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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lessons My Toddler Teaches Me

We've had the same argument over, and over, and over.

You might ask, "But how can you have an argument with a toddler who really isn't speaking?" According to my dictionary, an argument is defined as an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.

Standard scene: After leaving a place where K has been taken out of the stroller, she refuses to get back in it when we need to leave to go home. Typically this could be the grocery store or a coffee shop or the library. Okay fine, she can walk home and I can hold her hand. Except then she will often refuse to walk as well, which leaves us on the sidewalk with her having a tantrum because I won't carry her the 20 minutes home AND push the stroller, and she stubbornly refuses to walk (which she has done many time before and is quite capable of and even enjoys).

First off, if I don't have the stroller, I don't mind carrying her at least part of the way. But she's 12 kilograms (a little over 26 lbs)! If I have the stroller and I carry her I have to balance her on my left hip with one arm holding her and then use my right hand to push the stroller (I'm right handed so it's best able to control the tri-wheeled jogging stroller I have).

Now add to this little scenario that fact that I specifically brought the stroller because I had to go buy food items at the shop (including a jug of milk) and I wasn't going to carry 2 bags of heavy groceries plus a toddler. Forget it!

This morning, we got groceries and she and I were both a little hungry so we stopped for a bit at a coffee shop. Then we go to leave and as usual she doesn't want to get in. I have one bag of groceries tucked underneath in the basket and one lighter one sitting on top. Fine, she can walk.

K races for the door and we get outside and through the crowd of people in front of the subway station and then I stop to sort ourselves out a bit. I go to put her in the stroller and she throws a screaming fit. Fine. So I tell her she can walk, but as usual as I try to set her down, she tucks in her knees to her body so her feet won't touch the ground, and I'm forced to either set her down on her rear or hold her.

What I've been doing pretty consistently is give her a choice. I simply can't carry her plus push a stroller laden with groceries all the way home (and up a hill too mind you). I just can't. Not only can't my arms take it, it hurts my back and by the time I get home I collapse exhausted, sore and unable to move. It's not worth it.

So I tell her she can either go in the stroller or walk home. Till this morning, neither option appealed to her and we usually ended up in a stalemate with me simply getting frustrated and giving in and carrying her.

Not today.

This time, I stayed calm and just kept repeating her two options and explained why I couldn't carry her a couple times. She's two and a half so I really don't expect her to understand it all, but I wanted her to try and get that I wasn't saying no to be mean but because there was a reason for it.

After a couple of minutes of me crouched on the ground with her sitting on one knee clinging to me, she slowly lets go and happily does a running skip sort of thing. I stand up, unlock the stroller brakes and ask her to hold my hand, which she does.

And we walk.

K proceeded to try out every funny way of walking she could and jump in every puddle which elicited lots of smiles and chuckles from people passing by. Sometimes she held my hand, other times she wanted to venture about.

Half way home I ended up carrying her across a crosswalk because we had to hurry to make the light. Of course after that she didn't want to walk any more! But we were close to the bridge over our neighbourhood river and she likes to look over it at the water. So I carried her there and then stopped so she could look for a bit. I tried to put her down after a minute, but she held on tighter, so I simply held her tight and she snuggled into my shoulder, watching people pass. One woman smiled at her and she eagerly started waving at her as she passed and continued to even after to woman was 15 metres away. The woman turned back and smiled, waving again, and K was thrilled! lol. After a few minutes I tried to set her down again so we could continue walking. Instead of taking my hand, she walks to the front of the stroller and tries to climb in.


So I get her in and secure the belt and she's perfectly content to stay in the rest of the way back to our flat.

It might have taken us nearly 45 minutes to make the 20 minute trip home, but it was worth every single minute knowing that we had tested each other, negotiated and come to an agreement we could both accept.

At first my reaction was, 'Ha! I won'. But that really wasn't it at all. In the end, we both won, simply because we listened to each other. She got to make a choice and I got to set the parameters that would ensure not only that she was safe, but that I made it home in one piece physically and emotionally.

Now how's that for Parenting 101? Apparently, a calm heart, persistence and patience really do pay off.

Go figure...


areyoukiddingme said...

Exactly! I read somewhere that whenever you are inclined to say no, you should consider why not? So, you tend to give a little on unimportant things and she gets to feel like she's winning too. Everyone is happier.

"Alone again.... naturally!" said...

That is so great and I am so glad you came to an agreement. A win-win for everyone!

AnotherDreamer said...

That's a cute story, glad you were both able to compromise ;) Definitely a win-win.

St Elsewhere said...

I am giving you a high-five for emerging happier, and saner through this.

And I am stashing this story to the toddler tales I need to refer to for later. :-)

Alexicographer said...

Here from SQ ... this is delightful. I love how you point out that she can't really understand the reasoning but you provide it anyway, as background.

For whatever it's worth and in case this offers another useful tool ... when my son was that age and the issue was less his willingness to walk than his willingness to walk in a relevant direction (ahem), and I was traveling with him, I bought and used extensively a tube sling (specifically a Peanut Shell, though other similar options exist). They're pretty affordable and being smallish can be stuffed in a purse (or stroller), and they offered for me a way to sit DS on my hip without needing to use either arm to hold him there. I used that from about 2.5 years old into 3, and then he got too big even to sit on my hip, but for that 20-30 lb. weight range this worked well for us.

Lyndell @ Getting it Sorted said...

wow, I hope I have your patience when it comes to be my turn to negotiate with a toddler :)

over from ICLW.

Jamie said...

Thanks for this - I think we could all use this reminder every now and then. Take into consideration what is *really* important and maybe you AND your toddler can win a little bit.

dspence said...

Here from CDLC. This is wonderful. Parenting 101? More like parenting VICTORY. Way to go!