Thursday, May 13, 2010

Parenting Lessons Learned From a 2 Year Old

I think I've had a glimpse into the future. At least in regards to what it is going to be like to raise teenage daughters (and at least one son!). I've learned a lesson or at least gained a little bit of understanding that will probably prove to be very useful if I can hold onto it through the next several years.

A couple of weeks ago we were at my in-laws' home and we were quickly approaching the point of no return of Elli being able to successfully take a nap. All you mothers know what I'm talking about. There is a fine line that we sometimes walk with our children and their sleep. If you put the child to bed too early, before they are ready for a nap, they will alternate between playing and tantruming for more than an hour before finally succumbing to the Sand Man's attempts. But if you wait too long to put them down in hopes that they will then be so exhausted that their little eyes will shut the second their heads hit the pillow, then my friend you just may be in for a great surprise. It will backfire! I promise you this.

If you wait too long then your child will have caught their second wind and will not be able to go to sleep and will instead cry for more than an hour because their little bodies just can't shut down. Then you will have a very cranky, tired (but unable to settle) baby or toddler. Not a fun combination. In fact, we probably could get Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to surrender all their nuclear arms at the threat of putting them in a room of sleep deprived, way past nap time toddlers.

So anyway, this is the situation I was envisioning myself in with Elli if I didn't act quickly. So I informed everyone that I was going to try to put her down for a nap. We retired to Tio Rudy's room and she immediately started balking at my efforts to get her to lie down. Shoot, I was already too late. She started wailing and thrashing, kicking, rolling. Anything to resist my efforts to get her to lie down next to me.

So I lay there on one side of the bed while she rolled around, crying the angriest, saddest cry you've ever heard. Calling out for "daddy," "tia becky," "abuela." She wanted anyone but me. I was enemy numero uno. I was faced with either getting angry and trying to enforce my will on her or lying there patiently, waiting for her to settle down. I opted for the latter and during my patient waiting it dawned on me how I will need to hone and adopt this line of acting and thinking for when she is a teenager. I was able to clearly see the parallels between this situation and later situations, possibly much more important, life altering situations that tend to arise when you are in your teenage years.

I was able to see that while she wanted somebody other than me at this time, I was the best person for the job. Anyone else would have given in and let her get up, and thus she would not receive the much needed rest that her little body and mind needed. And that is why she wanted them, because I think instinctively she knew that mama wasn't budging but that she could probably get what she wanted with someone else. But me, well, I was in it for the long haul. I was willing to stay in there with her until she was finally calm and ready to give in to sleep.

I would reach for her and pull her close to me. Spooning her little body next to mine trying to comfort and calm her. Instead she would wrench away from me and my efforts, crying out for someone else. In my mind's eye I could picture us several years from now. She a girl of 15 maybe, and me, well, older. I can see us in some struggle that often arises during those hormone filled years. I can picture me pulling her in to me, if only emotionally, with my advice and concern, and her rejecting me and my efforts.

In the present time, after pulling away from me, I would just sit there patiently, quietly. Attempting to comfort her from a distance. Telling her it was okay, to calm down, mama loves her. When she had settled a bit, or at least the volume of her cries had decreased, I would once again pull her towards me and the scene would replay in exactness. She'd pull away and I'd wait patiently.

After a few times I stopped trying to pull her close to me and just waited and comforted her with my words and sometimes a gentle touch. Minutes passed and I could sense her resolve waining. She was no longer sobbing, just whimpering now. She would furtively glance at me and I knew she now longed to be close to me. I opened my arms and that was the signal she needed and she was instantly curled up next to me clinging to my arms. I was finally able to comfort and calm her like I had aimed to do from the beginning. But I needed to wait until she was ready for it.

Again I was able to envision how this would play out in later years. I knew there would be times when she wouldn't want me. That she'd want to go to anyone but me. I also knew that in those times I shouldn't give up because I would be the best person for the job, then as now. I was able to see that as I would try to pull her to me, that she'd resist and reject. And I was able to understand that if I would just wait, patiently, still comforting from afar, giving her my example and love, that she would eventually come to me and desire the guidance and relief I'd been offering all along.

As her little body rested next to mine, I could sense her breathing slowing, her muscles relaxing, her eyes shutting. Finally. And I know that in the future I'll have that same satisfaction of being able to help my child with something she will need, but maybe not want. That she will fight against me but eventually come to see that I had her best interest in mind all along. I hope to be able to keep this lesson learned with me as my children grow, I know it will help me keep the right perspective when dealing with the troubles that are bound to come. I look forward to that day with anticipation and a little bit of dread. Just a little, hoping that I'm up to the task. I pray that I am...


Katie said...

Ahhh, the parenting naptime nightmare. I write this as mine screams in his room awaiting Mr.Sandman. These were interesting thoughts and thanks for sharing!

Beautiful pictures by the way!

Heather said...

This was perfectly said and what I needed to hear as I face the trials my older kids are giving me. Thanks! Your kids are gorgeous.

Daniel & Kelli McDowell Family said...

what an awesome analogy. It remids me of one of my favorite passages of scripture where it states "and his arms were stretched out still" several times, no matter what the people did. You sure are a good momma.

BryceandWhit said...

Elli bug loves you momma you are so right about this whole post!!! Love ya

Jenn said...

This was a great post! I love the parallel! I have been in the same exact naptime situation, but I have never thought about the future like that! I want to save this and read it when my girls are teenagers!

Anonymous said...

love to spoon with her and make her thrash, kick and buck, she CERTAINLY wouldn't sleep!!


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