Well-meaning friends and complete strangers alike have been preparing me for this phase since Claire was born.  They told me that the little angel I was holding in my lap would turn into a horror, a nightmare, a completely unrecognizable little girl.  Yes, they prepared me.  They gave advice like, “don’t give in”, “you’ve got to teach her boundaries” and, “you don’t want to spoil that child, do you?”  Well, did I?

I’ve spent the first 2 years of Claire’s life in awe of every step she’s taken, literally and metaphorically.  And now that she finally turned 2 and was supposed to be terrible, I’m learning that she is still a pretty incredible person.  She’s got her own opinion now and she likes to make decisions on her own, which is pretty incredible. She’s only 2!

Of course, it’s challenging to navigate the world with a budding toddler.  She’s still learning so much, and everyday her understanding of the world around her grows more complex.  Everyday her understanding of her inner world, where her emotions live, gets more involved and at times out of control.

So, how do I navigate the world in the face of some of these challenges?  I do these 5 things:

1. Breathe - This may sound obvious, but breathing is the single most important and effective thing you can do to calm and ground yourself.  It’s also key to catch that breath just before you react to something absurd, annoying or _________.   Once you’ve caught your breath, you find you have a bit more capacity for understanding and seeing the bigger picture.  That your toddler spilled water all over the kitchen floor because he wants to “clean” really isn’t that big a deal anymore.

2. Listen - How many people do you know that are good at listening to YOU?  Actually listening with your heart takes time, especially when you’re listening to a child, but it’s worth every second.  Two year olds are just smaller, younger humans, and they desperately want to be heard, too.

3. Realize – Realize that your child isn’t trying to be difficult.  Small, seemingly trivial things to you are genuinely difficult for your toddler.  (Putting a t-shirt on an oversized teddy bear is actually quite frustrating!)  It isn’t personal and it isn’t a test.  No matter how much it may feel like it.  Additionally, regardless of the situation, your child is learning.  So, realize that how you are handling a situation is how you are teaching your toddler to handle situations.  Yup, this was a reality check.

4. Enjoy - There are so many things to enjoy, such as:  the slower pace, the sticky kisses, the constant needing you-this won’t last long, the suddenly outspoken little person who doesn’t need help getting dressed, every single flower that you pass on your way to wherever, the extra “help” when you cook, clean, do laundry, etc.

5. Practice – Practice makes perfect, right?  So, I practice forgiving myself for not doing the above well or enough.  I practice listening deeply.  I practice breathing.  I practice moving slower, a lot!  Whatever it is that helps you, keep practicing and do so with an open heart and mind.  You weren’t perfect before you became a mom, and you aren’t perfect now.  Nobody but you cares about that.  (I’m pretty sure this is true!)

I would love to go on about the joys of toddlerhood, but there’s a tea party with a little girl in pig tails and an oversized teddy bear in a too small t-shirt waiting for me.

What do you do to navigate your world with toddlers with more ease and grace?

Leave a Reply