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April 15, 2015

Enlightenment Via Hot Wheels

“There’s no throwing toys Dylan.” I said sternly, trying my very best not to lose my shit in the face of a rebellious toddler. Deep breath. Dylan stared, maintaining a “what are you going to do about it?” type of look. He should’ve been cleaning up the dozens of toys littered on his bedroom floor like I asked, but the request angered him. So instead, he chucked a monster truck at my head. No respect. Exhale. 

It was one of those parenting moments when the threshold for nonsense is tested. Dylan’s insubordinate behavior was becoming more common, less surprising, and increasingly intolerable. And though the tantrums were as prevalent and predictable as soup du jour, I wasn’t hungry today and refused to be served. “Pick up your toys and put them away,” I urged, handing him a basket for his heap of plastic junk. He picked up another truck and blatantly threw it against the wall. OH MY GOD THIS CHILD WANTS ME TO LOSE IT. 

There were a lot of ways I could’ve reacted. I could’ve insisted, I could’ve put him in time-out, I could’ve ignored him, spanked him, yelled, I could’ve left him in his room and closed the door behind me with a threat or two. But today, none of that felt fruitful. There was something about being struck in the head for the umpteenth time that pushed me way past irritation and straight into a state of detached observation. So I looked around and asked myself, “Am I creating a monster?” 

“You’re not listening to mom so I’m taking your toys away.” He began wailing. Predictable. He’s only 2, but he gets it. I acted assertively, collected the bounty of playthings and walked into the kitchen and placed the basket in plain but unreachable sight. He followed me. “You can have your toys back when you start listening to mom.” He continued to cry. “It’s okay to be upset.” I said in conclusion. And then I moved on, seemingly. 

Later that night, the conglomeration of recent and ongoing bratty offenses were getting to me. Taking his toys away hadn’t occurred to me before, and in a lot of ways I felt responsible for Dylan’s intense reactions to daily life. I felt like the mom I wanted to be and the mom I was becoming were miles apart. I didn’t want to fight with Dylan, I wanted to play. I didn’t want to end the day scolding him, I didn’t want to be responsible for his misery, I wanted to keep him happy no matter what. But that’s not quite how parenting works. 

Suddenly the expression my dad’s face used to make when he punished me growing up was recognizable. It’s the face I make when I have to do something I don’t really want to do, like playing the disciplinarian. Taking away all of my kid’s toys as he sobs, begs, and calls out for “mommy” is hard on me- I’m a spoiler by nature. And though folding to Dylan’s requests feels easier in the moment, intellectually I know that there is no greater act of disservice I could perform than to nurture a perfectly good child into becoming a spoiled brat. 

And then it hit me (no, not the truck). If I eliminate the emotional urge to keep my son happy, I’m the detached observer who isn’t in the business of appeasing children into monsters. And that my friends IS the mom I want to be. So shout out to Hot Wheels for the enlightenment and kudos to Dylan for knocking some sense into me. But do not test me child, I will snap you in half.