When Kiki was a baby my mom gave me a great piece of advice that has stuck with me over the years. “You need to remember that she is a person. A tiny little human.” She told me this as I was describing how the world had ended because Kiki had missed her nap. When they’re tiny everything seems like a huge deal. It was the first time in her life that she had ever not taken a morning nap. Granted her life had only been 4 months long at that point, but in the moment all I could see was that Kiki always took a nap at 9 am and today she had not. If she didn’t sleep at 9, then there’s no way she’d make it until her afternoon nap at 1. And if she took a nap at 11 instead then not only would she never be able to last until her normal bedtime but it would also throw off her feeding schedule. And thus the world was ending.
My mother told me to take a deep breath and then she said that I needed to remember that my baby was a tiny little human, not a baby machine. “Are you always ready to go to sleep at exactly 10 pm every single night?” No. “Do you always want to eat the exact same amount of food (to the ounce) at every meal?” No. This was a big moment for me. My mom helped me to remember that my daughter was her own person. She was not always going to behave exactly the way I wanted her to. She had opinions, she had likes and dislikes, and she could change her mind.
The other day I heard my mom’s words in my head when dealing with my daughter at lunch. I handed Kiki a plate with some rolled up deli meat and some sliced red peppers (normally a perfectly acceptable meal). My daughter pushed the plate away and pouted, “I’m not in the mood for that.” Kiki had been being quite sassy all week so I started getting annoyed. But then I paused and asked myself if I would like to have no say at all in what I have for lunch. Remember, she’s a tiny human.
Last week I got out a bunch of arts and crafts supplies so that Kiki could make some St. Patrick’s Day decorations. I had this image in my head of an adorable rainbow that I could hang up on our front door. I drew an outline for her to follow and set out all of the paints. I kept trying to get Kiki to follow my guide so her painting would look like a rainbow and Kiki kept getting annoyed at me. (By the way I recognize that I was being weirdly controlling about the way a 3 year-old was making a rainbow) Kiki finally looked at me and said, “can I just do it whichever way I want?” She’s not always going to do things exactly the way I want her to. Remember, she’s a tiny human.
So I try to loosen the reigns where I can. I let her make her own decisions. I let her have an opinion. I let her be independent. Now it would certainly be much easier if she only had opinions when it was convenient for me, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.