“I can do it mummy”
“No I’m doing it”
“No! I was doing dat!”
“No! I can do it i-self”
“I want to do it”
Etc etc etc. The phrases go on and they’ve started to become the bane of my life. I’m actually sat writing this post tantrum, snuggling a now settled but recently distressed two year old that’s just about dropping off for a very early but much needed nap. She’s nicely snuggled across my lap, tucked into the crook of my arm, eyes closing. Calm has resumed.
The fact is she’s a keen learner, the kind I long for in my classroom or studio. She is eager to learn and do the next thing and she doesn’t want my help. She’s the ultimate problem solver, she’s an independent learner, she wants to do it herself and figure it out herself. She wants to learn and get better and do everything I do. So what the hell am I complaining about?
I’m complaining because it’s hard. I want to foster this. I want to encourage it. I want to support her inquisitive nature and I want to develop her independent. However, I also want her to be safe, kind, well mannered. I want to get to places on time, I want her to be well fed and I want her to be brought up well. However, these things don’t always go together well. She wants to learn to use a knife and fork for example, but she doesn’t want me to touch, demonstrate or help and assist her in this. Yet I need to, not just to teach her but to ensure she’s safe, yes ok she uses the toddler cutlery but she could still hurt herself, jab herself in the eye etc. She wants to climb in and out of the car herself and shut the car door, but doesn’t want me to assist so she doesn’t fall or trap her fingers. She wants to get dressed herself and fasten her own shoes, which is fine when we don’t run a tight ship for childcare drop off and work timings, when I need to help and get out the house to a timescale.
Of course the need for my interference then causes conflict. She gets frustrated and upset with me or with the situation. Today she wanted to cut her sandwich herself however a blunt toddler knife and toddler strength proved difficult when cutting a warburtons sandwich thin. This obviously caused her upset so I helped, we both held the knife and the sandwich and successfully cut the square in half…the world war 3 broke out. Her life was over and the tears streamed down her face because she wanted to do it herself and I had helped. How dare I? So lots of cuddles and kisses, another sandwich thin, spread of butter and numerous slices of ham later, peace and tranquility arrived as she munched away on her oddly shaped, mashed and distorted but self cut sandwich.
My heart went out to her. It genuinely broke for her just now as she sobbed in my arms, upset that she’d not been able to do it herself. I’m sort of able to empathise with her because I’m a bit the same. I want to be able to do everything in my life myself. It’s me and her now and I pride myself on being independent, I always have. I buggered off to uni by myself at the age of 18, started travelling the world and bossing my career in my early twenties. I’ve always known what I wanted and gone and do it myself. I don’t like to need help at work, I like to come up with and sort out the solutions in my area and with my team. I like to figure things out for myself, work it out for myself and do get frustrated when I can’t. I get it, she wants to be independent and she wants to be an adult but also wants to run before she can walk, just like me.
I’m better at work for asking for support and help, I’m better in that scenario for going to the relevant people and saying, “I need some advice,” “can I talk out this issue with you” or “can I bounce some ideas around with you” until I’ve found the right solution and that works well for me. It gets the job done, it means I don’t have to constantly nag for help, it keeps a element of my independence but finds solutions. At home though, I get pig headed, I get too, “I can do on i-self” then get worked up and frustrated when I can’t. I try to juggle it all and then get angry at the world when I don’t manage. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?
That’s why my heart went out to my little girl. That’s why I didn’t roll my eyes at yet another asserting her independence tantrum, because in reality it wasn’t a tantrum, it was genuine upset. It was genuine, I’m trying my best to do something and not getting the result I want. We’ve all been there, we’ve all tried so hard to do something and failed and when you’re putting your all in, it’s hard when it doesn’t go your way. Whether it’s a ham sandwich, a marathon, a marriage, single motherhood, a job interview or artistic project, it’s heartbreaking when what you’re trying to do doesn’t happen or someone else swoops in, steals your thunder and slices your sandwich for you. She wasn’t actually angry at all and she most definitely wasn’t angry at me. I just needed to stop and listen for a minute, she was upset because she couldn’t do it herself. But she wanted to, she wanted to so badly.
It’s hard nurturing that ambitious streak but maintaining a level of control, decorum, boundaries and teaching. I want her to fly, I want her to soar and strive for more and more. I’ve a strong ambitious streak and I want her to be the face. This strength and sass of hers will help her succeed in life, it’ll mean she won’t get walked all over and it’ll mean she’ll strive for more and better. I just need to find ways to temper the upset, not only for her to learn not to act out when it doesn’t go her way but also for her to learn to handle and cope with the disappointment of failing. For her to learn that when she doesn’t achieve it’s ok, that she can learn from it, that she can be resilient, jump back up, dust herself down and try again.
Yes toddler P, you can do it on i-self but you might need some help, you might need to keep trying and you might not always manage it on your own but all of that is ok and it’s ok to ask, to fail and to admit you can’t do it all. It’s ok because mummy’s still learning that too even though she’s proved she can do a lot of things on i-self.