Wow. I've probably said it a million times, but we seriously have some toddlers on our hands. Every day seems to be a new "test" of some sort. Only with these tests, I've had no chance to study for them and am literally having to fly by the seat of my pants on how to handle them, momentarily freak out, and then later that night say something along the lines of "they're doing that already?!" to Kyle. A few weeks ago when I felt I was seriously getting out of my league with parenting, I ordered several parenting books and have almost finished both. The funny part? I still feel like I fail miserably at dealing with many scenarios that come up throughout our day. Here are some "tests" we are currently going through:
1. Sharing. Perhaps if I had been a kindergarten teacher vs. middle school teacher, I would be better equipped at handling this. But the truth is, I feel like the world's worst parent when it comes to deciding who is in the wrong and how to fairly let each girl play with a toy both wants. After all, they are 18 months old and only understand so much. Most of the time I resort to taking the toy away from both (this seems horribly unfair to one of them), or ensuring we buy two of everything. Good parenting, right? ;)
2. Hitting. As stated previously, Sophie is my wild girl. Wild, head strong, stubborn, feisty...all these words describe her quite accurately. While I love her so stinkin' much for the little person she is, holy cow this girl gives me a run for my money most days. She has made it very clear that it is her way, or no way. While I understand this may be normal for a lot of toddlers, she gets mad. And I mean mad when she doesn't get her way. I wouldn't even call it a tantrum, because tantrums usually mean she is at least "giving in" and admitting she is the weaker one. She will usually resort to hitting or slapping her sister when she has something she wants, then screaming at the top of her lungs when she is told she can't have it and/or put in time out. You would think the time out would solve the problem, only Sophie has an extra 10 times the amount of stubbornness of your average toddler and will repeat the behavior until she gets what she wants (admittedly, this behavior is greatly exaggerated when she is tired/cranky/doesn't feel well). This makes mama want to reach for an extra strong margarita in spite of the fact she currently isn't allowed to have one. However, this is also when having twins comes in handy. I'm given temporary relief in knowing I didn't "create" this problem since Campbell has never had to be put in timeout once in her short life. I've definitely realized that every child has a certain amount of "nature" in them that must be "nurtured" into something more desirable at times.
3. Eating. Or should I say, lack thereof. I consider it a huge victory if I can get the girls to eat one good meal a day and a fruit and vegetable. What I continually don't get is how they can love a food one day (grapes, bananas, blueberries, sweet potatoes, spinach) and detest it the next. Or how they will eat anything and everything I pack for their lunch at school, but refuse to eat the same food at home (?!?!?). Or how they will not touch something I put directly onto their highchair tray, but then eat it in its entirety after I put it in a bowl (after dumping it onto the floor once or twice). We are also going through a phase where they now refuse to eat anything off of a spoon or fork unless they are the ones holding it. I realize this is all part of their growing need for independence, and I'm trying very hard to relinquish control in this department, but holy crap it's testing me.
4. They are starting to remember things. For instance, with the warm weather we've had, I've started giving the girls popsicles outside when we are on the back patio. After doing this several days in a row, I see Sophie run inside and I followed her all the way to the freezer door where she starts chanting "sicle! sicle!" She remembered the day before when I had gone inside to get one for them. Since we were about to eat dinner, I firmly told her no. Which resulted in one of her famous fits. I literally can't count all of the things this has applied to lately, whether it was me letting them play with something they shouldn't have in a moment of weakness (like my lipstick), or a snack treat, etc. They are starting to form memories of it all. And while, yet again, it's part of them growing up, it's also incredibly exhausting trying to teach them they don't always get what they want.
5. Pacifiers. Don't even get me started on this subject. They still have them. Some days more than others. In the war against pacis: Team Kyle and Stephanie-0, Team Sophie and Campbell-15,958.
So there's the bad. I'm feeling a wee bit more encouraged in knowing I could come up with a lot more good than bad. Why is it that our children do so many wonderful things and fill our hearts with love, yet the few bad things thrown in there seem to eclipse them a lot of the time? Is this the never-ending struggle we will face as parents?
Lately, as I've thought a lot about how to handle these troublesome situations, I was reminded of something from when I was younger. When I was in first grade, at the end of the year, I received the "Most Improved Student" award for my progress with my grades, reading, etc. To this day, I don't think my parents have made a bigger deal out of any award I have ever received. And given I still remember my dad having the certificate framed and put in my room, where it hung for probably an inappropriate amount of time, they must have really gone all out in their praise for me. Now as a parent, I get that. Nothing creates pride in a parent more than their child overcoming an obstacle. After hearing at school that Sophie was having an issue with not sharing well/hitting/stealing things from other kids and dealing with this issue on a daily basis at home, I felt so defeated. However, I realized this will definitely not be the last time one of my children has to learn to overcome something, so we worked on it. And worked on it. And still have to work on it every day. When I picked her up a few weeks later and looked at her daily report to see her teacher raving about how well she shared and played with the other kids, I sincerely wanted to frame it and display it where everyone would see it, give her the biggest hug and kiss, and tell her how proud I was of her (and I did). I know this is a silly, seemingly unimportant issue and we will face many, bigger ones throughout both girls' lives, but it was our first official "obstacle" we had to get through as parents together. While it would have been so easy to get defensive and try to blame it on other kids/their teachers, etc., I'm glad that I swallowed my pride as a mom and accepted the challenge before us (something that is much easier said than done).
As with everything else in life, this phase too shall pass. And in the meantime, may God give all of us parents of toddlers enough strength and patience to endure it and enough laughs and sweet moments to make it enjoyable.