Sunday, February 25, 2007

B and I have talked about her frustrations in dealing with her daughter's E's temper and her own response to interactions with her before her visit and again now. I must admit that, in listening to her tales of E's fits and hearing such behavior over the phone, I had formed a few impressions before encountering her in the flesh. I have been with E several times since she was born, but a year has lapsed between my last visit and, at this time in her development, that is virtually a lifetime.

On her blog, B tends to write most about her family. A logical outcome for a young wife and mother. When you read of how she describes E as her little helper, I would imagine you would, as I did, picture a toddler trailing after her mother "helping" in such a way that probably makes the tasks B is tackling a bit longer in process. After all, E is only two and a half years old.

However, since her visit here, I have come to understand what a gross mistake such an assumption would be.

As I have written earlier, E is quite thoughtful. You can practically see her cognitive wheels turning, something that fascinates me given her age. Recognizing this, during her visit I have rather quickly adopted her as my own helper. "E, would you bring me the stool behind the green chair." "E, could you please throw these things in the trash?" "E, will you get out a diaper for J and the wipes?" "E, where did your mommy put your pajamas?" "E, will you put this jar back in the refrigerator on the middle shelf?"

With all my requests, she has been a cheerful and willing helper, the complete opposite of the young girl who threw herself down on the floor today in frustration before assaulting my plant. I shall revisit that moment later, but for now I wish to continue with what I have come to discover about her mind.

No baby talk is necessary. While she cannot completely replicate the complex sentence construction she hears all around her, she can understand much of it. One thing I found strange about B is that from the moment E was born, she would talk to her as if she were in complete command of the English language. Yes, B cooed and whispered sweet nothings in her ears, but she also plied her daughter with the whys and wherefores of all that she was doing with her. Therefore, when you ask her to do something with a few qualifiers in the instructions, she has no problem doing so.

Furthermore, E, probably 100 times a day, will ask "What you doing?" Her version of the toddler "Why?" perhaps. Yet, when she is asking the why, she is actually expecting a legitimate answer that she can process, compare with her current knowledge, and file it away for a later time. Often she calls me mama instead of my name, but when I do not respond to the former because I assume she is addressing B, she will correct herself and repeat the question.

Such a small example this is, yet it is representative of how she is also a problem solver. If an obstacle is in her way, she will figure out how to move it or go around it. If she would like to grasp something out of reach, she will drag a chair to aid in her retrieval process. If she is having difficulty holding several items, she will set them down and figure out the better way to hold them.

B wrote of a perfect example of E's critical thinking on her blog when she described an interchange with her daughter. B was exhausted and just toss off that E should do something, anything. "Go play with knives!" E's response was that she couldn't do that because it was wrong, it was dangerous.

Back to today's fit. B noted that she has discovered that E hates to have things pulled out of her hands. If she has something she shouldn't, it is better for all parties if she is asked to put it down rather than having it immediately taken away from her. I have tried to remember this in the past day or so to see if staying my impulse to snatch things away would make a difference. I believe that waiting on her has made a significance difference when her temper begins to flare.

In my recent exchanges with her, I have also noted that E works best when she is in control of her environment, if she is a part of the processes that directly involve her. Changing her diaper goes well if she is allowed to re-snap her undergarment. Eating has gone better if she is allowed to choose what she will be consuming and then again allowed to one bite or one portion at a time rather that just to tell her to finish her food.

Tonight B gave her the choice of sleeping in the Pack-n-Play or the bed since sleeping in my Arctic basement on a foreign bed has not been easy for her. E choose the portable crib and, after one false start with a wet diaper, went to sleep quite easily. [Of course, it should be noted that both times I re-settled her (diaper issues), I gave her, at E's request, the second Binky (her most beloved item). One to use; one to hold. Tonight, I discovered that B has always made her choose. Not being aware of that regular part of her bedtime/nap time routine, I assumed that if having the second one was of comfort, she might fall asleep more easily.]

All this to say is that, when I have made a concerted effort to allow her to make choices, she has been happier.

So, to the fit. I had said "no" to her and she was frustrated. When she does not get her way in a matter she believes she should, E's most frequent response is to wail, writhe on the floor, and/or hit. I think E doesn't know how to handle her feelings of anger or frustration and therefore falls into a fit or lashes out with her fist as a way to externalize her internal processes. Therefore, I believe that if B and her husband can teach E to talk about her feelings, she might be less inclined to engage in the negative behavior. If E begins to "use her words," as my friend T would say, the world could be her oyster.

I gave her the choice of taking a nap or cease crying. Needless to say, E chose the latter. We went on to watch some more of Charlotte's Web, play with her toys, and wait for her mother to awake from a much-needed mid-morning nap.

I do know that there are no easy answers. E is a complex little girl. She is clearly intelligent, with a large gap between her mental age and her physical age. She is clearly strong-willed, with definite opinions about how her life should be. She is just a toddler, with so little experience on which to draw.

E is, however, a genuine helper. Since coming here, even with changing diapers, preparing her meals, changing her clothes, and following after her energetic explorations of her environment, E has made my days easier. She has saved me steps, helping guard against my constant fatigue. Her willingness to fetch something while I am in the middle of a task improved the efficiency and efficacy of my work. And her companionship has been a balm to my soul.

She gives the fiercest hugs. She bestows the softest kisses. Her smiles radiate the darkest corners of a room. She is extremely curious and thoughtful.

Sometimes I think that perhaps B cannot see the forest of E's potential for the trees of her temper. However, each passing day, folded into each passing month, shall bring E one step closer to being able to more clearly interact with her parents, something which I believe will eventually ameliorate the issue of her temper.

NOTE 1: J did have his first fussy segment of time. However, his behavior was quite understandable given the fact that he had a mere fraction of sleep time during this day. I shall remain firm in my belief that he is the world's easiest baby.

NOTE 2: B's cold is in full force. I know that she had fret about being ill while she is here, but it truly doesn't matter to me. I think because I long for people in my life who will accept me as I am with regard to my health...people who would take my pain and fatigue and limitations in stride because I matter to them. Besides, it is B. I shall take her company in any form I can get it.

NOTE 3: I smoked her in Crazy Eights. We split victories in Quiddler. She smoked me in dice Phase 10. I smoked her in Skipbo. We split victories in Rumikub. Oh, the joy of playing games with such a fine, fine mind! Though...I must admit that while I genuinely celebrate her victories, I HATE losing!

Note 4: We got an unexpected deluge of 3-4 inches of snow today. I was worried about the dwindling diaper situation (B's trip is, thankfully, lasting longer than she expected), so I went to the store to replenish her supply of diapering materials for both children. I saw two wrecks, many fishtails, and slipped and slided my way to Safeway. I shall need much training in navigating through snow and much fortifying of my nerves while doing so.

No comments: