Last night, we were going about our usual night-time routine and got to the crucial putting-on-PJs part of the experience. We usually give Ruby a choice of two PJs and she chooses one and life moves on… But this time, she flipped out and went totally boneless as Ajax as helping her stand up on the changing table. Result – she almost (not really, but sort of) fell off the changing table, all the while screaming “NO NO LEOPARD PJS! NO DINOSAUR PJS!” We’d given her a choice and she had originally chosen the leopard print PJs. But when it came time to actually don them, she was not having it.
Ajax picked her up and said sternly “You do not go boneless on the changing table” (to be added to our list of bizarre things we never thought we’d say) and she had a total melt-down. Which is really so minor, compared to what I’ve seen other kids do, but still and all – she was upset. She sat on the bathroom floor and cried and cried and said “Ruby have a time OUT!” I could see that she wanted to be alone to work through her upset, but Ajax sat down for a sec on the toilet to see if he could calm her. My instinct that she needed to be alone was confirmed when she yelled “Daddy go OUT! Ruby having a time OUT!”
So freakin’ cute. And also? AMAZING.
Knowing she wasn’t in any danger, we stood in the hallway with the door slightly open and said “Okay, when you are ready to be done with your time out and put on PJs we’re here for you.”
It seriously took all of about 2 minutes for her to calm herself down, stand up, pull out some PJs she actually did want to wear and get in them, with Ajax’s help.
She learned this incredible skill from the person she seems to learn everything from – her favorite person in the world: her cousin, Natasha. Natasha will frequently put herself in time-out when she just needs a break from the world and it’s truly so amazing to see. It’s a powerful skill and one that parents can easily foster. Sometimes children need alone-time to process their emotions, get themselves centered and calm… just like grown-ups do. We’re so quick in this culture to want to help, soothe, heal that we forget that our kids need to learn this skill for themselves. And being able to help them by letting them know we’re here, but we’re respecting their boundaries is a great gift to give a child.
There was an interesting article in the New York Times online recently called Seeing Tantrums as Distress, Not Defiance that sparked a lot of debate on my various Facebook moms groups. Personally, I tend to agree with the author and the experts she quotes. Especially in kids as young as Ruby, but even in older children. When we don’t give our kids the space to work through their emotions, to learn how to navigate those tricky waters, they learn to bottle them up or view them as unimportant or bad. Not really the best recipe for the mentally and emotionally healthy adult we hope we’re raising.
I also came upon this great page on the Los Feliz Nursery School’s website the other night and it’s got me re-examining how we talk to Ruby. Where can we use more positive and calmer language? How can we foster her individuality and empower her to be confident in her own choices? I thought this page, which is actually a guideline for the parents at the school, was a fantastic jumping off point and I’d recommend any parent of a toddler to check it out.
Helping her through the tumultuous two’s (and no, I’ll never call them the “terrible twos” because they don’t have to be if you don’t want them to be) is an important job. It’s also a challenging and endlessly fascinating one. I loved watching her process whatever it was she needed to process last night and I loved that we, as her parents, could support her in it, in the way SHE needed to be supported. And in the end, when she got into her slightly too-small fleece footie PJs and came running out to give me a good-night hug and kiss, her tears were dried and her face was as bright as a moon-beam. I could see the pride in her eyes and it brought tears to mine.
Also, we will be getting into PJs standing on the floor from now on.