An honest take on life and parenthood

Battle of wills

on August 15, 2013

Angela, my daughter, is three. She is strong willed. She is a homebody.

I am her mommy. I am 42. I am strong willed. I am a free spirit.

Consider these facts as we begin the conversation about potty training.

Potty training brings out the best and worst in both parent and child. As a parent, you experience giddy anticipation as you contemplate the end of poopy diapers in all their stinky forms.

As we have moved into and through and out of the potty training phase, I have congratulated myself on my patience a number of times. But as with all things related to parenthood, pride goes before a fall, and potty training is no exception.Image

Fortunately (or unfortunately), we have an iPad.

If you happen to have both a toddler and an iPad, you know that an iPad comes in handy for potty training. I would (and still do) plop her on the pot and pull up some videos on Amazon Prime, and away we’d go.

A few months back, before I left my company, I had a very intense week at work. March through May has always been an exceptionally busy time of year at this company, and everyone’s stress levels were through the roof.

Angela and I didn’t leave the house that grey winter week, since I was so swamped. I worked well beyond my allotted hours and still had deliverables coming out of my ears.

As for Angela, she didn’t mind a bit. A raw wind and temperamental skies ruled out the playground for an outlet, but Angela didn’t miss it. She is a creature of habit and loves her familiar, crusty little play and hang out areas in the house for coloring, playing with dolls, or putting together puzzles. If she was home and Mommy was close by, she was content.

By Thursday afternoon of that week, I was absolutely stir crazy. I had not left the house since the previous weekend, and I was desperate to get out, even if it was just to go to CVS and look at AA batteries.

When I logged off that day, I told Angela we were going out.

She said no. Standing there in only her diaper with her belly sticking out, she stubbornly refused to get dressed.

I hauled her upstairs and proceeded to try to dress her.

She turned into the human equivalent of a 32 pound greased pig. She wriggled out of my grasp countless times. I couldn’t even slide a onesie on her.

After this futile wrestling match, I backed off. We played with the stuffed animals and dolls in her room.

I tried to dress her again.

No dice. She ran away and successfully eluded me once again.

Suddenly, she told me she had to use the potty.

I thought, “Aha! Now I’ve got her.” I smiled sweetly, and then told her that we would be going out after she used the potty, so she could not have the iPad. If she had the iPad, I reasoned to myself, we would never leave the house.

I put down her toddler potty seat, seated her on the toilet, and waited for her to do her thing. “Finally!” I thought to myself. I mentally flipped through the choices of destinations. Target? Maybe Stop N Shop?

She sat there, naked on the toilet, and began to wail.

“But I want to watch Blues Clues on my iPad! I want to watch Blues Clues on my iPad!”


And over.

And over again.

“I want to watch Blues Clues on my iPad!”

“I want to watch Blues Clues on my iPad!”

She repeated it so many times that I lost count.

My anger and frustration climbed like the mercury in a thermometer in Miami.

I was the boss. I was the one in charge. I was standing my ground, and we were doing it my way. I was the mother, dammit.

“I want to watch Blues Clues on my iPad!”

The high whine pierced my eardrums and I couldn’t take one more second.

I was so enraged that I came frighteningly close to hitting her. And not just a light whack on the butt. I mean really, really hitting her.

Instead, I grabbed the damn iPad and shoved it into her little hands.

She pushed the “on” button, swiped her finger on the screen, and opened a Blues Clues episode.

I stood there in the doorway of the bathroom and looked at her. She sat there without a stitch on, and watched Blues Clues, calm and contented.

I lost. I felt defeated and deflated.

Suddenly, I heard my husband’s key in the door. Where the hell had he been? Why was he home so late?

Bewildered, he looked at my desperate eyes and didn’t even have a chance to ask me what happened.

I grabbed my coat, purse, and keys, and rushed past him out the door. “I have to get out of here. Going to the grocery store. Be back in a bit.”

He stood there, mouth agape. I don’t think I even gave him a chance to kiss me hello.

I ran out the door and gunned the car out of the driveway. When I got to the parking lot of Eastside Marketplace, the closest grocery store, I parked the car and burst into tears.

I was horrified at the intensity of my fury, and even more horrified at how close I had come to physically hurting my tiny daughter. I felt ashamed of myself. I was shocked by the level of violence and ugliness that had surfaced in me over a minor occurrence of potty training.

I reminded myself, “I am the adult. She just a child. I am 42. She is three.”

Fast forward to today.

Angela is completely potty trained. The iPad is still an indispensable prop. As I look back on this incident now with the benefit of time and distance, I try to forgive myself.

I know that I would never hurt my daughter intentionally.

And there is no question that I love my daughter. I love her so much my eyes practically spin around in my head when I think of her. That said, I am human, and so is she.

Both of us can be single-minded.

Sometimes I win (though not as often as I would like to admit), and sometimes she wins. I choose my battles.

I realize now that I was overtired and overworked, and I hadn’t taken care of scheduling time out of the house that week. I was consumed by my paid work and things that needed to be done at home. As a result, the stress bent me so hard I nearly snapped. I could have asked my mother-in-law to watch Angela for more hours that week, or to even take Angela for a visit to her house. I could have asked my husband to give me a breather one or two evenings after he got home.

Coulda woulda shoulda. My little girl was almost the unfortunate and unintended victim of my pent-up anger and frustration.

Note to self: when I don’t take care of myself, I am not the only person who pays the price.

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