Papa Ate the Monsters!

“Well, of course he did!”
– Like there was ever any question, or anything else to do but!

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Those of you who have some idea of what my family and I are going through right now will understand the title.

Furthermore, you will understand what I mean when I tell you that Papa eats the really big ones, Little Bug eats the little baby ones, and Mama sends the rest back to their planet.

The monsters get on their spaceship and go back to their planet.  That’s what we do with the ones we don’t eat.  Cuz people belong on this planet and monsters belong on the monster’s planet.

Then, for special reinforcement needs, we have the magical light bracelet.  It keeps those pesky monsters away. And the few that slip through, well, Papa takes care of those.  (You know how many light bracelets I have had to buy in the last week!! – Yeah you can freeze and reuse, but that only works about twice.)

What I find most fascinating is that after weeks and weeks of me trying to “deal” with the monster crisis, and failing, Papa figured it out in about 2 minutes of actually being made aware that I needed help.  Papa came to the rescue.

I tried nurturing, comforting, empathy, acknowledgement, comforting, gentle logic, rationalizing at 2 year old level, acknowledging, nursing, and did I mention comforting, nurturing, and mommy love.  Guess what? Papa stepped in one afternoon and told his little bug that he was going to take care of her, keep her safe, and EAT THE MONSTERS.  I freaked – ARHGHGHG!! Don’t tell her that the monsters are inside you now!  That hit my logic and sense of being all wrong.  Hell, she was inside me, there surely shouldn’t be any monsters in there!!

I held my tongue however, as we were all together, and I swallowed my stomach.  I watched… I waited… She pondered his solution for about 10 seconds (while I would have been more comfortable sinking to the bottom of the pool – we were swimming at the moment he decided to explain his special appetite for monsters to her).

About 15 seconds later, she asked him if he was sure he’d eaten all of them.

“Yep!  And I put ketchup and mustard on them.”

To which she replied, “And peanut butter, and chocolate, and, and, coffee cream??”

And so went the conversation, with Papa patting his “full” belly and her fear subsiding, second by second.

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Now, daily, Papa eats the monsters.  And if Papa isn’t around and she finds some, Mama either sends them back to their planet, Lils eats’em if they’re baby ones, or we find a light bracelet (her favorite is the blue, when Papa isn’t with us – she has long since assigned blue to Papa as his color).

He also taught her to grab a flashlight and face her concerns of there being monsters “in there – wherever” with it on as bright as she can make it shine.  She clears rooms regularly, with her little LED light and her glow bracelet.  You should see… and when she gets worried, Papa steps up right behind her and helps her find em, eat’em, and send them back to their own planet.

 

Now I can’t decide whether this experience is a twisted, positive one,
or something I regret for allowing the insecurity to develop
and cause the monsters to appear in the first place
(we could have refused the relocation, I suppose).

However, it has given Papa an opportunity to valiantly
protect and impart strength to his little girl.
_

I still wish she thought monsters were funny –
you know, like Grover or Cooking Monster.

Our choices thrust her into a world of uncertainty, unfamiliar surroundings, and a resulting encompassing insecurity.  We expected something like this, but hoped keeping her close to us would be enough (like when she was tiny).  Wrong.  She is all too aware of everything at this point, and it is making a huge impact on her.

Her mind has resolved to manage her fears and insecurity through the manifestation of monsters.  This does not make me happy, but I am leaning toward the feeling that I have to find good in this development somehow. And what better good could there possibly be than for her relationship and reliance on her Papa to have blossomed
as a result of him coming to her rescue
by developing a ravenous appetite for grumpy monsters.

Beautifully Read

Why African Babies Don’t Cry:
An African Perspective
by Claire Niala

S O U R C E

I was born and grew up in Kenya & Cote d’Ivoire. Then from the age of fifteen I lived in the UK. However, I always knew that I wanted to raise my children (whenever I had them) at home in Kenya. And yes, I assumed I was going to have them. I am a modern African woman with two university degrees and I am a fourth generation working woman – but when it comes to children, I am typically African. The assumption remains that you are not complete without them; children are a blessing it would be crazy to avoid. Actually the question does not even arise.

I started my pregnancy in the UK. The urge to deliver at home was so strong that I sold my practice, setup a new business and moved house / country within five months of finding out I was pregnant. I did what most expectant mothers in the UK do – I read voraciously: Our Babies, Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, anything by the Searses – the list goes on. (My grandmother later commented that babies don’t read books – and really all I needed to do was “read” my baby). Everything I read said that African babies cried less than European babies. I was intrigued as to why.

I (Angie) read very little while pregnant, mostly because I would simply fall asleep.  However, I share this woman’s thought pattern.  All the books, information, science in the world can only help you to understand your little one better, and make better decisions for her growth IF, and ONLY IF, you understand her in the first place.  To do this, you must slow down, get out of the way, and listen.  Observe, pay attention to everything, it will connect itself if you do.  She will tell you exactly what she needs, how  to help, how to nurture, and how to grow her into the strongest, most intelligent and capable woman she can be, if you’ll just listen.  See the world through her eyes, come along side her, be the wind, let her open her sail as she sees fit.

Educating oneself is crucial, but if the subject matter for which all the education is obtained is unknown and not understood, it is all for nothing but to create aggravation and dissatisfaction.

See her world as she sees it.  Listen.  She’ll tell you, and your job is to make sense of it for her until she can do it for herself.

Seeing Through to Validity

Validating Children
Their Thought Patterns, Feelings, and Perception of Their World.
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We are still traveling. My daughter has become a Little Traveler. I have become a wreck of an excuse for a woman, to say nothing of a wife or mama.

On the upside, we are finally under contract on a house, but won’t close until the end of the first week of September; posts between now and then will be minimal, though likely therapeutic. We have basically been carting the clan around from Grandma’s, to a furnished condo for a month, to a hotel for a couple weeks, and who knows what in between, for the last 7 weeks. So, like I should expect anything else but turmoil and difficulty from my two year old who understands so much, but not quite enough, and very little when it comes to abstract things like the future.

Wanting to keep discussions going however, I thought I’d throw out my latest topic of the week.   Monsters.

Yep, my daughter suddenly sees monsters. They’re everywhere. I ripped her from her foundation, her stability, and from the security of “home”, and to say the fallout compares to that of Chernobyl would be an almost fair comparison. Perhaps I should have seen the Monster thing coming.

This is a nightmare.

She never saw monsters before and was certainly not afraid of those she did see on tv. She liked them in fact, especially the Sesame Street variety. Now she and her baby are constantly demonstrating insecurity and trepidation. I am so grieved that I can’t make it through a single day without tears or silently breaking down. Her Papa and I have both worked so hard to instill confidence, security, and strength in her and we knew that this “move” was going to be really tough. But none of our plans have worked out the way we’d hoped, so we’re just sorta winging this day to day, and that is the single worst thing we could have allowed to become reality at this stage in her development.

Let’s talk regression. Let’s talk no longer will she poop because she wants to go home and won’t poop anywhere but home, and she refuses to tell me when she has to pee… AND since she doesn’t have a home and her bathroom, or the run of her environment, etc., she won’t just go pee on her own because well, the toilet is too tall, the seat is split and her legs get hurt, and the Bumbo actually tore a few days ago. Oh and she’s terrified that “this” toilet (insert toilet model/location of choice) is going to either flush on its own and thereby send her into an instant and horrified panic, or it will be so loud when it does flush on command that she doesn’t want to go anywhere near it. Pick an issue (the bucket is full), or combination thereof, or random reason (like she’s stuck in a damn car seat for hours on end as we traipse across the state trying to make this work somehow). No surprise she just doesn’t see the point in tending to her pottying needs effectively.

It’s horrible.

And I can’t let her think for one second that I have no clue what I’m doing. Or can I?

If she sensed that I am floundering just as much as she is to grasp this situation, just from a different angle, she will likely fall apart at the seams, or so I thought. But, I learned something this week. I learned that my kid has a perceptiveness and awareness light years beyond even what I thought, and I had already given her a pretty high ranking. Her cognitive development seems to have chosen now to kick into high gear. I’m not sure this is a good thing, but here we are.

I lost it the other day, couldn’t keep up the facade, and just broke down and told my little kid what I was dealing with. She asked why I was sad and why I was crying. I told her that I was so sad that we couldn’t just go home right then, as she’d asked me to. I was sad that she was struggling with the environment I had placed us in, and all the stress (details of this in part two of this post) that her little self seemed to be dealing with. I was very sad that she was scared of monsters and that she couldn’t just have her room, her house, and her Papa right then! (He was working a couple hours away for a couple days and stayed at a hotel.)

She told me that she was also “Scrug-gul-ying a lot because (her) baby was afraid of the kabooms (thunder) and the monsters (that are everywhere now, in the dark, the light, otherwise), and that she (her baby) needed her (my daughter), but that it was hard”. Which, of course, brought a new flood of tears from me. The ache is unable to be ignored.

She has decided to choose this period to first become very attentive to a doll, her “baby”. She has also decided to personify her own needs, thoughts, and feelings through those of this doll, and in her tending to it. The really positive side of this is my husband and I get to see first hand, tangibly demonstrated, how she sees our parenting of her, and her life. Particularly, as she is a girl (she says) she is the mama (she says), and so she mimics with her doll what she and I share and do together. I am humbled and so pleased because I know from this that I’m doing what this little one needs. BUT I am also horrified because in the same vein, I am forced to see exactly what harm and damage I have allowed to occur to her through all of this.

I cannot adequately explain all of what our life is like right now, but basically, we have chosen to make a career path modification that will eventually lend the opportunity for all of us (Mama, Papa, Bug 1 and maybe others, and canine kid) to spend a much greater amount of time together. No more of Papa having to leave for an office at 8am, not to return until at least 6pm, work from home half or more of the time, overnight a good amount, and basically be at the beck and call of the company around the clock, all the time. – Not so good for family…

We have chosen this path to give us the opportunity to live in an area that is diverse culturally (though some would question the validity of that statement, it is true nonetheless). It is also an area that provides for more real estate for less money than we are accustomed to struggling through, less population and stress than we’re used to tolerating, and views as far as the eye can see. In fact, the only objects that obstruct those views are mountains 50 to 100 miles off.

This path will allow for more time and energy to be given to our creativity, our craft, our passions, and her education and growth. Basically, it is a dream come true in that it pays more, living costs are less, and as a whole, our family will just simply be together a lot more and Mama and Papa get to equally raise and parent, instead of Mama’s work being parenting and Papa’s work being something else that leaves no time or energy to give the parenting gig a fair chance.

So, in the end, we will be much better than where we have been, but the getting there is a monumental effort and lesson in a thousand things that go in as many different directions, and my little tiny person is stuck right in the middle, being pulled apart.

I have had a lot of people tell me recently that I am making too much of this, that my daughter will adapt just fine, and that she won’t remember any of it anyway. Unfortunately for them, and more so for me, they’re wrong. I will write later about how I know her memory is undeniably accurate and undiminished, and in the mean time, I will tell you she is adapting only in that she is becoming cynical. And as far as this situation not being the impact in reality that I am “making it into”, I will let her voice speak for her reality (will follow this topic throughout this thread, which will likely span a few posts in the next week).

Seeing through the mess to validation. Facing the face of insecurity, crumbled foundation, and the calloused need of others to make less of everything as a method of assisting the guilt and grief ridden mind of the responsible adults, who aren’t asking for relief, but empathy. This is my daily task. This is my little bug’s daily misery.

In the midst of this, as if it’s not already enough, I am being forced to defend the validity of the very real feelings, thoughts, and new found experience with fear my daughter is struggling with to those with whom we are interacting in person (and not so in-person, for that matter). These people have an influence on her daily activities and existence, to one degree or another. They believe they are helping, but one key factor is forgotten and/or overlooked in their method, my daughter’s legitimacy. They don’t want to allow themselves to acknowledge the grief and guilt, as it might strike at them too, so they tell her (and me) that she’s just fine and that she is actually quite oblivious, or at least won’t remember any of this turmoil.

But I am here to tell the entire world that – if only – my daughter WERE just fine and blissfully oblivious, I would go to, and HAVE BEEN TRYING to go to such lengths as whatever were necessary to continue her being able to exist in such a state. Alas, that is not the case. My kid is too aware to miss a single detail, too sensitive to miss even the tiniest hint of expression, and too discerning that she could possibly sail through this mercifully unaware. So instead, I have to be brutally honest with myself, and accept the consequences of this journey. I must be omnisciently, selectively, intuitively honest with her (since I hold this power…). And I must summon an emotional stability beyond anything I can comprehend just to keep her eating, sleeping, pottying sort of, and playing in her safe and happy world to some decent duration on a daily basis. And where am I in all this? My husband and I have our own issues, relational challenges, and where am I? I can’t exist, except in theory and performance.

See why we so desperately need this to be concluded? In all of it, one benefit I have gained is the perspective I now have of just how immensely aware of her world my little bug really is. This compels me to never loose site and never become careless of the reality that absolutely everything I do, we do, or that happens within close enough proximity that my baby’s bubble is bumped, has an effect on her.

We’ve tried pretending everything’s fine.

We’ve tried acknowledging her concerns, but trying to either distract or encourage her to see them in a lighter hue of ominousness.

Neither worked. Neither are working. It doesn’t work to tell her she shouldn’t, isn’t, or can’t feel what she is fully capable of communicating she is feeling and is her reality. She tells us exactly what’s going on in her mind and it brings me to my knees, usually literally (that’s about where I have to be to get face to face).

As a result, we have reluctantly, and with extensive consideration for the long term effects, chosen to instead deal with each comment, each nuance of body language, and each whimper in her sleep as directly and with complete and utter validity, on her level and our own, as we can muster. We’ve decided to leave ourselves completely open, exposed, and vulnerable to her, and she seems to be willing to accept nothing short of this. She sees through anything else and tells us about how we’ve made her feel like she is not important, intelligent, or old enough to fully and openly acknowledge at a core level. Children don’t buy it… they don’t know how to play the game much less want to. Furthermore, they aren’t even aware that there is a game until we (the stupid adults) decide to force them to become aware and learn.

I can’t say yet what good I hope comes of all this, but I do hope something useful and beneficial reveals itself.. I know the end is near and worth the journey, but my daughter didn’t have a choice in whether she was going to join us on this journey. She is too young to think in future terms, her mind hasn’t developed that function yet, but she sure can think in the present and tangible, and she’s mad at me. And in my utter sorrow, she has every right to be.

Mother-Toddler Separation

I am in tears… of validation.  I cannot put into words what reading this article has done to me.  But my smile might be enough, and my tears might communicate the rest.

Yes.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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Mother-Toddler Separation

by Dr. George Wootan, M.D.
Author of Take Charge of Your Child’s Health


I’m going to open up a big can of worms here, one that gets me into as much trouble as my thoughts on weaning: mother-toddler separation. Imagine for a moment, that you are at the grocery store with your six-month-old. She starts making hungry noises, and you look down and say reassuringly, “I’ll feed you in half an hour, as soon as we get home.” Will she smile and wait patiently for you to finish you shopping? Absolutely not! As far as your baby is concerned, either there is food now, or there is no food in the world. Right in the middle of the grocery store, famine has struck!

Babies and toddlers, up to about the age of three, have little concept of time. To them, there are only two times: now and never. Telling a toddler that Mommy will be back in an hour, or at 5:00, is essentially the same thing as telling her that Mommy is gone forever, because she has no idea what those times mean.

Let me submit to you that the need for mother is as strong in a toddler as the need for food, and that there is no substitute for mother. When he’s tired, hurt, or upset, he needs his mother for comfort and security. True, he doesn’t need Mommy all the time, but when he does, he needs her now. If he scrapes his knee, or gets his feelings hurt, he can’t put his need on hold for two hours until Mommy is home, and the babysitter – or even Daddy – just won’t do as well as if Mommy was there.

So, yes, this is what I’m saying: A mother shouldn’t leave her child until about the age of three, when he has developed some concept of time. You’ll know this has begun to happen when he understands what “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” and “this afternoon” mean, and when your child voluntarily begins to spend more time away from you on his own accord.

Of course, if you know that your child always sleeps during certain times, you can leave her briefly with someone while she naps. If you do this, however, the babysitter should be someone she knows well, since there is no guarantee that she won’t choose this day to alter her schedule and wake up while you’re gone. This could be traumatic for her if the person is someone she knows, and doubly so if the babysitter is a stranger. It is important that you make every effort to be available to her when she is awake and may need you.

I realize that not separating a child from his mother for the first three years of life may be difficult. Living up to this presupposes that the family is financially secure without the mother’s paycheck, and, unfortunately, this is not a reality for some people. I would not argue that a mother who must work to support her family is doing less than her best for her children by working. However, I believe that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. These parents need to do a little soul-searching about what they really need and not sacrifice their child’s best interests.

If you must leave your child for several hours a day, there are some things you can do to try and compensate for the separation. One of these, of course, is nursing until the child weans himself. Another issharing sleep with your child until he decides he is ready for his own bed. If you have to spend 8 hours away from your child, make an effort to spend the remaining 16 hours of each day in close physical contact. That extra effort will go a long way toward helping him feel secure an develop a healthy attachment with you.

In our family, we have found that many events that would require leaving our baby or toddler at home are the ones that we don’t particularly mind missing. We also have found that because our children have their needs attended to promptly, they are happy and secure, and we are able to take them to most social gatherings. I don’t mean to suggest that you’ll never encounter any problems, but generally, you’ll find that if you take care of your child’s immediate needs by holding him, nursing him, and loving him, he’ll be a pleasure to have around.

George Wootan, M.D. is a board-certified family practitioner and medical associate of La Leche League International. He and his wife, Pat, are the parents of eleven children and the grandparents of twenty-one. Dr. Wootan has practiced medicine for 33 years with a focus on pediatric, family, and geriatric care and chronic illness. He speaks nationally on the subject of children’s health, healthy aging, nutrition, wellness and Functional Medicine.

Becoming Babywise

Not much more that I can say… I haven’t yet forced myself to get through the pages of the Babywise book, but what little I do know of it, I completely disagree with it having an ounce of intelligence.

For much better, baby-friendly alternatives to Babywise please see any of these excellent baby/toddler parenting resource books below.

Remember:  Babies cry to communicate that a NEED has not yet been met – they do NOT cry to manipulate. Their cries are their only form of communication if parents do not recognize and attend to their other non-verbal cues/signals signifying particular needs. Listen to your primal mothering/fathering instincts. Pick up your baby, love him, feed her, snuggle him, wear her, rock him, soothe her – it will all be over in the blink of an eye and you will be so thankful that you peacefully parented your little one while s/he still fit in your arms.

S O U R C E

Hand Slapping, Exploration, Confidence: An Important Understanding

S O U R C E

SLAPPING HANDS
How tempting it is to slap those daring little hands! Many parents do it without thinking, but consider the consequences. Maria Montessori, one of the earliest opponents of slapping children’s hands, believed that children’s hands are tools for exploring, an extension of the child’s natural curiosity. Slapping them sends a powerful negative message. Sensitive parents we have interviewed all agree that the hands should be off-limits for physical punishment. Research supports this idea. Psychologists studied a group of sixteen fourteen-month-olds playing with their mothers. When one group of toddlers tried to grab a forbidden object, they received a slap on the hand; the other group of toddlers did not receive physical punishment. In follow-up studies of these children seven months later, the punished babies were found to be less skilled at exploring their environment. Better to separate the child from the object or supervise his exploration and leave little hands unhurt.

I love this.  It’s brief, allows one to contemplate (which I am now), and doesn’t condemn or judge.  Bravo!

I know the urge… She’s grabbing it again (insert object of interest) and it either scares you, annoys you, or is in direct violation of whatever you just told her not to touch.  What is your instinct? You know that if you slap her hand, it will sting and therefore she’ll pull her hand away and theoretically stop touching whatever you want her to stop touching.  Gotta love instant gratification.  But if it were my daughter, she’d just touch it the moment I turned my back anyway, so why bother.

Now, the NGJ method would interject here that if I had smacked her hand hard enough, she’d have learned her lesson and would remember well enough to not touch whatever it was again.  This brings two thoughts to mind:  First, violence begets violence. Second, let’s just say the item I don’t want her to touch is my coffee mug.  Ok, so I slap her hand hard enough and frequently enough that she learns she is better off not touching it (because she doesn’t like pain, nor does she like the hit to her self confidence).  So what happens in a few years when I ask her to do the dishes and the only item that never gets tended to by her is my own damn coffee cup.

Hum… now what.  I mean, it’s not like I can say a word about it to her.  I have destroyed her confidence in handling my coffee cup, made it off limits across the board by physically punishing her for touching it, instead of working with her intellect so that she can learn the dangers, and now I want her to chip in and help wash the thing.    See my dilemma?

Expand that to an entire collection of items that we categorically define as off limits for babies and toddlers.  We instill confusion, a lack of confidence, hypocrisy, and an innate sense of “wrong” for things that are completely benign to any human of an age of comprehension.  This makes no sense.  If the child is too young to be educated on what or why not to touch the item, just remove the object from within their reach and possible interest until they are old enough to comprehend!

That said… In our case, as I stated above, my daughter will receive the instruction to not/stop touching something and then the moment I am not looking, she will graze the item with her fingertips in defiance, while quietly watching to see if I notice.  She’s pushing for control here. She’s testing her ability to control herself and her environment. She’s not trying to control me, but she is being defiant.  And you know what, I have noticed a pattern with this defiance.  IF I have instructed her not to touch something without educating her as to why (this includes the education going no further than it being my desire to have her leave something alone, no other logic involved), then the defiance is typically present  to one degree or another.  IF however, I have educated her as to why she should leave something alone and not touch/pick it up/etc., even if that education is simply that the item does not belong to us (but does specifically belong someone else, including me, excluding her) and therefore must only be explored by her eyes, she typically will not bother it.  And if she does, once reminded of why she shouldn’t, she usually dismisses her interest and self corrects.  Yes, she uses her own judgement and chooses to abstain from the temptation, of her own accord. Crazy, huh.

I think I can probably say that I have slapped her tiny little hands a total of a half dozen times in her entire life.  Each and every time it has been out of personal impatience, annoyance, and personal/internal frustration.  Once again, it’s me needing a physical release of a negative emotion caused by the interaction with my daughter and her independent and immature self. Yippee for me, I solved my concern with instant gratification for myself, no education for my daughter, and an example of violence and selfish response for her to ponder and remember.  Well then. I have also demonstrated my own laziness and impatience. I’m doing good.

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Alternately, I can take the responsibility upon myself while she’s too young to comprehend and simply remove items from her reach or where she is even aware of their existence (I do not believe in negatively tempting children). Then,  after she reaches an age that she is able to comprehend reliably, I can instruct and educate her on why and what to abstain from touching or playing with. I can remind her as necessary, and if defiance is the reason for the reminder(s) being necessary, I can employ other techniques to get my point across (like if she won’t leave something of mine alone, I will simply not leave something of hers alone that she wants me to – and/or not allow her to have it until she makes the connection, which usually takes about 2 minutes).  And in the event she simply chooses to ignore and not make the connection, it’s usually bed time or time to change venue/activity and assert gently that she must acknowledge the importance of what I am imparting to her.  These times almost always correlate with fatigue, or fatigue.  Again, my responsibility to remedy and have the wisdom and sensitivity to manage properly.

There is one caveat: In the event that your child is reaching and millimeters away from an object that will severely injure and/or scar them physically or psychologically, and you have no time to react in any other fashion, then and only then would I personally condone the use of a harsh slapping away motion (this is different than a hand slap).  This quick reflex may cause a bit of a sting if it ends up being enough of a snap, but chances are that if it’s necessary it’s because you only have a split second to respond and save your little one’s hand, mind, or other body part.  This is a protective move, not a punishing one.  This sort of response is not out of annoyance but fear and desire to preserve the well being of the child.  I hope I am clear.

Resources: Understanding Ostracism, Timeouts

http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/805746/positive-discipline-why-timeouts-dont-work

http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/Ostracism

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/04/social.aspx

http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9781572306899

http://www.mothering.com/discussions/archive/index.php/t-922731.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=M0flM4dgpDUC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=timeouts+ostracism&source=bl&ots=NNNExUmWFw&sig=CqcXM8QwYW_Em3HQSdQbxsmn_-8&hl=en&ei=Se-OTL6JLYSdlgfovZm0Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

List goes on… I’ll add more as we go.

Helping Toddlers Locate Boundaries

choose to see the world through your toddler’s eyes.  Empathetically experience her world as she experiences it, and you will know harmony instead of struggle.

There seem to be a lot of discussions on how to keep toddlers in line lately, and the conversations in general result in my confusion and sadness. I have a two year old. She is a very complex, spirited, little person. She is communicative, emotional, thoughtful, and intelligent. And she has an opinion on just about everything. Keeping up with her is sometimes quite challenging, but it is a challenge I thoroughly enjoy meeting.

Consistency is an extremely valuable commodity and something that the toddler, especially, desperately needs.  Through consistency from her care giver, she can learn to establish herself in her world, discover her own thoughtfulness and desire to think of others, and develop her autonomy.  Security, self confidence, and the ability to thrive come from her knowing she is valued and worthy of being responded to, as well as being able to rely upon her environment and care givers.

Today was a difficult day because I was too impatient.  I still am.  My daughter knew it.  And as if my own mood wasn’t enough to just end all today, she decided she was going to launch an all out protest, by returning it.  Every impatient action or outburst I shot her way, she reflected right back at me.  And can I fault her in any way?  Nope.

At some point during my day, I began to really get to the point of just wanting to scream.  My little one was just being little, but I wasn’t handling it well.  I have a habit of purposefully falling silent and staring off in the distance in effort to gain the attention of my little bug, or regain my own, or both. Trying to gain the full picture, I will often do this while sitting on the floor, which makes my head about level to hers.  

Today when I decided to attempt to gain control over my own impatience and try to regain control of the rapid downward spiral that would lead to my daughter losing it in a fit of emotion that she doesn’t know what to do with, I discovered something.  My little girl was afraid. She was afraid of me, afraid of what she was doing or not doing, afraid to just be in her own little world (where she is usually very comfortable). She was on edge.

I realized in that moment what I was putting my little one through, and what I didn’t want to continue. I decided we needed a breather, so we put on a movie and just sat together on the couch. Before long, I became impatient again (a result of a hormonal imbalance that I am still trying to get a handle on after the pregnancy) and I picked up my laptop. This is a signal to my daughter that she is no longer my focus.  And some days she tolerates this for a while, and others she hurt by my diverted attention.  So, in response, she sulked.  Then I sulked.  Then she rejected my attempts at cuddling.  So I put the computer away.  But by then, she knew I was annoyed and not wanting to really watch the movie with her, remember she’s 28 months old and perceives well.  She in turn became fully annoyed with me and told me as much.

I allowed myself to see through her eyes, and I felt her hurt.  She was disappointed, felt like she wasn’t as valuable as my stupid laptop, and just didn’t understand why her mama was being so unpredictable today.  I did (understand), and there was nothing I could do about it, but keep trying to remain calm.  Eventually, we decided together that it was time for snuggle/sling time that would lead to a nap.  She knew I needed a break, and so did she (from me).

She fell asleep very quickly, snuggled into my chest.  I consciously made the decision to just hold her this time instead of reading something on my phone while waiting for her to fall asleep.  Sometimes I get away with that, but often she lies in my arms, in the sling, and stares right at my face (the same face/eyes that are looking at something other than her own), waiting.  She waits for me very quietly.  When I realize I’m being stared at, I direct my gaze into her eyes and usually see relief and comfort, and a sense of security in her.  Today, I saw apprehension and a guarded little girl.  It broke me apart, again.

Just imagine if, instead of realizing her behavior today was in direct response to my own, I assumed the position of authoritarian power-demanding, righteously angry parent.  How damaging to my little person I could have been. I’m so thankful I didn’t resort to forcing my way or punishing, I would have crushed her spirit severely.

I am convinced that my child generally wishes to be in harmony with her environment. She can be self focused at times, some of which are very useful and necessary, others are just whims. I can become frustrated with her too, but as soon as I stop thinking and seeing through only my own eyes and start seeing through hers as well, I can again appreciate her. When I relate to the world as this little does, I no longer struggle.

I have an amazing little bug, who perceives things at a level way beyond the depth of what we expected at this age.  Early on, even during her first few weeks, others shared that when they looked into her eyes, they felt connected and that she sensed them fully.  

“She has an old soul”, some said, and I have to agree – she often seems to have an awareness that eludes me.  

I felt her strength, and her desire for harmony and peace well before she was born.  And after her birth, her general demeanor gave me such a sense of peace and awe that my respect and admiration of her existence came without force or even conscious thought. I am on this earth for her.  Her papa and I are committed to joining in her explorations, sharing tools as she discovers her world.

She impresses me every moment I am in her presence.  She impresses me even when I’m not in her presence, because these times allow me to reflect on experiences with her, and I invariably gain an understanding and perspective that gives me even more to admire in her.

She knows we won’t hit her, or come after her.  She seeks the boundaries and we help her see them, and we explain why in terms she can comprehend. She is tiny and has little experience to draw upon to formulate her own conclusions; if your thoughts are communicated, connection will result.  She is highly intelligent, but explain yourself as if she is also brand new. Respect her. Remember what it is like to be a two year old? Take a moment to stop what you’re doing, get down on their level, and ask them what it’s like being them, and listen to their response (whether in word, expression, or body language).

See the world through your toddler’s eyes and experiences. Once you have chosen to do that regularly, you will find that you approach your child differently and they will respond in turn.   Grow their trust and deepen your connection.

If all else fails and your toddler is just driving you nuts,
go take a look in the mirror.
Then, take responsibility for your own behaviors,
and realize that your toddler is the world’s greatest mimic.

Eye to eye, cheek to cheek,give them a moment of yours that is just for them.