It would be no stretch of anyone’s imagination, least of all mine, to regard the summer of 2015 as remarkable. We did everything. Literally. I’m not kidding when I say that there were planes, trains and automobiles involved. As well as oceans, both the Pacific and Atlantic, museums galore, plenty of sugar, ice cream, trips to McDonald's, not enough carousel rides, swimming pools big and small – lessons too, movies, hikes, crafts, injuries (a really ugly scrape to the knee), and some major milestones achieved.
My sprite of a human has a capacious personality; vibrant and intense, she knows what she wants when she wants it, and Lucy has been blessed with the ability to articulate such desires. While on one hand this is fabulous for communication, it can also be a distraction. I often have to remind myself that despite the fact that she can speak in sentences, she’s still not-quite two years old. She may be able to tell me about with whom she played or the dinosaur she colored purple at school that day, and repeat, from A to Z, all the rad American women in her book, but when she’s pissed or frustrated or tired, this 23 month-old is not above throwing a gargantuan tantrum.
And oh my, how those meltdowns have tested me. They have brought me to the brink, and have forced me to use every ounce of patience within my possession and then some. These moments are my kryptonite.
Because of all this – a little girl with advanced language skills, a robust personality, a strong sense of self and desire, I’m often hit with the commentary that sounds like, “You’re going to have a tough time with her when she gets older…” Why is the assumption that because, by all intents and purposes, my toddler is behaving like a toddler, that she’s going to be difficult? She’s (almost) TWO. Why wouldn’t I expect her tiny brain to go haywire when she can’t cope with big emotions? And why doesn’t anyone expect a “quiet” child to be problematic? I refuse to label my daughter. In fact, I try to see her big personality as one that will be the backbone she relies upon as she navigates the world successfully.
We hit some pretty major milestones in this young lady's life. She pooped on the potty, and we got rid of the binky. The first one is self-explanatory, so I’ll spare you the details. But the second was HUGE. It had been a while coming, and this binky business was starting to create issues. We’d relegated it to the crib for just sleep, but this wise child figured out that if she asked to go in the crib, she could enjoy some time with her most beloved possession. At first it was a non-issue, but recently the requests to go in the crib began to increase, and when it was inconvenient, major fits were thrown. The last straw was the day after our return from California. All she wanted to do was go in the crib and chew on the damn bink. I hit my breaking point. We made the decision then and there to take it away. Cold turkey. No lead up. No “binky fairies,” no party, zero fanfare.
That first nap without the use of the pacifier was the undiscovered tenth circle of hell. She pitched the Armageddon of tantrums. She banged her water bottle against the wall, then chucked it across the room. Then, she hurled every single stuffed animal and pillow out of her crib. She howled and wailed, begged and pleaded for her bink, non-stop, for forty minutes. FORTY MINUTES. And for forty minutes, I cried. I was wrecked. I had all the mama guilt in the world. I was certain she would hate me, that she’d forever hold this against me, that she would never ever say again, “I wuv you, mama.” I feared I’d screwed her up somehow. I was awash in doubt. And then just like that, it was over. At the forty-first minute, she quit. She lay herself down and she passed out cold, not moving a single muscle or appendage for an hour and a half.
She had exerted her will, did her best to compel me to change my stance – she had been a worthy opponent, but this was a battle I wasn’t going to lose. Nighttime was easier. She only cried for ten minutes. Since that Sunday, the bink has been gone, without much ado. And since that Sunday, she’s laughed with me, told me she “wuvs” me, and has in her own lovely way let me know that I’m still in her good graces.
That night, the first night of no pacifier, Big Red looked over at me and commented on how he was surprised how much this had all affected me. That I’m normally so strong in my convictions and so assured of myself, but that a thing as small as a pacifier had brought me to my knees.
It’s because of her, I told him. That instinct to want to protect and not bring harm or pain is overwhelming, and to know that I may have been the cause of her frustration and her discomfort, however small or large they were, was horrifying. Now that the fiasco is behind us, I’m beyond glad we did what we did when we did it. But damn, it wasn’t easy.
Currently, Lucy is nursing a cold, caught just in time for the start of the school year for me. Nights have been a little rough, but they seem to be getting better. I’ll go into her room if she’s having a coughing fit to try and help her out of it, give her some water, and hold her for a bit. She still fits against my body – I haven’t lost that yet. She’s bigger, she’s heavier, she’s more of her own person, but she still needs me. In the wee hours of the night, last night, I went into her room and lifted her out of the crib. I gave her something to drink and held her against me. We rocked in the chair for a bit and I rubbed her back until the coughing stopped and she settled. As I stood up to put her back to bed, through a tiny hoarse voice, in barely a whisper, she said, “no mama, in da rock’n chair pease.”
So I sat down, fighting my own internal battle – the one most mamas know – the face-off between wanting to want to hold onto her and desperately needing to go back to sleep, and rocked my almost two year-old a little longer. As I listened to her breathe, I tried to recall all the best of our summer. She’d run me ragged, but I’d do it all over again with a smile on my face. When our plane took off from California, climbing high into the early morning, still-dark sky, I thought it apropos that the final scene of summer would be the image of gold sequenced glittering lights of a city below. That was our summer – sparkling, expansive and forever etched into my memory.
My sweet Lucille won’t remember how she laughed at her Papa’s donkey noises, how she ran to her Nana’s arms for “huggies,” or how she rode her first ride at an amusement park with her Grandma. She won’t remember her terror during her first swimming lesson, or how she sat through half of a movie in a movie theater before asking to be “all done.” She won’t remember the carousel rides and how she never wanted to get off, how we hiked together, made crafts together, and ate too much ice cream. She won’t remember how gleefully happy she was to run around naked and splashing in her pool.
In one month, she turns two years old.
She won’t remember any part of this summer.
But I will.