Toddler Ten Commandments

These Toddler Ten Commandments were handed down generations ago, written, scribbled actually, on the underside of cereal boxes with crayons. Anthropologists recently unearthed, from landfills miles deep in petroleum fortified disposable diapers, these Toddler Commandments and are currently verifying their providence.  True story.

Toddler Girl Crying

1.  Thou shalt not do anything asked of you only once.  Repeating things is good for our parents as it will prepare them for a lifetime of needing to do this with us.

2.  Thou shalt prefer sugar, in any form, above all other flavors.

3.  Thou shalt approach grandparents or other such malleable adults who appear especially impressed with our cuteness for those big ticket items our parents deny us.

4.  Thou shalt never go to the bathroom on demand without first exercising the power of, “NO!”

5.  Thou shalt covet our neighbors’ toys, proving the theory that OKT (“other kids’ toys”) are invariably better than our own.

6.  Thou shalt request macaroni-and-cheese at every single meal.

7.  Thou shalt not submit easily at the end of the day.  “Do not go gently into the night,” is not a metaphor about death, people, it is the banner call of toddlers everywhere.

8.  Thou shalt lose crucial single pieces of puzzles, toys, and Legos, making the toy’s proper usage impossible, though still within the possibility of findability, making disposal prohibited.

9.  Thou shalt sense when our parents are coming to the end of their proverbial ropes, in danger of denying us necessary privileges, and smile and look all innocent adorableness until the threat of denial has passed.

10.  Thou shalt incite the fear of adults in airplanes by our mere presence.  If we meltdown, we are only living up to our reputation.  If we do not meltdown, we are impressing those around us, thereby increasing our access to sugar, macaroni-and-cheese, and toys.

Toddler Boy Crying

Super Nanny Where Are You? The Reverse Time-Out

Time-outs are not a common thing in our home, but they happen.  Mary Tyler Son just turned three years old and every once in a while that adorable angel, the fruit of our marital love, acts the fool. 

Yes.  It happens.

We follow a fairly standard time-out routine.  Having just turned three, Mary Tyler Son is now doled out three minutes in the time-out chair instead of two for his indescretions.  Most commonly, those involve hitting one of us, kicking us, or simply not responding to our directions without them being repeated a number of times.  I see red when my boy is impertinent.  There is no way in hell that I would have ever been allowed to sass my Irish Catholic father.  Mary Tyler Dad is more patient and forgiving on that count.  Not me. 

Believe me when I say that Super Nanny taught me everything I know about toddler discipline.  For reals.  That gal is smart.  Like Toddler Whisperer smart.  When her show was cancelled, my heart started beating fast, as I never fully paid attention to her discipline strategies for older kids, tweens, or teens.  Mary Tyler Son is %^&*$# after age five (UGH – I just made another promise to my Dad that I would not swear on MTM). 

But he is not five yet.  He is just three and that means I have two more years to worry about discipline post toddlerhood.  That will come later.

Right now, I am struggling with our current time-out protocol and with Super Nanny having left me high and dry, I need help.  Your help. 

Mary Tyler Son is smart.  And feisty.  Kind of like me.  He does not like his time-out accommodations and getting him to sit still in the designated chair (a super cool mid-century restaurant booster seat in bent wood and red vinyl, yo) turns a three minute time-out into a 40 minute ordeal. 

He knows his Dad is coming from a different discipline place and style and has conned him into having a time-out in his lap or on the top stair (so unsafe when you have 14 stairs).  He knows I am a glutton for punishment and will spend the time it takes to keep his toochus in that little piece of mid-century perfection.  I will do just as Super Nanny instructed and without words keep returning that boy to his seat. 

At some magincal point in this interaction, without fail, it becomes about THE PRINCIPLE for me.  If I tell my misbehaving boy to sit in a chair for three minutes, dagnabbit it, he will sit in that chair for three minutes.  This has made time-outs a bit of a contact sport in our home.  Mary Tyler Son strays and I retrieve.  The clock does not start ticking until his bum in on the seat.  He knows this and challenges it every last time.

This is tiring.  Exhausting for both of us.  Silly, really, but still necessary, as I do not want to raise a brat that has no respect for rules, boundaries, the needs of others.  No, siree!  I want to raise kids who are aware and respectful of others and their needs.  This is “non-negotiable,” a term I use frequently to alert my son when something is a deal breaker. 

Okay.  That said, I don’t always have 40 minutes to administer proper discipline technique, expecially as Mary Tyler Son is most likely to misbehave during transitions — time for bed, time for nap, time for leaving the house, time to eat.  And, yes, I always give fair warning that these transitions are happening.  Exasperatingly, he never hears these warnings and ignores the timer my mother-in-law cleverly suggested we use at the five minute mark.  Sigh.

So anyways.  Yesterday we were both home.  We were tired and cranky after a weekend away visiting grandparents and getting home late.  (Thank you, United Airlines, for allowing me to experience the joys of entertaining my boy at boring mid-sized airport for an extra couple of hours!)  Mary Tyler Son had a bit of a stomach bug, too.  Minor, though.  In retrospect, I think it was just the re-entry to our routine that was upsetting to him.  He missed his grandparents and the lovely time they showed him. 

He kicked me after my explaining for the umpteenth time that No, we were not going to the Shedd Aquarium to see fish.  This despite he himself having gleefully stated he did not want to go see fish as he needed a day at home to “rest.”  He kicked me.  No freaking way my boy is allowed to kick me.  And kicking and hitting are non-warning events — Mary Tyler Son knows that kicking and hitting lead to an instant time-out.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

Well, as expected, his shenanigans started.  Honestly, folks, I did not have it in me to wrestle him for 40 minutes.  After returning him to the time-out seat the third time, turning my back and hearing his little feet follow me, I made an executive decision.  I headed straight to my bedroom, shut and locked the door, and steeled myself for three minutes while Mary Tyler Son wailed and carried on just outside.  Yes, I did.  I might have checked facebook during those three minutes.  Maybe. 

At the end of those moments of deep breathing on my part, I calmly opened the door, kneeled down to talk to my boy, and dropped my jaw when he said, “I’m sorry Mommy.  I’m sorry for kicking you.” He then reached his little arms around my neck to give me “cuddles and kisses,” just like Super Nanny taught us. 

What just happened?  Had I stumbled upon the greatest thing since pre-cut green beans?  Had the time-out gods smiled down at me, providing divine revelation about a different way?  Was I to be the next Super Nanny, elevating the ABC schedule to new heights of amazingness?

I don’t know.  It could be simple dumb luck.  It could never be duplicated again.  I will definitely report back.  With Super Nanny in retirement, we all need some guidance.  How could she have ever left me?  Sigh. 


Donna’s Cancer Story: Surgery 3.0

This is the seventeenth of thirty-one installments of Donna’s Cancer Story, which will appear daily in serial format through the month of September to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Each post will cover one month of Donna’s thirty-one months of treatment.
Donna in her sailor suit

I’ve used the word whiplash to describe life with Donna’s cancer before, but this month was an exercise in it.  We went from feeling damned to blessed within just a few days.  After confirmation that the cancer had not metasticized, Donna had her third major tumor resection on a Friday morning.  By 11am on Sunday, after a breakfast of McDonald’s french fries and a walk around the unit, she was discharged.  A friend of ours joked he had hangovers that were worse.  And it is crazy and backwards to feel intense pride about your girl’s ability to handle a craniotomy, but damn, we were proud of Donna. The sailor suit photo was taken just eight days after surgery.

This surgery also involved a dose of internal radiation, called IntraBeam, that is only performed at Children’s Memorial in Chicago.  A different type of GPS style MRI scan was used to help the surgeon locate the size and scope of the tumor.  The stickers you see on Donna’s head were magnetic and used to create a 3D image of her brain to guide the neurosurgeons.  Did I ever mention that Donna’s neurosurgeon works part-time?  Yep.  Part-time neurosurgeon and part-time at home with her kids.  That gal is a rockstar in my book. 

Donna with cheetah haircut

During the seven hour surgery, after removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue, a radiation oncologist and nuculear physicist were brought in to the OR to administer the dose of radiation directly to the tumor site within the brain, a process we hoped would “cook” the beast.  The idea of radiation was frightening to us, but all involved believed that while experimental, it could help Donna.  I wrote at the time, “Watching your child undergo majoy surgery is like labor.  You forget how bad it was the last time around in order to do it again, as needed.”

The weeks leading up to this surgery were so difficult, full of fear and worry.  Then, after the typical (scary that brain surgery on your three year old daughter can be described as typical) post-surgical discomfort and crankiness wore off, our girl was just as she had been.  Amazing, albeit with a new “cheetah” haircut, needed for the GPS MRI and hockey stick scar that looked mean and angry. Donna came home and within minutes started walking and playing, eating and climbing.  Mary Tyler Dad and I were shell shocked.  Whiplash. 

After the first surgery, there was the terror and fear of the unknown, and after the second surgery Donna was flung into chemo.  After this surgery, Mary Tyler Dad returned to work three days later and I was at home with smiling, brightful Donna trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened.  Mary Tyler Dad captured the moment with this, “She’s doing well enough that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And then I say to myself, another shoe?  Wasn’t a brain tumor relapse enough shoe for now?  Maybe this was the other shoe, and its dropped already.”  Always working to choose hope.

So life went on.  And Donna took our hands and guided us to it.  At certain points, and I’m not joking, we wondered if the radiation had done something to Donna’s brain that was unintended.  Within days of turning three she had her surgery and within days of the surgery, she morphed, right before our weary eyes, into a toddler.  Tantrums, time-outs, testing — the whole kit and kaboodle.  It was exhausting and utterly life affirming.  Mary Tyler Dad wrote:

“If your daughter has survived (so far) a year and a half of surgeries, “sledgehammer” chemotherapy, hospitalizations, nausea, constipation, fevers, and misery, will you be properly grateful for every minute you get with her?  And the answer is ALMOST, which seems pretty ungrateful and miserly, but there it is.  I dearly love this girl.  I fret that the treatment has hurt her, and I fret that it didn’t do enough.  I think of the friends we have whose time ran out, and I try to appreciate every tantrum as a chance to soothe my living, breathing little girl.”

And, that, my friends, is why I married Mary Tyler Dad.  I told each of my kids on the day they were born, “You won the Daddy Lottery!  Congratulations!”  And they did.  And I won the Husband Lottery.

Speaking of kids, as in plural, I started to show this month.  Donna was intrigued and curious about my growing belly.  We spoke often of having a brother or sister coming to join us in the coming months.  She was thrilled.  And empathic.  So empathic, in fact, that miracle of miracles, she told us she, too, would be having a baby!  Donna had conjured up her own pregnancy and was turning into a good little mother.  She worried about the heat of warm baths, “Will it hurt my baby?”  She shushed us if we were being too noisy, “You’ll wake the baby!  It needs to rest.”  She had even selected a name for her soon to be bundle, Hot Air Balloon.  How can you not love this girl?

Donna at zoo

Tomorrow:  Dance Class