A Lesson in Play-Doh

*Luna is 2.5. Despite her difficult and traumatic birth, Luna is brilliant and amazing. She surprises me with her knowledge and depth of feeling, every single day. She is warm, empathetic, affectionate, clever and funny… I had no idea children could develop such a keen sense of humor at this age, but she has. She is also 2.5 and much to my dismay, she sometimes acts the part. This last week has been so challenging. Her anger and frustration when mid-tantrum is palpable. I can see the rage in her eyes when she chucks that half-full container of blue Play-Doh across the room. I can feel her frustration as she goes to chuck her rocking horse across the room only to find that it’s too heavy for her small body to lift.

I tell her that I know she is mad and then calmly tell her that while her feelings are hers, her behaviour is not okay. I clean up the mess she has made and walk away from her. She screams even harder. “How dare you walk away from me while I am screaming at you?”

She follows me to the next room where I tell her that she needs to turn around, go back to her room and calm down before coming to me. She does. But not before swiping a tray of Play-Doh toys onto the floor.

My sweet Luna isn’t always like this. In fact, up until this last week, she was almost never like this. But in that moment, I sort of, replay all of these moments though few in my head and she seems an entirely changed and different child. Even though it’s been days since her last tantrum.

It’s difficult being at home with this child 24/7. The smallest of annoyances become huge elephants in the room. What should be minor becomes this massive issue because it becomes so difficult to ignore.

It has been a busy and stressful morning. Luna is still pouting as I lay down with her to get her to nap. We turn on Moana and watch it for the thousandth time while she passively plays with her two Elmos. She starts to roleplay. The larger, plush Elmo is “Daddy/Mommy Elmo”, depending on the day. The smaller, plastic Elmo figurine is “Baby Elmo”. At first, the conversation is barely audible. Mostly just mumbling, she throws in a few letters and colors for good measure. And then I tune in and see that the adult Elmo is speaking as she shakes it, “No, no,no… Busy. No, no” it says to the smaller version of itself… And it dawns on me that I had a conversation like that with her a few hours earlier while I was cleaning the garage.

My Luna has needs that are not being met some days and they manifest themselves in negative ways. It’s momentary but she feels them and strongly and let’s me know the only way she knows to. I pull Luna closer and hug her, hold her close as she falls asleep and I don’t let go.

Listen to your babies… they speak through actions. Don’t ignore the importance of the message that a container of Play-Doh whizzing by your head holds.

*Name has been changed for my daughter’s privacy

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