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She’s taking the driver’s seat

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Following a post I read today, loved and re-blogged (The Uninfluenced Mummy by lovelifeandlunacy), I’m challenging myself this weekend to let my little preschooler take the lead. That post was a breath of fresh air reminding me how the need to keep up with the Joneses doesn’t stop even in parenting. That’s probably why parents tend to keep comparing sleeping- through- the- night stories, who’s toilet trained before whom, which child has a bigger, better birthday party, who has a well behaved child and who has a constantly tantruming toddler…and it’s so subtle, we probably don’t even know it’s happening.

And couldn’t that be where most of the parenting frustrations come from? The need to be the best, when all the little ones want is us and our best. All they want is quality time playing and being attentive to them. They do not need to be spruced in their best outfits, posing for pretty pictures, being rushed from activity to activity just to give them the best. Whose benefit is it for? Us or them?

I want Miss Sunshine to have the best of the world but more than that I want her to have the best of me and the best of life through her experiences. So that means, relaxing a little bit and letting her take the lead. Following her cues. Letting her be…letting go. Yes, I’m her mama, I may be older and somewhat wiser, but in the long run she is and will always be the expert of herself. That doesn’t mean letting go of the big decisions; it just means I want to try and live like a child in a way, and Miss S is the best person who can teach me that. It’s time to stop, smell the roses and water her trees… stop, look at the butterflies with wonder…stop and notice every little thing we pass on the road as we walk…stop and just let things be without having a plan for every little thing…stop and question whatever seizes my imagination in this great big world…stop, giggle and sing at the top of my voice.

I’m following you Miss S…lead the way. This will be the start of more Yes and less No

Uninfluenced mummy…thank you!

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Taming of the Toddler (Credit to L.R. Knost)

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“So parents, here’s the scoop on tantrums:
They’re your fault.

Okay, okay, so maybe my toddlerhood contributes to them a teensy-weensy bit, but seriously…

You with the obsession with brushing teeth and bedtimes and matching clothes, enough already! Does it ever even occur to you that there’s another person (Yes, I am an actual separate person from you. Remember that whole cutting of the umbilical cord thing?) Who might have an opinion about what goes in my mouth or when I’m tired or not or what I want to wear? And you, the one who thinks carrots and kale are food. Really? You have all kinds of opinions about what tastes good and what doesn’t, but I’m not allowed to have any? And don’t even get me started on the rush-rush, hurry-up craziness that has me being snatched up in the middle of my most fantastic block tower ever and strapped into a torture device (Btw, where’s your car seat?!?) and dragged from one place to another right through snack time. I can’t have an agenda? Don’t my interests mean anything?

Okay, so maybe I don’t know everything yet, but how am I going to learn if you just force these issues instead of communicating with me about things? That whole learning by osmosis thing (a.k.a. passive learning) didn’t work for you in college, and it won’t work with me, either.

You keep going on and on and ooooon about wanting me to listen. “Why won’t you listen?” “If you’d listen for once!” “Would you just listen to me?!?” I’ve got three words for you…
Two. Way. Street. Maybe instead of that whole failed learning by osmosis experiment you keep trying (You do know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, right? Okay, okay, just checking!) You could read the research and find out that I learn by active engagement (two-way conversation!) and imitation. Yep, that’s right. I learn from what you do, not just what you say.

So here’s the deal… Want me to learn to listen? Then listen to me. Listen and respond to my cries when I’m a baby. Listen and reply to my babbling attempts at talking when I’m a toddler. Listen to my whining and respond patiently when I’m a preschooler. (I know it’s annoying, but whining is my last step, kind of like your ‘last nerve’ you complain I’m stomping on, before I have a meltdown. It’s my last-ditch effort to hold on to the tiny bit of self-control I’ve learned so far in my short life!) Listen and actually pay attention (a.k.a eye contact!) to my endless stories about snails when I’m in middle childhood and to my endless complaints and dramas when I’m in my teen years.

Want me to learn respect? Then show me respect. Show me that you respect my personal space by explaining the things you’re doing to me like changing my diaper or strapping me into a car seat. Show me that you respect others by not talking about them behind their backs (Yes, I can and do hear you!) or yelling at them on the road. Show me that you respect my opinions by asking for them and accommodating them when you can. (I know you won’t always be able to, but the times you do will help me to accept the times you can’t.)

Want me to learn compassion? Then show me compassion. Respond kindly and gently when I’m upset or angry or just out-of-sorts. Stay close when my emotions overwhelm me and I have a meltdown moment. (I need your presence and compassion the most when I seem to deserve it or even want it the least!) And model compassion by treating others kindly in front of me.

Want me to learn self-control? (This is a big one!) Then show me self-control. Take a parental time-out when you get tired or overwhelmed or angry so I learn how to handle those big emotions. Count to ten and take some deep breaths instead of yelling or hitting. And pace yourself in this big world. I need to learn that it’s okay to take care of myself and not feel like I have to fill every moment with plans and schedules and agendas. I’ll learn that from watching you choose wisely from the many opportunities and pressures life will offer.

Okay, so to wrap this up. My tantrums don’t just come out of nowhere. They are the result of tiredness, hunger, frustration, anger, etc. You can prevent them, or at least minimize them, by keeping me fed and rested, by paying attention to my preferences, interests, and attempts to communicate, and by communicating kindly and patiently with me about upcoming changes or things I might not like. And keep in mind, I’m always watching and absorbing everything that goes on around me, so make sure you’re living what you want me to learn! “

Excerpt (The Taming of the Toddler) from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L. R. Knost

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I’m still learning

The little miss is now almost 3 years old, yet the more I think I know I realize there’s so much more to learn. So much more growth, possibly more growth for me 🙂

Today, I lost my cool, I may not have shouted but internally I lost control. Sunshine lied to me and I kept asking her to just tell me the truth. I kept getting frustrated that she couldn’t say the truth and stuck to her ‘truth’. That should not be a big deal, she is still so young after all, she cannot be perfect, but for me to take it so personally! I felt like she was letting go of all the values I’m trying to inculcate in her. And that’s not true at all because whenever I look at her I’m amazed at how centered and whole she is. She is already the best she can be at her age, and I am always so proud of the girl she is. So, for me to have felt so frustrated today…that definitely wasn’t about her, it was about me. Her tiny lie was just a trigger for me and I got hurt because I was already worn out and overwhelmed, so that was just the last straw.

I’m always talking about self- care, especially for mums; because if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of another. But often it’s hard to practice what you preach. When you’re tired, overwhelmed, worn out, stressed or sleep deprived, you start operating from the emotional part of your brain as opposed to your rational part, so all your decisions and actions, will not be the best. And it’s so easy at this point to make any small mole hill a mountain.

After taking a moment today, I acknowledged that my frustration was not about Miss Sunshine or her ‘half- truth’, I was just worn out because of a series of late nights, poor sleep and a whole week without taking time to do things that nurture me. I’ve neglected nourishing me-time and that’s what brought me to this point. So, see why I’m the one who’s still learning? I have to keep reminding myself that for me to be the best me and best mum to my Sunshine, I need to take care of myself. The only way she’ll also know how to take care of herself is by modelling what I do.

Additionally, being overwhelmed made me make today about me. Why did I need her to tell the truth so badly? Probably so I could affirm that I’m bringing her up to be honest. But that’s about me, and that’s what made me keep asking her over and over again. If I was more relaxed and calm, I would have approached it in a different way and because I wouldn’t have internalized any hurt, I would have shown her what I wanted to teach her in a different way. When we’re reacting from our emotions, we forget that children are their own persons and we shouldn’t be controlling them but guiding them. and just like us, they do have flaws, and that’s perfectly okay.

And because there’s no time like the present, I’ve taken some time out today to refresh and re- energize, and that will be a priority every day. My Sunshine, once again I apologize for making a big deal out of nothing. Thanks for being part of my growth process, for teaching me something new each and every day. Remember, you make a difference in MY world.

Love you sunshine!