I'm about to tell you all about THE worst day I've ever had as a parent. I think I've let so much time pass because, for a while, I couldn't think of the incident without crying.
My husband woke up in the middle of the night to find me gone from our bed, and scoured the house looking for me. He was dressed and ready to leave our sleeping child alone in the house to look for me, only to find me whimpering in a corner in our basement. I told him what happened that day.
Tallu is pulling the books off the shelf after I had just cleaned her room. I tell her to put the books back on the shelf or I'm taking the shelf out of the room. She continues to take the books off; I get up and push the bookshelf into the hallway. She starts crying, and that makes me angrier. So I threaten that if she doesn't stop crying I'm taking the kitchen from her room. She starts crying harder. I grab the kitchen and shove it into the hallway, yelling at her all the while.
Then I stop.
I hear my daughter bawling, begging me to stop taking her stuff.
I look in the hallway at the mess I'd made of her stuff, and of her. I go back into her room, sit on her bed and start wailing, head in my hands. She's still bawling, only now she's saying "Stop crying, mommy, please stop crying!" I'm sobbing "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." I'd completely lost control, because her tiny fingers couldn't put the books back on the shelf in the anal-retentive way I'd organized them. Because she's playing with the bookshelf like it's a toy. It's on the wall across from her bed. It's the focal point of her room; of course, she's going to play with it! If I put the kitchen in that space, she'd play with it all the time! D'uh, Mom! I wipe my tears, and bring everything back into the room. Only this time I put the toy kitchen on the wall facing her bed, and put the books on the bookshelf haphazardly, in the space where the kitchen used to be.
It was a horrible experience for both of us, one that Tallu still recalls on occasion. "Remember when you threw all my stuff out of my room, and you were crying and I was crying?" she'll sometimes ask. "Yes," I say, "I remember." It still hurts that she remembers and recalls it, even a year later.
What did I learn that day? I learned that my child was two, and she didn't give a damn if the books were arranged in size order or alphabetically. I realized she would play with the kitchen more if it were in her line of sight. I learned that if I put the books on the shelf in a way she could take the books on and off the shelf easily, she would. I discovered that I didn't need to keep her room neat all alone, she could help me. I thought to myself as I stacked the books on their sides on each shelf. "I don't care how she puts the books on the shelf, as long as she puts the books on the shelf, I'm cool with that," I told myself that day. I continue to tell myself when she does something I find annoying that I am the adult, and I must be in control of my emotions and responses, so that I can model healthy behavior for my daughter (and now my son, as well).