* For your reference, as I’m typing this, D is shouting “giant fish head” at me and crying to turn off Octonauts, which he just spent ten minutes trying to turn on. I know as soon as I turn it off, he’ll cry because that’s not what he wanted. And, J is crying on my lap even though he’s being held, he’s got a clean diaper, and he’s being fed. Bless all of us who are going through this stage right now!
My two and a half year old is going through a phase. Well, that’s what people keep telling me; “it’s a phase”. But, this phase is wearing me down. He’s pushing buttons and limits constantly. I know he knows that he shouldn’t dump the pear water on his learning tower and down the wall, but when he finishes those pears he insists that the juice needs to go somewhere! When I’m giving my toddler his first timeout before 8:30am on a Sunday, I know something’s going on.
I know things change when baby #2 comes along, but D hasn’t really reacted to that. He loves his little brother. The first thing he does in the morning is ask to snuggle J. He is great at sharing, getting diapers, picking out outfits, and throwing away dirty diapers (bless his little soul). When J cries, he’s the first to alert us and try to fix it. Just the other day, J was crying in his Rock N Play while we were trying to get the family dressed to go to the store. Seeing that we couldn’t pick him up at the moment, D went over, put one hand under J’s head, and lifted up his own shirt to try and nurse him because he knows that’s what usually makes J happy! He is the most compassionate little nugget, 80% of the time. But he’s comprised of 20% meltdowns right now.
His meltdowns are because Dad is downstairs instead of upstairs when he wakes up or because the blanket corner falls off of the couch when it was just in the exact spot he needed it to be in before he moved. Or he wants to wear his shark hat. You know, the one he doesn’t have because never in our lives have we had a shark hat in this house. And, they come out of nowhere! These are definitely things other parents warn you of before you have children, but they’re definitely the things you think will never happen to you. You know, you who are the perfect parent before actually having children. Children are very humbling for the soul!
Finding the right balance of getting down on his level and comforting him vs ignoring the problem is the toughest thing on the planet! You have to pick your battles. Whatever choice I make, I make sure to let him know that it’s okay to have emotions and to let them out. I also make sure to let him know the appropriate ways to let them out: “yes, it’s okay to cry when you’re upset” or “no, mommy is not your personal punching bag”. Remember how I posted that patience is not my friend? These meltdowns ALWAYS seem to happen at the exact same time that J is hungry, or needs a diaper change, or is simply crying because he hasn’t been held in approximately three minutes. However, I have been given two great pieces of advice (one for each age group) and I want to share them with you (or remind you if you’ve heard them and simply forget in a moment of sleep depravity and impatience):
- Babies can’t fall off the floor– it’s true. In the moments that I am stressed to my limit and by myself, I remind myself that babies can’t fall off the floor. One of my best friends told me this when D was a newborn and it has stuck with me ever since. When there are two meltdowns happening at once, I have to prioritize. Since D can walk and throw things, I calm him down first. So, J lays on the floor on his play mat (or sometimes just on the floor). He can cry, he can breathe, he’s safe, and I’m no longer chasing a 2 year old while toting around a screaming baby.
- Remind yourself, out loud, how old your toddler is while you’re upset with them. It sounds funny, but it has worked on so many accounts that my husband has actually started to do it as well. We’ve all reached that point where our limit has been reached and we fly off the handle. You might think to yourself: who yells at a toddler? The answer: everyone. We’re humans. We have emotions. We don’t always know how to handle them, and when you have a baby screaming and/or a toddler screaming and throwing things and running around, you may be tempted to yell to try and get their attention. I’ve been tempted. I’ve yelled. And I can tell you, 99% of the time, it doesn’t work. So, I have started realizing when I get to that breaking point. Instead of yelling, I get down on D’s level- this gets him every time. Then, more for me, I ask out loud, “What are you, a 2 year old?” or “Why are you acting like you’re 2?” This calms me down. He doesn’t necessarily understand the question, and he never answers it. From there, I’ve initiated a conversation at his level, and he starts to calm down. After that, he usually just wants to hug for a few minutes before he puts into words what is wrong or what he wants. Does it work every time? No. Does it work almost every time? For us, yes.
I really thought having two children was going to be tough; a whole new ballgame. But my husband and I finally agreed on one thing yesterday, the 2 month old is easy because we’ve been at this stage before. We sometimes forget and have an “oh yeah, this stage” moment, but he’s really not that difficult because we’ve been through it all. The 2 ½ year old is hard because we’ve never gone through this stage before. He needs conversation, play, and attention- which is taken from him sometimes because J needs to eat and I’m the only one home, etc. But, keeping my patience and my sanity is the biggest challenge of all… especially on the long weekends when I put the kids down on my own, get up with them no matter what time they get up (4 feedings at night and a 5:30 am wake-up call multiple times a week… thank you, D), and try to find activities that keep the interest of both kiddos while keeping quiet so the hubs can get enough sleep during the day.
So, here’s one more reminder for you. It’s a reminder I need sometimes as I struggle:
3. Survival mode is real. If you have two or more young children, or even just one, you have to survive. You’re no good to yourself, your spouse, or your children if you’re exhausted and stressed out. If this means putting on cartoons so you can get something accomplished, do it. Don’t feel guilty. (I don’t condone an all day cartoon-a-thon, but that’s just my personal preference. Our D gets cartoons only on the weekends but that’s because we were battling some serious meltdowns.) If this means giving your kids popsicles to eat in the bathtub so that you can just sit down for five minutes, don’t feel guilty. Mom guilt is real. Dad guilt is real. But, we’re only humans and we need to start doing what’s best for ourselves and our families, not what the world thinks best for us.