I remember about 19 months ago, when I started rolling alone with my daughter in the car, my mom gave me an advice –  If need be, park! But never, ever, look away from the road to check on your crying baby.

Actually she was speaking from experience. While driving some 30-something years ago, unable to bear the cries from her little daughter (who happened to be her first child) in the back seat, she impulsively turned away from the road to check on her and that was when the accident happened.

To be honest, I didn’t always follow this advice to the letter. Though there were days when I parked, there were many days when I looked back or drove with only my left hand because my right hand was too busy soothing my daughter. Also, there were times I spent a good part of the journey watching her through the rear mirror. Now to my puzzled husband, this will be perfect explanation on why my rear mirror seemed to be constantly reset from its proper position.

I tell you, after being saved from a few near misses here and there, I can authoritatively say that these actions of mine were very dangerous. However as a first time mom I somehow couldn’t resist the urge of checking in on my upset child, every now and then. Interestingly, the more I checked in, the more she kicked and screamed. So our car rides were more often than not, far from pleasant.

However as she got older, I got firmer, she got calmer and things got better. But then one day without warning, my car had to go off the road for a few days. This meant no car seat for my daughter and I was certain that somewhere inside her head, she was involved in some kind of wild, joyful gymnastics. But unfortunately for her, before she could learn how to say ‘jack robinson’, my car was back and so was our former routine.

Now on that first day, I was lucky to have her sleep all through the journey; from the house to her school. But then when I went to pick her up in the evening, the drama began.

As I strapped her in, without blinking she gave me the ‘look’ that boldly let me in on her disapproval.

So before getting into the driver seat, I urged her to behave, while trying explain that this was her only possible means of getting home. She obviously never listened because soon after the car got into motion, the tantrum began. I say tantrum because in the past when my daughter cried it was out of fear and uncertainty but this time around, it was out of the sheer stubbornness which unmistakably shined brightly through her clear, brown eyes.

You see, I knew that she knew what exactly the journey ahead entailed. She knew that though she won’t be able to jump around, she will be able to clap her hands, wriggle her legs and sing her rhymes. She knew that as soon as home was reached I will be quick to come and set her free from the belt restrictions. She knew that no matter what, she will be fine.

However despite all this knowledge safely tucked up somewhere in her little head, she pursed her lips in defiance and kept giving me ‘the look’. She simply didn’t like the idea of being restricted for 45 minutes. She was upset that I actually overruled her want. She was really angry and so she cried, believing that at some point I would be broken by her tears.

To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure that I could cope listening to the sounds coming from her without doing anything about it. However having repented of all my unsafe driving practices, I decided to steel myself against the reckless maternal instincts cropping up. So asides from initially trying to reason with her above her cries, I did nothing for most of the journey home. That is, according to the ignorant on-looker.

You see during these car rides, I have learnt that every soothing word I offer my daughter encourages her to take her cries several notches up and every apologetic glance I throw in her direction, gives way to wilder kicks in the air. In addition, these defiant attitudes seemed to have started invading other parts of our lives and this was indeed just as worrisome to me, as her cries. Therefore this time around, knowing that she was older and wiser than she was yesterday, I did something by doing nothing because I didn’t want to wake up one day to discover a monster in her bed. Really I knew that now was my time to step up and be the unyielding mom when safety and character shaping was concerned. So, the ‘nothing’ I did was to ‘look away with a straight face, refusing any form of eye contact with her’ and the ‘something’ I did was to ‘cry along with her on the inside, while praying her calm will come soon’. In all of this, the only thing that kept me from turning back was my hope for tomorrow.

So, tomorrow came sooner than either of us expected and in between the nursery rhymes we together shouted at the top of our lungs, she kept throwing me the cutest smiles through the rear mirror, giving my heart the pleasure of melting again and again and again as we drove through the busy streets of Lagos.

*To learn how to deal with tantrums from your toddler, check out  http://mommymomentsng.com/temper-tantrums/

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