I like to think about what I’m doing as a parent, and of course talk about it, because that helps me to understand what matters to me and what I can just let slide. Some things I know I’m doing really well – Louisette’s diet is amazingly healthy a lot of the time (I can literally eat a chocolate bar in front of her and she won’t for a second think she’ll get a taste or treat for herself – when she wants comfort food, she asks for milk. Obviously I need to change my role-modelling, but right now I’m also eating a balanced diet and losing weight, which is impressive enough), and she usually plays very well with others. Her physical skills and vocabulary are excellent too. She is very brave and very friendly (I often see her initiating games with other kids at Questacon), imaginative and gentle and clever (some of which is clearly innate). She’s somehow not managed to pick up on my swearing yet. She can last up to about twenty minutes playing alone in her room on command once a day (rest time) despite being a strong extrovert. TJ is too young to have bad habits, but he’s clearly happy and healthy. On the other hand….
The dummy thing (times two).
Both kids are total dummy addicts. Louisette used to have good boundaries – dummies were for sleep, illness, car rides, or sitting on the toilet – but since TJ was born she’s become obsessive and when we don’t have visitors over she pretty much always has a dummy in her mouth. We fought it for a bit, but that caused her to say she was sad or scared in order to get the dummy, so ultimately we decided it was better to let her have a dummy than to let her self-identify as chronically depressed at the age of two! The brilliant thing about dummies is that, unlike thumbs, they can be taken away. Having a few days or even weeks of misery is vastly outweighed by having something largely harmless than she can use to regulate her emotions. She also has nightmares now, and has been picking at her fingernails, both of which are more concerning. All three activities have improved since TJ began settling in his cot for at least a few hours most days (meaning he’s not the centre of all household activities 24-7), and I hope with a bit more care and time Louisette won’t be anxious any more.
As a baby, TJ’s dummies cause only minor parental judgement. We had strict dummy rules for Louisette from when she was a baby – but TJ can have his whenever. As a result, we’ve had WAY less crying from TJ. So I’m comfy with the judgement there. (Not comfy enough not to write blogs about it, but that’s me. . .)
I’m so weirded out to need babysitting – yet I need it so badly that I now have a regular schedule with at least some babysitting every single day. It feels so pathetic to spend so much money on something that, apart from anything else, is my own actual paid job. Until I got sick with pregnancy, I never once paid for babysitting for Louisette. When she was born, I really was that ecstatic glowy enjoying-every-minute (not literally; no-one enjoys EVERY bit of motherhood) new mum. . . but since TJ was about six weeks old I’ve had an awful time mental-health-wise. Dieting (including swimming, which uses up all the free babysitting from grandparents), physical pain, and concern for Louisette certainly don’t help (my Monday bit of babysitting will usually be just TJ, so I can spend some uninterrupted quality time with Louisette). I’m getting reconciled to the babysitting idea by recognising that it’s totally the kids’ fault: the combination of an extravert developing anxiety (something she inherits from both sides of the family, unfortunately, and something I will save her from if I can) and a baby who doesn’t sleep well means that having only one parent on hand for 10 or 11 hours a day just doesn’t work.
And the drool
Somewhat related to the dummy addiction mentioned above, Louisette drools like CRAZY. Without a dummy it’s not too bad – with a dummy, it’s really bad. I’m hoping that the only dramas in our house for the next year or so will be toilet training for Louisette and starting day care for TJ. . . which should mean that we can handle eliminating all dummies at once shortly after TJ’s first birthday. If only all problems could be ceremoniously thrown in the bin. I’m hoping the drool will clear up soon after that.
Food mess bothers me so much that I don’t dare try and regulate it (except for extreme events, like deliberately pouring out water or throwing food), because then I’d have to lift my expectations – which wouldn’t be met, which would make me angry. Louisette also has an amazing range of food-related activities (painting action scenes in yogurt; building a village from her vegetables; wearing carrot rings on her finger, etc) which are probably educationally amazing. Plus she’s usually exhausted and emotional by dinner time (we don’t eat until Dad gets home at 6:30) and dinner time is often really difficult without adding manners to the mix. This is another area where I hope to lump the kids together so we don’t have to go through a difficult transition twice. Once TJ’s old enough, we’ll start upping our table-manner standards.
And the TV
CJ and his dad both have ADD, and CJ and I watch TV to relax (we relax a lot, when we can) so based on a science study or two we aimed to reduce the kids’ risk of ADD (and partially break our own antisocial habits) by trying not to let the kids watch TV until at least 2 years of age. With Louisette we were amazing – with a few exceptions (holidays/while I was babysitting other kids) she genuinely didn’t watch TV until she was 18 months old. . . at which point she began watching about three hours a day (90% Playschool, because Mummy ain’t watching anything too annoying) because she and I were both very sick. Then I was pregnant, and stayed extremely sick for nine months. Then TJ arrived, and he still doesn’t settle well, so Playschool keeps Louisette away from him when he’s getting settled to sleep, AND distracts her from the lack of parental attention.
As a result, TJ (who as a boy induced at 38 weeks from a gestational diabetes pregnancy is WAY more at risk of ADD than Louisette ever was) gets loads of TV every day.
Sadly, until I’m healthier and/or TJ sleeps better and/or the kids play together better and/or until Louisette is less anxious. . . the TV is happening. It’s already clear that TJ loves TV -it’s a great way to keep him calm when he’s tired but not yet actually ready for sleep.
Sadly I don’t have a hope of giving up on TV anytime soon, and I’m not even making tentative plans for how to limit it in future (although that will definitely happen before the kids leave home). The best I can do is treat each day as a new day – if there’s little or no TV, great! – and be self-aware enough to realise that sometimes initiating a “good” activity with the kids will just push me too far and end up backfiring. Better a whole lot of TV than a screaming Mum.
And the toilet training *sigh*
Although technically we are still well inside average ability for her age, we spent over two months last Summer working SO hard with Louisette – who mastered the basics before we even officially began (she would often correctly announce both poos and wees in a timely manner, and do everything herself). Ultimately I was too sick from the pregnancy – she was already regressing in some minor ways – and she had several bouts of gastro in a row that didn’t help. After the first two weeks she was doing extremely well. . . and then something clicked and it all fell apart.
We could have done things differently – used pull-ups instead of undies so the process was more gentle; used a potty in the living room so she didn’t feel like going to the toilet meant missing out on the action – but I didn’t want to go through two distinct stages. We’ll see how things go this Summer. CJ already has leave prepped (again), and we’ve talked a lot about it with Louisette, who is largely positive. She’s started putting off bedtime by going to do a wee on the toilet, which is frustrating (she’s taking an hour to settle at night currently, which sometimes means CJ and I only get half an hour “off” in the evening before I go to bed) but is brilliant for both practising her toileting skills and rebuilding positive associations with the experience. When we have a good chunk of time at home, I’ll sometimes let Louisette wear undies for an hour or so (generally with a wee first, and then a wee at the end – she and I both wee insanely often).
Packing away toys
I don’t have the physical strength to consistently get down and pack up with her (a necessary thing at least some of the time – if only so it LOOKS like she tidied up), so it’s not happening. I might institute a tiny bit of regular packing up at some point – five toys away before Playschool for example – but not yet. This might be another thing I do with both kids at once – for example, at some point each day (maybe before lunch – bedtime seems like a good idea, but it really isn’t!) have Louisette pick up 5 toys and TJ pick up 1. Again, not until TJ has some more capability.
I feel fairly okay about this – though wistful for an easier future. Louisette rarely has major tantrums (and when she does, she doesn’t expect to actually get her way – she’s just not able to regulate her own emotions). She’s cheeky and troublesome in a lot of areas, and is sometimes just ridiculous about everything (“Do you want an icecream?” “No!” *screams of rage*) but she’s usually considerate of others, patient for her age, and reasonably good at sharing. And I think at two years of age you want exactly two things: 1. Not causing too much danger (eg falling) to themselves. 2. Not causing too much danger (eg hitting/snatching) to others. As her primary carer, I’ve been sick or largely unavailable for the last year and a half – half her life – and she deserves a bit of slack, especially at her age. Overall I think she’s doing fine – but I keep a sharp eye on her when she’s interacting with other kids, especially those who are younger, smaller, or who have a personality that’s likely to cause friction.
So that’s all the stuff that I’d improve if I was a slightly different person.
Here’s proof that Louisette can still come up with new facial expressions, even after all this time:
I’m scared of the most physically hazardous part of TJ’s life – from about 6 to 18 months if he’s like his sister. Crawling off things, falling off things, having the mental skills to zero in on anything forbidden with remarkable persistence, eating EVERYTHING (Louisette ate, among other things, gravel. Repeatedly), breaking everything, snatching everything, spilling everything. In the terrible twos you get tantrums and emotional problems. . . but I guess I’m better at emotional than physical stuff (which is a big part of why I’m not truly a baby person, much as I look like it at the moment). And I’m scared of the beginning of food – the messiness and complexity in that transition stage (which hasn’t truly ended with Lousiette – she eats 95% of what we eat, with 90% independence and usually causes a wipe-down mess rather than wipe-down and mop-up mess every darn time).
We’ll start feeding TJ solids (not that they’ll be particularly solid for a good long while) next weekend. Expect some messy photos in this space soon. . .
I’m dreading the constant mopping but looking forward to (hopefully) being able to have him in a high chair rather than a lap at meals. Fingers crossed it goes well.