As Trish and Ella left the neighborhood pool yesterday, where Ella met a new friend her age, they had a little exchange that shined a little sunshine on our parenting pathway.

Trish: Ella, you were so good today in the pool. I’m very proud of you.

Ella (rather proud of herself): I did not pinch and I did not bite.

Could it be that we’re nearing the end of toddler aggression? Sometimes I wonder if Ella will be a 17-year-old biter. If, when we’re on a college tour, she’ll walk up to a goofy looking kid and, instead of thinking, ‘why does that kid look so goofy,’ she’ll take a chunk out of his arm. Would that be a bad thing? Probably.

But the conversation does show us that Ella recognizes inappropriate behavior. And it shows us that she can restrain herself. And, she’s honest.
But our quiet, cute, precocious child still wallops her mother and I sometimes. Like last night. We were talking with the neighbors over the fence, neighbors Ella likes very much. But the little darling wanted our attention. She wanted to swing. So she leaned over, as her mother held her, and drew blood out of her mother’s shoulder.

That’s aggression with an explicit purpose. PAY ATTENTION TO ME! I AM THE ONLY PERSON IN THIS WORLD WORTH A DAMN!

Other times, though, it’s just bizarre, psycho toddler behavior. Like on Sunday, Father’s Day, when the day was going very well, quietly, calmly, fun. Ella sat on my lap to read her new “The Little Engine that Could.” We got near the end of the book and Ella turned around, made a face from hell, like she was about to eat through my nose and into my brain, and slapped the tar out of me.

Why? I was shocked. Dismayed. Disappointed. Hurt. I asked her, “Why?”

Amazingly, this 2.5-year-old did not have a rational, cogent, reasoned explanation. If she had one, she didn’t offer it, even after very stern interrogation.

Finally, I realized that I was the fool. She did it, naturally, because.

Regardless, I put her in time out, which is like putting Steve McQueen in the cooler. If Ella had a baseball she’d have thumped it against the dining room wall, biding her time until her parents realized that she had supreme will power; if truth and justice weren’t on her side, obstinacy sure as hell was.

But no, seriously, time outs work. Withholding books and treats and walks outside, they all work. But, for the most part, they work episodically. I suppose that’s the way a 2.5-year-old brain works, within little spheres of time and place.

Yesterday’s conversation revealed that there is hope, that I probably won’t have to protect babies and other children and cats and dogs and lizards and anything else that crawls or looks funny, from my daughter on her wedding day.

Eventually, she will grow out of it.

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