*Image above via the ultra-gorgeous TyLynn Nguyen.
It has been loud in our home for the past few weeks between the holidays, mini’s extended school break, and especially the unnerving set of toddler tantrums we have been muscling our way through, one of which left Mr. Magpie carrying a kicking and screaming near-four-year-old down six blocks of Central Park West, little fists pummeling and all. I called my brother the other night to unload: “We are in it. I don’t what we’re doing wrong!” After puzzling over possible sources of her tiny and unfurling fury (leading suspects: intense schedule changes owing to holidays/zoom school/in-person school and a delayed jealousy of her now-active and now-communicating younger brother who is suddenly capable of participating in many of the activities to which she alone used to lay claim), my brother, ever the sane and compassionate soul he is, concluded: “Ah, Jen. You’re great parents. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’ll get through this.” I had to focus for a moment on Tilly, idly sniffing at dubious street detritus, at the scruff on her neck and the blue gingham of her collar, to re-center myself. I felt my shoulders relax from a month-long hunch.
Oh, the wild emotional fracas of parenting! Of trying your hardest and yet windmilling out of control on an unsuspecting Sunday evening after a meticulously planned day, in advance of which I sat on the edge of my bed staring out into the white of a January dawn and marshaled all the positive and motivating thoughts I could muster. Things like: “Love your way through it” and “you can do this” and “She does not know how to control her emotions — she needs my help regulating them.” But somewhere around 4 p.m., after making my way through several meltdowns and skirmishes with a practiced calm, she stared straight at me as she pelted little balls of play-doh at the ceiling, at her brother, at the wall, at the carpet in direct defiance of my carefully-worded reminders that “play-doh stays on the table, please.” Writing this out now, I think to myself: “Good God, Jen, just let her play. You should have let it go.” But you know — you know! — when you have been delicately snow-shoeing your way through the day, careful to avoid her triggers, aiming to tamp down on the commands and just let her be, and suddenly your foot gets stuck in an unexpectedly deep drift of snow and —
Oh! I can just feel my teeth grinding in frustration. I took the play-doh from her. “Well, the play-doh goes away now,” I said matter-of-factly, prying it out of her hands, placing it and all of its accessories into the bin and clicking the lid shut with a satisfying snap snap snap snap on all four sides, as she barreled into hysterics, snatching at my dress.
Oh, the outrage! The sobs! The protestations that “I won’t do ANYTHING ANYMORE”! The little red face and little red eyes puffy with tears. Then the just-as-sudden denouement, the click-off, the quiet, as her eyes traced the outlines of the displaced dog figurines that she had been hunting for earlier hiding under her bed, distractions in shadow.
“There they are, mama,” she said, with excitement, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “Mama, look!” Crouching down, retrieving them. The intensity of the previous five minutes nothing but a cloud quickly retreating behind us.
And what to do then but embrace the mercurialness? To squat at her side and tinker with toys, to brush the hair out of her eyes (but not insist on re-tying her hair — no, no, that would be too much and too precarious at this moment), to sigh inwardly, to study that perfect little face and peer into those expressive little eyes and wonder at what is going on inside and what measure of it belongs to my own skill as a parent.
Mr. Magpie and I put our heads together at night, strategizing, hypothesizing, commiserating, forgiving one another for the not-sins that feel like them. “It felt horrible carrying her home like that,” he says, and I remind him that he is a good dad, and that we will get through this, parroting back my brother’s more seasoned wisdom as a father to two with children two years older than our own.
Just to say —
Sitting here with you mamas who are in it right now, whether grappling with sleep regressions or breastfeeding woes or tantrums or sibling rivalries or recalcitrances or parenting troubles of any kind.
Sitting here, thinking quiet thoughts, reminding you that you are doing your best.
+I hope I’m this kind of parent.
+Are you a proponent of slow parenting?
+Love this gingham dress ($35!)
+Cute recent children’s finds…
THIS GINGHAM DIAPER SET IS BEYOND DARLING FOR A BABY GIRL
WISH I HADN’T MISSED OUT ON THESE JAMMIES WHILE AVAILABLE IN HILL’S SIZE!
THIS SWEET WICKER PRAM WAS SOLD OUT ALMOST EVERYWHERE AROUND CHRISTMAS…GREAT GIFT FOR A LITTLE GIRL’S SPRING BIRTHDAY
THIS TOOL KIT WAS AN EARLY-QUARANTINE IMPULSE BUY BUT HAS PROVEN TO HAVE STARTLING LONGEVITY — BOUGHT FOR HILL BUT MINI LOVES TO GO AROUND THE APARTMENT FIXING THINGS
PRETTY SCALLOPED MARY JANES (METALLICS MAKE SURPRISINGLY GREAT NEUTRALS THAT GO WITH ANYTHING)
+15 must-have newborn items. (Read the comments, too! A goldmine!)
+If you’re running dry on indoor activities for busy little ones (I have been…), I have been revisiting this roundup and adding a couple of new finds to my cart:
THESE LITTLE FIGURINES ALWAYS GO OVER WELL IN OUR HOME — PERFECT FOR SENSORY BINS OR JUST IMAGINATIVE PLAY
+A propos of my recent post on what to read right now, a reader sent me this book, which apparently Ann Patchett has given to countless people and everyone has the same astonished, impressed reaction. Immediately added to my reading list.
+Another muted green item I’m having a hard time not buying. What is it with me and sage/mint/dusty green at the moment? Love!