There has been a seismic shift in our household over the past few weeks, allow me to explain…
Just over a month ago when Lenny and I had to split up over the weekend to run separate errands we would haggle over which of us got to bring Lucy. I would bring her to the grocery store and she would happily sit in the cart while strangers would make comments like “is she always smiling?” or “she is such a happy baby!” Lucy was, in a word, easy-going. Happy to sit on the floor and flip through a board book on her own, happy to hang out in our room while I got ready in the morning, happy to run errands or pick up Leo from school. Just happy about everything. Lenny and I would joke that we didn’t have a favorite child… “wink, wink”
Until recently, I wouldn’t contemplate taking Leo to the grocery store if I could possibly avoid it, there are just too many scenarios of things that could set off a tantrum. I remember right when school started I took him to the market to pick up chips and guacamole for his snack day at preschool. We left without anything when he erupted in a tantrum because I wouldn’t buy him a plastic pumpkin jack-o-lantern (Why were there even Halloween items out the first week of September?!?!?). Leo is four. He is distracted by shiny things and 25 cent toy machines, he gets frustrated when plans are changed, he can be downright mean when he is tired. He is four, so I understand and even expect some of this behavior. But to his credit, Leo has also grown up a lot in the past few months. He is a fun dinner or park date, he will tell you great stories on a long drives and behaves when traveling. I even take him grocery shopping, I might end up with some popsicles or cookies that I didn’t intend to buy, but I am putting them in my cart because he asks for them nicely- not because I fear an epic meltdown if I don’t.
On the other hand, now that Lucy can walk she has suddenly decided that she has opinions on just about everything; and if she doesn’t like something she will let you know it.
It started with the baby gates. We have three baby gates downstairs to keep the kids in the play room, out of the kitchen and off the stairs. When you close a baby gate in front of Lucy she screams like you stomped on her foot. The first time it happened I thought maybe I had accidentally gotten her little fingers in the gate, but no. Leo can open two of the three gates on his own now, giving him free run of the house. Maybe it is hard for her to see her brother going as he pleases while she is “locked” in the playroom. She loathes her time spent in the playroom now. It’s a room full of toys! How bad can it be? But she wants no part of it. She just fusses the whole time she is in there- screaming, whining and crying. Initially, I thought it could be teething. Because, really, what parent hasn’t blamed their baby or toddlers bad behavior on “teething”?
At the park the other day I pushed her in the swing for about ten minutes until Leo moved to a new area of the park and was playing outside of my sight line. When I went to take her out of the swing she clenched the chains so tightly and screamed so loudly that I am pretty sure every other parent at the park checked their phones for amber-alerts after they were done staring at our struggle.
At Trader Joe’s she was sitting in the cart and grabbed the package of tempeh that had put in the basket. When it was time to check out SHE WOULD NOT LET GO. Again with the screaming at the clenching. The poor woman at the check out just went to get another one to ring up because there was no prying it out of Lucy’s hands (I am pretty proud that my baby is so passionate about tempeh though).
Lucy is discovering the world and starting to realize that babies don’t run it and she is none too pleased. I know my sweet angel is still in there but right now she is very frustrated. I don’t remember Leo’s tantrums starting until he was almost two but Lucy already seems to be in the thick of it. I guess having a baby-gate moving, cookie-eating, TV watching brother around may highlight some of the bigger injustices in little Lucy’s life that Leo didn’t even know where possibilities.
Setting boundaries for a 15 month old is hard. You can’t really reason with a baby. Lucy doesn’t understand why I won’t let her wrap cords around her neck or open the hot oven. She just thinks I am being mean.
The only tactic that seems to be working is just getting out of the house (and the playroom) as much as possible and experiencing new things- parks, train rides, the zoo, restaurants, museums, anything I can think of to keep my opinionated little girl happy.
Or maybe it’s just teething and this will pass soon?
Lucy on a recent lunch date. At least eating is still her happy place.