Sometimes it strikes me that it must be tough to be a toddler. So much of the world is opaque to their understanding and out of their control and mysterious; even their own emotions can be overwhelming and scary. Mothering a toddler can be tough, too, of course, not in the least because a toddler is fundamentally unpredictable. I think one of the reasons motherhood has been so good for me is that it has forced me to accept and embrace this unpredictability as a gift. The capriciousness can bring me beyond my control-freak self and boring habits and grasping for the routine. I was particularly struck by the mercurial nature of toddler life recently when Grace followed a handful of days of recalcitrancy and obstreperousness with a whiplash-inducing reversal into being all sweetness and light.
It had been a not-so-fun series of days, I will admit. Grace didn't want to eat, or take a bath, or wear pants, or go to bed, or sit on the potty. Mornings were particularly challenging, especially those mornings in our weekly routine where we both need to be dressed and fed and out the door by a certain time. I watched the minutes tick away towards tardiness as this small yet contrary creature roared her displeasure with my plans for breakfast and wearing clothes and peeing before we left. It made me acutely aware of how little control she has in her life and how I need to build choices for her into our routines, but on the other hand I do have to step up and be the mommy/grown-up-type-person. Days like that are particularly intense because I have to be on top of my game with boundaries and consequences and discipline and all; in case you were wondering, that kind of thing isn't too relaxing. We were treated to several choice examples of Grace's tantrum modus operandi; she runs from room to room around the house, inconsolably crying and wailing, often bawling, "I'm crying, I'm crying!" Well, yes, yes, you are.
After days of this I was considering my options for restructuring our mornings when one afternoon, she awoke from her nap and I discovered that nefarious Grace had been replaced without any notice by charming, genial Grace. She now wants to cuddle and "bring" me kisses, as she puts it. She happily goes to the bathroom when asked and acquiesces to hand-washing and wearing both panties and pants. She plays creatively, sometimes quietly and seriously, sometimes full of noise and joy. She chooses from among offered snacks and then actually eats them. We've had two busy mornings since this turnaround of getting out the door smoothly as she was cooperative and compliant and lovely, and we actually made it places on time.
It was such a dramatic turnaround that it made us chuckle disbelievingly, and I have no idea what caused her return to what I think of (inaccurately?) as her "normal" temperament. The phase of the moon? Consistency in dealing with her bad behavior? (Ha! In my dreams...) Her anti-virus software finally eradicated the Perverse Bug? Really, I don't have any clue and I don't feel a great need to know why. I shall just chalk it up to the changeable, unpredictable labor that is life with a toddler.