Choose your battles…aka why I let my little one run around with a screwdriver

Don’t run with scissors

The age-old saying.  Obviously some logic to it.  Sharp edges + potential for tripping = imminent injury.  Well, in the last 20+ months one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned for motherhood is choosing my battles with my little spitfire.

J’s always been a hands-on boy.  All boy.  He wants to get into everything…e.v.e.r.y.thing. And he wants to do it all on his own.  Don’t dare try to open his string cheese for him, or you will then have a tantrum on your hands.  It doesn’t matter if he’s actually capable of doing the task itself, it’s the principal.  He will do it. Period.

I don’t remember exactly when J developed his attachment to screwdrivers.  He loves all tools really, and loves to “help” his Dada with projects around the house.  But at some point he almost constantly asked for a screwdriver – or an “ee ewww” as we now call it.  Doesn’t matter how big, which one, or what kind.  But more often than not, he will ask for one.  And if you want to avoid a huge fit, you may as well just give in and give him one.  So yes, I let my 20 month old mini-tasmanian devil walk, run, jog around the house with an ee-ewww.  It has a pointy end and could certainly do him harm in he were to fall into it or onto it…I try not to think about that part and instead focus on the fact that he knows what that ee-ewww is for and he is content with trying to find every screw around the whole house to fit his ee-ewww into.  Real world skill, ya know.

#2 best thing I’ve learned about almost-toddlers is that giving realistic choices can help save not only time but your sanity as it decreases those oh-so-fun tantrums by a noticeable amount.  “Do you want to open your cheese, or do you want help?”  gives J the option of trying it himself as he so loves to do, or asking for help to get it started – thus avoiding the tantrum (usually).  Plus it gives these power-loving little ones the sense that they actually have the power.  It was their choice after all that they wanted yogurt for breakfast instead of oatmeal…they don’t realize then that they didn’t have the choice of a chocolate donut…which they would fight tooth and nail for it you didn’t give them two very specific items to choose from.

Then there are times when you give choices first and there’s still a tantrum.  A very particular little boy (or girl) will get what he wants come hell or high water, so sometimes it’s just not worth the 20 minute fight when you’ll end up giving in before the day is through.  Yes, there are the things that you will stick to – no running in the street, for example.  But with a toddler I try to remember that while I want to keep him safe and teach him what is right/wrong, I also don’t want to always be saying “NO”.  I want him to have as many experiences as he can.  And if he wants to go around the house playing Mr. Fix-it, than I’m certainly not going to stop him.  He is a sponge and he’s trying to absorb the world around him.  He’s always been hands-on, and I will nurture that learning style to the best of my ability.

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TV?

We’ve all met the parents that swear they will not let their child watch TV at all.  And we’ve all met the parents that use the TV as a 24-7 babysitter, too.  From one extreme to another.  I never gave it much thought really, until I became a parent of a toddler of my own.

The Hubs and I have the TV on fairly regularly whenever we are home.  Mainly as background noise – sometimes for music specifically – but generally it’s habit for us to turn it on when we get home from work and are making dinner etc.  Never really occurred to me that that may be considered a “lot” of TV time.  I don’t think that the shows that we choose are inappropriate for J to be around, so I’ve really not considered what our habit of TV time means for him.  Then again before he reached toddler-age J wasn’t really that aware of or interested in what was on the magic screen in the family room anyway.

When he got to about 15 months, we started to use cartoons as a way to keep J occupied for a few minutes at a time while we made dinner or needed a few minutes of adult conversation without interruption.  I also started using it as a tool at work for when J was having a hard time finding something to occupy himself and I needed a few solid minutes of “work” time.

Now, only a month or so after we introduced these kiddo shows to J, he’s starting to ask for TV time – especially when at work with me – but also at home.  Some days he seems really interested in the shows – singing or dancing along with them, and other days he goes between watching and playing.  His favorites are Bubble Guppies, Tickety-Toc, Peppa Pig, etc. on Nick Jr.  All of which I am totally OK with him watching 1 or 2 episodes at a time.  In my opinion as long as the show has a good message and isn’t followed by 1000 crazy commercials, it’s probably better than most of the things J may see anywhere else – in public, in books, etc.

I guess I’m finding a certain value to having another tool to use to help J focus on something for more than 30 second intervals.  At some point he will be in a child-care setting where he will need to be able to sit for 15-20 minutes at a time for circle time or a story and among the many other things that we do as parents to help teach him this skill, a cartoon here and there most days works too.

I try and stay aware of how much TV J is watching still – some days he gets to watch more than others – and some days I feel more or less guilty about using the TV as my “babysitter”.  But honestly, what parent hasn’t used TV as a babysitter at least a few times?  Why is it that as parents we second guess and worry so much about the ways that we choose to raise our kids?  Especially when it comes to something like TV that is present in almost every home & school in the nation?

A time for change

One of the biggest mistakes we made as first time parents was getting J in the habit of nursing to sleep.  Didn’t seem like that big of a deal until recently…but there’ve been a few things recently that have made this mistake very evident, and the consequences not so fun.

1 – as J gets older and I continue to nurse him, he doesn’t so much nurse for nutrition but more-so out of habit.  As part of that, he tends to “play” more than actually drink anything.  As my nips are quite sensitive now (yay pregnancy) this “play” tends to feel almost like torture – either being painful or just plain annoying.

2 – Since J doesn’t have much opportunity to socialize with other little ones being at work with me, the Hubs and I have discussed a few options – either childcare, or mommy/toddler classes – as a way for him to get this social interaction a few times a week.  If he does go into childcare, he has to be able to fall asleep on his own, and his nap schedule would change pretty significantly.  Likewise, if we do any toddler classes, they tend to fall right in the middle of his naptime as it is now.

3 – when the Baby comes, I won’t be as available at bedtime as J is used to now, as I will be splitting my time with Baby and Daddy will be helping with putting J to sleep as well.  I’d rather start to change J’s expectations around bedtime now then throw him another curveball when the baby comes and changes his whole life anyway.

So, we made the decision on Thurs. night to change a few of these things since I know that we’ll have a full 3 days in a row where we can implement these changes.
Change #1 – no nursing at bedtime.  We kept his bedtime routine the same otherwise, but instead of spending 5-10 minutes either nursing or rocking J to sleep, we simply snuggle him for a few minutes then lay him down in his bed and leave the room. This has worked spectacularly for the past 2 nights…I am simply amazed…
Change #2- only one nap a day instead of 2.  Today I  tried an 11am nap, but J wasn’t having it, so we did a 1pm nap instead after getting home from lunch with Daddy, and he slept for an hour and a half.  Plus he didn’t throw a huge fit earlier in the morning, which makes me feel better about only letting him take one nap.  I think this is still going to be the biggest transition though…and I’m kind of dreading it and how it will work at my office when I won’t be nursing him either…
Change #3 – less nursing in general.  Today J didn’t nurse at all.  He didn’t ask for it either.  Plus I’m OK with giving my sore nips a little break.  I don’t know that I am done with nursing J, but I certainly don’t intend on nursing him before naps or bedtime…we’ll see how that all works out going forward.

The fact that the last day and a half has gone so well with these changes makes me feel like my intuition as a Mama is working as it should.  Trust your gut! If you feel that it is time to make a change with the way you are doing something with your little one, why not give it a try?  In my case I have to be 99% convinced that it is the right time and the right decision, but so far my gut hasn’t led me astray when it comes to J and his needs.

Deciphering cries at 3 am…

As a strong dis-believer in the cry-it-out method of sleep training, there have been a few things that I’ve learned.

1. The journey in getting to a “normal” sleep pattern for your little one may be a longer road, but you will eventually get there
2. There are plenty of other methods out there that you can use or adapt to meet the needs of your own family
3. No matter what method you use, you’ll still struggle with the guilt or doubt over if what you are doing is best for your kiddo
4. You will try and try again no matter what method you use, until it all finally falls into place
5. Nothing will stop a little one from waking randomly in the middle of the night sometimes.

When I say that I don’t believe in the cry-it-out method this is my stance:  I want my children to always feel that their needs are being met.  I want my children to know that if they need comforting, that we will be there for them.  I never want my children to be forced to fall asleep after crying with no comfort – this perhaps is my biggest no-no, as an adult I’ve had my share of crying-myself-to-sleep and I’d never wish that on anyone in the world, least of all my children.  While I do believe that it is important to understand when it is time for sleep, I do not support the theory that allowing a little one (who doesn’t know any better) to cry into the darkness with no answer will eventually teach them a positive skill. For my family, there are other ways to build this skill.

I’m not saying that parents who do choose to use the CIO method are wrong in their choice.  I believe every parent makes the best decisions for their own family.  In this case, the CIO method does not fit my family or my mentality as a parent.

Once we were able to maintain a consistent napping and bedtime schedule, J’s sleeping patterns improved.  As first time parents, you are bound to make some mistakes along the way – in our case we made plenty of them with J’s sleep from the beginning.  But after 14 months J finally started sleeping through the night.  That doesn’t mean he always sleeps a solid 11 hours from 7pm to 6(ish)am, BUT we know that he is actually capable of doing so and he does quite regularly.  There are still random nights – maybe 2 out of every week – that he will wake enough in the middle of the night where he fusses enough that I will do in and help him settle back into sleep.  Being that I am still nursing him, I will nurse him for comfort (I know that’s mainly what he nurses for now) until he calms enough to either fall asleep again or I know he can self-sooth himself back to sleep from that point.  J has been known to randomly screech in the middle of the night though, and we’ve learned the differences between his “sleep” cries, his “waking” cries, and his “something’s wrong, I’m up” cries.

J recently got his 15 month shots (varicella and mmr) and he’s also sprouting 5 new teeth.  4 molars and a bottom tooth all at the same time…poor kiddo!  Needless to say, he’s had a mild temperature and been extra fussy and needy for the past week.  No wonder he’s been waking more than usual at night.  I suppose another reason when the CIO thing doesn’t sit right with me.  This week I’ve answered J’s midnight cries a little quicker than other times – if I was in pain or had a temp. and needed a little extra love, I’d want someone to come help me out – why wouldn’t I do the same for my little one?

That all being said, it doesn’t mean that when J cries at 3 am that I don’t groan and wish that he’d put himself back to sleep.  At 3 am no one is happy about being awake involuntarily!  But since when does being a parent mean you’ll get your full 10 hours of sleep? Ha…

Other Kids Parents

Every parent is guilty of judgement of other parents.  Whether it be their parenting style, their discipline methods, their hygiene or dietary prerogative, etc.  We are also all guilty of judging other people’s kids – but that’s a whole other blog…  We all find ourselves at one point or another saying “I love how they did that _____, I want to remember to do that with my kids”, or “eesh I’ll never treat my kids like that.”  Guilty as charged.  We all do it.  But what happens when the words of a parent appear just plain mean?  Not when spoken to the child necessarily, but when spoken about that child to another adult or other children.

I was a teacher in childcare for 5 years or so, and now being a parent there have been several “habits” of other adults – not always other parents – that have really started to hit a sore spot for me.  Mainly I am finding it very hard to accept anyone speaking ill of a child.  Especially when this person should be the one that is supporting and standing up for the child.  To be very specific I have two examples that I’ve come across – both recently and as part of my teaching experience.

When I was a teacher there were always those “problem children”.   Unfortunately these kiddos seem to struggle in a number of tasks and are forever deemed as “problems” or “pain-in-the-asses”.  Even as teachers we fall into the trap of not being able to like every kid that crosses our path.  It’s the unwritten rule though that teachers of all people should love all of their students.  And we do, each in their own way, but as Kate Hudson puts it in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – “I love you…but I don’t have to like you right now.”  Same goes for teachers.  And really for parents too… Anyway, it’s silly to think that every person will get along with everyone right? So why would you expect every child to get along with every adult and visa-versa?  Sometimes people just clash.  Yet in the teaching profession it is not acceptable to mock, speak ill of, or degrade a child in any way.  Not acceptable.  Now it obviously happens, but I’ve found it increasingly annoying to hear any of these types of disrespect towards a child coming from an adult who should be someone in a supportive role for that kid.  You may not agree with the way that child has been brought up, you may think that child needs to learn how to sit still or how to listen better, and that child may get on your very last nerve.  I’ve been there – I know that some kids just drive you crazy, and I’m sure that I’ve been one of the guilty ones who’s talked badly about this child or that child.  But there is just something about listening to another adult speak ill of a child that gets to me.

The most specific example I have of this occurred recently and is really probably a better way of explaining why this particular type of talk gets to me.  In this instance the parent is a step-parent.  Now I know nothing about the relationship between a child and a step-parent.  So excuse me if I am totally off base here and over-judging.  But as a parent on any level, how can you complain about a child?  How can you complain about a child that you are caring for?  The role of a parent in this case differs from the role of a teacher, so in my mind it is completely wrong to place judgement on your own child. In most cases, children are doing the best with what they have been given in life.  Yet somehow the blame for the child’s actions go punishable onto the child themselves.  So why does this parent feel the need to speak ill of this child to me?  Or why does any adult/parent/teacher feel that it is OK to speak ill of any child to anyone else?

This is something that I’m really struggling with today.  How do you react to a comment made about a child that you know nothing about, but whom probably doesn’t deserve to be degraded in this way?  And worse is knowing that I’ve done this myself as a teacher and been fed up with certain children.  Do we think that we will get support for feeling this way?  I feel like that is really the only explanation for  needing to air such dirty laundry to other people.  But how do you not almost take it personally when someone speaks badly to you about a child you know nothing about?

Do other parents struggle with this?  How do you react without placing further judgement onto the child or the adult themselves?  How do you mind your own business while supporting your friend or fellow parent with their struggles?