3.05.2007

Mummy Do It


At rise:
(A living room in a house in Toronto, late on a Saturday afternoon in early March. CHRIS, early thirties but armed with boyish good looks, cleans up the remnants of a snack that BEE, a petite, freakin adorable, but potentially challenging toddler, just shy of 22 months, has abandoned. MUMMY, a tiny bit later early thirties, not as petite or girlish as she used to be, though she has her moments, is a blur of activity)

Chris
Let’s change your diaper Bee

Bee
Mummy do it! Mummy do it!

Chris
I can do it, c’mon over here; I’ll do it.

Bee
No! Mummy do it!

Mummy
But love, I’m already folding laundry and chopping vegetables while the rice cooks and the cat wants out and the phone is ringing and I’m trying to find your sippy cup and I haven’t peed in six hours.

Bee
No! No! No! Mummy do it! Mummmmmmmy doooooooooo iiiiiiiiit!

(Chris tries to wrestle Bee onto the changing mat; Bee wriggles, flails, spins and kicks Chris in the face repeatedly. Each blow to the kisser is punctuated with caterwauls of, yup; you guessed it, MUMMY DO IT!)

(Mummy indeed does it, and peace is restored. Curtain.)

***
Mummy Do It
That is the directive that, these days, is taking up the most real estate in my daughter’s ever-expanding vocabulary. Well, except maybe for, ‘Miko doing?’ (she likes to police the cat’s activities), and ‘No!’ but, given No!’s monosyllabic efficiency, it’s an easy one to fall back on.

But while No! certainly incites in her mother its share of frustration, impatience, negotiation, and yes, even laughter, Mummy Do It translates pretty much into one thing for me: Sheer exhaustion.

This is really uncharacteristic of Bee. She’s usually very easy going, and we’re trying to figure out why it is exactly that Bee will not let any other adult in the entire free world be her bitch except mummy, because it is a special designation that is wearing itself very thin, very quickly.

And listen, it’s not like mummy has a magic touch – all things being equal, all things are equal. Daddy is just as good at changing diapers, cutting up food, affixing bibs and changing play clothes for pajamas as I am – and, god love him, is willing to do these things with little or no prompting from me – but Bee just. won’t. have it. It’s got to be mummy. It’s got to be mummy to change a shitty diaper, put on slippers, rock to sleep, put in and out of booster seat, put in and out of car seat, put in and out of winter gear – you name it; if it’s gotta be done and mummy’s around, mummy’s gotta do it.

And the only exception to this rule is almost as bad as the Mummy Do It proposition: Sha-ha Do It.

(Sha-ha being what Bee refers to herself as; it’s a weird piglatin-ish hybrid of half her name, and I think it’s so funny and cute that I never try to get her say it the right way).

Sha-ha Do It is employed, it seems, pretty much only during the times that I actually want to enforce Mummy Do It. Like when I’m clipping Bee’s nails, or cutting up her food or walking down an icy path. And Sha-ha Do It is expressed with the same determination, stubbornness and urgency as Mummy Do It. And shockingly, she won’t relent. But unlike with Mummy Do It, I often will not give in to path-of-least-resistance parenting when Bee asserts, Sha-ha Do It. How could I? We are talking risky situations for a toddler to spearhead after all. Nope, I don’t give in, I simply give up, and we abandon the task altogether and move on to an activity that’s a little less controversial for a child to navigate, such as having a tea party or
using a blowtorch.

As the bags under my eyes get a bit little bigger and my store of mommy-patience gets a little bit smaller, Chris and me are trying to figure out what triggered this weird and tiring dictatorship. All kidding aside, we are concerned that Bee is reacting to something that we have not been sensitive enough to transition her through properly. You see, after almost a year of being together daily, Bee’s partner in childcare is exiting our situation to stay home with his mom and new baby brother, and we are easing a new little boy into the mix. Bee, for all reports and all that I’ve seen myself, appears to be handling this with her (usual, characteristic) grace and calm, but maybe that’s a daytime act, a survival tactic, and once I’m home her insecurity presents itself in the guise of a pint-size dictator intent on asserting her control over something, namely me.

Or maybe she is being sensitive to the subtle sadness that has crept into our house, and the heart of her mother of late, even though we truly do not dwell on such things, and laughter and happiness are still abundant round these parts.

Or maybe it is simply the will of a toddler, the test of a parent and just the way it is for now, and we’ll just go with it. Because, for every diaper that needs changing, for every story that needs reading, for every strap that needs buckling, there are hugs to give, kisses to bestow, hair to smooth and boo boos to fix. And easily, happily, gratefully, Mummy Do It.

19 comments:

  1. I don't know for sure, as all kids are a mystery, but I will say that our little one has gone through cycles of "Mama do it!" and "Daddy do it!" The fluctuation may happen within a day, a week, a month. Who knows? Maybe Chris can rest up for the time that it's "Daddy do it!", but that doesn't help you much right now.

    And, "we’re trying to figure out why it is exactly that Bee will not let any other adult in the entire free world be her bitch except mummy" made me like you even more! We joked, very sincerely, about making Mme L a shirt that said, "All a y'all is my bitches", shortly after she made her entrance into the world. It's my feeling that if you can find humour in it, you can get through it.

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  2. Just when you get thru one hurdle, there's another.

    Hope she gets over this soon.

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  3. Wow. There is a possibility in this world that someone OTHER than Mommy can do it? I am no help on this issue b/c Mommy has had to do it in my house from day 1. And my husband is kind and nurturing and eager and all those things an attached father should be. Yup, we're all their bitches in the end.

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  4. sage - i'll need one of those t-shirts.

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  5. Yep, you are her bitch.

    And it sounds pretty normal to me.

    Soon enough, (sadly enough) she will abandon her mommy bitch to be completely independent, and you will long for the days of being her bitch again....

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  6. We went through the same thing, and much as I love the Boy, it seemed like a loooooooong, tiring time. Then he snapped out of it. Hang in there. In my limited experience, it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with The Will of the Toddler.

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  7. A little dictator, indeed. We have one of those (and he just hit the 22 month mark this weekend, so maybe it's something in the age dynamic) but, funnily enough, he is the opposite of Ms. Bee. MF has mommy all week and is apparently quite sick of mommy by the end of the day and on weekends, so it's all about wanting to play and hang out with daddy as much as possible. My husband can get a tad exasperated with his constant demanding of daddy's attention when I'm sitting there perfectly able and willing.

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  8. ewe - you're like, 5 minutes away from having a baby - put your feet up and enjoy the rest!

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  9. oh my god, Pen...it's exactly the same at my house.

    exactly the same, and we've been at wits end. mommy needs to do it all. it's not working.

    wow. it's like deja vu, coming here today.

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  10. or maybe....she is excercising the ungodly power she has. Just like every other freakin' kid I have ever met. To this day....my kids turn to me (the exhausted wreckage I have become), and even if mr mumma has been taking care of them alllll day long....they demand me. what gives? I ask?

    Thank goodness they are cute is all I can say.

    ( I hope the transition goes well, it can be hard on their little egos)

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  11. I can't wait to be my baby's bitch! Than line made me pee myself! I can see how 'mommy do it' would get a little ripe after awhile. To bad toddlers don't understand sarcasm...I've got a few good zingers on my mind for that one.

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  12. Ooooh, good luck getting through it -- how's Chris dealing with it? If I were in your shoes, I would be worrying about the not-do-it partner getting offended. There is nothing so stinging as a toddler's rejection. Or maybe my skin is a little thin.

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  13. I'm generally the one to do everything, although Cordy will let daddy do something for her now and then, or if I'm not around. For her, though, the big point is that she's NOT doing it - she insists on making us do things that she's plenty old enough to do on her own.

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  14. Absolutely normal stage. I promise. It's the beginning of the long road toward complete autonomy. It's about learing that she has some control over her world, and finding out just how much while always grasping for more.

    And she feels secure enough to make those demands, to begin testing the waters of independence, as it were. You're doing good. Now it's just a matter of finessing those demands into socially acceptable requests. Give yourself about 16 years for that one. ;-)

    With the "no" thing, I find that finding different ways to say "no" can help. Saying "hot!" or "ouch!" when she goes to reach something hot or sharp. "Stop!" or "freeze!" for running away or toward something dangerous. "Gentle" or "not for baby" when she's going for something not quite baby-proofed (like a knick-knack or a cat.)

    Check out Dr. Sears for more on "no".

    http://www.askdrsears.com/html/6/T061100.asp

    And by the way - she's stinking cute! At least your dictator is adorable. Doesn't that make the demands a little easier, lol?

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  15. Oh my God - I can't even tell you how well we can relate around here. For the longest time it was all about Mommy - mommy do this, mommy do that - even when he cried out in the night it would be mommy, mommy, mommy! Now, he's evening out and we're on a rotation of wear and tear.
    I too believe that it is the physical outlet for their internal struggle. Wanting to break free from the restraints of the parental shackles while still wanting to be nurtured and loved by the people who do it best - mommies (sorry Daddies, but the bond is totally different - I think everyone would agree with that!)
    You'll get through, I promise!! Just think of those nice bags as your badges of honour - at least that's how my doctor told me to look at stretch marks, so I think it applies here too!!

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  16. Forgive me for saying so, but it's so nice to hear others going through the same thing (though I do wish you some piece and time to yourself).

    It's rough going. I got the almost 4-year old and the 17 month old looking, constantly, for me. I'm home with them all day, so of course, I'm like, what's wrong with daddy?

    And daddy's like, What's wrong with me?

    And what everyone says, you'll miss it when they don't need you anymore. Ahhh...we'll see. I look forward to a little more independence!

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  17. Hey K I am so glad to see you back!
    I'm the bitch too so I feel for you. My daughter does not like ANY change and reacts with meltdowns and clingyness. This has steadily improved so I hope with Bee it is the change in childcare and you will be off the hook soon.

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  18. I know this one all to well. Even if mr mumma is in the room, they always turn to me, but now, sneaky little creatures....they have learned to divide and conquer.

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  19. We were a DADDY DO IT house for quite some time, there. Until I DO IT!!!!! struck. She has literally undone something I've done so she can do it herself. Freaking irritating when you really need her to get dressed and out the door, but such is the way of toddlers, at least on some days.

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