Limits: They Can Set a Toddler Free
Sometimes BabyC just wants me to tell her no. I’m learning this about my toddler.
We read two books of BabyC’s choosing at bedtime each night. Last night, she rushed us through the first book, turning the pages so fast that we couldn’t really read it. For the second book, she signed “all done” on page 3. This happens sometimes when BabyC is really tired. “OK then, we’re all done with reading, BabyC. Time to sing our song and get in bed.”
She protested, “No, no, no, no.” She arched her back in my arms and shook her head at the crib. She signed for “milk.” Looking desperate, she whined and made the sign for “book” with her hands.
I love reading to my daughter. It is one of my all-time favorite things to do. I’m tempted to sit down for another book, trying it again, hoping for sweet snuggles before bed. But it is late, and I know she’s dead tired – that’s what she was telling us when she sped through her books. I know that if we sit down for another book, she’ll have a hard time choosing the one she wants, and then she’ll again flip through it too fast to read. We could play that game for 10 more books.
But I hate saying no. I really do. As much as I know BabyC needs limits, I often pause and wonder if there is an easier way out, a way to avoid her disappointment or sadness.
“BabyC, you had milk, and we brushed your teeth. We read two books together. Now it is time to sing our song and say goodnight.”
Her body relaxes in my arms. There is no protest – she just seems relieved. She needed me to tell her that tonight would be the same as every other night and that it was time for bed. You’re right, Mama, it is time for bed. Thanks.
We sing. I kiss her. Daddy kisses her. She holds out her baby doll for us to kiss, and each of us does. I lean down and she pecks me on the cheek, then points to Daddy. He leans down to receive his kiss. Kisses all around and a goodnight. Twinkle, twinkle.
I often find myself afraid to set limits, thinking there must be an easier way. You already had two cookies, BabyC – you don’t need a third. I won’t let you climb on the table. And yes, we really do have to brush your teeth tonight. It’s what I do all day. But I’m still new enough to this parenting gig that I get surprised by nights like last night, when it is obvious that setting a limit was not just the right thing but also the easiest thing for everyone. Sometimes these moments of parenting sweetness are book-ended with 10 struggles on either side, and still they make me feel like we’re doing alright.
P.S. I’ve been busy, dear readers. I have a few posts half-written in my head and on notepads around the house that are in danger of being hijacked by BabyC at any moment. I’ve neglected the blog a bit, but we’ll get back into the swing of things soon.