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Thursday, July 14, 2011


It takes a village. Here are some questions for my village people.
Raising a toddler is insane. I thought I was insecure about my abilities to raise an infant, but raising a toddler takes things to a whole new level. Now that he can talk, listen, and remember what I tell him, I feel myself wavering with everything I do. I’m an admittedly inconsistent parent. That worked for us when he was a baby, though. It helped me listen to him and respond appropriately to how my baby needed me at the time. I didn’t have any rules, really. I just did what felt right.

Now that Baby T is a toddler, I’m not sure that inconsistency is the best policy. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m not organizing his chaotic mind enough. Other times I feel like all I do is talk and redirect him: “Let’s get out of the fridge now. Please use gentle hands on your brother. Feet on the floor, please. Take that out of your mouth. Sit properly on that chair.” It seems like everything he does lately is dangerous or hurtful, and I’m constantly redirecting. Sometimes I get tired of hearing my own voice.

So I wanted to ask the inspirational mamas who posted about their parenting philosophies for the Carnival of Natural Parenting this month: What would you do? That’s right—I’m blatantly begging for advice.

Dear Natural Mamas: My son is a toddler. And I have no idea how to lovingly guide him and nurture his spirit while setting boundaries and keeping him out of danger and out of the fridge.

Lauren at Hobo Mama:
Something you (or rather, your husband) posted was that “Rather than introducing the rules of how or even why things must be done, which presents only options of compliance or noncompliance, we give our children room to discover and decide for themselves how to interact with the world.”

That is a beautiful way to put it. It bothers me when people label compliant children as “good” and non-compliant children as “bad.” Especially when they are still just children exploring their world.

But what about times when you need them to comply? Baby T loves to stand in front of the refrigerator. IN it, actually. When I open the door. And then he doesn’t want to come out. He just looks at everything in there. Sometimes he tries to grab glass bottles (which have fallen and broken). And he throws a tantrum when I explain that the cold air is getting out and we have to close the door. I get it—he doesn’t grasp the concept of conserving energy yet, even though he’s obsessed with recycling. So how do you make it not become about compliance or noncompliance? How do you give them a choice? (We have similar issues with him touching the TV or turning on the dishwasher, which honestly aren't the end of the world in our house, but I wouldn't want him doing it in other people's houses).

Lisa at Granola Catholic:
I love your post about lazy parenting. I am the ultimate lazy parent. But there are high-maintenance things that have snuck up on me. One of them is the food issue. I love how your family eats one dinner. I always said that I would not be that mom who makes separate food for her kids. But Baby T is such a picky eater that we have tended to make separate meals for him.

Not only that, but if he doesn’t eat what we have given him, we offer something else. And if he only wants a little of that, we offer something else. And something else. Dinner is a constant revolving door of food on his plate. It’s either that or he wakes up hungry and cranky in the morning.

How do you prevent mealtime from being a power struggle or the opposite—a dictatorship? Baby T is working hard on exercising his choices right now, and I want to honor that. But if I offer green beans or lasagna, he’s sure to pick a popsicle and throw a tantrum if he doesn’t get one.

Amy at Peace4Parents:
You talk about clarity in your post about parenting philosophies. That is what I lack the most. Especially when I’m in the throes of the moment (which is usually a tantrum). I have trouble finding clarity in my thoughts in order to formulate a decision.

For example: Baby T recently weaned. It was largely mama-led weaning, based on the fact that I felt that his requests for milk were just out of habit, not out of need. A little distraction redirected his desire for nursing, and it was a relatively smooth ride. But he was still asking to nurse, and he’s been extremely needy for the past few months. He is such a seeker of comfort. So I started questioning things, and thought that maybe I weaned him unnecessarily and he was missing that comfort. So I nursed him one day in the middle of a huge tantrum. Instant calm. I love that about nursing.

Big T was upset that I nursed him. He feels that now that will be the only way to stop a tantrum. And he also feels uncomfortable that Baby T is nursing after the age of 2. He also told me that Baby T had asked to have some of Big T’s milk the other day when he woke up. This made me think that Baby T is just asking because he’s exercising his right to choose, not because he wants comfort.

So last night, Baby T wanted to nurse. I told him there was no more milk. He threw a tantrum. It lasted about ten minutes. He was really upset. And the whole time, I was wavering: Should I give in? It would be easy to nurse him. But I already said no. Why had I said no? Was it because I truly didn’t want to? Or was it because Big T is uncomfortable with it? Sometimes I get that toddler aversion when I nurse him. But other times it’s so sweet to have my baby back.

I just about lost it. I had no inkling of clarity.

And this morning, Baby T was being hurtful to Little M. More than anything, I don’t want Baby T to think I took something away from him and gave it to his brother. So when Baby T asked to nurse, I nursed him. And it was a sweet moment, with him petting his brother gently while they both nursed.

But I’m still questioning my decision. This is how I’ve approached parenting in general. In hindsight, I am perfectly comfortable with how I raised Baby T as an infant, but looking forward, I question my every move. How do you find clarity in your parenting decisions?

Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction:
Actually, you gave me a little clarity in this post (which actually wasn't from the carnival, but addresses an issue that's close to my heart). I’ve been feeling like I need to address the comfort factor first, and that must be why I’ve been letting him nurse again. I feel like it’s what he needs right now, regardless of what Big T thinks. Nursing him certainly makes things more peaceful. So maybe you have helped me answer my own question (?)

Patti at JazzyMama:
Your 3 C’s blew me away. Your questions when it comes to connection: “Are my actions going to sustain and deepen my connection with my child or drive a wedge between us?” and communication: “Will my child feel loved or separated by my words?” really hit home.

I often find myself struggling with “what’s the right thing to do?” And then there are times like this morning, when Baby T dive-bombed Little M who was lying unsuspectingly on the floor, and I lost it, grabbed Baby T, and put him in his crib. Like a time out. Except we don’t do time outs. And he just cried hysterically and I’m sure didn’t understand much of why he was relegated to solitude.

Looking back at my actions, if I had to ask myself those two questions, my answers would be: “yes” and “separated.” I don’t like that.

I obviously don’t want Baby T to think it’s ok to hurt his brother. But he’s also a 2-year-old who enjoys throwing his body around and learning what it can do. He’s not malicious, he’s just curious and likes to explore.

It’s funny—I started this post begging for advice (and sanity) and am nearing the end and feeling quite confident about how to proceed. Just by going back and reading and rereading more carnival posts about parenting philosophy. Of course, Baby T is at daycare, Little M is sleeping, I had my coffee, and I have my wits about me for the moment. But this is what parenting is all about—finding what’s best for your family, finding role models who inspire you, and working with your “village” to make it work.

Thanks to all of you mamas who help me make it work.


Lisa - the Granola Catholic said... Best Blogger Tips

For dinner time, I always pre-fed my toddler, let them graze during prep time. Some kids don't like their food mixed. Some don't like it cooked too much. I would let my toddler eat as we prepared dinner together. It is so easy to forget that their stomachs are the size of their fists. Look at that cute chubby little fist they have. It really is not that big, is it? That is how much food will fit in it. Theory goes is you only offer nutritious food your toddler will get the nutrients they need over the course of the week as they need it. Meals in and of themselves do not need to balanced, but the offerings do. And remember kids go through growth spurts. Sometimes they seem like they will eat you out of house and home, and others you are lucky to get them to eat a piece of fruit and a cup of yogurt all day. Just make sure that what you offer is of good quality at each meal and let them choose among the offerings. Try to offer one of his favorite foods every few days. And most of all don't stress too much. Kids can feel your stress.

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