Psychological Warfare: Parenting a Toddler
Today I'm sharing with you a guest post from my dear friend, Jane. My husband jokes that I get more excited to see Jane than anyone else - and it's kind of true. Jane just has this grace about her that is compelling. She's inspiring and yet down to earth, creative and fun and playful. She puts people at ease and is a joy to be around. I'm happy to share just a little tiny piece of Jane with you today.
Nobody told me as I was becoming a mother that I was about to enter the battle of a lifetime. So maybe phrases such as 'psychological warfare' and 'battle' are a bit dramatic, but honestly sometimes they feel like an understatement when I am in the middle of it. Toddlers have a way of getting into our hearts and under our skin so easily. I don't know how they do it so well. Sometimes it feels like they compare notes on the playground or stay up late reading blogs on how to torture and woo their mommies.
Let me just start by saying that I LOVE being the mother to my two beautiful daughters; the oldest, Sofia, is 2 years and the youngest, Mia, is 6 months. I feel a deep sense of purpose and I DO enjoy the adventure of the intense highs and lows of parenting. Nurturing came so naturally and was such a rich time for both my husband and I. I have so many strong memories with both of our girls during the time when they were little that could last me a lifetime.
But then it all changed.
My oldest, Sofia, changed. Her needs and the way she needed me changed. My role as her mom changed. The way we interact changed. I am learning how to be her mother to teach and correct her, as well as provide love and care. And to appreciate it all.
Toddlers are smart. They are cunning. They run our emotions around and around and around.
Psychological warfare, according to Webster: Actions intended to reduce an opponent's morale. Here are some everyday examples:
- The tantrum hug. This is an incredibly effective tactic of Sofia's. After I've said 'No' or have done any kind of discipline, she leaps into my arms and gives me a bear hug while crying/screaming. This swings my emotions around in circles from feeling anger/fear/concern to compassion/warmth/love. It is the most confusing. It does help us both calm down...
- 'Sama'. This means 'i'll do it all by myself in Czech'. It's Sofia's life motto at the moment. Which means not only that she thinks she can do everything by herself, but that I have to choose 100 times a day: to either let her = peace+mess+time or not let her = war+faster+cleaner.
- Mealtimes. Oh mealtimes. Sofia has always been an all-star eater. She has happily eaten everything I've offered her. Well, recently she has experimented with saying 'No', pushing away her food, throwing it on the floor, using it as lotion, spitting it out. This has become very stressful for me. I never know when we sit down how she will choose to react. This DEFINITELY affects my mealtime morale.
- Learning new things and being ridiculously cute. Toddlers have this tactic perfected. They are learning so much so fast and they know very well the reaction that they will elicit from their parents. Sofia knows that I can hardly say 'No' to her as she is singing the ABC's (only to 'G') in her sweet little voice. Or since she has learned 'Peese', how can I not give her a cookie? She has also learned that it is much more beneficial to learn people's names....because then THEY are more likely to give her anything she wants, even after mommy has said 'No'.
- Running to daddy. My husband has beautiful relationships with our daughters. At the highest moment of tension between my toddler and I, inevitably, daddy walks in the door and she leaps into his arms. Any other moment of the day and this would absolutely warm my heart, but in this instance, it hurts.
- The hug/wipe your nose on my leg move. I noticed that I was getting an above average amount of bear hugs from my little one and felt like the happiest mama in the world. Then later in the day I notice my pants have been used as a hanky over and over and over!
I could go on and on....we all have our own stories. If your toddler is getting the best of you and your morale is down, take heart. Let me encourage with you a few tips...
(Have I already mentioned that I am NOT an expert? Just consumed by this topic at the moment and was invited to share)
Weapons? Arm yourself.
- Hold your baby/toddler when they are asleep. There is something deeply calming and disarming. I feel like my toddler and I have had extensive reconciliation times as she is sleeping in my arms.
- Remember the nurturing times. Remember that things will change. Remember that you are not alone. Remember.
- Laugh ALOT. Play. Giggle alongside of your toddler. Get on all fours and listen to her giggle. Discover what she thinks is funny and see the humor in it. Laughter dissolves tension wonderfully.
- Patience. I'm not sure exactly when to get this quickly when it is most needed, except from God. This weapon alone is a reason for faith in God, because patience as a human resource is SO limited....and is exhausted SO quickly by a toddler. The patient kind of love really only comes from God. Believe me. I've tried to find it everywhere else. Ask Him for it.
- Don't take things so seriously. I love having a clean, vacuumed, mopped floor. But I am slowly letting it become less important. It is very hard. With a toddler + food and toddler + toys and toddler + play doh, it is just impossible. I could really go crazy if I got upset every time I found a crayon bit somewhere. Take safety, health and love seriously. Maybe pick one or two things to really capitalize on and hold loosely to the rest. Let everything else be negotiable.
- Talk with your toddler. I have found that so many of Sofia's meltdowns come when she simply can't communicate what she wants or needs. The more I let her feel heard, the more questions I ask, the more I repeat what I think she is saying (it's such a mixture of Czech and English, it's hard to pull something recognizable out!), the more open she is to my instructions, discipline, and the worst word of all, 'NO'.
- Soak in ALL the love your toddler gives. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles and the tackles.
- TRY to have perspective that everything will continue to change, including us. We are learning and growing as parents and as people, and this is an incubator for growth. Hard, but good growth. Our toddlers will change and the battles will look different....enjoy the journey!