Saturday, 15 September 2018

Two, Take Two

Toddler turned two and a half recently. It crept up on us and I'm still slightly in shock about it. He's now closer to his third birthday than his second, on the final stretch of toddlerhood before he officially becomes a preschooler. I'm stunned.

It got me thinking about how different having a two year old has been this time around. I remember finding Girl Child's third year exhausting - I was living on the edge, counting down the months until I could get her into preschool and get a break! Whereas this time I don't even know if I want him to go to preschool at all, I'm enjoying having him around so much.

This makes me feel a little guilty about my desperation to fob my daughter off on others for a few hours a week! But she was a much more challenging child, and at that stage I didn't know why. She needed almost constant entertainment, as if she couldn't work out how to play of her own accord. She was strong-willed, always wanting her way but not always knowing what her way was. She was very talkative and loud with it, she rarely sat still and she had frequent meltdowns. Of course, I thought at the time she was just a 'spirited child' but in retrospect I now see the signs of autism, and wish I'd gone easier on her and on myself.

And I think that has made my approach with Toddler different. He has always been an 'easier' child anyway - he rarely cried as a baby, he's generally happy to go with the flow and can entertain himself for brief, but increasing, periods. Don't get me wrong, we still get toddler tantrums, there are regular times when he is not at all impressed about having to fit round the school run schedule, and sometimes he is very determined in getting his own way. But on the whole he's a far less intense child. And part of me wonders whether this is because I'm a less intense parent now.

With Girl Child, her speech was far better in her toddler years, which tricked me into thinking she could cope with more than she really could. I now realise that a lot of her speech was akin to echolalia (where children, or sometimes adults, repeat back phrases they've heard) - I was reading through old blog posts recently and was reminded of her tendency to sit and recite huge chunks of children's books from memory. I heard a child talking in full, complex sentences, and expected her to have a reasoning well beyond her years. Toddler, by contrast, is actually a little behind in his speech, and so I find myself making far more allowances for him because it's hard to tell how much he understands. My lower expectations of his behaviour make me more relaxed about it, and less likely to lose my temper with him.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how we treat our children differently without intending to, or possibly even realising. And it made me realise how much, as a first time mum, I chased that next milestone. I was keen to know that Girl Child was keeping up with her peers and it meant that every perceived lag made me fraught with anxiety. By this stage I was unsuccessfully trying to potty train her, partly because all her peers were doing it. I haven't even tried with Toddler because he doesn't seem ready yet, and he has so few friends of a similar age that I just don't feel that pressure. And while his speech does cause me angst, I'm far more laid back about his development generally. He's my last baby, I'm in no rush to get him to grow up.

And of course, I know now that 'this too shall pass' is, most often, true. He will start to talk more clearly and with that will come the ability to express himself better and tantrum less. He will sleep through eventually. Everything that needs to happen will happen, I just need to keep gently guiding him.

There are similarities between my children at this age though. Toddler also struggles to sit still for long. He likes to work his little muscles, walking or climbing or generally playing outside, just like his sister did as a toddler. He shares her love of books. And, like Girl Child, Toddler is still nowhere near sleeping through. Can't win them all, eh?!

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