Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Taller toddlers

I read many years ago, that preteens and young teenagers got along well with toddlers, because they could relate. They were at similar stages of development, growing up and away, and exploring their independence.

I believe it. Although I swore at the time I would remember every moment of  Earbaby's baby and toddler-hood, my memories only have a few snippets of milestones reached, or funny phrases uttered. I remember when she started cruising the furniture right before she turned a year old. I remember her pulling up and standing for the first time. Our dog at the time was there, patiently lying down as the newest member of the household supported herself on her back, then let go.

I remember when she really mastered walking, the week we were in Florida. That memory is bittersweet, because my father died that week, so I remember her joy at walking in the same place with my working on my father's eulogy in the hotel room with the freshly washed and still too-damp carpets. When I see pictures of her we took that day, with her big smile, I am transported back to that place when I was saying to her "look at you, just walking and walking!"

I remember her at two, telling me she wanted a baydough and my struggling to understand what she was asking for. She said it several times, baydough, baydough, until I got it. "You want a bagel?" I asked. "Yes," she replied as if to say "what did you think I said, moron?" "And," she added, "I want cheese on it." Meaning of course cream cheese. That's a fun memory of her learning to talk.

And I remember her love of the Wizard of Oz. She would watch that movie from beginning to end every day, all day, when she was three (yeah, I know, some good parenting going on there, right?). She would put on a tutu we had for her over her footie pajamas, and dance around, acting out all the parts from Munchkinland. She would even lie down and hide when the witch appeared and get back up when she left. There's a tape of her acting out all of this, so I can relive those days.

And I remember the tantrums. There weren't that many (or maybe my selective amnesia is kicking in), but when she had them, they were fierce. Some came when she wasn't ready to finish an activity, like playing in the park. She would go limp, then stiff as we tried to buckle her into her car seat. It would be so frustrating, we'd leave, vowing never to return. But my older sister wisely told me the solution was to get her prepared, by saying, "OK, we're leaving in 10 minutes," then five, and two, and finally telling her it was time to go. It worked like a charm, and those days at the park became fun again.

Now we're living with a taller toddler, more verbal, more obstinate, and the tantrums are even more fierce. And I know I'm not alone. There are many older toddlers. They live with my friends.

I recently helped chaperone a school trip with EB. It actually was her request, because she said I wasn't embarrassing (not a real compliment, but I'll take it). Her classmates, some, but not all,  acted as if they had never been outside. Not outside the school, outside at all. We went to a nice historic house, preserved as a museum and they were only mildly annoying, but respectful about not touching anything or taking pictures.

But when they stepped outside to walk up into the neighborhood by the state house, oh my word! They couldn't cross the street without having to stop and take group shots of everything with their cameras and phones. They were boisterous and rowdy, despite being told to be quiet and keep up. I told some of them we should make them walk holding a rope, like the toddlers do.

The guide was understanding. This isn't the worst group, she told me. And it really is the age. One of the other chaperones was beside herself with annoyance. She said she will never do this again, these kids were just too bad. I must say our daughters and their friends were in the good group of kids, the ones who didn't act as if they had been just let out of cages.

I actually found it kind of amusing. While they wouldn't quiet down when they were told by one of the guides, a loud, sharp, HEY! from me brought instant silence. EB says it's because people are scared of me. I find that concept hilarious. But I can see the similarities between young teens and toddlers.

They both need boundaries, preparation time to begin and end an activity, and a lot repetition.

And when you're taking either group out, don't forget the rope. Otherwise, it's like herding cats.

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