Friday, April 29, 2011

Walking A Fine Line

I knew going into this whole parenting thing that I would be facing some large challenges. I also knew that once each challenge was met and (hopefully) overcome, it would only clear the road for the next new challenge to take its place. This will continue probably for the rest of my life. I'm good with that, I really am. That doesn't mean it isn't still difficult from time to time, however.

For me, as a highly routine-centered control freak (I used to joke that I am borderline OCD, but I don't think I am that bad, and I don't wish to take away from those who actually do suffer the clinical affliction), there is certainly an extra dimension added to addressing the challenges that arise.

My daughter has hit that age where she wants to explore everything around her and is mobile enough to get into most of it (and is smart enough to start figuring out how to get to the things that are just out of her reach). Now, the obvious challenge in this is letting her explore safely. It is a good thing for children to be interested in the world around them, and it builds their problem-solving skills when they try to figure out how to get into that cabinet or find a way to reach what is on the high counters or desk. So there's that. Trying to keep an eye on her while still letting her do her own thing, trying to decide when to help, when to discourage, and when to just let her call the shots--well, I am figuring all of that out too.

But with my need to have everything just so, I am also finding a challenge from myself. For example, Baby Girl loves to pull books and DVDs off of the bookshelves. Sometimes she will empty an entire shelf, stacking them up elsewhere. That I actually find pretty easy to deal with. We have fun putting them back together (she likes to help) and I can put them back in (more or less) the order that they are supposed to be in. Though I will be honest, those books are no longer in anything resembling the correct order. But that is okay, because I am planning to reorganize how the books are shelved soon anyway, and she's not hurting herself or the books...and a large chunk of those are her dad's anyway. But other times she will just rearrange things on the shelves. Pull them down from one, put them back in a different order or on another shelf. She seems to enjoy this immensely. Sometimes I see her doing this and I have a whole inner-monologue fight with myself in order to keep from stopping her fun for no reason other than mommy is a little crazy. Sometimes I don't see her doing this...and that worries me way more than it should. Like I said, I am mostly okay about her Feng shui activities with the books, that's fine. But the DVDs, dear god, the DVDs. That is my personal domain. That is my sanctum of order. Those things have to be where they are supposed to be. My poor insane self can't take knowing that they might be on the shelf out of order.

Yes, I know I am nuts.

So I have to fight with myself not to overreact when I realize that Baby Girl had indeed rearranged my DVDs at some point in the recent past (again). Sure, I could instate a rule that she is not allowed to touch the DVDs without mommy's help, but that would be almost impossible to enforce unless I was willing to follow her from room to room in the house. The only thing being hurt by her exploration is my nerves, and when I weigh the actual (negligible) damage against allowing her to grow, well...I just have to suck it up, don't I?

Lately she has become extremely fascinated with the dishwasher. First she realized she could open and close it, and she got tremendous fun out of that until I started just keeping it locked. But once I did that, she realized that she could turn it on. I think I have finally managed to avoid that issue by taking the knob off of the switch. It seems pretty difficult for her to turn without it, thankfully. But she is vigilant! If my husband or I forget to lock the thing, she is right there, opening it it up, putting things in it--one time it was pretty much the entire (clean) contents of the silverware drawer, yesterday it was her stuffed bear. But this is just a matter of me staying on top of keeping it locked. I can deal with that, and she lets me know if I have failed, obviously, and it is an easy thing to rectify.

Of course, none of that does me any good when I am trying to unload the darn thing. She has realized that this is an opportunity to be seized! She sees me taking things out and she wants to help. This has resulted in a need on my part to revamp the way I unload the dishwasher. We've got it in energy-saver mode which means that I have to hand-dry everything before I can put it away. So I have had to get clever and try to get the heavier and/or breakable objects (like plates) out of the way first so that the kiddo doesn't try to get them on her own. She will. Watching her try to carry around one of our dinner plates makes my panic mode kick in PDQ, let me tell you. It also means checking for knives first thing. I usually wash knives by hand, but sometimes I get lazy, and let me tell you, talk about panic mode, when you see your not-quite-two-year-old reaching for the knife in the silverware tray! Yeesh.

But I want to encourage this tendency of hers to help me pick up and put things away. I really do. I think it is awesome. It just means that I have to fight some battles with my own control-freak self, as well as make adjustments to my routines. I won't lie, my kid is pretty remarkably well behaved. I have no idea how long this is gonna last, but while it does, I count myself remarkably lucky, and I am gonna do whatever I can to encourage it to continue. If that means scrubbing out some of my ingrained tendencies, well, so be it.

It is funny to me. People always tell you that parenthood will change you and your life completely. You do what you can to prepare for this, you try to expect the unexpected. But still, you can never see just exactly which buttons are going to get pushed, and which habits will need to be overhauled. What holds today may be completely unhelpful tomorrow, come to that. It is definitely a roller-coaster ride, and right now, she's the one in the driver seat most of the time. She still lets me take control when I need to (this I also expect not to last), so for now I am just gonna hold on and pray I don't fall off.


  1. Oh, god, I hadn't considered the rearranging of books and DVDs. Ugh. When Nooblet is born and we reach that stage, I may well have a slight nervous breakdown. lol

  2. Yeah, didn't really occur to us either. She really likes to arrange and rearrange things though. I don't know if that is all babies or just her. Still, if you know it might be coming you've got a slightly higher chance of surviving with your sanity intact, right?

  3. Hugs... you'll get through this stage & on to the next .... lucky for me I had my kids before my personality quirks were ingrained... or maybe I have quirks because of my kids (LOL) chicken or the egg?