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What's Yours Is Mine, And What's Mine Is, Well, Mine.

Maddie’s hit this phase where everything she gets her hands on becomes immediately and intimately hers, and Lord help you if you try to get it away from her.

I saw this coming in Maddie’s older friend Naomi, and so was a bit ready for it. But still, you don’t really know what you’re going to do when your toddler begins sobbing and clinging to every single object in her path, from toys to trash.

We’ve had a bit of this going on now for a while, in the form of your typical “I don’t want to share my toys with that chick” tantrum during a play date. That, I can understand: after all, you spend all your time with everyone telling you “Hey, that’s your horsie, have a great time,” and then see some other kid climb proprietarily on it and, when you have the nerve to complain, hear the adult say to you, “Now, be good and share. It’s fine if she’s on it right now.” No wonder you cry and look bewildered.

But Maddie’s doing this instant bonding thing that’s a bit unnerving and I really don’t know how to comfort my child during these emotional crises. Just the other night we were putting lights on our tree, Madeleine watching diligently and interestedly, but from a respectful distance. Then came the angel.

Maddie’s big into angels right now: one is in her alphabet book, she loves to hear the “angel” song, she points them out wherever she sees one, and we’ve got a big one in our church that she points at several times a service. So Brian thought she’d get a kick out of seeing the angel that rests atop our tree. He brought it over to her, unwrapped it carefully, and handed it to her.

Madeleine’s eyes lit up and she took a quiet breath in. “Soft,” she said, and began stroking the angel – her way of saying it was pretty and dainty. Then Brian said, “Ok, now we’re going to put it on top of the tree, so give it back.”


We had to pry it out of her fingers, and then she screamed, tears rolling down her face, as we took “her” angel away from her and placed it up on the tree. You see, every time Maddie disobeys with an object – throws it repeatedly, is too violent with it, and so on – we warn her, then take the toy away. So in her mind, she’d treated the angel well and yet we still took it away from her and punished her by placing it way up on top of the tree.

Madeleine finally calmed down, but only after I fished a cloth angel ornament out of our tree box and gave it to her to have as “her” angel. Now she points at the top of the tree and wistfully says, “Angel. Pretty,” and you can tell she yearns but has accepted her lot. This clued us into the fact that we probably shouldn’t have her help us decorate the tree; it’d be incident after incident of “giving” her something and “taking” it away. Instead, we’ll present her with a dressed tree one morning and start with the words, “Don’t touch.”

I see this behavior time and time again, and the patience it requires is astonishing. Following through on threats to take away something that’s being mistreated, prying something inappropriate (gum on the playground) out of a tight fist and trying to find a suitable substitution, explaining to an 18-month-old why she can’t play with her Gamma’s crystal candy dish – all of these things wear you down.

And the worst part of it is, I know she’s not doing this because she’s a bad kid. She’s simply at that stage where everything is interesting, and why would you hand her something if you didn’t want her to have it? She’s not trying to act out or disobey; it’s just more important to go holding on to the (fill in the blank) than it is to follow Mommy’s directions at the time. This makes discipline hard sometimes, because I see her pure, good desire to explore more and have to squelch that and teach her what is and isn’t appropriate. My child’s full of wonder about the world around her, and she’s thirstily soaking up everything that comes within her arm’s reach.

So best keep your hands back, lest you lose the rings on your fingers.


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