A Toddler Too Soon
Truth be told, my baby is not the most advanced on the block. She’s almost 14 months and has never really crawled. Sure, she can roll. Last week, my husband and I whooped and cheered for a scootch backward.
But really, she doesn’t seem on the verge of toddling. While other babies have gotten lean and mean–they look like toddlers by now–our baby looks like, well, a great big baby.
Yet today, in the grocery store, she sure sounded like a toddler.
I’m pretty sure I got to witness her first tantrum. I’d hand her things she might like, and she threw them angrily to the floor. She was screaming and wailing right up until she was back in her car seat, at which point she let out happy little squeals.
I felt exhausted: from the surprise, from the embarrassment, from the knots I’d twisted myself into trying to appease/quiet her down for the last 20 minutes of a trip that suddenly seemed interminable. But my daughter, she was back to her sweet self.
I’ve been reading a lot about toddlers in preparation for this moment. I know that tantrums are normal developmentally. They’re like squalls, a summer storm that comes and goes. They show her understandable frustration at being toted through a world in which she has limited control, when she can express so little of what she feels. She has few words. I recognize just how frustrating that must be.
And I know I don’t need to turn myself inside out to calm her; I just need to express understanding of her (temporary) emotional state. This, too, shall pass.
But I guess I just thought there was more time. She’s not even toddling yet. Our babyproofing has been minimal. She’s still a big baby. Wait, did I already mention that?
I know she needs to get older. She needs to become more autonomous, and therefore, she’ll necessarily be more oppositionally. she needs to exert her will.
But does she have to do it already? When I have a cart piled high with groceries and five more items on the list?
I will say, everyone around me in the store (including the cashier) was kind and compassionate. They were letting me know they’ve been there, that they’re aware my daughter’s meltdown doesn’t signal my incompetence as a mother.
I realize I’ll have to get used to this behavior from my daughter, and develop a persona that gets me through. I’ll offer a wry smile and say things like, “Guess someone needs a nap!” If it’s especially earsplitting, I’ll apologize.
I’ll get better at this. By now, I know that I always do.
Crying baby photo available from Shutterstock
Brown, H. (2013). A Toddler Too Soon. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bonding-time/2013/03/a-toddler-too-soon/