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Things You Need to Know About Your Toddler

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things You Need to Know About Your Toddler

Claire will be a toddler soon.  And as I was laying in bed tonight with said soon-to-be toddler, thinking about my preschooler-who-was-recently-a-toddler, I started listing out, in my head, all the things I wish I had known entering toddlerhood with Jack.

You know, all the secrets other moms kept from me.

So, I'm going to break it down for all of you parents of wee babes.  Because those sweet little angels will be toddlers before you know it and I'll give you fair ain't easy!

You might think that your baby will not do these things.  You might suspect, like I did, that the Terrible Twos are something that happen to other peoples' children.  You might think that you'll guide your child with kindness and love through the "Terrible Twos" and prove everyone wrong with your positive attitude and your well-behaved toddler.  But then your baby will actually become a toddler and will behave in ways you never imagined possible and maybe, just maybe, you'll feel like a fish out of water and find yourself wondering how the heck you are going to get through this and why, in the name of all that is holy, didn't anyone warn you about this?

You need to know these things, and you can thank me for it later.

Sleep doesn't necessarily get better, or easier, when you have a toddler. For us, it got a little less intense once Jack was night-weaned, and he certainly started sleeping longer stretches, but the older he got, the better he got at fighting sleep.  And Claire is following in his footsteps.  So, don't think you're just magically going to catch up on all that lost sleep once they become toddlers.  Sorry.

And even if you are one of the lucky ones and night time sleep does get better, just wait until they start trying to drop their nap and start falling asleep at random places in the early evening and it's too early for "real" bedtime so you end up being awake until midnight with a well-rested toddler.  

Toddlers are like teenagers, minus the reasoning skills.  They have crazy mood swings and think the world revolves around them, and they'll let you know it.  This will test even the most patient of parents.

Mood swings can, and do, occur frequently and with little or no warning.  This was a very mild case of "I was perfect happy two seconds ago but now you're telling me not to walk on strangers' lawns so I think I'll just lay down on it, instead!"

Potty training probably won't make your life easier.  Wow, to think about a life without diapers...sounds so liberating, doesn't it?  It's not.  I mean, it *kind of* is - no more dirty diapers to deal with or lug around, at least.  But it's not like they can just suddenly go potty by themselves.  Oh, no.  And if you have a little boy, get ready to clean up pee - a lot of it - from every nook and cranny of your bathroom.  If it's within a ten-foot radius of your toilet, it will get peed on (says the mom whose potty-trained three-year-old just today yelled from the bathroom, "MOM!  It didn't all make it in the potty!").  Once they master independent peeing, you're still going to have to deal with butt-wiping and the rogue poop that somehow ends up on the bathroom floor every now and then.  Sorry.   I know you were hoping potty training would be...better, somehow.

I recommend the Potty Ladder (less than $30 on Amazon).  Yeah, I still have to do the butt-wiping and occasional floor clean-up, but at least Jack can get himself on the toilet when he needs to go without falling in.  He's a bit older now (3.5) and he can actually set this up and take it down himself.
Your child will have a complete breakdown because the cookie (or banana) they are holding breaks.  I don't know what the deal is here.  For about two straight years (starting at 18 months and just now, two years later, starting to taper off), the biggest tantrum trigger in our lives was a broken piece of food.  I thought I was alone in this, and that my kid was the only one to completely overreact when his cookie crumbled or worse, his banana broke in half (and that kind of thing happens a lot when you're two!).  But it turns out we weren't alone, and this is a common toddler issue.  So, just know it's normal and have a second cookie (or banana) on standby.  Seriously.  Don't bother trying to teach them a lesson here...they'll outgrow this (or so I am told...).

See that cookie?  Not broken.  Carefully chewed.
Don't let anyone tell you the Terrible Twos are a myth.  They're real.  But they don't necessarily start the day your kid turns two.  For us, Jack was two-and-a-half before he started acting up - I actually went six months thinking, "HA!  They were all kid is perfect!" before he turned into a complete dictator and I finally realized what the terrible twos were all about.  For others, I've been told they can start as early as eighteen months (supposedly, this is especially true for girls - yay).  And the worst part about the terrible twos is - wait for it - three is worse.  It's just gearing you up for the real fun that comes when your child turns three.  Trust me on this one.  I'm sorry to not have better news...but at least you've been warned, right?

I don't have a picture of my kid throwing a tantrum to put here.

I tell you all this not to complain about my son or make all kids sound awful or to scare you non-parents from ever bearing children.  I am telling you this because it's going to happen, and I want you to know that you're not the only one dealing with these issues.

Your child is not bad, or naughty, or terrible...they are simply being a toddler, and learning to navigate a world constructed of rules and social expectations created with adults in mind.  Somehow, we've come to expect our children to be little adults, and when they act like...well, kids...we freak out.  

Kids are kids.  How we choose to handle their learning experiences (and really, isn't that what a tantrum, or potty training, or sleep "issues" really are?) is up to us, the adults. 

It's hard to deal with a crazy little human who blows a gasket when the banana they are running around the house with breaks in half.  I know this.  And yet, I still struggle with patience every single day.  So, clearly, I have no parenting advice other than to prepare yourself.

No, wait - I do have advice.  Don't take it personally.  Don't think it's *you* your child is angry at, don't think it's your fault they don't sleep, don't think it's your shoddy parenting that's resulted in the nightly pre-bed meltdown.  They are just little kids learning how to be big people.  And that has to be exhausting.

What common (or uncommon, for that matter) but unexpected issues did you have during toddlerhood that you wish you'd been prepared for?  And, as I head into Round 2 of Toddlerhood, I'd love any advice (or words of encouragement, maybe) you might have!

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At July 26, 2012 at 10:39 AM , Blogger Heidi Meinecke-Smith said...

That was a great post! My two-year-old girl, ah, well, yeah, we hit those terrible two's at a running pace (my sister-in-law and best friends wife warned me about three!) and I am looking forward to four. No, seriously, I just have to remind myself that she is just trying to tell me something that I am not quite hearing. It's hard to remember that I have to slow down a bit for her sometimes. I have a 40 hour a week job but am lucky enough to take care of my two kids (two and a six-month-old) while I work. So when the meltdowns come, I want to melt down too! I do try to get down to her level more when we are not "communicating" well. If I get frustrated (read angry) I try to make myself whisper instead of get louder. I figure if the kids see me yelling when I'm mad they think that's the correct response. Ultimately I know I am a big kid, so we are going to grow together in this. I haven't even attempted true potty training yet! In the fall, work is slower in the fall...
What I hate is when we get invited to do stuff and I try to graciously decline because it is SMACK in the middle of nap-time and then I get talked into it, bring my kids, and when the girls don't behave the way they are "expected" to behave people always say "someone is tired!" or "don't you LOVE two?" I want to say "As a matter of fact, I DO love two! And she wouldn't be acting like a crazy person if you would have planned dinner instead of early lunch! And she is not the only one of us that is tired!"
LOL... But I will take tantrums, and tears, because there are the precious moments in between that make it worth it. Argh, and then I think about two girls being teenagers and I hold on to the terrible two's for as long as I can! LOL

At July 26, 2012 at 8:55 PM , Blogger Julia P F said...

My daughter is about to turn three. For us, it wasn't the Terrible Twos. It's the Terrible Threes. WOW! Potty training is joke at our house. I have quit because I was tired of losing to an almost three year old. She knows how, just doesn't want to. She is asserting her independence which means being a stubborn, rather bratty kiddo! But new parents take heart- they are so much fun and can be so sweet it almost break your heart!
Am totally getting that potty ladder!

At July 27, 2012 at 9:28 AM , Blogger Carrie said...

I am counting down the months to four (less than five months to go!).

I also cannot stand nap time activities! I've tried to be more flexible with my daughter, but if I'm out doing something and she should be sleeping it just stresses me out to no end - it's not fair for her and I am constantly thinking "she should be asleep right now" - thank God for the baby carrier.

And I don't even want to *think* about the teenage years. SIGH.

At July 27, 2012 at 9:31 AM , Blogger Carrie said...

Mine potty trained right before his third birthday but even then, it was hit or miss for awhile.

The potty ladder is awesome! At first I thought it was kind of flimsy but Jack's able to set it up himself and take it down himself, and it's held up really well. He won't poop without it, HA!


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