“Wanna do it SELF! Wanna do it SELF! Wanna do it SELF!”
She thrashes like an angry crocodile caught in a net.
“Sienna, calm down!” I say, my frustration near boiling over. “You can’t change your diaper by yourself!”
Poop leaks everywhere as she flails. I take a deep breath wishing to skip potty training (which we haven’t even started yet) and go right to whatever craziness comes next.
We might be a couple of days away from the Fourth of July, but my daughter’s in the throes of a sudden independence streak. She wants to do everything herself: open doors; use silverware (if I can actually get her to consume some food); touch the elevator button; brush her teeth; etc. Name it, she wants to do it — sans help — and if she is told she can’t or is physically unable to, she throws wild tantrums that test my patience like nothing before.
I want her to do things on her own. It’s my job to teach her to be self-supporting. However, her forbearance is as thin and fragile as a spider web.
The Independence Day rebellion
I open the car door and immediately she starts yelling, “Wanna do it SELF! Wanna do it SELF!” I remind her of her manners. She whispers, “Please.” Once she finally — FINALLY — manages to climb into her car seat, it’s a battle because she wants to buckle herself in, but she’s not able to yet. I show her how it’s done and explain that it’s too difficult at the moment, but she yells and kicks and whips her arms and torso about.
Then there’s eating. She demands to use a spoon herself to eat milk and Cheerios except she scoops up a bite or two and then way too often does this:
She’s testing her boundaries (and me), yet the slightest impediment causes some sort of toddler hormone to course through her blood causing tantrums, thrown food and incessant crying.
And I want to get away. Far away.
I want to run
I want to run from my responsibilities as a parent because the “Terrible Twos” are real and they’re frightening as hell. I resent her for making me clean up bowlfuls of wasted cereal and milk. I resent having to clean up the yogurt she’s thrown across the room. I grow frustrated that I have to bathe her and myself after she spits the medicine I give all over the place.
Then the guilt sets in. I know my little girl just wants to grow up fast and do the same things Mommy and Daddy do, but still … I count the minutes until I get relief when it’s time for her to nap. If she naps. Often, nap time is my favorite part of the day. Is that wrong? On really bad days I count the hours until bedtime or until my wife Elaine gets home and I can get some peace.
Sienna is a few months older than 2. She’s growing up. She’s talking in sentences. She wants her independence day, week, month, year, life. I get it, but sometimes it gets to me. But then I’ll see this and she’ll remind me how much I love her:
So I’ll keep doing my job. I’ll teach my little girl and bear the burden of her frustration at not having the dexterity yet to put on her own clothes or buckle her car seat. Because that’s what dedicated, loving parents do.
Editor’s Note: A version of “An Early Independence Day” this first appeared on Raising Sienna.