The Crazy Toddler Stage

C is currently 22 months… going on 22 years. She walked at 8 1/2 months, ran at 9, showed interest in the potty at 18 months, and started talking in phrases by the time she was 19 months. Now, she speaks in 4 word phrases. All the time. As a result of this speedy development, she is simply over-confident.

Let me elaborate. She gets herself snacks and water and puts away her dirty dishes. That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it??? But when the over-confidence leads to one of the following situations, it is not so wonderful:
– Climbing on the counter to reach my purse, which had nail polish in it, and painting her own toenails…. as well as the counter, her arms, and her feet.
– Climbing onto the counter and eating the sour cream straight from the container, after she had asked the hubs for food and he said no. (It was after dinner, which she ate well, and it was almost bedtime. She didn’t take no for an answer and he found her eating it with a spoon. I was at work.)
– Climbing on the counter to get Hershey kisses after I said she couldn’t have any more.
(Um…yes. They all involve climbing onto the counter. Where’s the childproof safety for THAT? … Read on.)

This is what she does when she is caught doing something she's not supposed to do. Nice attempt, but Mommy can still see you ;)

This is what she does when she is caught doing something she’s not supposed to do. Nice attempt, kid, but Mommy can still see you 😉

And lately her new favorite thing is putting things in the toaster. Yes, you read that right. She must think it’s a big piggy bank or small garbage or something. Here are things I’ve had to retrieve from the toaster before it explodes:
– Wrappers from the Hershey kisses (yep. The same ones she climbed onto the counter to get. For the record, I thought I had them in a place that was ‘un-gettable’.)
– Coins/change
– Bobby pins

This is what I just fished out of my toaster.

This is what I just fished out of my toaster. My loose change was on the counter because I’m washing my apron for work.

Here’s the thing about this stage of toddler-hood: no one can prepare you for it. And baby proofing? HA! Baby proofing is nothing compared to what you must do when they’re toddlers. And the worst part is, most of the time there are no store-bought products that can prevent this crazy toddler stage from manifesting in its full glory. Like I said: what product can prevent your kids from climbing up the handles of the drawers to access the counter? Also, I’m kind of sort of in the “if they shouldn’t play with it, you should teach them not to play with it instead of just preventing access to that area, because they need to learn.” Except that when you have 3 kids 6 & under, it really is necessary to do SOME baby proofing, or all you will accomplish all day is to prevent them from dying. (Dramatic? Maybe only a little.)

So yes. Supervision becomes more hawk-like when you realize your child has hit this stage. But the problem is, you can’t be everywhere all the time; you can’t make them sit perfectly still while you do normal tasks like clean up the messes they just made, or make them dinner, or wash their dishes, or do their laundry. For example: I was removing the change from the toaster and sweeping the crumbs from the counter, after finally taking a risk and explaining to C why we don’t put things in the toaster. (“The toaster gets really hot, and if we put things in it, they can catch on fire, and we can all get really hurt. We don’t put things in the toaster. Okay?”) I return to the family room, where I was previously, cuddling with B and trying to catch a quick wink, and the first thing I see is C trying to drink the glue that I had just taken away from B before the whole toaster incident, because he refused to use it the right way. (It’s just one of those days.)

When B was this age, the two things I remember most vividly – because they shocked me – were that he would open the oven and use it as a stool to reach the counter, and open the dishwasher for the same purpose. Seriously?! I mean, good job on the problem solving, I’m glad you are determined, but what parent in their right mind could anticipate that being a problem?

It’s this combo of them discovering their limits, pushing them to see if we’ll enforce them, strong determination and a really naive (yet somehow inspiring) belief that they can do whatever they want if they just put their mind to it – which they do.

Now I don’t want to frighten any moms whose kids haven’t reached this stage yet, so let me leave you with some positive advice:
* Expect the unexpected. I know. That doesn’t make sense. Just know that even if you THINK something isn’t possible, they will find a way to make it possible. So listen to that little voice in your head telling you to move that glass of water, secure the garbage, put everything even semi-dangerous up as high as it can go and locked if possible, and know that sometimes things you wouldn’t categorize as dangerous can become dangerous in their hands. So what I’m saying is, go overboard to ensure safety – and don’t feel bad about it.
* Tell them WHY something is wrong/dangerous/not okay. I’ve found repeatedly that if I only tell my kids “no”, they don’t get it. They just keep doing whatever it is they’re not supposed to. But when I explain to them the dangers, they no longer feel like I’m depriving them of fun; they understand those rules are in place because I love them. Use your discretion as to what age to start this… But I guess they’re never really too young. Even if they don’t understand yet, it’s good practice for you, until they DO understand. (Clearly I was reminded of this today since Camille didn’t get the message the past two times she put things in the toaster. Noted.)
* Allow yourself to laugh. If you dwell on your mistakes, and their bad behavior, instead of light-heartedly fixing the problem, you will become so unhappy and discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Listen, no mom is perfect. Things are going to happen that will shock and upset you. That’s okay. It does not make you a failure. Make a mental note of it. Fix it as much as you can. Instruct your child why their behavior is not acceptable. Supervise better next time. Then repeat the process. Check out this post and this excerpt for more encouragement in this area.
* Remember these stories. I know when they first happen you might feel angry, shocked, discouraged, etc., but someday when they’re older, you can tell your child, and you’ll all laugh about it. But there’s another reason I want to remember. I kind of envision it going like this someday: B is discouraged because he’s not doing well in fill-in-the-blank activity. I’m sitting with him at bedtime talking over the issue. “Hey B, do you know what? When you were almost two, and you wanted something on the counter, you would open the oven door to use as a stool to reach what you wanted. You were DETERMINED to get what you wanted, and you didn’t stop until you figured out a way to get it. You are a problem-solver. You have determination. You can do this too.” Someday there will be a time when your child needs to be reminded who they are. If you focus on the positive aspects of these crazy toddler incidents, you can use them later, to your child’s benefit.
* Understand you can NOT control your child’s behavior. Our job is to instruct them in the way they should go, and then pray that they will get it. During the in-between times, pay attention. Watch your child, study their habits and tendencies, so you can get to the heart of the issues at hand. Here’s an analogy: You have chronic headaches. Every day you take the maximum allowed pain reliever just to get through your day, instead of going to the doctor to see if there’s something else going on. Fast forward several months, and you finally give in and see a doctor. You find out you have an infection that’s causing the pain. Now, not only do you have an infection that’s been untreated, but you also have an ulcer in your stomach from taking all the pain meds for so long. As parents, we need to treat the actual cause of the behavior, not only the symptoms (behavior). When one of my kids displays repeated bad behavior, I’m beginning to pray that God will reveal the reason to me, so I can treat that instead.

So here’s to more supervision, more peace, and enjoying life in the midst of crazy toddler mishaps!!!


Fruit snack detergent?


I guess this is what happens when your 18mos old knows how to help with the dishwasher. Yes that’s a fruit snack where the detergent usually goes. 😉 I guess she thought it looked like the Cascade dishwashing packets!

Sleep “Training” kids?

I am a little curious if this phenomenon actually exists. Oh I’ve read stories from moms who claim they single – handedly taught their babies and older children how to “self – soothe” and that all it took was a few nights with the willingness to let them “cry it out”, and within a week, the baby is happily putting him/herself to sleep all on his or her own. No resistance.
How I feel when I read these stories: those moms have complete “control” over the tiny little beings they call children (power trip/pride booster?), and it’s so easy that if that method is unsuccessful with my children, I must be weak-willed, doing something wrong, or else something is wrong with my kids… or maybe I didn’t try hard enough or long enough.

Has anyone else felt this way? Am I the only one to have struggled with my kids’ bedtime and general sleep patterns?

Well my friends, I may be officially at my wits end here, because when we tried the “CIO” method with our eldest, it was a royal disaster. From what I can remember,  I tried it for over a week, doing exactly what they suggest: read a book or sing a song, or some other soothing activity to help calm and set the tone before bedtime. Then, put her in her bed or crib, give her a hug and kiss, tell her goodnight, walk out of the room and shut the door. If- that is, WHEN- she starts crying, give it 5 minutes. Then go in and DO NOT – I repeat do not! – pick the child up. Rub her back, give her a kiss, tell her goodnight, and walk out of the room again. When she continues to cry, increase the internals at which you go in to soothe her. So, give it 10 minutes.  Then 15. Then 30. Then 45. Then after an hour. (If we add that all up, it equals 2 hours 40 minutes. Please tell me you are not supposed to actually let your child cry that long.)

You can see how mentally and emotionally draining this is, not to mention physically tiring, considering that even if you can manage to focus on completing a task while your child screams bloody murder from the other room, you have to consistently interrupt yourself to truly follow the method. Not to mention, my most vivid memories of that time were trying to stay busy with a task (to distract myself from my child’s loud cries), but being shocked every time I glanced at the clock that only 3 little minutes had passed since last time I checked. The time seems to CRAWL.

I know the reason they tell you to go back in the room: they need to know you are still there and have not abandoned them.
In my experience, this is the worst possible thing you can do. As soon as the child sees you in the room but realizes you are about to leave again without him or her, s/he goes absolutely ape shhhhh- um, you know. This is how and when the tired cry turns into a ballistic scream. When I tried this with our daughter, we lived in an apartment. I remember being afraid someone would call the cops on me, thinking I was abusing her. That’s how violent her cries were.

Then there is the “put them back” method. (I don’t know what the actual name for it is, if it even has one. ) This method tells you that when your child is old enough to get out of bed themselves and therefore won’t stay put, the simple solution is winning a battle of determination. When they get out of bed, pick them up and put them back in their bed – without saying a word. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. (You get the idea.) No matter that by the time you get to the door and shut it, your child is already out of bed again, forcing you to consider the possibility of just standing there holding the door shut while they kick and scream on the other side.

What do these methods have in common? They involve the oh-so-simple task of just ignoring your children. Ignore their cries. Ignore their outstretched arms. Ignore their tears.  Ignore their pleadings for just one more hug or kiss. Just one more book. Just one more trip to the bathroom. One more glass of water. And also ignore their puke – because if they cry so hard they throw up, they’re manipulating you into doing what they want. I am not lying. I actually read that, and people seriously believed it. To my surprise, these people did not then recommend beating your child into submission – although that seems like the most logical next step in this way of thinking.

Now I know what some of you might say:
“You did this to yourself.”
“You never should’ve rocked her to sleep every night.”
“It’s your own fault for babying her.”
“You should’ve put her in her crib while she was drowsy, but still awake.”

Yes it is true – with our first, I voluntarily encouraged the problem by cuddling with my daughter until she fell asleep – usually on the couch. Then I often left her there until I chose to go to bed, and then was so tired I just brought her to bed with us rather than wage a fight to keep her in her crib/bed – against recommendations from her pediatrician and my mom.

There. I’ve been honest.

There was one positive to this though – she could fall asleep ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME, with ANY noise in the background. That was convenient. But what can I say? I was inexperienced, overwhelmed with love for my little one, enamored with her adorable-ness, and lacked the foresight to understand what I was setting myself up for. She did not consistently go to sleep on her own, in her bed, without crying or having a fit, at a reasonable hour, until she was 3 in her new twin bed. (We did make headway when she was 2 by implementing a strict bedtime routine which she helped me list, but that only helped with WHEN she went to bed, not really WHERE.)

So I vowed to fix it with our second.

And I did. I still nursed him before bed, sometimes co-slept if it was near enough to morning, but in general I allowed myself very little sleepy time cuddles. I connected the bassinet to our mattress, putting him down immediately after nighttime feedings. When he got old enough for the crib, and especially when we found out I was pregnant with our 3rd – he was only 9mos – I put him in his crib drowsy, but not fully asleep. All while still strictly adhering to and incorporating him into my daughter’s established bedtime routine.

I felt accomplished! Successful! Experienced! I was now able to look down my nose at other moms who fell into the same TRAP I did – letting kids roam free instead of giving them a consistent and reliable bedtime and routine which always ended with tired happy kids falling asleep in their own beds and remaining there all night (11 hours!).

Then we had our 3rd – about a week after moving into our newly mortgaged home, in the hottest weather our area had seen in years, and without a working fridge. I knew the lure of THE TRAP was lurking, waiting to pounce when I let my guard down. But I didn’t even care. I threw the door open wide for THE TRAP and invited it into my bedroom and family room. Oh, the older two stayed on their routine. But this, THIS was my last baby. I wanted to soak in every possible moment, cuddling her, smelling her, counting her tiny toes and fingers. Memorizing her expressions. Just relaxing, instead of trying to be SuperMom and run around doing all the things I normally did. I was on maternity leave, and I was taking full advantage.

Now she is 18 months old, and only sometimes sleeps through the night (I’m not talking about the INFANT definition of sleeping through the night, which is 6 hours, but the 8-11 hours toddlers her age require). Up until the last week, she was very content to have a bottle while we rocked her, fall asleep in our arms, and then go to sleep in her crib and sleep through most of the night. (The first milestone was when I realized it was usually 2am when she woke the first time. Then she started sleeping until 5 or 6 – but it wasn’t often enough for me to celebrate just yet.)

So here’s what I’m struggling with now:
1. She is fighting her naps.
2. The old routine is no longer working.

She is so much more like her sister than her brother. He is our best sleeper. He napped until he was probably 2 1/2, at 2 hours a pop, and has even started taking them again lately, if he is more tired than normal. (Momma thinks growth spurt!) But our eldest stopped napping right around 20 months. And now that I’ve experienced a good, consistent, reliable, scheduled napper, I’m not willing to give that up so soon.

So, what’s a mom to do?

I’m probably going to start gradually transitioning her into a new-ish routine. I can’t justify changing her crib to a toddler bed quite yet, and when we do transition her to a twin, we’re probably going to just get bunk beds for the girls, since they share a room. (This is another reason I can’t justify trying the CIO with her. That, and the fact that the couple times I tried to start implementing it already, her older brother wakes up crying and comes to me desperately saying, “Mom, Camille needs you!” Yeah. Not gonna work.)

So… Just like all other areas of parenting, it’s going to be TRY, FAIL, ADJUST.

What struggles have you had with your kids’ bedtime routines and schedules? Any ideas that have worked for you? Any that didn’t? I’d love to hear your stories.

“Something’s Gotta Give”

After the revelation that I was being way too short tempered with my family (too much yelling going on!), I started to consciously correct the problem. I’ve been practicing more patience. Instead of yelling, exasperated, while walking away or storming around the house, getting down to their level. Speaking in a calm voice. Explaining why what they did was wrong. Keeping them calm. Asking for an apology. Dolling out consequences. The kind of parenting I did when I only had one child… And she responded and loved and respected me because of the attention I gave her.

Well I have to admit, it is more difficult with more children. Because the goal is – at all times but especially when correcting bad behavior  – to give my child my full attention. BUT. If you are giving one child 100% of your attention, that leaves 0% for the other child(ren).

Here’s a great example. Today while my two youngest were eating lunch and my eldest was at school, I had to go to the bathroom. Any mom knows that even bathroom time is not off limits to your kids. All they know is that you’re their mom, and they want your attention all the time… even if you’re going potty. So I had maybe 20 seconds of uninterrupted bathroom time when both of them burst through the door. DISCLAIMER: I’m one of ‘those people’, the ones that bring their phone in the bathroom. Why, you ask? Isn’t that gross? No. I am a mom. Multi-tasking is so inbred in me that if I’m NOT doing 2 things at once, I twitch. Okay maybe not twitch, but I do have a nasty habit of picking at my fingernails and cuticles. If I DO get uninterrupted bathroom time, that is one of the only times I have to quickly check email and see if I have any important ones. (Which I then flag, and reply to POST bathroom… don’t worry.)

So, back to the story. They burst in on me, phone in hand, all smiles like they just finished their first marathon or something. Like, “HEY, MOM!!! Aren’t you so glad we’re here?!”

There I was, trying to justify how I could continue checking emails, finish going to the bathroom (am I the only one that sometimes tries to elongate this a little bit, just to get a little more quiet alone time?), and also supervise my children.

Camille started opening the cabinet under the sink and bringing out the extra hand soap, cleaning supplies, etc. So I set the phone down, telling her no, putting the cleaning supplies back. (At this point I’m actually done with the task I went in there to complete, but clearly couldn’t let the 17mos old continue messing with the Scrubbing Bubbles.)

Just about the time I finish cleaning up Camille’s mess, I look the other way to see Brendan, marker in hand, marking a nice clean line down the wall on our wainscoting. (Oh, forgot to mention that it was permanent marker. It came in a craft kit and was a very cute kid size, and I only gave it to him because I was supervising his use of it. Until I went to the bathroom that is.) So. You can imagine what I did next.

Well first I finished my original task, then I asked him where acceptable places are to color. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but something about “not my skin”. (The answer I was looking for was “PAPER ONLY”.) So I firmly explained that I had to take the marker away because he drew on the wall instead of using it on paper. COMMENCE CRYING FIT! “But I want it!” and many other hard-to-decipher phrases came tumbling out of his mouth as he simultaneously tried to grab the marker from my hand. (I had to pry it from his fingers in the first place. Not my preferred method.)

So I got down to his level, looked him in the eye, told him to calm down. “Take a deep breath” and all that. Had a little talk about how he can color on paper but not on the wall, and since he colored on the wall even when he knew the rules, I had to take the marker away.

….and turned around JUST. IN. TIME. to see Camille pulling something out of the toilet (to which I ALWAYS close the lid – what was I thinking?!) and almost put it in her mouth. I mean thisclose to putting it in her mouth. It was her paci. Thank goodness I grabbed it in time.

Moral of the story?

Something’s gotta give.

My kids respond better when I give them my full attention = I want to give them my full attention more often. (Crazy chaotic mama = crazy chaotic home)
When I’m giving one child my full attention, the others will be temporarily ignored = make sure there are no cleaning products, toilets, garbage cans, hot appliances, or sharp objects anywhere in reach before turning that full attention over. 🙂

Have any similar mom/dad stories? Share in the comments below!

Try, Fail, Adjust – Parenting

Setting: Our house. In the thick of a difficult few weeks in which I noticed my temper had shortened and I was really talking to my family in a very un-kind way but felt all my efforts to fix it turned out unsuccessful. I was feeling  tired, worn down, frustrated, and defeated.

Situation: Brendan had to go to the bathroom. He is almost 3 and has proven he can handle himself in the bathroom from beginning to end – even putting his pants back on, which was a point of contention for some time.

He came to me – I was in the kitchen – asking for help to put on a new toilet paper roll! I praised him for his initiative. “Wow! Brendan, I’m so proud of you! You noticed we needed a new roll, got one out, and tried to put it on yourself. Good job buddy!” I helped him put the new roll on, and started pulling his pants up. “WAIT!” he said. “I have to wipe my weeny!” “Well, alright. Sorry.” I said, thinking this will be a very short task, and left him to it. I had to go back to the kitchen to help Camille with something.

I had Camille up on the counter wiping her nose when I heard a startling sound… like something heavy falling on the ground. I kind of knew what it was before I got there, but I was so afraid of what was happening that I almost left Camille on the kitchen counter. I had to turn back and grab her. (Almost funny, but mostly NOT.) I ran around the corner, down the hall and into the bathroom and saw Brendan faced backwards on the toilet with the lid closed, one hand grasping the top of the tank and the other holding the LID to the tank, which was hanging over the side touching the ground. The sound I heard was it hitting the floor and breaking.

Yes. My almost-3 year old son did this, and this is the best I could fix it for now.

Yes. My almost-3 year old son did this, and this is the best I could fix it for now.

So now, here I am amidst an already trying week, where I had tried to eliminate distractions to focus more on my kids, and STILL this happens. Talk about feeling inadequate. (To his credit, he said he was “trying to fix it”… at least he had good intentions.)

As if that wasn’t enough, of course I then had to explain everything to my hubs, whom I could already tell was far from satisfied with my attitude the past few weeks. I have this habit in which I feel the need to explain myself to everyone around me. I’m working on erasing that feeling and either accepting the decisions I’ve made and their consequences, or changing them for the better.

Perspective… Was this a tsunami where we lost our house and all our possessions? No… Was this a death in the family? No again. But I still gave the situation power over me to name me “FAILURE”. That can feel like an internal tsunami.

But sometimes we just have to accept the situation as it happened. We have to use the “TRY FAIL ADJUST” method. I TRIED leaving him alone and he not only broke an expensive household necessity, but also endangered himself ; he actually did cut his thumb on it the next day (FAIL). If I would’ve stayed with him for that extra minute, it would’ve eliminated the whole problem. So, I ADJUST. We made sure he understands why it’s not safe or acceptable for him to play with or ‘try to fix’ the toilet. And he is under closer supervision now when he goes to the bathroom. Yes I’ve left him alone since then, but I am more careful to stay nearby and monitor him even when it’s inconvenient or when I’m feeling impatient.

Don’t you find, though, that it’s those small moments together that you cherish?? Funny sentences, curious questions, sweet remarks are all made when you’re giving your full attention to your little ones.

So, it’s back to basics for this momma. Remembering why I love being a mom in the first place; that my kids are and should always be my first priority; that anything I sow into them is a seed planted for later in life. And admitting that mistakes happen; that I can’t be everywhere at once; that that doesn’t make me a bad mom.

I am reminded of Shauna Niequist’s phrase, “Present over Perfect.” If I just remember to be present with my kids instead of focusing on forcing everything around me into a perfect little wrapped box, I’ll make more of the moments that matter.

Have you had any “failure” mom moments? What were they? How did you recover? Comment below if you’d like to share.