How to Pick the Battles with your Toddler?
I've received so much encouraging feedback from my previous cool mama post from 10 months ago. Therefore, I decided to write a continuation about the lessons I've learned helping me to stay cool and enjoy every day with my daughter as much as possible. She is almost 15 months old now and recently went to daycare which changed our life tremendously.
When your baby becomes mobile everything changes about your experience. Today she's running away every time when I try to perform any task on her because she thinks that everything is a game. Your mind is always away and checking for your kid making sure that they don't do anything disastrous. Sitting in a coffee shop means now that I need to run to the street around 30 times to catch her. Lots of things she does are simply dangerous and I am finding myself in the situation telling her "No" all the time although I planned to try to minimize it as much as possible. When you have an active and curious kid on your hand they will try to explore the world to the fullest.
At the same time they start to understand more and more which is absolutely mind blowing. You see their eyes filling up with awareness. You notice them doing things consciously and deliberately. They start to show you that they love you and shower you with hugs and kisses. It's really a different challenge after they start to walk.
Therefore, here are my 5 tips I've prepared for you to try to reduce stress and worries by focusing on the right battles. (I'm stressing that all of these are my personal opinions and I'm no scientist nor children's expert. I'm simply a parent who wants to help other parents):
1. Self care is imperative
I already mentioned it in my previous post. However, I cannot stress enough that it's absolutely imperative that people who are taking care of other people need time to recharge and renew their energy. Raising a child where you constantly face a battle (no, you can't do this, you can't touch this, you can't eat this) is exhausting. She's not an infant anymore where interactions with her a dominated by you. The constant fear of her hurting herself as well as the confrontation is draining.
Before we sent our baby to day care I didn't even realize how excruciated I was. Because humans get used to every reality and our reality was that I wasn't able to neither leave her alone for more than 30 second nor do anything else which didn't involve her (such as shower, toilet, cleaning, cooking). Although we're co-parenting with my husband I found this developmental stage particularly challenging.
Please do yourself a favor and take time every week for activities you enjoy, whatever it might be WITHOUT the child. Even if it means that you get a babysitter (or grandma) so you can read a book rather than performing 100 tasks you weren't able to accomplish before! Don't feel guilty about it. See through the guilt because it's an illusion. What your child really needs is an emotionally stable and happy parent.
2. Injuries are always going to happen
Your baby will injure himself so many times. We can try to protect them for a while however, you increasingly will lose grip over it and they will hurt themselves. Also you will arrive at a point where your protection will limit the freedom of movement and you need to make a choice; between protection or development. I made that choice in favor of development. Of course, I protect her from life threatening situations or high impact injuries. But this is what I decided to focus on because I believe that she should be free to explore the world the way she wants without me constantly touching her, displacing her and screaming "no" at her all the time.
Furthermore, her anatomy seems to be taking into account that she's going to hurt herself a lot in the first years of her life. All her bones are not completely solid yet and therefore somehow protected from trauma. Her skin recovers from scratches and bruises very fast. It seems that mother nature has her system in place for that.
It's very unpleasant when I see her hurt but it's part of a healthy developing life. As well I believe she learns a lot from her injuries and applies the lessons very deliberately in her life afterwards. For instance, she slipped on the tiles and hurt her head many months ago. Since then every time she sees or feels wet tiles she either walks very slowly, jumps to the carpet or starts to crawl. If she hadn't learned this lesson then, she will learn it at a later point. Fact is, it will be learned.
At this point she hurts herself pretty much every day. I'm not even sure what her experiences are because her pain is not always visible. Nobody benefits from me feeling guilty about it. I simply must trust in her and believe that she learns her lessons and will naturally try to be more careful in future. It's our job to protect our child but it's also our job to make sure that we don't overprotect them by sacrificing parts of their freedom.
3. No Stress with Mess
Mess around feeding your kid is a topic many parents find frustrating. It's hard enough to keep your house clean with a toddler because they throw around everything which is not nailed to the floor but also they throw their spoons filled with yogurt on the couch and carpets.
I totally get the frustration but I can't shake of the larger value for the baby to be able to touch and feel all the different textures food has. It has a tremendous educational impact on their eating habits because they understand themselves what they eat and how it feels rather than being fed into their mouth for keeping the house clean.
Many people enjoy the IKEA antilope chair for feedings and you can also put a plastic carpet underneath making the whole story less messy. The high chair didn't work for us because my daughter kept standing up and I was afraid she would fall down. Therefore, we feed her now on a little stool where she sits and can climb on and off by herself. At first she was running around the house and kept coming back for more food but now she is able to sit on the stool through the entire meal.
We started also introducing the tastes of fruit and other solid foods when she was around three months old. This means that she didn't really eat it but sucked on it for a bit and sometimes swallowed a tiny piece. It goes against the international recommendation of the WHO and the general doctors advise, however I informed myself why this recommendation is in place and I found out that it's more for places where there is no guaranteed clean drinking water. This means that food which were washed with potentially dirty water could be a serious threat for babies younger than 6 months. Therefore, the WHO decided to issue a general statement for the whole world. However, if you have access to clean water you can give your baby's digestion a jump start for better performance afterwards.
I found it very beneficial to start introducing tastes and textures way before 6 months since for the first 3 months she is not really able to eat anything anyways. She was very interested in our foods and grabbed it constantly. It's more play and exploring of different tastes in her mouth, no real nutritional value. I felt by doing that I prepared her much better for the real deal. By 7 months she was already introduced to many different tastes and textures and she ate already independently. I also feel it reduced her digestion issues when starting solids because we left "breadcrumbs" for what is going to come soon and her digestive system was already prepared.
Today she eats everything except the things she very clearly seems to dislike. She eats all the meats, seafood, nuts, all veggies, cheeses and much more. She seems to hate avocado and mango (very random amazing foods to dislike). I'm planning to also write a post about "delicious baby recipes done in less than 15 min" in near future.
4. Immunity and eating dirt
In these early years of a child's life their immunity is being formed which is the base of their health for the rest of their lives. According to the "human" series on Netflix: A big part of the the human immune system is located in the gut. It's called the microbiome which is a layer of bacteria building a sack in the stomach around the stuff coming in. Problems arise when you consume problematic stuff and you don't have the correct bacteria which are able to deal with the intruder and neutralise it. This is how you become sick. Why do I tell you that?
I'm telling you about it because I feel that too many people are raising their children in a too sterile environment hindering them to be exposed to the correct bacteria responsible for strengthening the immune system. The increase of allergies in the western population is in my opinion a direct outcome of a too sterile environment as a child (among other reasons).
"Without exposure to everyday germs, which can be found in mud, children miss out on building a stronger, more robust immunity to sickness,” Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor explains.
Children are exploring the world through their mouth in the first years of their life. When we took our daughter to the beach before she started walking (since she walks she does it much less) she was eating hands full of sand. I decided early on I'm not going to engage into this battle and hope for the best. Later I found out that I have done her a favor as this article states.
This study shows that children who are sucking their thumb or biting their nails are less likely to develop allergies or asthma because of the millions of bacteria entering their gut through these habits. Maybe we should rethink the benefits of our sanitation state since for most of humanity's history we didn't live in spotless houses and apartments.
5. Nurture your relationship
I found myself occupied with my changing relationship with my husband more than worrying about the baby in the first year after birth. I also talked to many young moms who experience similar patterns. The arrival of a new family member disrupting the previous dynamics of a couple as well as putting a lot of pressure in form of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, work load, lack of self care and much more. So yes, it's natural that the relationship is going to go through some turmoil. What's not natural is; that both parties often don't always realize what's going on and that they desperately need some quality time to strengthen their connection and sync their positive energy in order to be there for their offspring.
And guess what? It's really hard to strip away the curtains of depression, exhaustion, guilt and stop pointing fingers. However, you won't be able to do it if you are not going to take care of yourself and realize that this angry, frustrated person is not the real you. You don't see the storm while you are standing in its eye.
You need to get back into your equilibrium in order to see beyond your own suffering. Only by demonstrating compassion and kindness we'll be able to get the treatment we want from our partners. Don't let the spiral pull you into an unhealthy direction. Someone needs to be the bigger person and turn the tables around.
The biggest gift we can give to our children are happy parents. Therefore, pick your battles with your little one. There are no perfect parents. There are always things you will mess up. There are always going to be moments where you could have done a better job and your kids will get hurt and sometimes because of your negligence. This is simply part of the deal. Therefore, I'm suggesting to focus on the positive sides of things which are anyways oftentimes out of your control and just be relaxed about them and embrace the beautiful process of having the honor to raise another human being with respect.