A couple of days ago, I opened up about some of the highs and lows of my motherhood journey thus far. Today I wanted to talk about another big hurdle that I’m learning to jump.
Growing up, I was the youngest in my family. The younger daughter and one of the youngest cousins.
Most of my friends were the youngest in their families too, so I wasn’t around kids very much.
Perhaps that is why when I was growing up I honesty was not a “kid person.”
I just wasn’t interested in them. My introversion was also at its peak when I was in middle and high school, and I just wanted to be left alone. All the time. Kids don’t do that.
I had one baby-sitting gig in high school that lasted about 2 weeks. It just wasn’t “my thing.”
Strangely though, I knew I always wanted kids of my own. I felt very sure that I was “suppose” to be a mother.
The thought of actually having a child though, terrified me.
Toddlers? The worst things on the planet.
Elementary kids? Oy vey.
Middle Schoolers. Ok.
High Schoolers. I get the angst.
That pretty much summed up my feelings on the subject until a few years ago.
But, the feeling of having a baby of my own was strong and sure. I was going to be a mother someday and I was going to have to figure it out.
As it turns out, all the years of fear and disconnection with children was actually quite helpful for me because it prompted me to learn. During my pregnancy, I read so many books and articles. I discovered philosophies on parenting and new ways of viewing children.
I started to gain some clarity and find my confidence.
“Kids aren’t so bad! They’re just like me – just younger and need more assistance!”
Once Pookie arrived, I felt ready to implement the things I’d learned.
It was going pretty good, following mostly “The Happiest Baby” strategy in the beginning, but as Pookie reached 4-5 months, we had some ongoing challenges that needed to be solved.
The biggest one? Sleep. I talked before about some great resources that helped us teach Pookie to sleep better.
In addition to those resources, and while I was researching sleep, I came across something called “RIE Parenting.” I was hesitant at first, but it sounded a lot like Montessori, which I was very interested in, so I decided to dig in.
I started following Janet Lansbury’s blog and her posts really struck me. It made sense. I developed a whole new perspective on kids and parenting. It was like having a “kid’s manual” handed to me.
I started implementing the ideas of RIE when Pookie was about 5 months old and I saw results immediately. It was first with sleep, but then the anxiety that Pookie had shown in her first few months of life started to melt away.
The more I talked to her, explained things to her, and prepared her for the things that would happen to her, the more she relaxed. I saw a noticeable change in her behavior and in the way she held her body.
The first challenge we experienced for the RIE philosophy came when Pookie turned about a year old and went from acting like a baby to acting like a toddler. We felt like we needed to start disciplining.
She started doing things she knew she wasn’t suppose to do. She started testing boundaries and limits.
I didn’t know what to do.
I went back to Janet’s blog, bought her books, and devoured the information. I thought that if it has been working for us so far, I might as well keep giving it a shot. I needed to focus in on learning about Pookie’s new stage.
Some things seemed extreme to me, but I found many tools in Janet’s writing that gave me a lot of confidence and the strategies have worked really well for us. (It might just be Pookie – you know that every kid is different!)
Pookie is now entering the stage I most dreaded – the toddlers years. I used to be terrified of toddlers. They seemed so intense and out of control!
I cringed at the thought of Pookie screaming in the grocery store, chucking food across the table, or throwing herself on the floor in a full-out tantrum.
But I’m surprised to say, that now, I feel somewhat ready.
So far I’m loving Pookie’s age and we seem to be understanding each other. I still have a lot to learn (like how to respond to quarrels during toddler playdates) and I know the “real” toddler years are yet to come, but I feel in a much better, much more hopeful place, than I did before I learned about RIE.
So there it is.
I may look back on this in a year and laugh about how optimistic I was, but right now I already feel like I’ve succeeded. I would have never thought I was capable of being so calm and resilient in the face of all the hard times.
That does not mean that I don’t have breakdowns. I have them. But, I’m learning how to work through them, seek help, and bounce back.
Some days are too intense and you can only do so much. Like yesterday, it was the first time Pookie had an all-out total breakdown for about 20 minutes.
I sat there trying to talk to her, and then I just became a silence support for her as she worked through it, as I started to cry myself. It was just hard. We both were tired, frustrated, and feeling overwhelmed.
However, I’ve learned that feelings are okay, so I’m totally okay now with Pookie seeing me cry and I’ll explain to her why. She also sees me work through it and return to feeling better.
For me, that is a huge amount of progress!
So, wish me luck as we enter the 2’s! I’ve heard the 3’s are worse, but let’s just take it one day at a time, m’kay? 🙂