Albert Einstein was right. Not about relativity, though he was right about that too. No, I am referring to his oft quoted statement: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
That is the nub, the crux, the real heart of things, isn’t it? At least, it is for parents. We are all insane. We are doing the same things over and over with our kids, expecting different results.
Take me, for example. My daughter has recently given up her afternoon nap (her morning nap left months ago). For a few weeks after her third birthday, I was putting her to bed as usual at nap time and listening to her play in her room for an hour or so. Every single day. She just wouldn’t nap but I am now 100% sure that she is not physically ready to give it up. How do I know? Well, I and all the people who were at the local mall the other day witnessed why. A full on lying on the floor kicking and screaming tantrum occurred at precisely 3:04 PM. Why? Because we were leaving the mall and not riding the escalator one more time. She kicked and screamed all the way to the car, despite my carrying her like a sack of potatoes, under my right arm. She kicked and screamed as I hog wrestled her in to the car seat. The tears were real. My emotions ran from complete public humiliation to anger to guilt to feeling bad for her. Exactly 2.5 minutes in to the car ride, she was out like a light, snoring. I opened the windows and turned up the radio. Nothing. She was out. That afternoon, I drove for 45 minutes with no real destination in mind, just to make sure she stayed asleep. I needn’t have worried. She stayed asleep through passing fire engine sirens, a brake screech and serious honking when I was cut off mid-traffic stream and an elevated volume on the radio when a favourite sing-a-long song came on, and I am not referring to “Fruit salad, yummy, yummy”.
So that should have been my lesson, right? Stay near home after 3 p.m. to avoid this type of meltdown until she has physically adapted to no longer sleeping during the day. Here’s where the insanity part comes in. Despite that very graphic and clear lesson, I chose not to heed it. I chose to ignore the possibility of total meltdown because I was being tempted out by the gorgeous very un-February weather and I decided to take my dearest wee face to a nearby park. She was so excited the whole way, referring to the park as ‘the forest’ – ever since a trip to Algonquin Park last summer, any stand of trees larger than 4 is a forest.
She normally loves going for walks along the trails, picking up sticks and pretending she is Mulan (“Hi-ya!” is a common utterance). We started well enough until I figured out that the trails were far too icy and we were not going to be able to make it back up the hill if we went down. So I suggested we walk over to the playground area. That took some convincing but eventually, after three near-slips on the ice, she agreed that the playground might be a better idea. Wrong. The playground had an even thicker layer of ice, all nicely topped with pools of water. I sighed and told her we had best head on out of the park and play in the garden at home. To an over-tired preschooler who was expecting to Hi-Ya her way through the ‘forest’, this was one breach too many. My normally sweet and lovely child started crying and sat – without snow pants – in the biggest puddle she could find. “No! I don’t want to go”. Memories of Caillou ran through my head. Enormous tears started streaming in seconds and the world was categorically ending, according to her. For the second time, and not without getting soaked myself, I had to haul her away, strap her in to the car and head home. Guess what happened next? Yes: she fell asleep.
I pulled over and tried to recover what might be left of my equilibrium. Finally, I just shook my head in wonder over my own, dense behaviour, put the car in D and drove home.