoyingly nerve-wracking. I tried laughing at her. I tried letting her do as much as she can herself. When none of that worked and she lashed out, hitting my face, clawing mad over a sippy-cup top, I just walked away.

Of course I come back, 30 seconds later, hug her again, and we start over, mopping up the spilled milk. It may be me who has to work on remembering to take a deep breath.

I hope this cold passes soon.

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