Toddler Without a Cause

Do you know those times where you find yourself wondering whether you are truly insane or actually the only sane one amongst mass delusion? Like a Kafka high school 1984 moment? Well, I experience this every Wednesday morning from 10 am to 11 am, at my town’s local Mommy and Me program.

Now this class sounds great in theory: ages 6 months to 2 years, one hour Mommy and Me class, babies play for 20 minutes to start, then circle time with singing and hand games, then craft, then snacktime and a story. We’ve done plenty of classes from the library storytimes to the corporate funfest that is Gymboree. Anna loves them, I enjoy the structure of having somewhere we go every week and see the same parents and children. We’re old pros, in fact.

But something in that last paragraph really should have stopped you in your tracks. It was the word “craft” used in relation to the phrase “ages 6 months to 2 years.” What the frig, Snookies and Situations?

We are supposed to sit on little chairs at little tables with squirming, crying, tantruming, mouthing 1 year olds, and then glue little pieces of cut out paper to form cutesy shapes, then glitter crap and add eyes and write our names and draw embellishments. Then take it home and put it on the fridge because of course everyone wants to display something Mom made, that she didn’t even come up with on her own because the whole thing was already created for us. With predetermined pieces of paper to form a predetermined scene. Of a pumpkin with googly eyes.

My daughter had nothing to do with this. In fact, she raged mightily against the making of this construction paper art. She tried to throw the crayons against the wall, she tried to eat the glue, she tried to dive bomb off of my lap head first if need be to escape the enforced lap sitting. So I’m going to take this home and frame it? She didn’t even draw squiggles on it. What the friggggggggggggggggggggg?

So the “Unabomber I should live alone in a cabin because the world is fucked” feeling really descends on me when I see the other mothers seem to enjoy this! Their kids sit like stupid lumps on their lap. They’re not doing the craft either but at least they sit there. Lately I haven’t even been attempting this craft time. I dutifully wrangle Anna during circle time because this child does have a mind of her own. She has enough mind for a small African nation. She has mind. But the poorly planned mind control craft I just cannot abide. I make a few half-hearted stabs at gluing before Anna goes ape and tries to throw everything off the table before I just go in a corner and feed her some Goldfish she’s desperate for and wait for snacktime to roll around.

The lady who runs the class gets upset when we let the kids wander from the activity at hand. So needless to say there is a ton of crying and throwing of small bodies on the floor at any given time. Except for about half the kids, whose temperaments are such that they don’t mind just sitting there.

One mom I talked to totally didn’t get what the hell my problem was. She was all “Oh, it’s so good to get them ready for preschool. They have to learn how to do what they’re supposed to.”

Do they really? They are 6 months to 18 months old. Her son was 15 months, mine is 12 months. Do they really need to sit quietly and do some crap that makes no sense? My daughter was engaged with the singing and dancing and playing and exploring, which makes sense. I don’t really feel the need to force her to sit and watch me glue crap because we are supposed to. Am I raising some kind of nonconformist toddler? Will she never learn how to act once preschool, kindergarten rolls around?

I think she has time. And so far my parenting style seems okay to me. My daughter is lovely, affectionate, advanced for her age. She just doesn’t sit quietly.

Maybe I don’t want her to sit quietly. She isn’t joining the Industrial Revolution any time soon.  She doesn’t need to learn how to sublimate all independent thought so she can be more easily wrangled into punching a time card just yet. She’s 1. There is so much more time for soul killing.

Breakdown

So did I mention that by day we are a happy family, visiting friends, reveling in our daughter’s recent BG (Big Girl) accomplishments of almost completing one year on Earth, eating from a spoon relatively successfully, and gesturing 75% of the Itsy-Bitsy Spider song, and frolicking in the late summer/early autumn sunshine, and one big loony breakdown-frantic-recurring-meltdown by night?

I have an urge to take the above sentence and plug it into one of those “what famous writer do you write like” gizmos and see if I “write” like David Foster Wallace meets John Milton as I suspect.

Let’s try:

Oh, okay. Note to I Write Like developers: add more writers to your database. I’m onto you.

So the reason for the double life is the same old reason everything that has gone very wrong has gone very wrong for the past year. Our daughter just doesn’t effing sleep like any human baby you’ve ever heard of. She spends half the night alternating between laughing like a baby monkey on Jolt Cola and crying because she wants you to come laugh with her like a mama monkey on Red Bull and vodka. She isn’t eventired half the time. I guess one day she will be able to hang out and read books in her crib or enact make-believe sagas with her stuffed animals to pass the time at 2 am when mere mortals are sleeping (is she a vampire baby per Stephanie Meyer?) but for now, when she doesn’t sleep, well, we don’t sleep. Sometimes when she sleeps, we don’t sleep either because intermittent crying is part of Anna’s sleep regimen.

She’s pretty astonishingly beautiful, though, so maybe it’s a beauty sleep trick. Laugh, cry, create porcelain cheeks and sparkling green brown eyes.