Occasionally, though, I need to take a moment to share my thoughts on being a parent. In 30 or so years, Gracie or Luke will come to me with questions about dealing with a toddler who won't eat their peas or bites her brother or who splashes water all over the bathroom. By that time, I will be a grandmother with the rosy-colored glasses that all grandparents have when they look at their grandkids. Looking at my grandchild or grandchildren, I may not be able to recall the trauma of my own children's early days. I may not be able to give them words of wisdom past, "Love, this will pass. All toddlers do this."
Hopefully, when they come to me, this blog will still be in existence and they can come here to read my "in the moment" thoughts on dealing with the day to day challenges of almost 22 month olds. Maybe the blog will help them where time and my rose-colored glasses will not.
Toddlers are crazy creatures. They are daredevils, organizers, joyous and playful. They are also shy, destructive, moody, and violent. They go from knowing exactly what they want one moment to inconsolable crying the next. They are impulsive and are the reason some mommies start to drink. I know. I have a glass of wine every other night. If you know me, you know this is a HUGE thing.
This time has become a series of challenges. The challenges never seem to end, simply keep piling on top of one another. Mostly it is because Gracie and Luke are testing their environment. For the better part of a year and a half, it's been all about them. During that time, they would cry, we would jump to get them food, change a diaper, or help them fall asleep. Now, we expect them to entertain themselves for 5 minutes and they fall apart. They jump on a bed because it is fun and we stop them, ending their fun. Again, they fall apart.
Every day, these little tests drive me to the brink. I suspect, although I will never know, that one toddler may be easier to deal with. Two is trying and difficult and exhausting. I've been in a constant battle of the wills since January. According to some experts, I have about 14 more months to go. Right.
The thing is, as challenging as this time is, as frustrated as I get, as painful as it has been, I know we are living this for a reason. Gracie and Luke are learning how to interact with the world and are learning what their boundaries are. This is a critical time for them and my response to everything that happens is very important. I'm teaching them what is acceptable and what is not.
Here's what I've learned:
- There are some battles that aren't worth the fight. Gracie and Luke destroy the living room every day. The chaos makes my brain hurt. Instead of worrying about it and getting mad at them, I'm constantly making games out of cleaning up. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but we're working on it.
- Bedtime is a constant battle, but that's because I let it get that way. I've been so worried about leaving Gracie and Luke alone to go to sleep, that I've given them the distraction of ME to keep them awake. The last 3 weeks have been atrocious and it wasn't until I had had enough of the trauma that I remembered what my sleep books said. Gracie and Luke are old enough to go to sleep by themselves. Once I remembered that and let them do it, they finally learned that when you are tired it means go to sleep. They also learned a critical lesson: When Mommy says it is time to do something, she means business and she WILL follow through.
- Just because they don't eat the food I make right now, doesn't mean they won't eat it in a few hours or tomorrow. I used to take it personally that they would not eat my food. Now I know to cover it up and put it away for the next meal.
- Hitting is a constant thing in our home. My first instinct is to run and stop them, but I realized that hitting escalates when they are tired, so it is my job to anticipate tired babies. The hitting is also something they have to figure out for themselves in their relationship. I can help them with the aftermath (gentle hands, saying sorry, and hugs), but Gracie and Luke need to understand that they are hurting one another. It sounds so counter intuitive, but it isn't. If they hit me or use an object to hit the other one, I need to make sure to stop them, but the more I overreact, the more it will continue.
- Consequences, while difficult to enforce, are critical right now. No matter how tired I am, I have to let Gracie and Luke know that negative behavior results in a consequence. As a result, we've had some 3 minute baths recently because they think they can splash water all over the bathroom just like when they are in the pool. They hate getting out early, but slowly, they are realizing that I mean business and that when they do something I tell them they cannot do, I will remove them from the situation. Some day, I won't have to do this any more. I think they'll be 36 years old by then.
When things get bad (i.e. Lukie has just slammed a metal measuring cup into Gracie's forehead), I deal with the situation and then cuddle them close. Because, really, it's all about loving them in the end. No matter how frustrating they are, no matter how much I want to cry, everything I do for them is my love for them.