I’m usually a pretty chill person. But five o’clock on a weekday when my husband won’t be home for another four hours, I’m not so chill anymore. The best day in recent weeks was when we had beautiful almost 60 degree sunny weather and I was able to take the girls out in the backyard from 4:30pm until dinner at six. It was fantastic. They were happy and so was I. All I was missing was a margarita.
I call my two-year old satan’s crumpet. It fits her well as she is an adorable little demon. Our dining habits just changed up a bit and eating together as a family with no pressure on me (or them) to ‘try everything’ or to ‘finish something’ has really made all the difference in the world. So when I was lying in bed the other night, not sleeping because my overly exhausted brain was again too wired to sleep, I started to evaluate my toddler. And the conclusion that I came to is that she’s really not that bad.
I will admit that I entered the 18-month or so stage with the worst case scenario in mind. Well-meaning moms in my life had given me all the warnings that I needed to hear. And so I placed a label on my child. A funny one, but a label. This reminded me of when I was teaching at my first middle school. The best year I had in my five years at that school was my first year. And that is because I went in blind. I had one hundred + students ages 11-14 that I knew nothing about. And I was able to form my own opinions and really give all these kids a blank slate. And the next year I had the fifth grade teachers giving me ‘heads up’ and I even had my own opinions as the kids moved up, not taking into account the drastic changes in personality and work ethic that can happen over the summer. And from experience I can say that having a blank slate and a teacher with no preconceived notions was probably the best thing for many of those kids. And despite being a first year middle school teacher at that time, and making numerous blunders along the way, I still maintain it was my best and favorite year teaching.
I shouldn’t have listened to all those moms in my life. Because so far, my kid really hasn’t been that bad.
Every behavior she has that I dislike is easily explainable and somewhat preventable. And by preventable I mean that I (and other adults in her life) are partly to blame. Here are the realizations that I have come to in recent weeks.
- Evelyn needs her space. She had a full year of being here without any siblings, and many more months without her sisters in her space on the floor or in her playroom. So I believe she’s been pushing her sisters out of her space because that’s the only way she knows how to get to that toy behind them or move by them. Unfortunately for them it means they fall on their heads. My solution was the pop-up play area. I’ve tried to make her going into it a sort of game rather than a punishment. When she is getting to the point where she needs the space or I need to make dinner in the other room, she goes in her ‘cage’ and she plays with her people puzzle.
- Evelyn doesn’t eat much. My calling attention to her food (eat your macaroni, eat your chicken), giving her only one thing at a time (to try and reduce the mess) and separating myself from her while we were eating just led to her dropping everything on the floor. When she dropped something I would look up at her and tell her that wasn’t nice. Ergo, she got my attention. Now we are at the table and using silicone placemats that are more difficult to pick up and toss. I give her at least five different foods, and only small amounts. That way I’m not wasting too much when she decides not to eat something. I praise her when she uses her spoon and especially when she tries something new, and I don’t comment on what she’s not touching.
- Evelyn acts out for other adults she knows. I take the girls out at least three times a week. We go to the library, visit Grampy, go to the park, go shopping or go play at the mall/McDonalds playplace. I have no problems with her when I am by myself. She knows what to expect with me. But when I bring another adult, she gets antsy. It’s like she needs that extra attention because there is an extra person. I have found that it’s easier to keep all three girls in the triple stroller rather than taking the double and having the second adult push Evie in the store’s carriage. Another thing I do? I avoid the baby aisle that sells the pouch food when I have her with me. It’s the only thing that she ‘has to have’ when she sees it.
- Evelyn needs her down time. We went almost a year without television. I had very good intentions. But I can’t dedicate myself to be 100% with the kids all day long. This house would just fall apart. So every night after bath, and a bit before dinner, we watch a movie. It distracts them all enough while they play that I can get PJs ready, run the bath, get the meal cooked, etc. and after I can get them all dressed and their teeth brushed and flossed without too much whining. I’ve also found that some days Evie is just more tired than others. And if we can’t get outside during the twins’ morning nap and we’ve exhausted our books, crafts and playtime, she gets to watch some Winnie the Pooh. Some days this is a lifesaver because if she is too loud she will wake her sisters up and then the schedule is all screwed up. A part of me feels like I failed by letting her watch tv. But at least it’s only on twice a day and not just running in the background all day long.
That’s pretty much it. The rest is pretty obvious – I don’t put anything within her reach that I don’t want her to touch. I have her snack ready when she wakes up from nap. I put meals on the table before I put everyone in their high chairs. And when she wants my attention when I’m doing something else, I give it to her. For example, I’ve paused this blog post five times already because she wants to sit with me or play with me.
* [I added this paragraph after rereading my post] If it sounds like she is spoiled, she’s not. But I’ve learned that preventing the behaviors (like how she is cranky after nap, messes with her sisters in the high chairs, chews on phone wires) rather than getting upset, yelling and punishing her is far far more effective. One thing that always drives me nuts is when I hear a parent making empty threats to their child. Just the other day at the mall a young boy pushed his sister off the tunnel. She fell on top of Aria. Aria was fine, thankfully. The mom got mad at the boy after the girl cried, and then the girl climbed up and pushed her brother. The mother threatened that girl five times with leaving because the girl would not listen to her and sit down. No wonder she’s not listening to you, lady. She knows you’re lying. I don’t do that crap. I don’t make bargains with my child. She won’t learn anything that way. Evie gets one threat. Don’t splash or you’re getting out of the tub. Don’t color on the table or I’m taking your crayons away. And I do. Immediately. And she whines for about ten seconds then gets over it.
Now, she still has her moments. And. They. Drive. Me. Nuts. I mean any tired or frustrated kid will have an adverse reaction to being told ‘no.’ She has dropped to the floor crying a few times, and all at home, thankfully. (Distraction though, is the key here!) But all in all, I think that I am rather lucky so far. Especially considering that Evie has to share me with two sisters who need more attention with just their basic living than she does. Maybe taking her out often helps her be bette behaved at a restaurant. Maybe bot letting her play on my phone or iPad helps her to not need it as a distraction while we are out. I don’t know. Maybe she’s behind and next month she will become an absolute nightmare. Who knows. But I’m DONE with listening to other moms’ warnings. I have three kids. Believe me, I know how different kids can be. It still surprises me how different my identical twins are. I mean they have the same DNA! Maybe this kid will get worse, maybe she won’t, maybe one of the twins will be my ‘terrible two.’ Maybe all three will be horrible together in a few months. But how someone else’s kid behaves is no indication of how mine will. And some days, I’m really thankful for that!
All I can do is make sure that I am making the right choices to help her make better choices. And then we can all breathe a little easier.
And momma can get some better sleep!