This is a precious stage in my Ankita's development. She is a toddler at the grand old age of two-and-a-half. The "toddler" can be tough to figure out. With their changing moods, their desire to establish authority by stepping over and challenging already-imposed boundaries and rules, and their incredible ability to soak up new information like a sponge, parents are often left helpless as to what to say, how to say it and when to step in to say "Time out!" to these little ones. But this is also the time when these little people get us adults to wonder about the fascinating way their minds work, how they evolve with their own personalities, what they choose to learn and repeat... naughtiness, clever deeds, newly learnt skills... it's a constant stream that keeps me fascinated, frustrated and super-involved all the time!!
My daughter has just started to discover that she can be funny. She stares at the mirror and makes faces, laughs at herself and calls herself funny. She jumps up and down on the sofa or the bed (or anything that can spring back) and says she is "being a monkey." She now knows our names and finds it hilarious to call me Amit and her dad Mimi... who would think that name-swapping could cause as many laughs! She has also figured out the power of laughter to dissipate tension. So when she has been naughty -- and knows that she has done something she shouldn't have -- she tries to cover up by doing something silly and then laughs that loud, forced "ha ha ha" laugh that only kids can bring forth, and says "Mamma, I am being silly?". The hope: her mother will not see the misdemeanor and all will be fine. Yeah, right!
Sometimes when I think of all that life could throw to stall us, crumble us, make us cry and feel defeated, I feel blessed to be able to spend this time with my little one and share her laughter, nod at her attempts at being funny and smile with her. It doesn’t take long for my anger or frustration to dissipate… she drives me crazy one minute, and then the next minute when she comes and puts her little arms around me, I melt.
A typical scene at our home at 6 p.m.
Me: “Ankita, what will you eat? Rice or noodles or roti?” (I have been told that toddlers love being given the power to choose)
Her: “White rice” (She doesn’t like anything mixed into her rice – or any other food item to touch it on the plate)
Me: “OK” – while I run around and get that ready on the plate with a side plate of vegetables or chicken to go with it – just in case
Her: “NOOOOOO. Don’t want it!! Want roti” (after I have put rice before her)
Me: “But you just wanted rice!”
Her: “No, don’t want it.”
Me: “Have a bit then I could make some roti if you are good”
Her: “No eat! Want to watch Dora!” (note: this is a new request for her favorite cartoon show – where did this come from?)
Me: “You have to eat first.”
Her: “Watch Dora, watch Dora, watch Dora…” (this litany continues for the next 10 minutes)
Me: “Ok, so you won’t get roti and Dora. You have to eat the rice and then maybe I will let you watch” (by this time my temper has soared higher by the minute)
Then follows an arm-wrestling spree to get her spoon… she won’t eat and won’t let me feed her. And all along I am wondering: why do I do this every single day???
Then she suddenly calms down, smiles and says “Mommy help Ankita eat?”. Hooray! I have received the green signal from her, the white flag of truce is waved and I can go through the evening now. And that surge of ‘momminess’ in the pleasurable act of spooning rice into my little diva's mouth makes it all worthwhile.