Monday 22 August 2016

10 things my toddler has taught me

Coming up for three years ago now, I wrote a post about the skills you learn when you become a mum for the first time and I thought it would be fun to do the same kind of post again, now that I have a toddler - and a spirited one at that!

These past couple of weeks, I have seen such a change in Ethan. He's always been chatty, sure of himself and able to tell us what's going on, but now he's reached a whole new level. He's picked up new phrases, can use different tenses when he speaks and he's not afraid to pick us up on something if he thinks we're wrong.

I continue to be amazed by him and it's made me realise that as much as he learns from us, we are learning a lot from him, too.

So, here's a few things my toddler has taught me...

1. Patience is a virtue - but can be hard to come by!
I'll hold my hands up and admit that I can be impatient at times. However, when Ethan was born, I realised how for him, I could have more patience than I ever thought possible.

Now, I can half-listen to his constant questions and pretty much let most of his whining wash over me, and just carry on with what I'm doing. Unless, that is, the dog is barking, Ethan's in a particularly sour mood and we're running late... again...

Then? Not so much.

2. It's good to ask questions
We all know that toddlers have a 'why' phase, and yes, it can really get annoying really fast - particularly when there's a 'why' after every response you give about the most mundane of things - but it's really just curiosity. We could all do with being a bit more curious and if we take the time to ask 'why' every now and then, we might realise there's other ways to do things or we can get different results.

'Why' you do what you do every day is a really good question; obviously we get up, we get ready, go to work, eat etc. for very clear reasons but we can also get stuck into routines that don't work for us or habits that we can actually break.

3. Know when to pick your battles
I'm not the strictest of parents by a long way, and I've written before about the surprises and challenges of motherhood, but I like to think of it as knowing when to pick my battles. I can generally tell the type of mood Ethan might be in and the expected response, so I know when to walk away and how to persuade him to my way of thinking.

4. Expert negotiator
Do you ever feel like being a mum isn't too dissimilar to being an expert negotiator? The older Ethan becomes, the broader my negotiating skills - from how long until bedtime to when he can have a sticker, everything is a series of moves, give and take. And he's becoming quite the expert now, using our own phrases back at us, such as 'how about...?' and 'maybe later'.

We'll just have to up our negotiating game...

5. Share and play to your strengths
Toddlers know what they like and go for it, without worrying or inhibition, and they quickly work out what they're good at.

As parents, we do the same; we find out what our top mum skills are and can use these to our advantage. Hubs has an uncanny knack of calming Ethan down quickly when he wakes from a nightmare and can get Ethan ready at the speed of light, even if he's not in the mood to co-operate. I, on the other hand, am quite good at practical things and try to keep us all on track as a family. As long as there's a balance between you, it makes sense to share the load and play to your strengths most of the time.

6. Be silly
Life can be way to serious sometimes for grown-ups and watching Ethan play is one of my favourite things - and it reminds me to not take myself too seriously. I'm guilty of saying things like 'just a minute' or 'maybe later' (see where he gets it from?!) so I'm trying to relax more and go along with things, without being preoccupied or feeling silly for acting silly with my silly little sausage.

7. Try new things
Ethan is into so much and is always excited by new things and places. He's very sociable and it doesn't take him long to try something out or make a new friend. It's a good reminder to come out of your comfort zone every now and then - there's always something new to do or try.

8. Say (and show) how you feel
Ethan is really expressive, increasingly so as he gets older. He regularly just says 'I love you' out of nowhere, or comes and gives us a kiss - even on the arm or leg, whatever is within reach. He's also able to tell us how he's feeling, if his tummy is sore or sometimes if he's tired or unhappy, and he knows that when he does this, we will help him.

Toddlers are pretty clever, aren't they? Us adults can learn a thing or two.

9. Mix things up
It's all too easy to find a way of doing things and stick to it. Do the same routine every day. Go to the same places. Play the same games. When Ethan was younger, we'd regularly rotate his toys to keep him interested and still today, he has different toys in his room, his playroom and the lounge - although he does like to mix them up.

I'm more and more conscious the older he gets how much our own habits may influence him so I'm trying to mix up our routine. Part of this is joining our local David Lloyd so we're more active, and I want to try and add variety to all areas of our life, from meal times to play time.

10. You never stop learning
I've always said that To Become Mum would be a name that can last, as I don't believe you ever 'crack' motherhood - with every milestone, every stage and every child, there's always more to learn, to know and to enjoy.

When you first become a mum, I think you feel a mild panic that you don't know enough and it can take weeks, months or even years to realise that just doing your best is the best you can do. We're so hard on ourselves and seem to strive for being 'the best', like we'll one day learn all there is to know and will breeze through life as a parent in control, when in reality, being there and showing we care is all that matters and what our children will remember most.


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