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The Return of the Mittenless Wonder

So last year Maddie href="http://www.1mother2another.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=216&Itemid=46">
refused to wear mittens
. She loved the cold weather
(freak) and didn’t want anything more getting between her and
nature. Her naked little hands became so famous in the neighborhood
that the mailman took to calling her the Mittenless Wonder.

For some naïve reason, I thought this year would be

Our first truly cold morning out, I had
thrown the mittens into the stroller as an “in case”
sort of thing; we’d had a few mornings at the playground
where Maddie’s hands had begun turning purple and were so
numb she couldn’t hold a Cheerio, so I knew the Permanent
Mitten Time was coming. One block into our walk, I realized they
were a necessity and went about putting them on Maddie. I’m
sure the ensuing screams would have been cause for a police alert
had this been anywhere other than New York City. I don’t know
what I was thinking, changing the rules on her mid-excursion. But
by the time I realized my mistake it was too late. There were a few
facts that we just couldn’t get round:

First, Mommy had several errands that had to be run. Immediately.

Second, it was really cold outside and going without mittens was
not an option.

Third, Maddie is now old enough to learn from every interaction,
and taking the mittens off her after ten minutes of wrestling would
have taught her that if she simply protests loud and long enough,
she’ll get her way.

So with great trepidation, I continued on, thinking, how long can
she cry? She’ll calm down at some point and be interested in
the walk.

Never underestimate the crying power of a toddler.

Madeleine screamed her way through two banks, a grocery store, and
a drug store. Everywhere I went, unhelpful people said things like,
“Your baby is crying.” Like I didn’t know that.
At one bank, a teller asked me, “What’s wrong with
her?” “She doesn’t want to wear her
mittens,” I replied, trying to indicate I didn’t want
to get into a discussion about it.

“Why don’t you take them off just while she’s
inside?” she suggested. Clearly, the lesson of the mittens
was less important than the peace and quiet in the bank. I
explained how, once the mittens were off, the screams would simply
double in volume three minutes later when it was time to put them
back on. Doubtful that was possible, the teller wisely stopped
offering advice.

Then there were all the people who came up to me with
superior-than-thou suggestions thinly veiled as sympathy:
“Oh, poor baby! What’s wrong with you, sweetie? Is
mommy keeping you dressed too warmly/coolly/unattractively?
I’d cry too, if I was so hot/cold/ugly. Maybe Mommy will help

Forty-five minutes of heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, air-gulping
sobs. Forty-five minutes of me constantly doubting what I was
doing, and feeling like a worse and worse mother as the time wore
on and she showed no sign of wearing down. Forty-five minutes of
that look that said, “Why won’t you fix this? I’m
so unhappy and know you can fix this! Please make it better!”
Silky wasn’t even a comfort to her, as she likes to suck her
thumb while she holds Silky to her face and her thumb was encased
in the mitten.

Our last stop before the playground at last completed, I was
finally able to take Maddie out of the stroller and comfort her. As
soon as I picked her up, she quieted down, bless my baby
girl’s heart. Content to wear her mittens as long as Mommy
held her, Maddie went quietly the last couple of blocks.
She’d cried so long she had lost her voice, but she would
spot a bus go by through her swollen eyelids and gamely wave at it,
whispering, “Buh! Bye-bye, buh!”

Once at the park she was resigned to the mittens and submitted to
being fed her snack rather than being able to serve herself; she
struggled a few times to pick up leaves but eventually gave up and
found other things to do. She wore the mittens the rest of the day
without a peep of complaint.

What did I learn? That it’s not fair to change the rules in
the middle of the game. That she simply needed acknowledgement of
her pain, and a gesture of comfort from me. That she needed to feel
like she wasn’t voiceless, like she wasn’t ignored.

Am I reading too much into this? Am I giving her too much credit?
Perhaps. But let me tell you this – ever since then, I always
put the mittens on before we leave the house, and I always make it
her choice. “Maddie, if you want to go out, you have to put
on the mittens. You don’t have to wear your mittens if you
don’t want to, but if you don’t wear them we
can’t go to the park.” She’ll protest a bit, but
after a few whines she’ll hold her hand out silently for me
to cover, and that’s the end of the conversation. She never
tries to remove them or complains again.

I’ve just taught my baby that sometimes life is about making
hard choices that aren’t always fun.

It sucks being the mommy.


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