Monday, 6 June 2016

Toddler Wars

The battle lines have been drawn, the parties stand either side ready to fight their corner. On one side you have the parents, on the other one small 20-month toddler. The odds are surely in our favour? Well, this is not a Katniss Everdeen story, and although it is two against one, with might I add a combined age of 56 years on the other side we are losing badly.


We have hit the terrible twos. I never knew the significance of those words until Elijah because a toddler. And, oh man did he become one, almost overnight. One minute he was rolling about on the play matt, the next he was climbing the stairs, and sticking his fingers in plug sockets. Where did my baby go? Why has he been replaced by an impatient, irrational, demanding and electric plug socket loving demon? Literally, I have nicknamed him Damien the Omen. With his rubbish bowl cut (which I may or may not be responsible for, (okay I am click here to read about how I gave him a crappy haircut) and the evil steely look in his eyes as he crushes cheesey puffs into the carpet; he is the spitting image of that creepy little kid.
 

So, I take it this is where we parent? We pull on our big adult parent pants? Where we have some amazing technique, word or action and suddenly we are on the winning side sipping G and Ts whilst our child sleeps soundly in his bed at 7pm? The truth of it really is, now we are out of the baby months, which by his 1st birthday I had only manged to get a grasp of, we are in a whole new world of parenting cluelessness. Just like the night feeds, teething, constipation we blagged our way through, will we suddenly know how to discipline our child? Will we just know what to do? Do we get a random parenting book and follow every letter to the t? What if this book isn’t for us? What if we do not agree with it? Do we buy another one and start again or do we hit the many Mummy groups on FB with a hair pulling out status pleading help?


I am not sure if anyone knows what they are doing when raising a toddler. Where ignoring the bad behaviour one day works, the next day it doesn’t. I am a found believer in rewarding the good behaviour and constantly thank Elijah for being helpful or when he is kind. However, I am finding myself being drained of the shouting, the nagging and dealing with a wingey toddler every day. What I tend to do when I feel overwhelmed with this parenting malarkey is take an amusing picture which normally involves Elijah destroying something or lobbing a whole packet of wet wipes down the stairs and receive support and words of encouragement from my Insta community Mamas and Papas. They make me see the funny side of things and normally share one or two of their stories too. They make me feel normal that Elijah may not have ADHD or a fetish with plug sockets (I am keeping a close eye on that one though). They make me feel like I am not a horrendous mother for feeling so guilty when I moan I have had a tough day with him, after all should I not be grateful he is here to do this after his surgery? Well of course I am but I am also human, I am not indestructible just because my child has been in NICU or had OHS.


Being a parent, means raising our child and indeed disciplining the best way we think. But as first time parents it is something I guess we are going to have to muddle through the best we can. See what sticks, do we take example from generations before us and follow our parent’s ways? Hell bloody no, well not from my side anyway. That did not end up to well, and I have learnt why those books and psychologists say the decisions you make for your child end up affecting them well into adult life. Basically I tend to do the opposite for Elijah that was done for me. Except the lessons my little ol’ Nan taught me, she indeed taught me how to be a mother. She raised me and loved me unconditionally, for this I of course pass onto my child. So hay, maybe we do all learn something from generations gone by, things to do and things not to do.


I guess we are lucky that we have so many resources, online communities and research that should show us the parenting way through the toddler jungle. Sometimes I also think this can be a hindrance with online groups attacking others for their parenting choices. We live in an age where parental choices can be so easily and openly put out there to dry, to be criticized and torn apart it is hard to sometimes feel like you are doing the right thing when everyone has an opinion. For every parenting technique there is an online argument spouting the pros and cons, the success stories, the horror stories. We are also very fortunate there are so many parenting outlets there at our fingertips where connecting with other parents going through the same thing make you feel like a human again.


We could be considered of the Supernanny age where time outs, naughty steps, reward charts and distraction techniques are the norm. This is obviously a lot different compared to say the 1960s, were to stop a toddler biting the doctors would actively encourage parents to bite them back! Where a ‘smack on the bum’, was considered an acceptable form of child rearing. There are laws now permitting physical punishment across many European countries and rightly so. Mention it today and cue the uproar and controversy. I am by no means encouraging this at all, and no I do not agree with it but for many years this was how most children were brought up. I mean even schools used the cane as punishment.


Some cultures do still use this as a form of punishment. India, China and Japan all tend to focus on the child obeying their parent. I am sure you have all seen the story in the media recently where in Japan a small 4 year old was left in the woods (bear infested) as a form of punishment. Or the time a mother in China was caught on CCTV kicking her toddler on the floor when he didn’t eat his meal. These are all extreme stories and it is sad to think a parent could do this to a child. If we all take stock of what it constitutes as being a really bad toddler day where we have all just wanted to have a little cry and leave. I do not believe there is a single parent in the whole of history that has gone through the toddler years without losing their rag at least once. If you have then I believe you may be a saint, or a really clever cyborg sent from the future. I once returned home from work to Greg saying he wanted to put Elijah in the wheelie bin. But I have never wanted to put Elijah’s life in danger as a form of punishment, it seems to go against our parental instincts yet we have seen some do take these horrendous measures.

Just like the night feeds, the sleep deprivation, the colic, the weaning nightmares and so on, we will find a way to get through the day with our sanity (well most of it) and raise our child as best we can. If the day calls for a Gin at the end then so be it. I am also partial to biscuit and Teen Mum marathon. Soon we will look back on the toddler years with some fond memories of ‘oh you were a little sod’, and realise as the kids are off the first school that they are all grown up and in the end you did your best. So while I read up on distraction, positive reinforcement and how not to loose your head after your son has put a plastic soldier in your coffee AGAIN, the toddler wars rage on. And we remain as clueless as we did when that chubby little blob was placed in my arms. I think we will always feel like this, after all do any of us really know what we are doing? (If you do can you drop me a line I need to know your secrets).

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