Watching little personalities emerge | The Timberjay

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Stephanie Okola

“I’m an idiot,” I thought to myself, and realized I had made an obvious mistake with my bread machine. In the corner I heard my two-year-old daughter, Dot, stammer in syllables, and said, “I’m an idiot.”
…I think I’ll need to be more careful about the way I speak, but it was just so funny.
Dott’s ability to express herself has grown exponentially over the past few months. She was able to utter words for a long time but now she shows her personality with her spoken body language. She can tell me what she wants and she can tell me what happened when she gets hurt.
When Dot has to think carefully about how to explain something, she raises her hand, like a waitress holding a tray, and looks into the corner of her eye. She is a girly and sweet girl too. She likes to rub her face against my face and say, “Mm, mm.” There is really nothing better.
But being two people is tough. Young children have a lot of ideas about things and think they know how things should go. They want to do everything themselves, and get cranky when things don’t go the way they want them to.
It’s also hard to be a parent of a two-year-old. It’s easy to get excited because you also have your own ideas about things. But then you have to remind yourself day in and day out to give in and let them drive, you need to let them write the script and then handle the punches in the best way possible.
I used to think I was a patient person, and now I know I’m not. Parenting requires a lot of (mountains) of self-control. I spend a lot of time evaluating my parenthood. Did you take the kids outside today? When my three-year-old son got angry, did I respond the right way? Did I involve them enough? Did you feed them the right foods? Are my children getting enough socialization during the pandemic? I feel guilty when things are less than perfect.
I know it’s a good idea for kids to watch less than two hours of TV per day, but it’s so exciting for kids to focus on me all day long. I often just let them watch too much so I can get a break or get things done.
In the summer we watch almost no TV at all, and we spend most of the day outside in the yard and garden. But in the winter, despite my good intentions outlined in my column last month, “Resist the urge to hibernate,” we still mostly hibernate. I try to make sure the kids go out once a day to play outdoors.
Motherhood comes with a lot of questions. For something “normal” we’ve been doing forever, how can it be so complicated? There are thousands of books, blogs, and experts out there trying to offer advice, providing answers to the endless questions that arise while raising youngsters. Humans are complex, and we live in a complex world. The theories and best practices of parenting seem to change with each generation; It varies from culture to culture.
One highly discussed example: sleeping babies. Co-sleeping, or sharing your bed with an infant, is practiced all over the world and is very common. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not sleeping with your baby for his or her safety. Before the 1990s, we advised babies to sleep on their stomachs, and now we have to get them to sleep on their backs. I can’t tell you how many Google searches I’ve done for each of my kids. I was so worried that they would die in their sleep and looked at article after article on safe sleep and spent hours trying to find answers to all my “what if” questions.
Now that they’re a little bit older, I don’t worry about things too much anymore; I mostly know what’s right and wrong and try not to feel guilty when things don’t go the perfect way.
In college, I enrolled in a 400-level philosophy class about motherhood. After going to the library and finding 10 pounds of needed reading, I decided it was more than I could handle that semester and left the class. Now I wish I had taken the class. A handful of books seems to be a lot easier than raising actual kids and you’ve probably learned something useful.
And all children are very different! What works for one child may not work for another. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out with your first child, baby two changes the whole game. Ed and Dot couldn’t be more different.
Ed very careful. He is afraid of dogs and most other animals. But on the other hand, he is a rami. He is interested in being strict and fast. Dot is laid out, she loves animals and is cuddly. Ed was a picky baby, it wasn’t like that.
When we trained Ed to use the bathroom, he would get very angry, “I don’t want that!” He was yelling at me while he was in the toilet while I reassured him he could. After he finished, he was fine but was yelling and screaming when he needed to go. I tried everything, looked at a million websites for advice and kept pushing him gently because I knew he was ready but it was very hard to know the right thing to do when he responded wildly. Once he found out he could do it, he was pretty cool about it.
Dot made more messes during toilet training but just needed encouragement and reminders. She never got angry, she’s happy to do so. We are still working with it but it works great. She gets a little Hershey’s kiss every time you go to her and that keeps it going.
It is easy to believe that when a child learns to speak, things will go more smoothly. Instead of guessing what the baby needs, they just tell you, right? I’m not sure.
Sometimes Dott will randomly say, “Go to the kitchen, Mom.” Ah ok. I guess that’s another way of saying “I’m hungry” but we’ll work on it.
“Why?” I ask.
“I want strawberries, I want salad. Wake up. I want dessert. I need dessert. I need dessert, Mom.” Nothing is simple with children.
Her new thing is “Ah, mom.” She keeps saying it over and over. With nothing else to say yet.
She says, “Oh, mom.”
“Yes?” I say.
“Ah mom. ah mom. ah mom.”
My children teach me to be more gentle. I’m prone to being serious and direct about things. They helped me train my imagination when we pretend to be on a boat trip. I enjoy watching them play with dinosaurs or showing them new ways to use Play-Doh. They keep me totally exhausted and push me to the limits, but it is really an honor and a pleasure to see their little personalities come out.

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