This afternoon I blew it.
It was naptime, and she definitely needed the rest, if not a nap. I offered to lay down with her, as she's been having trouble falling asleep alone again (during the same time as she's been demanding to be treated as a baby). She decided that was big fun, and started being silly. "No," I said calmly. "If you can't rest with Momma, you're going to have to rest alone." Here began an hour long tantrum, complete with calm exits from Momma "I need to step away, but I'm nearby and I love you." "I love you even when I don't like your behavior." Those kinds of things. She decided to fake-hurt herself: "Momma, I kicked the wall and now I need a doctor." "Momma, I broke my head." Nothing was broken, I assure you.
When she settled, I went back into her room to reassure her. She grabbed my face, pulled me towards her, rolled her eyes back in her head and screamed.
So I yelled. I yelled that there was a difference between frustrated tantrums and manipulative tantrums, and that this was manipulation. I yelled that I was losing empathy for her need for me to be there when she was using it to get out of napping. I yelled that I was losing it. In each pause, she made a terrible square mouth, teeth exposed, and screamed. There were no tears from her, just mine when it was over.
I'm telling you this so that you know it's hard. That toddler attachment issues (the child's and the parent's) don't go away but cycle. That one day can cause weeks' setback, turning that phase in a cycle into a downward spiral. That it's hard.