It’s been about a month since we celebrated E’s second birthday and I’ve finally started to gain my bearings in this new world order that is life with a bonafide toddler. Truthfully, the transition to the dreaded terrible twos probably started closer to 18 months, but I now see that I was obliviously clinging to that glorious honeymoon-sweet spot that lasted from about a year to a year and a half. Things rapidly declined from there and culminated in a weeks long sleep regression battle that we’re technically still in, but more on that in another post.
Now that we’ve survived April, I can point to a few tips that have gotten me (sanity somewhat intact) this far and I hope will continue to serve me as we continue through this year:
- Allow for independence and choice
Gone are the days of ME deciding where and when a diaper change happens. If it ever became a negotiation, I was easily able to persuade E with a choice of what pattern Honest Company diaper we’d be putting on, but as she’s becoming more and more interested in ditching the diapers and potty training, everything is a battle. What works is patience on my part and allowing her to do everything “me-self” as she says, from putting her boots on to her underwear. This extends to showing her how to properly do everything from zipping up her coat to making sure she understands that one leg need to gets into each side of her underwear.
- Practice patience
I touched on this above, but patience on my part determines whether there is a tantrum or peace in the ranks. I usually have what I’d call excessive amounts of patience with E but since an unfortunate trip in the yard caused me to fall last week (baby is fine and I’m just banged up) when I must have strained something in my abdominal area, I’ve been a hurting unit and not as patient all around in instances where I’m bent over uncomfortably, for example, to buckle E into her car seat. Usually I allow her to help me with the top buckle but the other day I just wanted to get her in and be on our way and boy did I pay for it by not letting her buckle herself. If I’d just given her that 30-second chance to do it herself, I’d have spared myself a 10-minute ride home from the gym listening to her whine, “Mama, me buckle!” 10,000 times.
- Less is more with toys Around Christmas we packed up some of E’s toys to make room for new goodies and noticed that she actually played independently for longer and more deeply with less at her fingertips. Working with less stimulates creativity and imagination, so I’ve been trying to stay on top of rotating toys, stuffed animals, figurines and coloring books as much as possible.
- New experiences and places
I feel like a cruise director many days, but if I make it a point to introduce a “special project” every couple days and visits to a few new and novel spots around town, it makes for a more peaceful toddler week to week. We have our routine activities like the pool, the play center at the gym, library story time and a few favorite playgrounds and coffee shops where we have special one-on-one time, but a trip to the zoo last week, painting a sun catcher and an “animal tubby time” station setup on the patio on a beautiful spring day we had recently were one-off special activities that kept our day to day from becoming overly monotonous.
- Consistency is key
I’ve realized that it’s not my toddler who is unpredictable — it’s me. She’s looking for the boundary and too often, I’ll fall to lazy parenting when I’m a little overtired or feeling a little drained. Emilia frequently requests “something special” and heads to our pantry door because once, after a battle of wills, I’d negotiated with her to do X and I’d give her “something special.” I shouldn’t ever have negotiated in the first place!
I don’t beat myself up over missteps because it’s impossible to do right all the time; the perfect parent is a myth. Consistency is more important so I try my best and when I realize I’ve veered off course, I correct. I remind myself that she isn’t set on driving me bonkers, she’s testing the boundaries and it’s my job to teach her where the boundaries lie.
I’d love to hear any observations or tips you’ve gleaned from your own experience!