A few weeks ago during the hurricane, we lost power in our apartment building. I was in my doorway talking to some neighbors and my daughter took off down the pitch black hallway. She was headed directly towards whatever monsters and goblins were lurking in the dark. I actually had a moment of childlike panic venturing into the darkness to retrieve her. Naturally I called to her and she just continued on. Aside from realizing she had no fear, I wondered if she was harboring some secret super power like night vision. Alas, my daughter just wasn't listening to me. I'm certain she heard me and that this wasn't some auditory issue. She was clearly ignoring me and likely relishing in the fact that I too knew that this was just the beginning.
In my many attempts to take control of this situation, I've yet to find my "mother voice." Its the one everyone knows and still creates shockwaves in your system as an adult. Its the tone of your mother's voice that indicates she is pissed either because you did something, your father did something, or dinner just isn't coming out the way she planned. I've caught myself going through a series of voices, saying the same thing and hoping for a different result. You've got the low, bellowing voice that "means business," the loud, quick voice that means "I'm pissed, get your little ass over here," and the dry, soft voice that is tired and basically pleads "get back here so I don't have to walk another inch." Just like my husband and his poor attempts to voice her puppets, my daughter is on to me. She gives me the same look she gives him when Boober the Fraggle sounds a lot like our ninety two year old neighbor.
Maybe she thinks I'm nagging her. Last night she was putting her snacks in a candy dish on my mother's coffee table. I came up behind her and told her, very kindly, to take them out, because "snacks don't go in there silly!". She turned around, stiffened her whole body, waved her arms and shouted "Meh meh meh!" Everyone laughed as they too could see she was clearly putting me in my place. I laughed it off but cowered back into my chair. Was that baby talk for "stop annoying me woman!"and if so, has my husband been coaching her for this moment all along? I quickly realized there are no allies in this war against the kid that wants her way.
Its our job as parents to teach our kids right from wrong and to keep them safe. So how do you do that if your kid isn't listening and at what point do you differentiate between them just being a curious toddler and being defiant? Do you yell for them in the store, letting every potential pedophile know their name, or chase after them letting them think its a game and running away from mommy and daddy is fun?
I'm beginning to think its a little bit of both and that it will take another few months, maybe years, before I'm able to find my true "mother voice." I'll know I've found it when she stops what she is doing and gives me a look of defeat. I'll have a moment of excitement, feel the urge to call all my mom friends and tell them "It happened! She listened! Dreams do come true!" . But then I will see her face, feel guilty, and take her to Friendly's. We'll share a clown cone, suck down a Fribble and both relish in the fact that together we know, this is the just the beginning.