If I were to write a book about raising toddlers, I’m pretty sure it would be called, “Why the crap are you freaking out now? And other stuff I don’t understand.”
Because toddlers are nuts.
Emotional, but won’t calm down. Tired, but won’t sleep. Hungry, but won’t eat. Love playing in dirt, but heaven help us if her Cream of Wheat touches her hands!
But, they’re also awesome. She’ll be freaking out one second, then the next is smiling and saying “Hi, mama!” in her sweet little voice. Doesn’t understand what a baby in my belly really means, but constantly lifts up my shirt to say hi and kiss the baby. Accidentally backflips off the ottoman into a face plant, but instead of screaming starts laughing and jumps back on to do it again.
Parenthood is awesomely stressful, and I’m always trying for more patience. With her and myself. As I’m learning how to do that, I’m trying to pay attention to what she really needs from me. I’m positive I’ll never learn it all, but the things I’m slowly gleaning are helping.
When we first put her in daycare, she would get fussy at drop off because she didn’t want me or my husband to leave her. Then she also started crying at pick up because she didn’t want to leave her friends or go back in the car seat. I have found that if I stay and play for a while before we leave, then she almost always comes willingly and happily. Most days I’m there for about 45-60 minutes before we go. I can talk to her teachers, play with her, and help out in her classroom. It’s really nice for me to unwind from work too, rather than have to wrestle a screaming toddler into the car. Right now our schedule lets us do that, so I’m going to take advantage of it.
This also helps in the mornings as we get ready to go. If I’m on top of getting ready the night before, then I can spend time with her in the morning and reduce the rush. We can take five minutes to walk down the stairs and explore every rock on the steps, without me having to say, “No, there’s no time. Let’s go.” On the weekends we try not to have too much to do. I want her to be curious and explore, so we have to give her the time to act on those.
Kids really do need consistency. I’m sure that’s partly why she loves her daycare so much. It’s structured freedom. There are limits, but she knows what she can do within those limits and that is pretty freeing. One area I’m really working on with this is dinner. Home girl would snack from 2:30 to 5:30 if I let her, but then wouldn’t eat dinner and I’d be frustrated. So I’m trying extra hard to have dinner ready to eat at 5:30p.m. and just give her a small snack when we get home. It’s amazing how 30 minutes sooner than before has helped. She is slowly getting better at not begging for food all afternoon (Most days. Not yesterday.) and I think part of that is because she knows it won’t be much longer. Getting her to eat what we make is another story, but we’re working on it.
We have established a bedtime routine, wake-up routine, we try not to keep her out of the house past 6/6:30p.m., and are working on others in hopes to help her feel more secure. Even with the small things, like having her say goodnight to her stuffed animals before we put her in bed, the consistency improves her mood and feeling like she understands her world..
The other night I didn’t pick up any of her toys after she went to bed. It happens. She woke up super early the next morning and was fine for an hour or so, but once dad left for work and she started playing, she lost it. Each toy held her attention for approximately 45 seconds before something about it made her mad. I finally realized it was just too much and tried to put some away, but that made her even more mad. After a long time of unsuccessfully trying to calm her down and leave everything alone, I finally put her on the couch to watch a cartoon so I could clean up the mess. Once I got everything off of the floor, she was fine and we had a great rest of the morning before I went to work.
A couple of days later, we had a similar experience with her on the playground, seeing everything, but not really wanting any of it. The bike lasted about twelve seconds, she only went down the slide once, she dug in the sandbox for a moment, then went back to walking around the equipment. Usually when she does this it is because she’s happily running around like a madwoman with other kids, but this time she was mostly on her own and had a different look on her face. After watching this for about 10 minutes I asked if she wanted to say goodbye to her friends and go home. Usually she yells “No!” and runs off, but she immediately walked to me and started waving goodbye.
We like to have fun and get excited at our house, but sometimes there is just too much going on. Maybe it’s too many toys, too many people, not enough sleep, or the music is too loud. She’s such a happy kid who loves being around people most of the time, that I forget she needs some quiet time for her brain to relax. It’s kind of like blood sugar levels for me: if I’m going from high to low to high, it sucks. And with as crappy as I feel when my blood sugar is out of whack, I can’t imagine how a toddler feels when their brain feels out of whack from overstimulation. It has become really important to me to monitor her signs for that.
These may seem like no-brainers to more seasoned or smarter moms, but they are really helping me to understand my daughter better. As she’s making her grand entrance into the terrible two’s phase, my hope is that I’ll keep these things in mind. I know I can’t avoid toddler meltdowns because they’re part of development, but understanding her need for time, consistency and some calm will help me be more patient and loving towards her.
But my book title will still be the same. That’s solid.
What have you found that your toddlers need?