The Toddler Strikes Back

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll
It doesn’t feel so good, does it?

When my older daughter Petunia, 4, first welcomed her baby sister Peony, 1, into our family, it was with open arms and lots of kisses. Immediately following the kisses, Petunia tried to feed Peony a goldfish cracker. Peony was roughly 7 hours old at the time.

It’s not as if we think Petunia was intentionally trying to kill Peony. At least we think she wasn’t. She loves her baby sister, just a little too hard. (See here and here for more details on what was once an official Death Watch.)

Petunia continues loving and loathing Peony these days in pretty equal parts. At 16 months old, Peony is starting to be really fun to be around, and Petunia is realizing that. They’ll play together frequently. Petunia delights in making her baby sister laugh. But then she gets mad at, say, me, and pushes Peony to the ground or pulls her hair or attempts to lift her up by the neck to grabs a toy out of Peony’s hand — all in an attempt to spite me. Or just because she’s just a little evil sometimes.

However, a funny thing has been happening lately. Peony is learning to fight back. Her greatest triumph is grabbing a fistful of Petunia’s hair and pulling. Hard. At first Petunia thought it was kind of funny, until she realized it actually hurt.

Peony has also learned to sob adorably when Petunia takes toys from her, which tugs at my heartstrings. I get that Peony is already kind of working me, but when she makes that little pouty face, it slays me, which means Petunia is forced to surrender whatever booty she has illegally required.

Petunia likes to think that all toys and books are hers (despite my insistence that everything is mine and I’m just letting everyone else borrow it), but she does have a few special dolls and toys that I acknowledge she shouldn’t have to share. Peony, however, refuses to recognize that. Or at least respect it. She thinks it’s hilarious when she grabs Petunia’s most special doll and then without missing a beat runs away with it as fast as she can. Petunia doesn’t think it’s nearly as funny — or funny, period.

In short, Peony is on her way to manipulating control of the household from Petunia. It’s enough to warm a mother’s cold and tired heart.

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

More from Meredith on Babble’s Toddler blog:

Read (even) more from Meredith at Babble’s Mom blog, follow her on Twitter, and check out her weekly column on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post at