As my daughter ebbs closer to two years old I find myself saying no more. Actually, I find myself saying no all of the time. (Seriously; it’s sort of sad.) Other key words and phrases are “stop,” “don’t do that,” “not nice,” “no slapping,” “say you’re sorry,” “get down,” and, my favorite, some strange combination of them all. Whoever said that having a toddler was rewarding was full of shit, or doing some very good drugs. It is beyond adorable when she says “Mom-me pwease” and “dank you,” and when she said “dada made poo poo” (after her father farted) I lost my figurative shit, but rewarding: There is nothing rewarding about toddler time.
Maybe it’s because I am the disciplinarian. I am the “hard” one. I am the one who yells and says no and makes her eat more than just applesauce, ketchup and animal crackers. I am the one who stops her from climbing on furniture; I am the one who won’t let her sit in the middle of our coffee table and — God help me — I am the one who won’t let her color on the walls, or our cats.
So imagine my surprise with myself when I allowed my daughter to play with her dinner a few weeks ago. She wasn’t feeling well (damn those molars), and we had already spent two hours watching Sesame Street. By the time we sat on the kitchen floor, yogurt cup in hand, we had already thrown our grilled cheese and refused anything even resembling a solid. I was tired and stressed and ready to snap — which explains why we were on the floor in the first place.
It started simply enough. She had one bite of that full-fat vanilla goodness, sweet and sugary and more of a desert than dinner, and then another. Finally she was eating! Pleased with myself and her appetite, I handed her the container, more than happy to indulge her desire to jam her fingers into that goop. I could clean her later, I thought. She was eating. We were sitting still. This, Momma Kim, was a success. (Pats self on back.)
Then it happened.
I should have seen it coming. I mean, you see it coming, don’t you? I knew it was a possibility, what with being an unrestrained, projectile weapon wielding toddler, but I didn’t. I didn’t see it coming until her white fingers for a few inches from my face.
Yup. That’s right, my friends, I was the proud recipient of a yogurt facial.
Instead of yelling I laughed. I laughed like there was no tomorrow. I laughed like our lives depended on it. After a few moments of processing whether or not Mommy had lost her mind, my daughter joined in, giggling and laughing while she smeared fistful after fistful of yogurt across my cheeks, the tip of my nose, and the tops of my arms.
In that moment something changed. In that moment I got a taste of what it is like to be the fun parent. (I assume this is what Daddy feels like when he takes her for ice cream just before bed or sneaks her cookies before breakfast.) I got to be “super” Mommy, a.k.a. the fun parent, and it felt AWESOME.
I knew it wouldn’t last; it couldn’t. (God knows I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking it is okay to paint with her food.) But for a few moments we lived in the moment. For a few moments I let her be a kid, and nothing more. And, for a few moments, I got to sit back and enjoy her being a kid — and enjoy me being a Mom — and nothing more.