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Friday, January 20, 2006

Toddler Time

Toddler Time, I’ve realized, is different from Parent Time, Adult Time, Eastern Time, Central Time, Pacific Time, Tea Time, or any other “time” that I can think of. When you are running late, this is especially frustrating. When I am trying to get Dear Daughter ready to go somewhere in the mornings, the routine requires helping her get out of bed, get dressed, have breakfast, go potty, brush her teeth and hair, gather up the “fishies” snacks and sippy cup, and put on her jacket/coat and shoes.

Getting out of bed is the first challenge. Dear Daughter often likes to lounge around for an inordinate amount of time, burrowing in the blankets and pretending to be a bear in a cave or just playing “hide and seek” (my job being to repeatedly “seek” her as she repeatedly “hides” under the covers). When we finally get past that and she agrees to get dressed she likes to run around in circles, or sometimes all over the entire upstairs level of the house after each article of sleeping clothing is removed and before each article of daytime clothing can be placed on her wiggly body. She likes to do this running around half-dressed antic while slapping her belly (or whatever bare part is exposed) and squealing, “I’m naked! I’m naked!”

When we finally accomplish the task of getting dressed we begin the trek to the kitchen for breakfast. First, we have to gather up “Taggie and Balnkie” and then we have to do the typical “toddler tricks” on the way down the stairs. This involves finding new and interesting ways to descend the staircase. Sometimes it’s sitting on her bottom and sliding stair by stair; sometimes it’s hopping one stair at a time; sometimes it’s sitting down on the stairs to pet and harass the geriatric cat (who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). Saying things like, “C’mon, let’s go!” or “C’mon, Zoe, don’t you want to go shopping? (or whatever activity we’re trying to get out of the house for)” does not seem to help. Dear Daughter either ignores the question, or insists that she does indeed want to do the activity, though it bears no influence on her “toddler tinkering.” We make it to the kitchen and she typically requests Rice Crispies or some other cold cereal, followed by fussing and whining about how it’s not getting “squishy” enough for her. I’ve learned to pour an extra bowl of cereal to sit and get “squishy” while she eats the first bowl. She often has multiple bowls of cereal in between playing with her spoon, flinging milk around, and drawing pictures on the table with the spilled droplets. Reminding her that we are in a hurry to get going still does not register, or matter for her. I’ve realized that in Toddler Land, only the immediate presenting activity matters. If that activity is drawing pictures in the spilled milk, then that activity receives full toddler attention and effort, and no amount of parental effort can break through the toddler attention “force field.”

Following breakfast, Dear Daughter manages to immediately get involved in some toddler activity like “spelling” words with the letter magnets on the fridge, pretending to cook a birthday cake with the pots and pans, or harassing the geriatric cat some more. She has to complete the activity to her full appreciation before she will agree to transition to the task of going potty and brushing her teeth and hair. Meanwhile, I find myself standing at the bathroom sink saying “C’mon, Zoe! Let’s get your teeth brushed” repeatedly, which does no good until she is good and ready anyway, due to the above described toddler attention “force field.” Saying things like, “We won’t be able to go if you’re not ready on time” only agitates her to whine and carry on about how she does indeed want to participate in the said activity, which then only distracts her for a few moments from the toddler activity that she still has to finish first, and thereby serves to delay our progress even further.

When Dear Daughter finally places her toddler attention on brushing her teeth, the activity involves multiple toddler steps not found in the adult rendition of brushing one’s teeth. First, Dear Daughter has to splash in the water a bit, grab a cup and fill it up with water and dump it (usually in the sink), insist on putting the toothpaste on her toothbrush herself, use the toothbrush as a tool to fling more water onto the counter and mirror, chew on the toothbrush (hands-free) while squirming and climbing up and down her step stool, and make faces at herself through the water-splashed mirror.

Once we complete the grooming and hygiene tasks, hustling Dear Daughter across the house to the front door to don shoes and jacket is also challenging as we have to cross by many distractions, such as toys, the television (which prompts her to request being able to “watch a show” and suggest that we pause to let her watch the “show” of her choice before we proceed to the errand or activity at hand), and the geriatric cat again. The adults have to have their shoes and coats on and have all the necessary toddler (and now newborn) implements necessary for an outing packed and ready before wrestling shoes and jacket on Dear Daughter so that as soon as she is ready, we can hustle her out the door, lest she get herself involved in another toddler activity before we can get her out the door.

Toddler Time, I’ve decided, requires an adjustment like Daylight Savings Time. It would work to counteract Toddler Time by adding an extra hour or two as needed whenever a parent needs it to get their Toddler out the door on “time.”

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