This week my Dad nicknamed my youngest daughter, Jemima “Dr No”. A very fitting nickname as she is usually found sporting her toy stethoscope and her favourite word of all time is of course No.
Now a year ago I could never have imagined this nickname suiting Jemima so perfectly as she was such a docile little baby. She cried only when absolutely necessary. You know like if she was tired, hungry or bored. Perfectly acceptable baby behaviour.
Its funny looking back now as we were even concerned she was too laid back. You see Izzie, Jemima’s older sister always had fire in her belly. Literally as the poor thing suffered from reflux. For the first few months, Izzie spent her days and nights alternately puking and crying but as soon as she turned one, almost overnight things changed for the better. Its been quite the reverse with Jemima because since she turned one she’s embraced independence with a stubbornness I would never have predicted.
I actually believed people when they told me Jemima was a relaxed baby because it was down to the fact I knew what I was doing. I lost count of the times I heard “the second baby is always easier as you made all your mistakes with the first”. I no longer approve of this cliche as this would entail her newly adopted unreasonable behaviour is also down to me.
The joy of being a baby is that your are blissfully irresponsible for your own actions. So we’ve put the blame of her arsiness down to whatever seems fitting at the time. We’ve pretty much exhausted the excuses of teething or tiredness so now she’s getting on a bit, heading towards the big 02, her irrationality is blamed on the Terrible Two’s.
Every day tasks, like tooth brushing can trigger a tantrum but public paddys are her personal favourite. Of course its wrong to try and bribe your child to behave themselves but in my many desperate moments trying to distract Jemima, I have tried pretty much everything. You name it toys, cuddles, stories and I am ashamed to admit yes, even chocolate. Although on this occasion, Smarties clearly did not have the answer.
We are on a big family holiday this week. There’s always something fun for my girls to do, swimming in the pool, building sandcastles on the beach, eating ice cream way too fast just in case it’ll melt. Izzie has embraced this break like the baby version of a Club 18 30 holiday it is. After all everyone relaxes into a holiday but has Jemima? No.
I have never seen someone so young be so determined. It annoys me that I am frustrated by her strength of character. After all surely confidence is what every parent wants for their child? I think its because I am irritated with myself for not knowing how to please her at the moment. In her first year I could always make her happy, because back then it didn’t take much.
Now Jemima’s demands are more complex but her speech can’t communicate her needs. If she doesn’t want to do something she can make it absolutely crystal clear by saying “No” but she doesn’t yet have the words to articulate exactly what she does want to do. Now thats got to be frustrating for her, knowing what she wants but not being able to express it.
Jemima and I are lucky as this week she has spent some time with my extraordinarily patient parents. Unlike me they don’t badger her with questions but just let her ‘do’ what she wants. I try not to interfere as it terrifies me when I see her do things like balance from a chair like she’s in the circus but I have noticed she’s much more relaxed with them.
Its made me realise Jemima needs a bit of space to explore her own mind. I hope that soon she will be able to tell me what she wants, rather than what she doesn’t so I can make her happy again. Her assertiveness is a good thing but just needs to be channelled properly.
Do I miss her docile baby days? If I’m honest yes. It scares me not knowing how to make her happy. But what would terrify me even more is a lack of confidence. I want my girls to be able to say No whenever they want or need to. So would I swap her defiance for compliance….? No.