Thursday, March 26, 2009

Toddlerhood

As I was planting my pansies today, it occurred to me that I have a lot to learn about being a mom. Fortunately, my son has a knack for teaching me.

Take planting pansies, for example. I did this covertly, under cover of naptime, when he couldn't witness this putting of plants into the soil. About a month or so, I'd planted a carnation while he was outside playing and watching. I can't count how many times that carnation has since been pulled out, even after having transplanted to another part of the yard. Learning how he learns-- "I watched it go in, so I know it's capable of being pulled out"-- teaches me to take care for next time, and assures a better result than a thousand no's.

When he woke from his nap, I decided to help him foster a caring attitude toward these pansies. We got his shoes on and took a water bottle outside. I showed him where the "new flowers (were) growing" and let him "spill water" on the new plants. He loved it. I explained how we were going to be careful for the growing plants. "Is growing" is a favorite phrase of his when we notice plants, and I knew those words would mean something to him that my adult explanation couldn't.

Speaking of learning from toddlers, I'd like to share an idea that's worked pretty well for me. When I discover that the kids are starting to want to negotiate about snacks and food, a snack box really helps. Using a sandwich-sized box, I put in food as I see fit at the beginning of the day. Some cheese, nuts, fruit or veggies (peeled, ready to eat), crackers...enough for a few nibbles. Throughout the day, when the kids are hungry for a snack, I just tell them to go get their box. When the "more such-and-such" requests start, you can simply redirect them to the box. "Oh, I don't have that for you right now. Go check in your box." Being consistent really helps, as does keeping their requests in mind; we can fulfill those at mealtime, and use the advantage of knowing what they want. I do think that we can use our children's interest in food to help us plan meals they'd like to eat, but at this age, it seems there's always something that our children are busily telling us they want.

My kid gets directive about the stereo. All day long, "Music on!" or "Music off!" is heard throughout our house. I've had to decide when I want to honor his requests and when my own desires require him to wait to get what he wants. Speaking respectfully to him has helped a lot. At that point, I tell him when he can have what he wants. Whether it's music or food, being clear in my head before speaking to him and putting my decision out there really helps him know that I mean what I say and that I'll keep my word. The following-through is essential to helping him relax when he doesn't immediately get his way.

So, I'm hoping the pansies stay firmly in the ground. And I hope someone can use the snackbox idea. It's helped me a lot. Toddlers are a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a whole lot of Little Person Flexing Their Personality. We ask them to do a lot of stuff, so I'm not surprised at what's being asked back. It reminds me to mind my own tone of voice, to say please, and to try being pleasant even when I feel grumpy. Because I don't want a little bossy boy imitating my PMS voice, really.

We are growing up as people, no matter how old we are. I'm a little achy with the growing pains, but if my son can take it, so can I.

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