Tag Archives: toddler times

To Do List

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In addition to my daughter’s Christmas gifts, I bought a tiny Minnie Mouse necklace.  It was on sale, and I knew she would love having a piece of real, “big girl” jewelry.

I set it aside from her other gifts.  Instead of putting it under the tree, I had plans to use it as an incentive to motivate her to work on some tasks.

There is this list in my head of stuff I want her to do.

1.  Poop in the big toilet instead of the little potty.  Somehow, my delicate three year old creates these man-sized poos that are a pain to clean out of her froggy potty.

2.  Go the the bathroom and pee in the appropriate urine receptacle of choice–  toilet or froggy potty–  instead of going in the pull up we put on her at night for “just in case.”  Emily has awesome bladder retention and usually stays dry all night, but then insists on peeing in her pull up in the morning, instead of using the bathroom.  Yuck.

3.  Sleep through the night in her own bed.  Until we moved, Emily wanted nothing to do with sleeping in bed with us.  She had her own little crib next to my side of the bed and she stayed in it all night.  This was partially due to the logistics of our two bedroom apartment, and also partially due to my separation anxiety.  When we moved, we did away with the little crib and presented our darling daughter with a pink, Hello Kitty ensconced bedroom of her very own.  She’s been a trooper about falling asleep in her own bed, but in the middle of the night, she is trooping up to our bed.

“I don’t yike being awone in my woom,” she says.  “I too scared and I want da mama.”  I get it.  As someone who has always struggled with the horrible, creepy fear of the dark, I would do almost anything to prevent my little girl from feeling terrified.  Buuutttt. . .  sharing our bed makes things tight and uncomfortable and my husband and I are back to sleep-deprivation-mode, which is really no fun.

4.  Don’t struggle so at nap and bed times.  This one is pretty self-explainatory.  Like any feisty toddler, Emily gives us a run for our money when it comes to getting into bed.

5.  Don’t be sneaky.  With our son, we could have wall papered our house in chocolate and he wouldn’t have ever dreamed of nipping any without permission.  Emily however feels perfectly entitled to helping herself to snacks of her choosing (usually candy first thing in the morning).  She knows it is not pleasing to us, so she will go into her room and hide in her closet to munch.  It is actually kind of funny, and it never makes us particularly angry (unless there are major crumbs involved).  She has the most expressive little face, so we can always tell when she has done something cheeky.

6.  Give up the damn bubby already.  The kid is three.  Enough with the pacifier already.  She mostly only uses it for sleep now, and sometimes in the car, but I hear her smacking away on it and visions of orthodontic bills dance before my eyes.

It crossed my mind to make a chart of some sort and make her earn stickers or smiley faces or stars, and when she filled up the chart for all her good, honest, cooperative, toilet-learning choices, she could have the necklace.

Sometimes I get it into my mommy-head that I need to be fine tuning my children to get ahead in the mommy-game.

I caught myself feeling a bit anxious to get these traits programmed into my toddler as quickly as possible.  Buuuttt. . .  on the other hand, things are flying by so quickly already.  I look at pictures from last Christmas when she had no hair and was still in diapers, and I marvel that the same child is streaking through my house in her Hello Kitty underpants, her curls a tangled halo around her face.

She’s turning into such a cool, little human.  She is tough as nails and not afraid to express her opinions, or speak up for herself, but she also has an amazingly tender heart and shows an aptitude for giving and caring.  The combination of these traits simply make me glow, and suggest I might be doing something right as a mom.

So what if my kid sneaks a chocolate now and then?  In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter much if she stays dry in her pull-up this week, or next week, or six months from now?  If parenthood has taught me one thing, it is that children do stuff sooner or later.  Then it is done, and I wonder why I made such a fuss over it in the first place.

Karma blessed me, anxious-rule-bound-control-freak-that-I-am, with two humans who are fiercely independent and strong-willed, and who complete my mental to-do lists on their own, sweet schedule, usually making a lot of noise, clutter, and chaos in the process.

My relationship with my children teaches me a lot about letting go. . .  of expectations, of rules, of my nearly obsessive needs for organization and predictability.

Emily won’t want to snuggle with me forever.  She won’t always need me to wipe her little tush.  Her worries and fears might not always be so easy to soothe with hugs and kisses alone, and my life will feel cavernous with all the spare time from not tending to a toddler’s every need.

When you become a parent, people tell you to cherish every moment because it goes by in the blink of an eye.  Truer words have never been spoken, however they do little to describe the breakneck pace to which life accelerates after having children.  It is a constant circle of joy and loss and joy and loss and joy.

I put the little necklace up on top of my desk.  I might still use it as an incentive for her.  But I wrote a new to do list.  It only had one item on it:

Catch that squishy, squirmy little imp who smells like honey and speaks with a lisp and hug her up like there is no tomorrow.

Because time waits for no mom.

Don’t Scream At Me

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Today was rough.  It isn’t even worth writing about because it is the same stress, different day.

Emily had a very short nap, and by the time we got to bed time routines, she was a frenetic mess of tired.  She wanted to nurse, but kept getting up from the bed where we were lying to go out to the living room.  The monkey business had me at my wit’s end.

“Emily, I am not going to give you nursing anymore if you are going to scamper around!  I’m going to count to three and you need to get in your spot,” I said in a louder-than-usual-voice.

She looked up at me, raised a finger, and while wagging said finger, she said very calmly, “Don’t scream at me.”

She looked me right in the eye as she said it, shaking her head.

She was so matter-of-fact, regal almost.

It stopped me dead in my tracks.  Part of me was exasperated, but another part of me was incredibly proud.  Not that I want to teach my kids to talk back to me, but her calmness instantly grounded me.  And I think it is a good thing for children to learn to challenge authority when it is in the wrong.  As I was.

For the record, I was not screaming.  I don’t scream at my kids, because I’m just not a screamer by nature.  But I will admit to raising my voice from time to time.  At the end of the day, I don’t know if there is really much of a difference, but I was glad Em called me on it.

I walked away for a couple moments.  Emily came out and said, “I’m ready now.”  She took my hand and we went back into the bedroom.  She nursed a bit and then got into bed.  She got back out of her bed and the monkey business continued.

I don’t know I will ever be able to not “scream” again, so I am not going to say it.  But I can say I will never forget Emily’s calm, collected demeanor as she spoke to me tonight.

Have you ever “screamed” at your children?  Have your children ever called you on a poor behavior you did?  

The Bubbie Wars or Screwing Up With Love

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My little one, a freshly minted two-year-old (or as we simply call her a “two”), has gone from angel to demon in the span of a few months.

She used to be so easy to feed, to play with, to put to bed.  But now everything from sun up (or usually before sun up) to bed time is an overwhelming struggle.

Every moment with her is spent wrestling, reasoning (oh come on foolish woman, you can’t reason with a two!  For crying out loud give it up!), and reacting as quickly as possible to ensure she does not get mauled by the cat, broken from attempting to fly off of furniture, or stomped on by her brother for disassembling his 12,000 piece lego Millennium Falcon.

Part of our struggle stems from the fact Em doesn’t talk too much.  Jack was freakishly verbal, and could tell us entire stories around 18 months.  Wee Em, however, is somewhat lagging in the language department.  She has lots of words, comprehends quite a bit, and engages in lots of imaginative play.  Her most frequently used sentence is “More (insert desired item- treat, show, oranges) please.”  It comes out sounding like “Mah tweet peese.”  Utterly charming.

While we know there is no official learning or language disorder at this point, she does get awfully frustrated when she can’t express her needs or wants.  This is new territory for us.

One of our biggest battles is with her pacifier, or “bubbie,” as she calls it.  She is totally addicted to this nasty little device.  Now that she is two, I am concerned that it will further impede language or harm her pretty little teeth.  So, I made a rule that bubbies are just for bed and while riding in the car (mainly to keep her screaming from setting off Jack).

We had had a lovely morning watching Little Bear and playing with dollies, but then Emily started asking for her bubbie.  I attempted to distract her with puzzles, finger paints, play doh, and dressing her dollies.  No go.  I offered her hugs and her blankie.  No go.

Her whines turned to wails, the likes of which broke me down.  My normally jolly child actually looked frantic.  “OK,” I declared.  “If you want bubbie, you have to go have it in your bed.”  She pliantly grabbed her bub and her blankie and climbed into her crib.  She proceeded to cover herself up, gather dollies and lovies all around her and have a good, comforting cuddle.  I sat nearby and sang a few songs to her.  It was actually kind of cute.

Then she wanted to get out.  I tried to take her bub away and she climbed back in.  I told her, “If you get out of your bed, you need to give bubbie to Mama.”  She plucked bubbie out of her rosy little lips, waved it at me, and said, “Nah nah nah, boo boo!”

I kid you not.

She giggled, put it back in her mouth and cuddled back down.  The child may lack words and sentence structure, but a sense of humor?  That she does not lack.

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She set about tending to her baby doll, giving it a sippy cup and then a bubbie of its own.  I figured, well, okay, this is happening, so I’ll just go with it.

Lunchtime came.  Emily screamed when I tried to take her out of her crib.  She clamped her mouth down on her bubbie and clutched it to her face with her little star fish of a hand, clearly terrified I was going to steal it.  I offered her some tasty lunch which she rejected, continuing to plaster bubbie to her face.

I finally gave up, tossed her into the crib, turned on the sound soother (ahhh, ocean waves), kissed her, and left the room.

I retreated to the living room, wondering, “Did I do the right thing?  Am I a crappy mom because I tried to take her bubbie, or because I let her keep it?  What am I going to do with this little two?”

I thought back to earlier days with Jack, who is now six.  As a new parent, I valued consistency, limits, and staying the course above all things.  I remember how we tried to force sleep training on him.  And failed miserably.  Developmentally, I believe, he was just not ready to sleep on his own all night.  So we backed things up, took him into bed with us at night and reset the clock.  He is now a wonderful sleeper.

I also recall my own urgency to potty train our son.  His third birthday came and he still was not fully potty trained.  “I don’t want potty learning,” he told us.  “I just want Mama, and Daddy, and diapers, and milk.”  So, what did I do?  I forced the agenda.  And what did I get?  I got a potty full of pee thrown at me by Jack.  It took that gesture to make me realize, well, huh, he DID tell me that he wasn’t ready.  So, again, we backed things up.  Went at his pace.  Went back to diapers for a week or two until he was ready to put on his big boy pants.  And it all worked out okay.

I’m still not sure we did the “right” things with Jack, and do not mean these tales as advice to anyone, but at this point I can say, at least in our case, alls well that ends well.

I wonder, again and again, why are we always in such a freaking rush to get to the next developmental milestone?

Some of it, I am sure, has to do with keeping up with what we see in other families, on TV, or what we are taunted with on Facebook.  Some of it may come from what our own parents or friends expect of us.  Some of it probably comes from our own good intentions and love for our children.  For me, I know some of it also comes from feeling like I am never doing this parenting thing “good enough.”

Jack blessed me with the gift of letting me learn from my mistakes with him.  Most of the time he doesn’t even seem to hold it against me!  When I was pregnant with Emily, I became aware of this thought I was having repeatedly, that I would do it better with this one, that I would get all the little kinks out of parenting and not mess up, that it was a chance to do over what I had done wrong with Jack.  I could be the mom I always dreamed of being!

Well, guess what?  I am the mom that I am.  None of us are perfect.  We all screw up our kids in one way or another.  Luckily, if there is a lot of love, those little bumps along the way don’t really seem to matter all that much.

In honor of Jack’s gift to me, I think I am going to look at this whole bubbie thing as a developmental phase.  Maybe Em just isn’t ready to move on yet?  Jack never took a bubbie, so I’m not sure how to handle this situation, and I’m probably screwing things up.  But I am going to back off a bit and see what happens, because as important as consistency and limits are for children, being flexible,  listening to and respecting them is equally important.  Although Emily can’t tell me in words what she needs or feels, she is certainly telling me in behavior.

Maybe I am just being lazy, or trying to console myself for not having the tits to set a hard and fast limit with Emily.  I mean, I know the bubbie isn’t good for her in the long run, but I don’t want to battle with my kid, and at the end of the day I know she won’t go off to college sucking on a pacifier.

If I am screwing up, at least I am doing it with love.

Have you screwed up this parenting gig?  Does your little one have a pacifier, and if it is a thing of the past, how did you get them to give it up?  

Fussy McGrouchy-Pants And The “Hard-To-Get-Older” Day

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Ok, so if you know where my normally placid, easy-going baby is, could you please send her back to me?  Because this angry, exorcist-toddler is not so much fun.

After I got the boy off to school, I thought the girl and I would go to the library and run a couple errands.  My little girl had other plans.  Her plans included crying, fussing, yelling, kicking, screaming, and being generally inconsolable for the past four hours.

Oh, I forgot to mention the flailing.

I tried my usual go-to move with Emily when she is being difficult- fixing it with a hug.  I also have a little stool I call “the Settle Down Stool”.  Believe it or not, she likes to sit on it and hold her dolly while she regulates herself.  Normally either of these two tricks work, but she wasn’t having it today.

So, I tried engaging her in coloring, play doh, baking a cake, snacking, listening to music, and dancing.  All of these things triggered tantrums.  After a while, I curled up on the couch and let her have at it.  I put on Winnie the Pooh which distracted her.  She simmered down a bit.  The stillness was refreshing.  I also let her watch Kipper the Dog and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, simultaneously feeling like a crappy mom for resorting to TV, and breathing a sigh of relief that the crying had stopped.

What gives?  Emily is normally a consolable,  happy-going little soul, so a non-stop tantrum is really outside her behavioral wheel-house.  Given her copious drool and snot, I suspect her agitation has something to do with two-year-old molars breakin’ on through to the other side.

Or it could be a little cold is making her uncomfortable and grumpy.

Or it could just be what our neighbors call “a hard-to-get-older” day.  You know, those days when growing and learning is just exhausting and overwhelming?  That, my friend, is a “hard-to-get-older” day.  My son has them all the time since he was about two and a half, and I’m sure Emily has many more to come.

Adults have “hard-to-get-older” days.  There are days I would like to scream and cry and say bad words and insult people, and break shit all over the house.  Fortunately, I’ve learned a few coping skills along the way.

I stop.

I think.

I breathe.

At some point, Jack and Emily will learn to do those things too.  But there are those other days when you just have to slog through it.

I used to get frustrated with Jack on “hard to get older” days.  As a first-time mom I used to take his anger personally, like I was doing something wrong.  Mercifully, I’ve learned there is nothing personal in toddler-negativity.  It is a totally normal, necessary developmental phase through which kids must travel.

Sometimes it is not about stopping the crying, but containing things until the crying is over.  If I could go back, I think I would actually do less to try to soothe Jack when he was a savage beast.  I wonder if I had let him figure out how to self-soothe a little better back then if he would be better at emotionally regulating himself now?

I’ve learned these days- sucky as they seem- serve a sacred purpose for the child, just as our difficult days have the potential to teach us as adults.  These days also have the potential to strengthen the parent/child dyad, if you manage to keep it together and maintain access to your un-crazy side.

So, I’m riding out the storm with my raging little girl, whether she is teething, sick, or just growing.  I’m trying to stay in the moment and not freak too much over the thought that there are many more of these stormy days to come along with her entrance into toddler-hood.  And I’m not beating myself up for turning on the TV for an assist today.  Some days you gotta’ do whatcha gotta’ do.

But in the mean time, if you happen across my little girl’s pleasant side, could you send it on back to us?  Thanks!

When was your last “hard-to-get-older” day?  Does your child have them?  What do you do to try to support them during these challenging moments?