“We haven’t had to use the ‘time-out’ method yet!” I bragged to a friend last week. He was shocked to hear it but I said it proudly, as if I had somehow mastered parenting.
Not even 24 hours later, I was about to seriously eat crow.
My husband and I are fully in the throws of the “terrible twos” with our daughter and I thought for sure by now I would have permanently placed her little pink chair in the corner and designated it the punishment seat. Somehow we’ve avoided it, although I have threatened worse (I told her I’d throw her in “The Chokey” a few times).
But on Sunday I found myself yearning to put her in a time-out because I realized that I needed a time-out myself. This revelation didn’t come easy and it didn’t come from within. It came after a lot of tears and my husband forcing me to walk away for a few.
Over the weekend, I spent a lot of 1:1 time with my girl. Playing, shopping, driving. When we were in the car, we had to listen to one song on repeat or else she would scream. “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Thirty five times. Because Justin Timberlake’s smash hit hasn’t been played enough. Thanks, “Trolls.”
When we were playing, if I said something she didn’t like I got a sassalicious, “DON’T SAY THAT MOMMY!” thrown at me.
Getting her dressed in shorts turned into, “I want to wear a dress!”
Feeding her a sandwich turned into, “I want a hot dog!” (No, a hot dog is not a sandwich.)
A diaper change turned into a pinkie toe ripping my contact lens out.
Nap-time turned into, “I want to watch The Incredibles.”
“Don’t pull the dog’s tail,” turned into, “But I want to hit the dog!”
At one point I was so fed up and mentally exhausted, I looked at her blankly as I held back tears half-hoping I could telekinetically tell her, “stop being a little brat or I’m going to FREAKING DIE.”
She started to get upset at my expression. Yep, even my expression made her mad. And so I lost it and started crying. Then, of course, as these selfish little monsters do, she started to cry. So there I was crying my face off about my daughter who was now crying her face off because I was crying my face off. This is parenthood.
She came in for a hug to make me feel better and told me not to be sad, and in that moment I was so frustrated and happy at the same time. Happy that she had compassion for me and that I had her to hold. Frustrated because I needed a break from her so badly in that moment.
She needed a time-out—probably several time-outs—that day, but I needed one even more. And so I attempted to take one later that night when she was going to bed and I had a chance to relax. I tried to calm my mind, read a book and take a nice hot bath.
But it didn’t work, I was too distracted. Something—someone—was on my mind the whole time I was trying to relax. Her.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how sweet it was that she cried because I was crying. Or how beautiful she looked with a mouth full of blue cotton candy I had bought her on our morning adventure. Or the smell of her soft brown curls and the way they fall so perfectly upon her back. Or the crease of her eyes over their lids when she’s smiling with her whole face. Or the butterfly feeling my belly gets every single time I hear her call me “mommy.” Or the way I’m so surprised at how much her little feet can stink. Or the sound of her giggle as she asks for me to tickle her. Or the way she dances along when her favorite songs come on. Or the rush I get when we’re sitting next to each other and she reaches out for my hand.
While I spent the whole day dreaming about what a time-out would be like where I could not think about her and how crazy she made me, here I was, in it, thinking about how crazy for her she’s made me. Only a crazy person would be driven to tears by a person only to finally get a break from that person and then want to wake her up just to spend time with her. Oh my God.
I realized I didn’t need a time-out from her. I needed a time-out to think about her. To appreciate her.
And what better place to do that than sitting in her little pink chair?