My good friend Coreen of The Adventures of Captain Fussypants, Little Miss & Caleb the Wonder Dog is the reason I started blogging. Long before I had Lucas, I enjoyed reading about her son, Mattias and all the funny, frustrating and insightful experiences she was having being a mom. Now she has two children and is amping up her blog and her writing is as witty, clever and helpful as ever.
I am thrilled to have her here today to discuss the next phases of toddlerhood and all the fun things I have to look forward to. So, sit back, grab a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke) and a container of yogurt (or slice of cold pizza) and get to know Coreen! ——————————————————————————
On our way to San Diego a few weeks ago, Tonya mentioned to me that she overheard her son singing a song that she had no idea he knew all the words to and even got the tune right, and I smiled because I recall having a similar moment with my son. It’s the moment you have when you realize that your child is capable of more than you give them credit for. And not because you don’t believe they can do something, it’s just that, as a new mom, you are learning as you go and all the books in the world and all the observing of other children doesn’t prepare you for every what’s next. And there are so many of those next moments. Tonya’s son and my son, Mattias, are 2.5 years apart, so I’ve been through a few of the phases she is now entering. Some of them change your life for the better and some just serve as a test of your patience. There are too many to list in one post, so here are a few of my (ahem) favorite stages for the 2-4 age range.
I am in no way a potty training expert but I can say with certainty that if your child is not ready, you can probably still get them potty trained but it’s going to take longer and be more frustrating for both of you then need be. But if your child shows an interest, if they are hiding when they poop in their diaper (this is an early sign of awareness) or dislike being in a wet or dirty diaper then buy some pull-ups and start putting him on the toilet. I had no desire to clean poop out of one of those mini-toilets with an Elmo face so we bought the Dr. Merry’s Potty Pal toilet lid and just plunked our tot on the regular-sized toilet. A bonus about potty training on the regular toilet was that he was not afraid to use bathrooms in other places.
- No more diapers: An average household can spend upwards of $1000 a year on disposable diapers. Ca-ching!
- Pull-ups: I highly recommend using pull-ups, especially in the early stages of training and at night. We’d always put our son in a pull-up for flights or when we took him to hockey games just.in.case. He rarely wet them and because he really wanted to be wearing big boy underwear instead (“with Diego and Superheroes on them just like xyz from school”) it was an incentive for him to continue to use the bathroom.
- A smaller diaper bag: No diapers means you finally get to downsize to a manageable bag.
- Public restrooms: Okay, even the cleanest ones are still public and little kids have a ton of trouble understanding the concept of not touching everything. I didn’t carry around a portable potty seat but I did buy the disposable Cars potty toppers. I also used several seat covers for every sitting. My carbon footprint may have quadrupled during this time period but my heebie-jeebie levels remained low. Invest in extra hand-sanitizer and don’t stop carrying wet wipes.
- Accidents: They are bound to happen, so just know that. Your child might be embarrassed but don’t make them feel bad. Just carry extra clothes and a plastic bag for the dirty stuff. And if you are like me, toss the poopy underwear; Target sells 7-packs for $9.99.
- Having to ask your child every 10 minutes if they need to go potty: Have you been around potty-training parents? It’s repetitive yet hilarious. My husband and I would crack-up because it felt like every sentence started with a worried “Do you need to go potty”?
- The ding-ding can be used against you: Little boys figure out early on that that their ding-ding is their friend. In the first days of our potty training fun, my son did not always want to sit on the toilet. One day, as I stood in front of him so he wouldn’t scramble away he gave me toddler stink eye, whipped his ding-ding out from the bowl and sprayed my feet with pee. He thought it was so funny. I was ticked and lost my cool. Not my finest moment but he only did it once.
- When they have to go, they have to go RIGHT NOW: It’s happened a few times but the one I remember the most was when he had to poop and we were on a road with no exits and construction so we were driving at a snail pace. He was able to hold it until we got to a bathroom but not without a ton of tears and begging me to pull over. But because of mom guilt, I felt terrible for a chunk of the day for putting him through that.
Sharing is caring
There is a funny little list you may have seen (Mattias had it on a tee) called The Toddler Rules of Possession:
If it’s in my hand, it’s mine
If I can take it from you, it’s mine
If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine
If it’s mine, it must NEVER appear to be yours in anyway
If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine
If it looks just like mine, it is mine
If I saw it first, it’s mine
If you are playing with something & you put it down, it’s mine
If it’s broken, it’s yours
That essentially sums it up. Sharing does not come easily. And some days, it just really depends on the child’s mood, which can shift rapidly.
- Congeniality: Once kids learn to share, they play better with each other, get along better with siblings (though there will always be moments of sibling rivalry) and can entertain one another.
- Fewer meltdowns: When kids share, the world doesn’t end as much when someone else touches (or even looks at) their stuff.
- Everything can be shared: Sharing is serious business and suddenly everything, including food and your possessions, are fair game. We found our son sitting on the dining room table with my wallet and when asked what he was doing he said, “Getting monies for my piggy.” He has also been known to confiscate his sister’s paci! You have to set boundaries.
- Biting and hitting: Not all children can verbally express them as well as others and sometimes they act their frustrations out physically when they don’t have the words. It can be very frustrating if your child does have the words and ends up being the bite-ee rather than the biter. It doesn’t make a parent feel any better when told that your child was trying to share and “used their words” when you know the other kid doesn’t understand. This happened to us and it was a tough lesson to learn, as parents, to learn. While we were proud our kid knew how to share, what we really wanted was for him to hit the kid biting him. No parent wants their child to be the victim.
- MINE and the death grip: Mattias would shout “MINE, MINE, MINE” at the top of his lungs while holding on to something with clenched little fingers. So fun in public, like at the doctor’s office or the haircut place.
The I CAN DO IT stage
This is a tough age for toddlers because they are not yet big kids but they are no longer babies. They want to do everything themselves but can’t always manage to. I still hear “I DO IT, I DO IT” echoing in my nightmares sometimes.
- When they really can do it: It’s cool to watch your kids turn into self-sufficient people. Plus it’s helpful and a time-saver when they put their own shoes on, take their own plate into the kitchen and grab a diaper when you’ve got your hands full with a squirmy baby. And huge bonus when they can wipe their own bum!
- Not quite being able to do it, but trying anyway: There are many false starts during this phase. And as a parent, you have to let your child try but keep a watchful eye. Just because they can open the refrigerator door doesn’t mean they should be pouring their own milk!
- Meltdowns: Mattias has had a few spectacular meltdowns in his 4 years and one of them was because my mom flushed the toilet for him. Our two year old, sobbing and thrashing on the floor with his underwear up but his pants down and my mom standing there, helpless and mortified, is a sight I’ll never forget.
The mimic, emulate, imitate stage
For us, this really started to show around 3. Kids are sponges so if you have potty mouth (like me), good luck. And beware how you describe people or situations in your life. Your kid is bound to repeat something you don’t want him to repeat! And sometimes that is all it is, repeating something he heard but more often than not, they’ll also get the context right!
- When you see you and your husband’s best parts: I love watching my son put on his work boots and get his play tools out when my hubby is fixing something, so he can be like daddy. Or pull up a chair and ask if he can help make dinner. Or read a book to his sister. Or when he plays with his toy dinosaurs and there is always a mommy dinosaur looking out for her baby. It makes me feel like we are doing something right.
- Sharing personal things: We drink alcohol, we don’t over-indulge around our kids but we’ll have Daddy juice (beer) or Mommy juice (wine). But when your Christian preschool tells you your son announced that his apple juice at snack time was beer and got all the other kids to play along it’s feels like you have a drinking problem. Our son was also very curious about where the baby was going to come out, when I was pregnant with our daughter. We didn’t want to lie but we also knew he couldn’t handle the reality so we told him the baby came out a special place called the birth canal and we read him the book my mom had read to me and my brother. Only the pictures didn’t really depict it well, so birth canal, to a 3 year old, translated as my bum. Fairly sure he still thinks I pooped her out.
- Swear words: No matter how much you try to not say them, kids will hear them from someone. Our son used the F word while out one day with his dad and when my husband asked him where he had heard it, he told him a kid from school. When we followed up, he had in fact, heard it from school but it is still disconcerting. And my dad, without meaning to, said God-d@&% in my son’s presence. A few days later we were in Babies-R-Us, just him and I, and I knocked a box off the shelf accidentally (I was pregnant and a wide-load). He started banging on the shopping cart and yelling “God-d@&% it”! The look of horror on some of those first-time mom’s faces, in there with the registry scanner all hopeful about having a baby, made me sweat. So we left.
- Do I sound like that: When your child repeats something you said in an ugly tone or with a cross inflection you will hope to God you don’t really sound that awful. And then you’ll realize that you probably do and you’ll detest yourself for it and self-medicate with wine. At least that is what I did. I now try to limit my bitchy mom voice for when absolutely necessary.
Kids this age are so literal and it makes for amusing conversations/observations. Some of my favorite moments with my son:
- Mattias and my dad were playing street hockey and my dad, who is 70, said he need a break because he was “pooped out”. Mattias went into a fit of giggles and starting yelling that Grandpa pooped his pants.
- Mattias was taking a really long time getting to the point of one of his many stories so I said, “Spit it out already”. He gave me a quizzical look and said “But I have nothing in my mouth”.
- My husband put three pieces of broccoli on our son’s plate and he started to complain so my hubby said, “Well, get rid of the big one first” so my son forked it and promptly put it back in the serving dish with the other broccoli. My hubby had meant, eat the big one first.
And not all kids do this, but many kids this age don’t know when to stop talking. It’s a constant barrage of words, questions, observations, stories, more questions and more stories with barely any breaths in between. Thankfully for us, Mattias is competitive, so we play the Quiet Game. And since he has to win, we get at least 15 minutes of silence out of it.
There are good, bad and ugly aspects to all stages of growing up. Start each phase with hope and keep the mommy juice close at hand, just in case. The next what’s next could be at any time.