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Being a dictator makes parenting easier

June 14, 2015 The Wine Time Dad 0 Comments Category :

Disclaimer: This post was started ages ago. Since then my toddler has become older, meaner and stronger. I have lost all control and am posting this from the safety of a closet that she can't get into. I've also put words and thoughts in my wife's mouth/mind she may or may not have spoken/thought.  

          I’ve been told that as baby-toddlers transition to full on toddlers, they will begin to assert their growing independence and attempt to make choices. I know this not to be a myth as I'm seeing it happen on a daily basis. It is also true that these two things, independence and making choices, aren’t attached to off switches. So be it. I superficially value concept of independence and the act of making choices as much as any conservative politician out there.
            There is a third truth to this equation. Namely that I outweigh my toddler by 140 lbs, and the choices I make for her aren’t apt to win any Darwin awards.
            Yet, she still has those uncontrollable "independence" urges, so...        

I’ve become a reluctant dictator, who controls everything. I am a dictator in my country of two. Except for when my wife's home, then it's more like a two party system where I'm the weak minority. But, for all intents and purposes, in my country, Mon-Fri from 8 or 9 am till about 5:30 pm, I have one citizen who I rule with an iron fist.

Although she does rail against my indifferent and absolute control, she is too young and weak to do anything about it. Which is a good thing, because she would probably get herself killed, maimed, or eat cookies till she puked. Possibly poop on the floor, then play with the poop. Watch TV twenty-four hours a day. The list could obviously go on. So, reluctantly rule, I do. 
            Alright. Maybe I’m not a complete dictator but I have discovered in myself the traits of a dictator, a somewhat indulgent one but a dictator nonetheless. I'm sure this is all superfluous information for parents.

            However, unlike some Orwellian nightmare, where even thoughts are controlled, I’m not completely ruthless. I at least provide happy, joy-joy feelings, entertainment and dance lessons. All things to distract her from the fact that she has almost no autonomy (as if she's even capable of forming such a realization- ha!). 
            I just endeavor to subtract temper tantrum causing “variables” from the equation and save time by not giving her choices. For her, a choice is both wanting to eat mac-n-cheese and not wanting to eat it at the same time but then realizing she wants pancakes. I streamline.  I even allow for a certain amount of “plugging in”, i.e. watching TV, so that I can do basic chores without the ever-present tears and destruction that [can] follow in her wake.
            At first, this streamlining started with little things like how her stroller should be packed. For example: when walking out the door the other day, I noticed that she had a few illegal items: an Olaf doll, a ball and her stuffed elephant. Minus the ball, the other two are classified as “inside toys”, such that they shouldn’t go outside. They’re bedtime comfort items, like a favorite blanky. Bringing it outside puts it at risk of falling on the ground and getting “dirty”. If it gets dirty, then she can’t sleep with it. If she doesn’t have it when she goes to bed, then she might not sleep, which makes me, the dictator, go crazy.
            The ball, an inside/ outside item, is different, but it should be kept out of sight until we’ve reached a designated “play” area, lest it cause a traffic accident. 
            Actually, all these items can be thrown out of the stroller in a toddler rage or dropped accidentally. But when they are thrown out, they become items of contention that must be taken away. Yet, once the toddler knows these items to be present, she can’t "un-know" them. So, they become fixed points at which the toddler can start screaming when they are not relinquished into her possession. Consequently, as soon as you give her the toy, she will promptly toss it out of the stroller. Especially that fucking ball. And, if you know anything a bout a ball, you know that it can roll into the street and cause a multi car pile-up. Possibly killing anyone and everyone in a two-block radius.

Now, it may be my job to manage these screaming fits and the toys turned projectiles with all the maturity, understanding and patience an adult can muster, which I do. But, I decided long ago there was enough entertainment at our destinations without items brought from home. I have simply made everyone's life easier by eliminating variables. 

Taking a look back at the last year or so, I have applied this mentality to almost every aspect of her life. I micromanage and control nearly every thing from breakfast, potty, toys to play with, clothes to wear, places to go, items to bring (even nonessential items) to breathing.   

Of course, in the super early days, I foolishly thought that fostering a toddler’s growing independence meant letting them make choices, like when to leave the park, what they wanted to eat and where they get to go… I have learned my lesson. Toddlers don't know what the fuck they want. It’s not, “Hey do you want to get dressed and go out?” It’s, “We’re going to the park, which shirt do you want to wear? The red one? Great. Come here. I’m putting it on you.” End of story.
            As time has gone on and I’ve further “streamlined” my parenting, I’ve realized that by not giving a toddler “unnecessary “choices you can significantly reduce confusion and tears. She knows what to do and where to go because I know what to do and where to go. Of course, compliance with my plans isn’t always easy for the toddler, but I've further discovered that car seats, strollers and booster chairs all have straps and buckles that the toddler can’t open. Even doors can be locked, etc. By controlling my toddler, I have required less profanity-laden sentences before, during and after getting ready for our many outside “adventures”.
            So, back to the stroller with it’s illegal contraband. I endeavored to find out how the toddler came by these items and how she got them into the stroller without my notice. 
            “Why does she have those things in her stroller?” I inquired of my wife.
            “She said she wanted to bring them,” my wife responded offhandedly.
            Huh, I thought to myself, she wanted them. What do ya know...
            Whyhadn’t the thought crossed my mind? For the same reason it never crosses my mind, unless someone points it out to me, the toddler isn’t allowed to have a choice because she doesn’t know how to handle choices. Usually when she’s given a choice, it descends into utter chaos, where the very fabric of reality starts to unravel. The heavenly angelic chorus that tends to follow my sweet and innocent toddler around like a soundtrack in a movie, turns into a hellish nightmare of discordant noise and screams. Hours will tick by without us ever having left the apartment.
That’s why the little shit isn’t allowed choices. Everything she eats, drinks, poops, sees and plays with must be filtered through my knowledge and approval apparatus.
            As I stare at the toddler in the stroller, with her toys, time slows and I feel my sense of reality (i.e. my peace of mind) unraveling in my head. Then another thought struck me. Maybe my wife doesn’t really know. She works during the day, so she doesn’t get hammered with the enervating tantrums on a regular basis like I do. Good Cosmos above! Should I step in and save the poor woman?
            “You know those toys are going to be thrown at us or lost, right?” I retorted in smug condescension.
            “Maybe. Whatever. It’s good to let her make certain kinds of choices,” said my nonchalant wife.
            No, fuck it. I will not save her from these future projectiles. She’ll see. I won’t even say “I told you so” later, either.  When the tantrum starts and those toys do eventually get weaponized, I’ll just run in the opposite direction, laughing maniacally. Let the mother deal with the raging beast she's created.
            However, much to my chagrin, my wife was/ is right. The toddler needs to be included in the decision making process, and I need to roll back some of my absolute control when and where I can. Even if this results in wasted time and longer strings of profanities (always said either in my head or under my breath) (always). 
            Sometimes you just gotta let the toddler pack her stroller full of shit she’s just going to throw at you later.
This brings me to two important points: restricted choices are a necessary evil, and foisting the “dictatorship” onto my wife is not only a relief, it’s entertaining. Absolute control over people may bring many power hungry people great pleasure and satisfaction, but that sort of control over a toddler is exhausting. It's good to share that burden. .

All those toys were eventually tossed out of the stroller.