In a recent column I talked about playing games with my five year old son. In the column I mentioned my daughter and stated she was another story. She is. And that is an understatement.
My daughter is two, as in terrible two, which many people will try to tell you is a myth. Prior to her, my wife and I thought it was just an old wives tale. After all, our son didn’t have terrible twos. He had what we called “terrible threes” although now, comparing them to what our little girl is giving us each day, we realize he was giving us a walk on the beach in happy, dappled sunshine.
Please do not let the rest of this column give you the wrong impression. I love my daughter and, when she isn’t whining, crying, screaming or swatting, she really is a good child and fun to be around, but woe to anyone who isn’t around her during those 30-45 minutes each day.
Most days start off lovely. She will pad into our bedroom, climb into bed and snuggle the last few minutes before we get up and start our morning routine. It is when she is prompted to get dressed or asked what she would like for breakfast that her morning fog becomes a storm cloud. Every answer is a whine through a scowl and a pout. Lucky for her, she is adorable when pouting or scowling. Unfortunately, things get a little worse if we have to wake her up and by little worse I mean, like things got a little worse for the Titanic when it hit that iceberg. Like most of you, we have to keep a tight schedule to get everybody to school and work on time and mornings with Grumpy McFusspot make this a most difficult chore.
When we pick her up from day care in the afternoon, she is all smiles. She is glad to see everybody, talks freely about her day and already chattering about her favorite thing on Earth: chocolate milk. Things quickly sour once we step over the threshold at home mainly because she doesn’t like what we’re having for dinner and I can’t make it fast enough. Once dinner is over, things are better. She plays with her brother, reads with one of us and watches a tv show. It’s like we’re the Cleavers or the Cosbys. Once we call bedtime though, look out. There’s more crying and whining about fairness and mistreatment than in an NBA basketball game.
Eventually she wears herself out and sometimes falls asleep before we collapse and fall asleep first.
We’ve tried lots of different things to try and combat the bad attitude – rewards, time outs, trying to wear her out with some extra time playing – and the results are varied and inconsistent. Currently, things are getting a little better at night time, but who knows how long it will last and what else she has in store for us before turning three.
I think I figured out where the source of our problems started though and I want to put this out there so that other parents don’t make a similar mistake. We took away her pacifier last year and I think all of the craziness started soon afterwards. All of the experts (who don’t live with something like this) and the magazines, dentists, pediatricians, etc. suggest that there is no medical need for the pacie, that taking it away later will only make it harder on the child and parents, blah, blah, blah. Our son had his until he was almost three. He stopped asking for it within a week. Our daughter never asked for it again after we took it away, but I think her whining and crying is a form of protest. I know for a fact that she wouldn’t be screaming in the morning if she had her pacie – she’d take it out long enough to guzzle some milk and eat a waffle, and pop it back in – and bedtime would go smoother too.
Some know it alls and naysayers are probably clucking as they read this and saying “Yes, but at what cost?”
I don’t care. The eight or nine months of peace and quiet would have been worth it. I think she would have handled the withdrawal better at a more advanced age.
We’re not going back to the pacifier, but parents, feel free to use this column as a warning. Make sure you and your child are ready for the consequences of taking away the pacifier. Getting over it can be a long and difficult journey filled with many tears and it’s never good for your kids to see you cry.