I need a hero. And, if you are the parent of a toddler, so do you.
We have all been here. It's dinnertime or bath time or bedtime. Maybe it's time to leave the house or time to get dressed or time to clean up. Regardless, it's a struggle.
There is no logic or reason to these struggles. One day, your child might be happy to put on his or her shoes and jacket and the next, the mere mention of a particular pair of shoes is the greatest offense your child has heard. Sometimes, cleaning up is a fun game accompanied
with song. Other times, you could swear your little one is about to challenge you to a duel.
As the father of a 3-year-old (the older of my two daughters), I have witnessed tantrums and have argued about the following: wearing a dress that is the WRONG color, not wearing a dress, putting on a pull-up diaper, wearing sunglasses, wearing a hat, wearing a jacket, wearing gloves, walking, actually cleaning her in the bath, eating something other than pasta, eating pasta that may have touched a vegetable, eating a vegetable, turning off the television, putting the iPad away, sharing a toy, using the potty, not pushing her infant sister over, chasing our cat, tasting a new food, lowering her voice, brushing her teeth, not waking Mommy, not coloring on the floor... I could go on.
The point is this: We are not being honest with ourselves. There is a menace facing us parents and we need someone with superhuman powers to deal with it. A savior who will be able to deal with what no mortal can. Someone who swoops in and saves the day.
Imagine: Our hero's secret identity is a wild-mannered toddler. In that role, she is the same as the rest. But then, using her superhuman hearing, she can hear when disaster strikes. A whine. A scream. The beating of fists or feet on the floor. These are her Bat signal and her call to action.
And, she's off. Look! No, not up in the sky! A little lower! There she is. Faster than the word "No," leaves most children's lips, more powerful than a bag of smelly diapers and able to leap over fairly large puddles in a single bound. It's Cooperative Girl!
Her costume is a blend of primary colors. There is a large "C" on her chest. She wields lollipops and ice cream. She comes ready to negotiate. And, most important, she stands for patience, cooperation and making sure parents get their way!
"What is going on here?" she would ask our stunned children, as they eye her belt filled with candy. And, before they could give an answer that might work on us, she would explain how much better it is to cooperate, to listen, to verbalize their feelings, to try new things,
to share with others, to clean up when they are done playing. She would lead by example, quickly washing her hands, eating some veggies and sharing some toys, and she would wait until we were done talking on the phone before politely asking for things she wanted. And she would always say, "thank you."
And then, she would point up at us and say, "Look at your parents. Go easy on them. Do you really want to add to their stress? Don't you realize how much they worry about you? That's likely what occupies them for most of the day. They worry about your developmental stages
and your health, and they make sure your food is organic, and your plastic is BPA free, and that you have all the right educational toys, and they tend to you when your sick and make sure you have everything you need. So, when they ask you to do something, just say "yes," and they will really appreciate it!"
Our children would then be understanding and perfect. Finis.
But, you know something? While this may all sound like fantasy, there are some moments when my daughter is so sweet and so helpful that I am certain Cooperative Girl secretly visited her. Of course, she and all of our children have Cooperative Girl's powers somewhere
inside of them.
So, fellow parents, take comfort in knowing that wherever there is injustice, wherever there is a parent suffering from exhaustion, wherever sanity is threatened, Cooperative Girl will occasionally show up and make you feel a little better. And when that happens you will have been rescued... at least until the next meltdown.