My first three children were born in the span of four years. And on the eve that our third said goodbye to toddlerhood, by blowing out three candles on a cake, I got pregnant with our fourth.
When I read about a call-out for the Toddler Carnival at PhD in Parenting, I thought, "Yep, I've played in that big top and swung (wildly) from that trapeze."
So let's chat about survival. But first, some disclaimers about how good I've had it:
- all of my toddlers slept in their own beds and through the night
- they all sat at the table for meals
- never had a biter or a hitter
- also haven't had a runner
If you're feeling like you want to spit on me or roll your eyes behind my back, read on.
I have had (in public places, sometimes with raised voices (theirs and mine), and always on repeat):
- noodle arms and legs (especially when trying to get somewhere in a hurry)
- the plank (while attempting to avoid car seats and/or strollers)
- the tortoise (how loooooooooooooooooooooooong can it take to get your shoe on already?)
- and finally, the "I don't care if my underwear are wet, doesn't bother me one bit!"
Each of my trips through toddlerhood has churned out a wiser and stronger version of myself. I've made mistakes (oh, have I!) but I've also come to a better understanding of these pint-sized wonders.
Here are my top three survival tips (taken directly from personal experience):
Act your age: you act yours and let them act theirs
- when your sweetie is unleashing his toddler-wrath because you dared to zip up his coat, resist the urge to throw yourself to the floor and join in. seriously, he'll use that material for the next round
- if you bring an 18-month-old out for sushi with your childless friends two hours past toddler bedtime, don't expect it to go well and don't expect those friends to be in any hurry to invite you and your she-totally-goes-with-the-flow-most-of-the-time-toddler out again
Be: what you want to see
- use kind words and kind hands
- use your best manners with them and everyone else
- be generous
- let them see you doing things that make you happy
- let them see that being with them is one of the things that makes you most happy
- smile (a lot), laugh (a lot) and don't be afraid to cry when your heart hurts
Compassion: it's not easy being small in a big world
- get down on their level as much as you can
- if they need you to stop what you're doing for a hug, do your very best
- sometimes a quiet "I know" is exactly what they need to hear
- forgive and forget the unsavoury moments (yours and theirs) and celebrate and remember the great ones
Tantrums and toilet-training can make toddlerhood feel like a really long road trip that at times leaves you claustrophobic and car sick. Roll down the windows and breathe in all the good stuff. And don't forget to watch for all the beautiful scenery that hides in the moments that pass so quickly you'll wish you stopped and took more pictures.