Thursday, June 09, 2011

Testing

Testing! Testing! This is a toddler speaking. And I have decided to go on a testing spree that is driving everyone a little batty.

Lucia is a sweet baby. She makes the snuggle motion when she sees dogs and cats (or squirrels or birds or even ants) outside. She feeds food and milk to pictures of animals in books. She has blankie and other favored friends take bites of her food while she says “num num num.” She gives kisses to me and Andrew. She kisses her two favorite cat toys. She (usually) doesn’t steal other babies’ toys.

But we are coming up on twenty months now, and she has started to test. She’ll do something we don’t want her to do—like start pushing her toy stroller toward the street—and we’ll tell her not to do it. Then, watching us the whole time, she’ll slowly, slowly, turn toward the street again. Once again we’ll tell her not to do it. And so on. It’s the same with coloring on the table (“Lucia, stay on the paper”—and a long, testing gaze will follow as she slowly, slowly pulls her marker tip from paper onto table). And, most infuriating, with hitting. Thank goodness she hasn’t started hitting other children; but she is eager to take swipes at my and Andrew’s faces.

I give her three strikes before taking the troublesome object away, or walking away from her as she yells for me to come back. But it doesn’t really seem to be doing any good. Does she understand I stopped reading her a book because she swiped at me? Does she get that we stopped coloring because she drew on the table and then, in a fit of defiance, drew on the carpet in a sudden, wild motion? I’m doubtful.

After a relentless bout of swiping last night, Andrew put her in her crib for a time out, during which she sobbed and screamed and then, when he lifted her out, clung to me and kissed me. And then when she calmed down…she tried again to hit. Sigh. Using the crib for a time-out space was a desperate measure; I don’t want it to become a place of punishment. We need to figure out our strategies for civilizing our little wild one.

And so we spend our days mostly giggling and smiling and playing, until I inevitably tell her not to do something, and then a round of testing begins. “No,” for now, may as well mean “Do it again.”

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