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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Parenting: "Is this the hill you want to die on?" YES, YES IT IS.

One of the most common bits of advice that toddler parents give to each other is to constantly ask the question "is this the hill you want to die on?" We are like a broken record with this question, asking it over and over and over again every time some disciplinary issue comes up.

Why? Because toddlers can be willful, and they don't respond well to reason and logic. You can explain to them all day long how important it is for them to brush their teeth, but if they don't want to brush their teeth, they're just gonna scream and hit you in the face as you come at them with the toothbrush.

So whenever they engage in a behavior that you're not a fan of, you have to ask yourself: is it REALLY worth it to fight this fight? Is this issue important enough to be worth doing whatever it takes to emerge victorious? Or am I better off just caving on this one and saving my ammo for bigger, more important battles later on? 

Sometimes, the answer is "yes, this is worth it." But far more often, the answer is "no, not really." And recognizing that distinction can be the difference between being a happy and relaxed parent with a happy and relaxed kid vs. a harried and overwrought parent with a psycho kid. If you turn everything into a pitched battle, you're just turning yourself into an adversary ... and that pretty much never works out well.

Audrey definitely has some behaviors I wish she didn't have. She spends too much of the day with a binkie in her mouth; she often refuses to wear the clothing I've picked out for her; sometimes she doesn't want to eat whatever healthy thing I've prepared her for dinner after she's been at daycare all day; if she sees a cupcake in the fridge, she won't stop screaming until she gets a bite of it.

In a perfect world, I would say "EAT YOUR DINNER AND NO CUPCAKES FOR YOU" and she would just obey me quietly. But we don't live in a perfect world; we live in this world. Where she usually eats her dinner without issue, and we rarely have cupcakes in the house, but sometimes we do and sometimes she sees them in the fridge when I'm getting out her milk. Why would I subject myself to a screaming, irrational toddler tantrum that could last for an hour just to make the point that I'm in charge on some minor issue that almost never comes up?

That would be madness.

So she gets her way a lot. And that's fine. (the key is to act like the whole thing was your idea anyway, rather than acting like you caved to their demands. "Oh, you want a cupcake? Okay, let's have cupcakes!")

But there have been hills upon which I am content to make my last stand, and if I die, I die:

Real ones:


This one has to be nipped in the bud from the very first time they do it. You can't have a kid that hits people when they're mad.

And kids will naturally hit people when they're mad. They didn't learn it from TV or from their cousin or from that kid on the playground -- it is HUMAN NATURE.

Why, just this morning, Audrey was out on the driveway watching a worm when I told her that we needed to get in the car to go to daycare. And she was like "no." And I was like "yep, you can look at worms another time, but right now we need to go." And I picked her up to carry her to the car, and she screamed bloody murder and punched me in the face.

Punched me. In the face.

And she got in trouuuuuuuuuuuuble. I was every kind of stern as I informed her that "we do NOT hit. EVER. I don't care how mad you get -- WE DO NOT HIT." And then I strapped her into her carseat coldly, methodically, and without eye contact, and she cried. Only when I was finished putting her in the seat did I soften and tell her that I of course loved her very much and I always would.

If I have to go ten rounds with her every single day until she learns not to hit, I will gladly do so. Because I WILL NOT be one of those parents whose kid gets violent whenever they don't get their way. This is just not acceptable.

I will die upon this hill.


Sometimes, when Audrey has decided she doesn't want her dinner, she will start grabbing fistfuls of food and squishing it as hard as she can before throwing it on the floor.

I find this to be Grade A Asshole Behavior and I will not stand for it. It is not cute. I do not laugh. When Audrey starts squishing food and throwing it, she gets her plate taken away and that is the end of dinner time. Oh, you were hoping for some fruit for dessert? Shouldn't have squished your food, then.

I will not have one of those kids who goes to restaurants and throws food around thinking it's funny. 

I will die upon this hill.

If I say you've had enough sweets, YOU'VE HAD ENOUGH SWEETS

Sweets are delicious. You know it, I know it, and Audrey definitely knows it.

So naturally, whenever there's a special occasion and we treat ourselves to something really yummy (like cake, ice cream, candy, etc.), Audrey ends up wanting more.

And once I decide she's had enough, I do not give her more.

I don't care how many times she asks. I don't care how hard she works herself into a frenzy. How loud she screams. How hard she hits me in the face. 

She is going to learn moderation, goddammit, if it kills me.

I will die upon this hill.

And then, there are the hills that I should probably abandon because seriously? Come on.


Real stupid ones:


These two f***ing flies have been in our house since the weekend, and at this point my vendetta against them has reached comically exaggerated proportions. I would smash my car through the back windows at 60mph if I thought it would lead to the death of those flies.

Alas, that would be impractical, so instead I hunt them with a fly swatter. And of course, Audrey wants to be just like Mommy and Daddy, so when I put the fly swatter down, she picks it up and starts carrying it around hitting stuff with it. It's super cute.

But then she touched the fly swatter to her face. We told her not to do that, because the fly swatter is covered in diseased fly corpse juices, but she did it again.

So Jesse took the fly swatter away, and she pitched a huge fit, but there was no way she was getting that fly swatter back. You can't just walk around touching fly swatters to your face like some kind of cave person. I will let her play with a KNIFE before I'll give that fly swatter back!

I will die upon this hill.


Audrey figured out a long time ago that between Netflix and On Demand cable, we can pretty easily turn on the shows she likes on TV whenever she asks. And since she doesn't watch any TV at all while she's at daycare, I don't worry too much about over-saturating her with screen time. If she says she wants to watch Elmo, I'll turn on Elmo.

Recently, however, she has also figured out that I have the Netflix app on my phone. She knows which folder it's stored in, and she knows what the app's icon looks like.

And sometimes, while Sesame Street plays on the TV, she will take my phone, open up Netflix, and turn on Mickey Mouse so that she can watch that at the same time.


It's bad enough that you force us to watch Elmo all the goddamned time ... now I have to listen to competing high-pitched voices as both Mickey and Elmo battle for your attention (and my sanity)??!?!




Oftentimes, when it's time to change Audrey's diaper, I will ask her how she feels about that and she'll either signal that she's cool with it, or she'll say "no" and I'll wait a bit longer. I figure that unless the diaper is about to burst, there's no reason not to let her have at least some say in the matter. I don't want to turn diaper changes into an overly traumatic episode between us if I can help it.

However, all semblance of autonomous decision-making goes out the window as soon as a poop enters the equation.

So here's how it goes down: Audrey poops. I tell her we need to change her diaper because there's poop in it. She says "no." I tell her that "no" isn't an acceptable answer and that we are changing the diaper right now. She says "no" again and runs off to hide somewhere -- usually the pantry.

I chase her down and WRASSLE HER LIKE AN ANGRY CROCODILE into the laundry room where the changing pad is, and then I WRASSLE HER LIKE AN ANGRY CROCODILE until her pants are off and the diaper is getting changed, and she screams and cries and tries to hit me and I just bellow WE ARE CHANGING YOUR DIAPER RIGHT NOW AND THAT IS FINAL and she squirms and flails and tries to escape and I WRASSLE HER LIKE AN ANGRY CROCODILE until the new diaper is on. Once the whole thing is done, she has a bit of PTSD but NO CHILD OF MINE IS GOING TO WALK AROUND WITH TURDS JUST CHILLING IN THEIR DIAPER.

Parenting: it's a messy business. Choose your battles carefully.

And keep the fly swatters well hidden.

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