I know, I KNOW, that a toddler isn’t entirely capable of deciding what to do.
I know, I KNOW, that if I ask Jack if he wants to do something, he might say yes or no and not mean either one or mean it for 15 seconds and then mean the opposite.
The thing is, he DOES have opinions, and in some cases, it feels really rude not to respect them. He really does not want to do something, something that isn’t mandatory? Okay – we don’t have to do it. SOMETIMES. Sometimes I know he’s saying no because he doesn’t understand, but sometimes I think he really has a preference, and if it’s reasonable to accommodate it, I would like to.
Sometimes that backfires on me.
Take this morning. The plan was to have breakfast and go to the beach for a couple hours. We had no commitments for most of the day, no story times, no play dates, and my first meeting wasn’t until 3pm. Today was the first day after his cold that I felt comfortable taking him around people, and I was looking forward to it. If you asked Jack, so was he. We were going to dig holes in the sand and play with trucks! Go in the water! So much fun.
There was no problem getting the car packed or getting him in it. The beach is only 20 minutes down the road. No problem on the drive. Then we got there. I parked the car and opened my door, and Jack fell apart.
Tears streaming down his face, sobbing, “I want to play on the playground!” “Sweetie, we’re at the beach. We’re going to play in the sand and dig holes and play in the water!” “I want to play on the playground!”
I KNEW he’d calm down and have fun if I could just get him out of the car and onto the beach, but “No, I don’t want to get out of the car! I want to keep my gray shoes on! I don’t want to wear my bathing suit! Let’s ask the kids if they’ll play with me!”
The last line did me in.* “Sweetie, do you want to go to the playground?” Sad hiccuping sobs, “Yeah.” “We have to go home first so I can put on regular clothes.” “I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO PLAY WITH KIDS.” “I hear you. We can, but we have to make a quick stop at home so I can change clothes, and then we can go to the playground. Which playground do you want to go to?”
Whew, calm while he considered the merits of the various playgrounds, and I got the car started. We got out of the parking lot, got maybe a mile back towards home, and then more crying, “TURN AROUND! I want to go to the beach!”
I practiced breathing. “Sweetie, we’re going to the playground to play with kids. We can go to the beach another day.”
A little more crying, I kept driving towards home, and then he asked if Graham, McKenna, Emily, and Uncle Sean would be there. I cautiously said I didn’t know, and he said “Let’s check it out!” So I called Emily, and to my great relief, they were willing to take a break from their other plans and meet us at a playground.
Fun times were had by all, I still made it home in time for my meeting, and the rest of the day was incident-free.
We’re going to try the beach again tomorrow afternoon.
*Also, because of his cold, we hadn’t seen ANYONE in over a week, and on top of that, he was up for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, so he was not at his best. Neither was I.