I babysat last weekend for our friends' 16-month-old son, N. It was a fairly easy couple of hours. The boys kept each other entertained without any altercations, and I left them to it. But then The Boy decided N's cup of milk was much better than his cup of water. I couldn't just let him steal N's cup. I don't want The Boy to be a bully and a thief. So, I took the cup from him, gave it back to N and told him in the MOM VOICE that we do not take other people's cups, that this was his cup.
The Boy laughed and scampered away to find a different toy. Not exactly the face of a boy in fear of god and his momma, but whatever. He didn't steal the cup again. I'll take it.
N, meanwhile, apparently thought the MOM VOICE was for him. He wailed, his little face crumpled, so I picked him up, trying to calm him down. Have I mentioned I'm not so good with other people's kids? Before The Boy was born, I went to Bob Evans with my sister and her boys and the oldest one, about two at the time, had a full-on meltdown by the register in the 30 seconds I was watching him. He threw himself on his back and screamed, and my reaction was to look at my sister -- wrestling to get the younger one out of the highchair and into his coat -- and say, "It's your kid." I have improved slightly since then, but my skills are still limited when the child is not mine. When N didn't immediately stop crying after I hugged him and assured him I wasn't yelling at him but at my little heathen, I went straight to the parenting move that almost always works on The Boy: Pat-a-Cake. N wasn't impressed.
So, there I am with a sobbing toddler on my knees, playing pat-a-cake and feeling like a really bad stand up comedian, when up comes The Boy with a big grin on his face. He patted his little hands together and laughed, then patted N's knee as if to say, "See, this is what you do. She's crazy, but it makes her happy." N stopped crying.
I was out-parented by my toddler.