Why is my toddler crying?

Here are a collection of anecdotes about the breakdown of communication where I misunderstood the desired outcome which resulted in upset feelings:

Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com
  • Fleur handed me a banana saying, “do this.” When I started to peel it, she wailed.
  • She asked me for strawberry oatmeal. Like the dozens of times before I poured pecans into it. She howled about them.
  • She asked to watch Frozen. So, I clicked on Frozen. The screaming was because she wanted Christmas Frozen. (aka Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.)
  • The past three times she has had a particular food, it has resulted in her needing to be held because her tummy hurts. But, it is sweet, so she wants it. When I say no, she throws herself on the floor with intense crying and tears and hurt.
  • The prize for potty training is candy which often gets dropped on the ground, making it inedible but that doesn’t mesh with the prize loss. Inconsolable. Until I replace or wash it, nothing else can be done.

Careful

Fleur is the adventurous type. She enjoys climbing, jumping, and scary situations.

For the most part, I have always encouraged her to push her boundaries within what I consider acceptable. Climb higher. Climb the arch ladder while holding her hips the first time but let her do it on her own subsequent ones. Jump off the 5 foot wall the 5 foot distance to catch her a couple feet off the ground. Throw her up into the air.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Momma cannot watch some of these antics. Mostly because her baby is in danger.

If I thought Fleur was really in danger, then I would encourage her to do something else. There is a risk. Throwing her up into the air means I could miss the catch. I am cognizant of the risk, but I accept it on our behalf.

The smile she has when successful is infectious. I hope evolutionary biology isn’t tricking me into letting her into unnecessary danger. It is a reward for me to see her happiness about having done the dangerous thing.

On the other hand, this confidence building feels very necessary. At the park, she was hesitant about the arch ladder. Protecting her the first time let her see it was possible. It expanded her worldview. She did it a dozen more climbs on her own. Because… she knew she could. I want her to feel like she can do anything.

This elephant parenting isn’t for the faint of heart.

Another thing is my language has changed over the past month or so. Instead of saying “be careful” so much, I am trying to get better about specifics. When she is walking on a curb, I will ask, “Do you feel stable?” Or when she is running, “Are you going the speed where you tend to trip?” or “Are there [roots or mud] for you to fall on?” The idea is to get her to consider the situation.

Reading to dolls

I stumbled across the cutest of scenes. I went looking for Fleur because it was too quiet.

She was in her room with the Olivia book between her and Cora the doll. While not yet able to read, she does have it mostly memorized and was telling it to Cora.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

She also will offer to read to us. Usually they are her favorites, so she basically memorized the story.

What amuses me most about her play reading is the made up parts. There is a slight pause where she realizes she doesn’t know and composes something to go with the picture. I can see why she picked it.

It reminds me of how the brain fills in the gaps for memory retrieval. If the actual memory has pieces missing, it finds relevant information and inserts it into the recall. The problem is that is what gets remembered in future retrieval instances. This is what distorts recall such that eyewitness testimony can be manipulated by police or lawyers.

DWAT

Driving With A Toddler may be more dangerous than texting while driving or under the influence of tranquilizers. This is very much a distracted driving situation.

Basically, while driving, Fleur becomes demanding of my attention.

  • Play <insert song>!
  • I want to go to the park!
  • I want to go to the store!
  • Open this!
  • Throw this away!

Of course, I ignore text messages and phone calls while driving. But, both are infrequent and less… demanding than a toddler. Patience is not yet an acquired trait. And I often refuse to play the song when there is such negative emotion.

My wife calls it not negotiating with terrorizers.

The thing is, evolution played a trick on us. Our brains are highly sensitive to the frequency at which our children cry. So, for the ten minutes I am not negotiating or doing the thing fast enough, I am also experiencing agony. So, all too often, it is really tempting to give in.

I feel at times that I give in too much. In the moment, it feels like a relief. And I justify it as a small thing to allow her to have.

Of late, my resistance has been to make her ask. I’ve decided to give in, but I make her do it in a nice way. She is good about complying.

Two many much

Today was a productive potty day at daycare. The snack bag had more than usual amount. Fleur looked super proud.

They get a piece of candy each time they go. We tried stickers and found it okay but not great. We switched to candy and found it super effective. Daycare went the same route a couple weeks after. The dual environments using the same method has us over a month in without an accident.

Today she showed me the bag. She wasn’t in a rush to eat it like usual.

I asked how many she got. She told me: “Two many much.” I thought she meant too many, but two many makes more sense.

She can count. But, in this moment of triumph, “two many much,” was perfect.

Butt out

Often, when Fleur is asking Mommy about something and I have the answer, I offer it. She ignores it and asks again, so I answer again. Around the third to fifth time she will tell me in a frustrated tone, “I am talking to Mommy.”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It amuses me because I get that quite a lot. At home as a kid, at school, at work.

As a know-it-all, I answer questions. It never occurs to me you don’t really want an answer or solution.

Help is a four letter word

I do it myself!

Fleur, just now and all the time

I am torn about this stage.

I love that she wants to develop these skills.

  • She perseveres.
  • She makes small tweaks to form to find the one that works if it doesn’t initially work.
  • She learns from the past mistakes.
  • She develops a preference.
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

My hope is experiences like this will help her pass the marshmallow test.

I dislike having to wait. I am not good at padding the timeline to include how long it could take her. I hope to get better about accommodating this.

Thankfully, when I offer to help, she rebuffs me. This tends to be a bit more intense than my preference, but I respect that she wants to do it. Also, if we try to intervene by putting on her socks or shoes without permission, then she will get upset and remove it and get even more determined to do it herself.

Friendship

One of the family stories is my brother has this friend. They were in the same daycare class when they were months old through college with a brief hiatus where they still maintained the friendship. This was the best man at his wedding.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A former coworker of mine and a current one of my wife has a daughter about the same age as Fleur. They’ve had many a play date growing up. And ended up in the same daycare. COVID put a halt to that, but now they are around each other again.

Pre-COVID, they would play around each other. They acknowledged the existence of the other. They might allow the other to play with a toy that is theirs, but it wasn’t playing together. It saddens me that I cannot peek into the room to observe if this has changed.

This morning, I was informed that the crayons she was taking were:

  • Blue for friend
  • Red for self

Which makes me happy. Our child is growing up and making friends.

Proper Names

Fleur calls me Honey. I am sure it started as parroting my wife. But, she does it now as a replacement for Dada. Well, when she wants my attention.

Fleur: Daddy.
Hoooonnneeeeeeeeeeyy!

Actually, you know what? That latter is similar in approach to how the wife calls the teen. Booooboooooooooooo!

Fleur has taken to calling the male Little People toy in the toy house “Honey” too. I need to observe the name she has for the female. Curious if she has a name yet. I am also curious if she will call other adult males Honey. (And their reaction to it.)

The first toy I noticed she named was an annoying unicorn that makes noise. We never named it because, honestly, we hoped it would disappear (burn in a fire). Fleur named it Lady. Same as a dog down the street she loves to visit.

I ponder often the psychology of names.

  • They occupy space in our brains. And they seem important due to processes in the brain encoding and retrieving them.
  • Our language seems built around labeling things. English has a subject and an object, both of which are “things” and the verb saying what we are doing with the things. So we need nouns to identify and distinguish between the things with greater and greater accuracy.
  • I think what I like most about science is the precision I gained in thinking about what things are by developing ever increasing vocabulary about them.
  • We start with physical things and move into more abstract. I call myself a technologist which is not an actual object. It is a job title with a loose and very subjective sense of duties.

Empathy

The pandemic has allowed us to have evening walks. We get to meet our neighbors.

The other day one of the neighbor children fell and was crying. Fleur was most distressed about the other child being in pain. It took quite a bit of reassurance and the other child no longer crying to pull Fleur on her way.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Humans are social creatures. We attend to even the distress of a stranger. It bodes well Fleur was distressed. Right about now is when we should be seeing signs of autism.

Autism more has issues with shallow empathy or reading the emotions on another’s face or tone. Once they cross the bridge keeping from the shallow empathy, they are able to feel deep empathy. This deep empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of others, a merging of identities.