The Great Bottle Battle of Thursday morning. An Epic.

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baby touching mother's face in a moment of togetherness and comfortIf there’s one thing I know as a mom, it’s that solidarity and the knowledge of I’m not alone in my struggles with raising kids is extremely important to my mental health. One of the things that has helped me the most is what my husband has dubbed my “momfab”. It’s a constantly running confab with my closest friends that are also coming into their mom-hood. We share advice, consolations, woes, trials, excitements, rants, achievements, memories, goals, and everything in-between. Among our continuously running conversation, my absolute favorite shares would be the epic tales of monumental feats and efforts a parent achieves whilst attempting to guide their children forward in this life. The kind of tale meant to make a listener laugh at the absurdity of it all while also yielding feelings of empathy because you’ve been there, too. And this is precisely why I want to share my recent Thursday morning epic – so others can share a moment of absurdity and remember they aren’t alone in this journey of parenthood! Let me attempt my best Homer voice…

As it approaches bottle time this morning, I feel a certain amount of dread. I convince my daughter to go put her toy cars into her backpack so she can’t see me pouring the milk. I look longingly at her bottles still sitting on the drying rack. My heart starts to feel achy, and my face gets splotchy and hot thinking about how my sweet toddler would joyfully down her favorite drink in mere minutes in times past. Wait, was that only a few days ago that we told her it was time to say goodbye to bottles? Man, I already feel battle-hardened. I start absent-mindedly putting a bottle together. Oh shoot, would you look at that? It’s completely together now… Maybe I could just… No! Don’t give in! I think of the pediatrician’s advice. Everything will be fine, I say. It’s good. I set the bottle aside. It’s time to gather my wits and run into battle.

I think I’ll try offering options to her again. I ask my toddler to come into the kitchen. She comes running in, already yelling BOTTLE! I tell her, remember when talked about saying goodbye to your bottles? I offer her two cup choices. She pushes my hands away and yells bottle in the most whiney voice I’ve ever heard. I think maybe if I offer one cup at a time, that might help. I offer her a thermos. NO! I offer her one sippy, another, another. No, no, no! I get into the cupboard to find more cups and she becomes very excited about one that I thought she hated. I pull it out and ask her if it’s the one. It is. I pour the milk into it, and we go to sit in her bedroom and read like we always do. I wait with baited breath. She takes a sip and I get super hopeful… I try to play it cool. Could it be?

No, Mama. Take this cup. Read Little Excavator. I casually take the cup and read about the excavator that just wants to dig. I try offering the milk a couple times. Hard passes from the peanut gallery. Darn!

I ask if she wants a different cup to try. Yes, yes she does. Awesome. I get her favorite straw cup, dump in the milk, and sprint back to the bedroom before we lose steam. I try to hand it to her. She looks at me like I’ve done her a solid wrong. The straw is old, and the valve has turned to the crap side so the warm milk starts pushing its way out of the straw. I take a quick sip to prevent it from spilling over. She gets really upset and says THAT’S MINE! I’m like, yeah it is! Please take it! She says NO MAMA and shoves it back to me. Milk kind of flies out of the straw in little droplets. Well shhhhhhh…oot, I think. Now what?

I ask my dear, sweet toddler if she still wants the milk. She looks at it longingly and says yes. I say, Let’s go out to the kitchen and find the right cup. She flops around on the chair to think about it for a minute, then grabs her favorite stuffed animal and the Little Excavator book, and we’re on our way back to the kitchen. I don’t even have a chance to offer her a cup because she sees her “big girl” cup on the counter and says THAT CUP! I clarify by asking if she wants her milk in that cup. Yes, Mama. Ok, here we go. I dump out the water already in the cup and dump in a little bit of the milk because I don’t want her to spill it everywhere. I give it to her. She looks at it in her hands. I wait.

Still looking at it.

Still…

She asks to sit on my lap, so I sit on the floor, and she hops onto my lap. She stares into the cup. Still staring. Oh my GRACIOUS, I’m trying not to rush her, but…

She takes a sip. I am hopeful again…

Be warmer, she says as she shoves the cup back to me and spills a little on her stuffed animal. Ok sure, I say attempting to project my calmest, most meditated being. I stick the cup back into the warmer and think I’ll use this opportunity to recap our bottle farewell ceremony. She won’t look at me and kind of picks at her socks for five minutes. The timer dings. I hand her the cup of nice, warmed milk. She takes the cup, walks slowly across the kitchen, and sits on the floor. She pats the mat next to her and says, Mama SIT. I obey (wait… who makes the rules?).

She holds the cup and stares into its depths. She touches it and says, warmer now. I muster up a noise of confirmation, keeping my mouth firmly closed to avoid letting out my building frustrations that are pinned on the hope that she’ll latch onto this cup like it’s her new best friend. She keeps touching and staring into the cup. I wait.

She jumps up and says, SIT ON MOMMY’S LAP. I allow this. I pat her lovingly and try so hard not to put pressure on her. But, like, dude. I’ve given you all the cups. I warmed the milk. You can do it.

She jumps up and says, SIT ON THE MAT! I press my back into the cool wood of the cabinet so I can ground myself to reality. She goes and sits on the mat, looks at the cup, and this smarmy grin appears on her face. She jumps up and yells, SIT ON MAMA’S LAP! I let her. She steps on me. She grins smarmily. She jumps up and yells, SIT ON THE MAT, and she runs to her mat spot holding the cup in both hands, milk sloshing dangerously above the splash guard. This repeats numerous times, and I think that this must be the kind of extraordinary despair that Olympic gods bestowed upon their enemies in perpetuity. Still, I wait patiently. Or, really, not so patiently on the inside.

In her jumping frenzy in which no milk has been sipped, she drops the cup. I’m pretty sure I know it’s all over now because she can’t resist cleaning up a mess.

Yes, indeed. I know this kid well, and she immediately starts begging for a paper towel. The really naïve and hopeful part of my brain says, we still got this. We’ll give it another try. I let my toddler wipe up the mess, but now she’s cleaning the whole kitchen. I wonder about the future, in which I’m sure it will be a struggle to get her to do this very thing that she’s so excited about right now. My brain has now started to wander, too, so I should surely realize that this is truly a lost cause. But no. I try again.

I pick up the cup and try to redirect her. Look, honey, look. Your stuffed animal is drinking the milk. She looks. She continues cleaning.

Look, honey, look. Your doll is drinking the milk. She looks. She continues cleaning.

Look, honey, look. Your beanie baby and your lego man and your puppet and this dump truck are all taking a drink of milk. She looks. She cleans.

Look, honey, Mama is taking a drink of milk. She yells THAT’S MINE and grabs the cup. She stares at it. She touches it. Not warm, she says. I think, well fffffff…arts. Well farting forks. Ach. Forks. Farts.

She stares. She almost thinks about taking a drink. She becomes smarmy. She drops the cup. The splash guard falls out and all the milk is on the floor. She reaches out to me and asks for a paper towel.

I die a little inside and look at all the cups on the counter and the milk everywhere and think, thank goodness my husband is on duty this afternoon when it’s time to try again.

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Shellie Puffer
Shellie grew up in the Midwest poking her nose around the local wildlife, collecting rocks, and writing outlandish stories in spiral notebooks. She earned dual undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry, and worked towards a Masters degree in Ecology. After traveling to various corners of the world, she found her greatest adventures hiking around Appalachia and rafting the wild rivers there. When the west started calling, she and her husband made the leap to Flagstaff where their family grew by one energetic dog and one sweet daughter. She now works as a Wildlife Biologist focusing on conservation of reptiles and amphibians in the desert southwest.

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