These days, I'm feeling pretty triumphant. When I found out I was pregnant, I was excited first and foremost about having a baby. I was also very keen on conducting my own parenting experiment, to see if my ideas and feelings about parenting would prove out with my own son. I know each child is different, and that my son is relatively good-natured, and that there are a lot of variables are involved in parenting, each individual to one's own family.
One thing I have practiced as well as preached is giving children time to work through things all on their own. I'm all for helping set the stage for development and for offering solutions to my son when he's challenged by a fear or frustration, and ultimately he knows when he's ready to switch gears and take those steps forward in being his own person.
Over the past few months, a lot has changed. We've gone from being a household which co-slept all night to a new arrangement. Kiddo has a cozy nest on the floor; we offered him the Little Bed (a full-sized futon) for a few weeks and one day he decided he was ready to start sleeping there. He sleeps alone unless he asks for us in the middle of the night, at which point one of us will sleep with him. This arrangement has afforded us better sleep and while we honor his very occasional request to sleep in the big bed with us, he's off on his own without us having to force the issue. I'm so happy we've let him do this in his own time, and we're keeping flexible. I know regression happens, and we'll deal with it when it comes with open hearts and minds.
Another big move is Kiddo's returned interest in baths. It's been nearly a year since he decided he absolutely didn't want to bathe in the tub, and we've accommodated this with a mix of sink baths (he didn't mind those), shower hair washings and some sponge baths. The showers were heartbreaking, but when you've got a scalp full of paint, sand or dirt, there's really nothing else to be done for it. Here's an area too, where I didn't force things. As of last week, he's back to enjoying baths--yesterday I could barely get him out of the tub!
And toilet learning has seemed to arrive. Kiddo will be three in a couple weeks and I've just been watching, waiting to see signs of interest in the toilet. We've had little spots of interest here and there, but the past two days have been work and growth. After several accidents in his trainers, my little boy decided he wanted no underpants at all, just something to cover him up. I've fashioned a sarong sort of thing with two dishtowels, each one wrapped around his body and rubber-banded closed on opposite sides. This provides a little modesty (not that I care, but he wanted something on) and is very easy to lift out of the way to sit on the potty. Well, we had our first pee on the potty today. I'm taking it slow and don't expect to see another one for a while, but what fun and excitement he's having with all this!
I know other challenges will come our way. We regularly employ this whole "Let him work it out" philosophy when he's decided he won't eat the three choices on his plate that we know he likes or when he's decided to be pretty uncooperative. "Come back when you're ready" works well, or "Gee, I see that you aren't ready to do this, so I'm just going to sit and read my magazine until you are." (This is great when he's wanting me to do something for him, but isn't ready to do his part yet.)
Granted, we have a deliberately slower life and I have more time to do this than some parents might, but I also feel that disconnecting/not getting hooked into trying to fix what's going on ends up giving him more control and a better end result. Trying to adjust the meal to suit him can spiral out a bit and end up making us both frustrated; forcing him to help me get his shoes so he can go outside because he's wanting to play in the sandbox isn't really any good for either one of us.
I have a busy kid who certainly wants what he wants, when he wants it, and has a list of desires, only some of which I can satisfy. We are still using very slow and respectful transition techniques before we leave activities (singing ABC's to prepare for the next activity or saying "goodbye, see you again the next time" to things and places we are having so much fun at) and clean-up time is a lot of modeling and playing. "You be the crane and lift the blocks over to me" or "Be an airplane and fly this to your room, please" makes this so much more fun than directed instruction: "I need you to pick up all of the blah blah blah while I stand here and watch for your compliance". Mostly, Kiddo wants to feel competent, empowered to follow his ambitions when he comes up with an idea, and to be valued and loved. He loves to be included in our adult world, whether it's folding laundry or raking or trying our sushi or sitting and looking at cookbooks with me while I search out recipes. I often open Joy of Cooking and let him check out the different illustrations of fish or various veggies and such while I look for dinner ideas.
There are moments when I am very, very challenged, but I love this kid so much, they're a little like labor: I forget about them after a while. I've learned not to tempt him with leaving enticing items around, because he is so curious and has so little impulse control in this department. Keeping this in mind, I know that his safety is my responsibility still and can't be left to him. Three year olds are just like toddlers in so many ways with bigger, more capable bodies, and this is the time when the childproofing is put to the test. So we stay proactive in this area and let him figure it out in his own time.
Seeing my happy little boy is no small feeling of joy for me. Loving him is an enormous, overwhelming happiness. Believing in his ability to work things out is part of the foundation of our relationship, and this gives me immense satisfaction as a mother. To be able to stand back, shrug my shoulders and know that he'll get it when he's ready--whatever it is--is to have so much faith. I think he knows I trust him get there eventually. And my little boy is blooming, all in his own good time.