Who’s In Charge, Mama?

Yesterday, Skylar and I went to Hobby Lobby. I just had a few Christmas crafts needs. It wasn’t going to be a long trip. Skylar would sit in the cart happily with her snack, of course…

We entered the store and Skylar refused the hospitable cold metal cart seat. In her defense, she’s getting too big for that tiny shelf seat…her feet and knees almost always get stuck on the way in and out. So for a fun change of pace, I put her in the large part of the cart I actually needed for supplies. It was fun for approximately three minutes. She stood up in the cart and refused to sit down. I let her out, but told her to “stay with mama” in my most serious voice (which I think is still fairly soft).

She stayed beside mama but took every party hat off the shelf in the first 30 seconds of her free range HobLob life. She refused to help put them back. I told her free range time was over and placed her back in the cart. She was fine when I handed her some stickers to play with. Desperate times lead to desperate impulse sticker purchases. She was calm for two more minutes then freaked out about something else entirely rational and I decided that’s it, we’re outta here. 

I snatched her out the cart and briskly walked, screaming toddler in arm, out of Hobby Lobby. Unfortunately we were in the back of the store, so it was a longer, louder parade than I anticipated. We made it to the car and I told Sky she couldn’t act like that in the store. No one liked it. She needed to calm down if she ever wanted to go back to the HobLob wonderland. I started to put her in her car seat. She went full exorcist – arched back and head spinning. She typically loves the car, so I guess she realized this was a punishment?

Then I saw a monkey sticker on her thigh and an elephant on her arm…we stole stickers. I was trying to stick (no pun intended, but a happy accident appreciated) to my guns and follow through with the punishment even though I really didn’t want to waste this emotionally draining trip by coming home empty-handed.

I’m sure Hobby Lobby may have forgiven the stolen stickers, but it was the reason I wanted to go back in and get my goods. I couldn’t be teaching my daughter that stealing puffy stickers was acceptable behavior. 😉

After Skylar nodded her head promising to be calm and obedient, we went back in. She helped me push the cart as I awkwardly waddled to avoid her. We spent a little extra time beholding the hundreds of Santas on display (“Big BIg BIG Santa, Mama!). I cooled off and chilled out a little. And I think Skylar sensed it.

We’ve talked in my Loving Mom’s Class about how your babies can sense your underlying frustration with them. I doubt that they have this super-toddler sixth sense all the time when I’m feeling stressed, because I don’t want to be the one to blame. But Skylar does seem to get to me the most when I’m already bothered by something else. Maybe I’m under-slept or over-occupied with upcoming plans. Whatever it is, Skylar knows I’m tightly wound.

Maybe she has a complex security complex and is thinking, “What did I do? Why is she so un-fun today? Does she still love me?!” I’m probably reading a bit too far into this, but babies just know! Their brains are so uncluttered at age two, they observe way more than we adults do. They cannot ask the questions they wish to ask, so they look for answers upon our face and in our tone.

You can Google infant/toddler emotional stress and find lots of research to back this up. This article refers to a study in which moms were put in stressful situations prior to holding their infants. The mama’s heart rate spiked; so did her baby’s.

So what’s the lesson here? I actually remember reading this when Skylar was a sleepless baby and thinking “Awesome. Just what I need to hear. Stress less, even if you’re in the heart of the shock of new parenthood.”

Honestly, Skylar has already taught me to tame my instinctual emotional response. I know how she reacts in room full of screaming, or if she hears me react to a hard fall. Tantrums have taught me I need to cool off with Skylar. I might initially escalate her heart rate, but then she really jacks mine up.

That walk out of Hobby Lobby and to the car really helped me flush my temper. Skylar cooled off with me (after the car exorcism occurred). Fresh air doesn’t hurt either. As many wiser moms have told me, “Make space.” You need to physically make space between where a meltdown happens and make space emotionally, move away from the irrational flustering your toddler was able to rouse in you.

“Who’s in charge?” My mom said when they asked 2-year-old Annie this question, I quickly and confidently responded, “I’m in charge!” It’s funny now, but I’m sure that strong-willed child was a real patience-crusher. We’re in charge, parents. I have to remind myself of that daily when Skylar tries to snatch the reins. Stay in charge. Stay sane. So simple…SO hard!