On Toddler Negotiations
Remy loves to be outside.
I know this for sure now because he can tell me. When Remy wants to go outside, he wanders away from whatever we have been doing and finds his shoes. If it is still early in the morning, he will also toddle off to his room to find a pair of socks. He will bring these to me and set them down at his feet. He will look at me expectantly, like I should be able to read his mind. Like I should know what to do with a pair of shoes that have been so nicely laid before me. If I am too slow, he will pick up a shoe and set it on top of his foot and then look at me again. To make sure I am paying attention.
If it is looking cloudy, or if we can hear the wind inside the house, Remy will go to the hook that his yellow coat hangs on and tug at it a bit. Sometimes, if it is particularly early, Remy will seek out my socks and shoes and bring them to me as well.
But always, at the end, he stands by the back door with the giant window and gently hits the glass with the palm of his hand (thwak! thwak! thwak!) until I come to unlock the door and set him loose into the world.
One day this week, after following this lovely ritual, we were outside when it started to get chilly. We had been outside for a while. It had been a warm and pleasant afternoon, and it seemed like a good time to go in and get dinner started. I helped Remy up the front step, ushered him into the house, and closed the door behind us.
Total meltdown commenced.
All of you veteran parents out there no doubt saw this coming. But I was completely taken by surprise. Remy had never thrown a fit like this before. I was curious in the way that pedestrians are curious about car wrecks. It was just so interesting.
First, he tried to open the door. I was impressed that he managed to reach the door knob and jiggle it around a bit. When that got him nowhere, he tried to pry the door open by wedging his fingers into the gap between the door frame and the door itself. Also unsuccessful. He screamed and stomped his feet. He hit the door and cried. It was amazing.
Then he showed me his shoes. He touched the door again. As if I didn’t understand by now that he wanted to go back outside.
But I think he really wasn’t sure I understood. For so long we have been working on helping him let us know what he wants, and then doing that thing. If Remy asks for a cracker or an orange, Remy gets a cracker or an orange. If Remy says “all done,” Remy gets excused from the table. If Remy brings me a toy, Remy gets to play with that toy. And if Remy asks to go outside, Remy gets to go outside. Expect for this time.
I finally got him to understand that we came back inside because it was cold. He stopped crying then and looked at me, thinking about this new information. He walked away from the front door, calm and quiet. He walked right to the hook where we keep his yellow coat and tugged at it.
I glimpsed my future, friends: a future of creative negotiation. A future of picking my battles. A future of unexpected compromises. A future that I had thought was still many years away.
I was so surprised that I helped him into his coat. He was very happy. He did a little dance and leaned into me. He turned to the back door and gently laid his hand on the glass. What could I do? I opened the door and set him loose into the world, where we wandered until it got dark.
Where do you find yourself negotiating with your littles?
How do you decide when a fair compromise has been reached?
How have they surprised you with their creative negotiations?