There’s so much parenting advice that is given, isn’t there? Both welcome and not. “Natural childbirth!” “Get an epidural and it will be more enjoyable!” “If you love that baby, don’t vaccinate!” “Vaccinate against all the things!” “Enjoy them while they’re young!” “Drink wine every night! Its a good coping skill!”
I have no original advice to give. Do you want to know the kind of parent that I am? Today, The Eldest got a timeout in her room. This is reserved for the most egregious (read: annoying) of offenses. Today she kept ripping magazines out of my hands and throwing them on the floor because she was insistent that I also follow along with the plot line of Super Why. Sister, I know how it ends. He solves the puzzle. Our crafty Little One knows how to work the child lock contraption, so to ensure that she couldn’t thwart my time out efforts, I locked the door FROM THE INSIDE, and then I CLOSED IT. I took two steps down the hall and thought, “Wait, what did you just do?! That means you can’t open the door either! The authorities can probably sense this kind of thing!” Luckily, I have a key and the door was opened immediately thereafter. I’m sure no damage was caused, psychologically or otherwise.
No, I am not in a position to give advice. But I can pass along good advice like a champ.
The Best Advice I Was Ever Given:
Manage your expectations.
If that sounds anti-climactic, let me elaborate. Maybe you aren’t this kind of parent, but sometimes I forget that my toddler is, in fact, only two years old. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I am the oldest of my siblings, and as such, had unfair pressure put on me simply because I had 18 months on my sister. Sometimes, it was resented, and yet, I find myself doing the same thing to my oldest little one. I ask her to do things or assume she will make certain decisions. Then I am downright outraged when she goes against what I wished. That’s when a small voice in my head says, “Manage your expectations.” Here are some examples of when I was not successful at this:
1. She was begging me for a snack. She’s old enough/smart enough/tall enough to reach things in the pantry, so I told her to get her own snack while I fed the baby. Five minutes later, I realized that she had eaten an entire Hershey bar. Why did I think she would opt for the rice cakes or veggie sticks? I wasn’t specific (or attentive) enough in the moment, so she did what I told her to and picked what she wanted to eat.
2. After eating a PB & J, she was covered in a sticky mess, so I asked her to wash her hands. She did—and also played in the sink, creating a massive puddle on the bathroom floor. I was upset, but why in the world wouldn’t a 2-year-old do that? Semi-unsupervised water play? Sounds like a party.
3. She wanted to play with her water table and bring her teddy bear outside. She asked if she could give her teddy a bath. I said no. Teddy got a bath anyway.
If I don’t want her to make a mess in the bathroom, then I need to wash her hands for her. If I want her to learn to do it for herself, then I’m going to need to learn to deal with the mess. If you don’t want your 15-month-old to break your most prized possessions, then don’t put them on your living room table and expect them to listen when you say, “Please stop touching that.” As for the water table, maybe I shouldn’t let her bring things outside that I don’t want to get wet.
Manage your expectations. Some of you may have mastered this without even knowing it. But for me, it’s a mantra that I repeat in my head daily. Just because my only child became a big sister doesn’t mean she turned into an adult over night. She needs the room to be a kid and to make messes and learn without my expecting too much from her. Some days she surprises me with what she can do on her own, so who knows? Maybe I’m starting to figure it out.