Sunny Shines

I’ve been trying to read The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Harvey Karp) because I want to have the happiest toddler on the block.

As Husband says when he’s being especially infuriating: “It’s nice to want things, isn’t it?”

Z’s a very happy little kid, truly. She is also prone to fits and tantrums, and demonstrates an alarming capacity for drama (if one single person who knows me makes a “like-mother-like-daughter” comment they will never receive a Christmas, birthday, or Valentine’s Day card from me again. That means you, Mom). I don’t think Z is atypical of toddlers in these respects. It must be very difficult to be three feet tall and not able to run to the store for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s whenever life gives you a smackdown. Instead, your mean mom doesn’t even let you have ice cream (more for her, she reasons), and she’s even put restrictions on the goldfish crackers. Then your dad jumps in saying, “It’s nice to want things, isn’t it?”

Because life is rough for a two-year-old, I’m making an effort to be a better mom. That includes trying out some of the ideas in Karp’s book. What usually happens, though, is I try something which doesn’t work, and then I come up with something that works better for Z. Example: he recommends “hand checks” as rewards, which is just like it sounds–taking a pen and putting an ink check on your kid’s hand. Well, Z freaks out if you come at her with anything pointy, especially if it’s going to leave a mark. Hand checks? Not such a good idea for her. Before I figured that out, I started drawing on my own hand to show her it was okay. The middle-schooler in me (who is really just below my 29-year-old surface) jumped out, and next thing I knew I had this:

Pretty cool, huh?

Okay, fine, maybe not cool to anyone old enough to read, but Z thought her new friend was awesome. She named her Sunny, and we had such a great time with Sunny that I considered getting a Sunny tattoo.

Sunny talked Z into trying broccoli again, she convinced Z that diaper changes are fun, and she generally gained Z’s cooperation in so many areas that I started to feel a little jealous of Sunny. I mean, who is this imposter, anyway? Z will run down our driveway towards the street while I shout fearfully for her to stop, but she’d probably be potty trained in a second of Sunny suggested it. (In fact, watch Sunny come back today so I can give that a shot.)

The thing is, little kids need heroes, and for the longest time, I was Z’s hero. Nobody else. After all, for Z’s first year I had the mama’s milk and nobody else did. Stupid Sunny never had mama’s milk. It’s all part of growing up, I suppose, my daughter adopting other people and characters as her heroes. If I’m already having trouble with her adopting a character invented from my own hand, I can tell this is going to be hard for me.

Maybe I have some growing up to do as well.


  1. Randi · May 28, 2010

    Okay, I will forego the obvious comment ( not just because of the not-so-veiled) threat. Instead, I will commiserate (sp?) with you regarding the usurpation of herohood. The reflection reminded me of how my own children used to love to hear me sing…Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, etc….Then one day, (well, maybe it was more gradual than that) they let me know in no uncertain terms…they preferred Black-eyed Peas, and Licorice, and Cold Play, whoever else. Sad times. But then comes the grandchildren, and I feel reinspired to flex the golden pipes.

    • bethhull · May 30, 2010

      Did your children ever love to hear Barbra Streisand? I fondly remember Christmas song sing-alongs on the way to school, though!
      And I must state for the record: I do not, nor have I ever, listened to Cold Play.

  2. Rachel Cunningham · May 31, 2010

    I absolutely LOVE Sunny, and I haven’t even met her yet! If I ever have kids or babysit, I am totally stealing that idea.

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