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Apr 9 2013

Diagnosis Toddleritis

By at 3:59 pm

toddler tantrumThe pediatrician looked in G’s mouth in a somewhat desultory fashion. “Maybe she’s getting her molars. Maybe.”

He was basically throwing me a bone.

I’d taken 20-month-old G to the pediatrician three times in the past week. Fine, that makes me sound a little crazy. Well, I’d become a little crazy. This was our “well” visit, and yet again, the doctor was telling me she was…well. Healthy, speaking well, unusually tall considering her mom’s genetic contribution. Everything was just as you’d want it to be, pu pu pu.

The only problem, and the reason that I’d come in, was that overnight, my sweet baby girl had turned into a walking, talking mood swing. And I was sort of hoping (this is the arguably crazy part) that it was something viral. A stomachache, maybe. Or another ear infection. Or maybe a sore throat. Something small that could be cured with time and/or antibiotics, and then I’d get my smiley little friend back.

Over the past few weeks, something has definitely shifted in G’s world. One second, everything would be absolutely fine: she’d run around, laughing and smiling. The next second, she’d crumple herself on the floor like a ballerina seeking to convey deep, profound agony. Floor-crumpling could be prompted by being told that, it being 6:30 in the morning, she would not be allowed to go outside and play in the driveway. Or that no, she couldn’t pick up her baby sister. Or it could be prompted by nothing at all. The drama!

I’d look at her limp little body on the rug, pudgy legs splayed, tiny hands balled up into little fists, and try not to smile–because surely most of us humans can agree that it is patently ridiculous to fling yourself onto the ground in abject despair when you are told that Mommy can’t find the red crayon. It is also ridiculous to refuse to leave the car upon arrival at Trader Joe’s, or to eat your dinner happily just until you decide to drop your plate on the floor. These things are not okay and not in character with the happy little girl I know and love.

I told the pediatrician that with all due respect, he had better look again, because something was obviously wrong with my kid, and it was a question of what it was and what medicine would fix it.

“She’s a toddler,” he said.

“She’s not sleeping as well as she used to,” I said, thinking not-so-fondly of my 5 a.m. wakeup call that day. “And this past week, she hasn’t eaten much either. Something must be wrong with her.”

“You know how you come home from a cocktail party and you’re thinking of everything that happened and all the conversations, and you’re tired, but you just can’t fall asleep?” my doctor said. “That’s how EVERY DAY is for a toddler. Every day, their world expands exponentially, in language and in experience. Every day is a world-changer. It’s unbelievable these kids can sleep at all.”

You know what’s unbelievable? I’ve had four kids, and I’d totally forgotten all about this era of parenting, this “toddlerhood.” I’d forgotten the insane irrationality of a toddler, the ever-precarious balance between happiness and despondency. I’d FORGOTTEN ABOUT IT. Or maybe, more accurately speaking, I’d blocked it out. Like childbirth.

She may be my third kid, but apparently I still have a lot to learn.

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