I’m tired lately. Really tired. But I don’t have a newborn at home and I have a toddler that’s almost 2 and still takes 2 naps a day and sleeps 12 hours at night. On the surface, I realize that I have nothing to complain about. And I’m actually not complaining.
But see, it’s more than the sleep. It’s toddler-hood that’s wearing me out. Let me preface it by saying that I really am knee deep in my favorite time so far with darling daughter. In particular, over the course of the past three weeks, she has morphed from what I’d consider still baby level communication skills to “real person” communication skills. She talks, she responds when I explain things, she tells me when she’s a “big girl” as she’s drinking from a regular cup or peeing on the potty. She understands that her grandmom went “up” in a “plane” (to Holland, that part she doesn’t get) and wonders when she’s coming “home.” I mean – it’s remarkable when you’re used to talking to smiling blob and wondering if you sound like Charlie Brown’s mother. It’s actually a huge adjustment.
But as you’ve seen me blog about many times already, it’s not just the fast pace of toddlerhood (running constantly when awake, never time to rest) but it’s the emotional energy required to keep up with the tantrums and the fits and the screaming that really gets to me. I’ve gotten really good at letting it roll off my back, not reacting, and just calmly telling her she’s OK. Somtimes when it’s a particularly obvious fake scream, I make the same noise back at her and she stops, realizes how obnoxious it is and laughs.
The other thing she’s just added to her repetoire is assuring herself she’s “OK” before she freaks out. It’s adorable, really. I’ll see her on the edge of the slope, about to just fall off into the depths of toddler tantrum hell and she’ll breathe for a second and repeat “Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok” and then move on. Crisis averted, this time.
But see, I’m realizing that learning how to handle the tantrums is much more complex than managing how your child is behaving (which is almost a misnomer) because it’s about managing how you are behaving. And in particular, as you reach the end of a long week when you’ve been working long hours and handling lots of stress at work, it’s really challenging to constantly be taking deep breaths and remain cool, calm and collected yourself while DD is behaving in a less than desirable way.
It’s clear to me that we’ve reached the point in parenthood where we are constantly setting the example and beginning to shape her character and so, if one of us behaves badly to her, or someone else, then how can we expect her to behave otherwise?
Furthermore, being consistent is no longer a small feat. Sure, with a baby, it’s real easy to set a schedule and everyone knows you feed Junior every 3 hours and we can all stick to the plan. But sometimes it’s easier to let DD eat some fruit in a bowl in front of the TV because you just don’t want to hear the fit even though your rule is only in the kitchen at the table, or maybe you realized that you have to change another behavior but forgot to inform your spouse, and he’s doing it the wrong way, and there goes consistency.
Because the toddler – they know. You’re not tricking them, they haven’t forgotten, they remember and they know when you ease up on the rules. It’s becoming clear to me that her memory is sharp as a nail and mine is, well, not. So behaving well and consistently implementing the same set of rules requires a lot of thought, patience and organization, on top of keeping up with the pace these toddlers move.
I suppose I keep writing about it because it just keeps catching me by surprise. Of the many parenting books I’ve read, one of the lines that has stayed with me the most was about how great of a parent the author was before he had kids. It amuses me to no end because I know I was the same exact way and would probably call you all liars if you claimed to have never judged parents for their poor parenting skills or thought about how easy it would be for the parent to just do X differently.
I know we are all different but this is my blog and I feel better about how we’re doing and how we’re handling parenthood when I hear similar stories from others, and I just stumbled upon this entry in a Washington Post blog and loved reading every minute of it – my favorite is this quote:
A woman I know told me once, “You should establish early on that you’re a badder ass than your two-year-old. He’ll respect you more in the morning.”