Like most toddlers, Jet prefers predictability, routine and clear-cut rules to serve as a framework for testing the waters of new experiences and the limits of adult tolerance. Since I naturally prefer these same circumstances myself, we usually rub along quite well.
Jet learned early that when her grandma says, “it’s a Rule,” she means it. Rules (with a capital R) are consistently enforced. Rules may change based on the needs of her age, but while in place they are to be followed. Period.
Here are some of our current rules of engagement:
A toddler must hold Grandma’s hand when outside the house or enclosed yard. Grandma knows what happens when toddlers feel free to run with wild abandon and she isn’t going to go there. Besides, she can’t run that fast. Failure to follow this rule results in the immediate termination of activity.
It’s Grandma’s job to open gates in doorways or fences. A closed gate means children are not to enter whether they’ve figured out how the latch works or not. Be advised: Grandma knows the sound a gate makes when opening.
The word “dangerous” is Grandma’s way of telling a child to stop the offending action immediately because Grandma is about to become very alarmed and excited and employ physical intervention.
It’s Grandma’s job to hold books with paper pages. Toddlers may hold board boards. Grandma was a librarian before she retired and the sight of ripped pages makes her feel terrible. It’s Grandma’s house, so she can make any capricious rule she wants. Whining about this is futile.
Take a nice nap with no fussing. Grandma can tell the difference between genuine distress and fussing. She doesn’t like to hear fussing and she won’t come back in the room in order to hear it more clearly.
Children must stand on the other side of the gate when Grandma is using the bathroom. Once upon a time, she allowed her own dear children come into the bathroom with her — but now feels she’s earned this little bit of privacy.
Shoes must be removed before clambering onto the furniture. The Velcro on a toddler’s shoes catches on fabric and Grandma’s furniture is new enough that this bothers her.
All beverages except water must be consumed in the kitchen (see above).
If Grandma isn’t responding to a request, the word “please” can be employed with a 90% chance of success. In the remaining cases, improved diction may be needed. Attempting to force a response by a display of temper will have the opposite effect.
For the most part, Jet lives quite happily under these conditions without complaint. From time to time she requires an emotional outburst for no apparent reason. When this happens, Grandma sends her to the hallway to have a temper tantrum in private.
Happily, when Jet takes it into her head to whine or fuss about a rule, her complaints are relatively short-lived. A pointed “are you whining?” helps to remind her that this sort of behavior will yield no positive results, because Grandma’s ability to ignore the sound of whining continuously improves in proportion to the decline in the strength of her hearing. Besides, we have much better things to do!