Toddlers are kinda crazy, and I had forgotten! I think I must have blocked out the attitude and the unreasonableness. Andrew is almost five, and 95% of the time he’s moved past the unstable that is the toddler. He can still argue with me about any and everything, but we can also laugh at the same jokes and do puzzles together. Almost five year old boys are fun. (And hungry.)
My loving, strong-willed two year old girl makes me tired.
Every morning I brace myself for the force that is her passion and energy and opinions and tackle the day with the five step plan:
1. Pray for patience and then grace when I lose it.
The Great Google defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Some days Caroline absolutely pushes that capacity to the brink. She just takes so much patience from me, and I am not by nature a patient person. Oh, I’m better at it than I was five years ago, no doubt, but it’s still a struggle for me. And so I need God’s reminders throughout the day. He’s infinitely patient with me. How many times have I done the wrong thing or asked why when I should have just obeyed? If God can be patient with me and all my faults, I can try really hard to be patient when Caroline insists that we walk back into the room and turn the light on again so that she can turn it off with her feet. Yep. Patience.
And oh how I need grace at the end of a long mothering day. I can’t beat myself up on the hard days even if I totally deserve it. I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day, a new chance to respond positively and with that patience she so deserves.
2. Get Dad more involved in bedtime.
For the past year or so, on the nights that Brian was home, we had teamed up to get us through bath, jammies and teeth and the general craziness that goes along with that. And then Brian would take Andrew to his room to read a book and I would take Caroline to her room to start the forty-five minute process of book, potty, more water, songs, different book, rock, sing more songs in the chair!, pats, cover feet, find all the dolls. You get the idea. This was making me crazy. So we’ve started switching off and some nights I get to put Andrew to bed and we practice reading, and I tuck him in, and it’s glorious. I never, ever would have dreamed that putting Andrew to bed would be the easy way out. Which brings me to number 3.
3. Remember that this really is a short season.
I am absolutely not saying that I’ll look back on todderhood and miss it. Maybe parts of it, but I know that soon enough she’ll be so much more reasonable and less demanding, and I can’t wait to get there. I keep a running countdown to her fourth birthday in my head…it’s a long countdown. But it’s coming.
Caroline is a snuggler and a cuddler. I try to work a few minutes of special cuddle time in with her everyday. I know she won’t always want this, so I’m taking advantage now. And I like to think that the special cuddle time actually makes her calmer and less likely to freak out when I pick out the purple plate instead of the pink one.
4. Celebrate her successes.
Caroline is great at picking up toys and taking dirty clothes to the laundry. She’ll even put her bossiness to use and say, “Andrew! Put your dirty clothes in the hamper!” :) I love that she wants to help with jobs around the house, and I encourage it! When she says, “have my water pleaaaase?” I jump up right away and thank her for asking so nicely.
We encourage using kind words and treating each other with love and when she shows us that she can do it without a reminder, I notice and thank her for it. Reinforcing good behavior is so much easier for me than correcting the bad behavior over and over. Which is why #5 is probably the hardest of them all.
5. Strive to be consistent.
Everyone will tell you that consistency is one of the most important roles in parenting, and I believe it, but it’s just so hard to follow through. When she and Andrew are arguing over a toy and I’m in the middle of making dinner, the last thing I want to do is get involved and reiterate that Caroline cannot hit Andrew even if she’s really, really mad.
I probably let them work it out on their own too often when she really needs more correcting.
Every time she demands a snack or a water without saying please I need to ask her how do we ask nicely? before I make a move. I think I do this most of the time, but sometimes it’s easier to just comply, you know?
I really do admire my toddler’s heart and passion and hardheadedness, and I think all these traits will server her well as she grows up.
As long as we all make it out of these years in one piece.