Had a chinwag with Leila’s Mommy, and both of us were relieved and bemused to find that our daughters – born 15 hours apart – have seemingly turned from cooing, amiable angels to tantrum throwing, foot-stomping little horrors. In as short a time as a week.

Did not see this coming at all.

Arddun isn’t into foot-stomping – mostly because her legs are too busy clocking up 10,000 steps. But her other marvelous crimes of late include collapsing into a crying heap on the floor if her head so much as grazes the wind, or passive-aggressively doing The Jelly.

The Jelly, for the uninitiated, is the complete relaxation of all body parts as soon as either parent reaches down to carry her to A Place Other Than Where She’d Like To Go. This means that as soon as you try to scoop her up under the arms, she goes so soft and boneless that she practically slips through your hands. It’s almost elegant because there’s a half-twist in there somewhere.

This is an especially impressive move because the timing has to be perfect. A nanosecond later, and the parent would have found enough turgidity in her body to grasp and hoist. A nanosecond too early, and the parent would have anticipated it enough to change the angle of the scooping, so that the newly limp body would fall into waiting arms and all escape would be thwarted.

She is an Olympic champion at The Jelly. It has flummoxed both her parents the whole of this week – mostly because it’s her new thing we keep forgetting about. And the girl and I have had words (and a few firm taps on the thighs) about it. I’ve only just mastered an alternative grip to counter The Jelly. What I’d like to call the Reluctant Monkey, where you catch her by her hands and lift her off the ground, so she’s hanging there like a very put-out chimpanzee denied a free pass out of the zoo.

She hates it because it works and she can’t do anything about it. And that’s when she completely loses it.

That’s the other thing. In less than a fortnight, my usually stoic, nonplussed army-tank baby girl has turned into a complete sap. I’ve done the usual – not fussed when she’s bumped her head, kept my tone calm and my voice cheerful when I tell her nothing’s the matter, or pretend I didn’t see it. But now, it’s almost like the less fuss I make, the more Barbara Cartland her remonstrations. It’s like a Korean and Taiwanese drama right there on my living room floor, and I’m half expecting my neighbour to come around and check if I’m skinning a cat.

It is getting vexing, yes.

A chunk of it is boundary pushing, I’m sure of it. Especially now that she’s walking. Suddenly, she’s wearing Big Girl shoes and taking control of her destiny – or her destination, anyway. The Jelly is her way of retaining that control and newfound freedom, and I understand that too.

But the tantrum throwing… part of that is frustration. I see it in other scenarios – like how she can’t work a toy through the playpen grills, or how she wanted to get from the chair to the wall and missed, grazing her head on a nearby cushion instead. She’s wearing her Big Girl shoes… but she’s still mostly baby. And it’s frustrating for her. And I understand that too.

I’ve been trying to teach her sign language every since she started eating solids at 5+ months. She hasn’t always used it, but I’m fairly sure now that she understands at least one of the signs that means “all done” or “finished” – and sometimes, she signs it back to me. It’s funny how it’s so easy for her to give a flying kiss, wave good-bye and give strangers high-fives on cue, but it takes seemingly forever to teach signs that she understands enough to use on her own volition. And yet, I think it’ll be worth it. Especially now.

So some of the signs I’m starting to teach her more consistently include

  • please
  • thank you
  • all done (broadening its use)
  • drink
  • hungry
  • help (as in, “Please help me.”)

It sounds impressive, but I haven’t seen a consistent use of any of those signs yet. Mostly because my biggest problem is teaching consistently. Still, the game plan is to teach her that the tantrums are a big no-no, and that there are more pleasant and efficient alternatives. Carrot and stick, in a manner of speaking.

(Yes. I hear you old-timers laughing in the background. But I am still brimming with youthful optimism, so sue me.)

Also read a useful article about toddler tantrums, if you’re interested.

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