Walking After You

So it hasn’t even been two weeks since Mr. H graduated from army crawl to full-blown, up on his hands and knees crawling, but the little man is already zipping across the room fast enough that it’s nearly impossible to keep him contained. And, like his sister before him, Henry has already decided that crawling is for amateurs, and he would much rather be upright and walking around in two legs like the rest of us.

I gotta be honest with you, I’m not quite ready for this just yet.

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The Art of Raising a 2-year-old (and Surviving)

I think one of the biggest childrearing myths is what people refer to as the “Terrible Twos”.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the word “terrible” just doesn’t quite cover it.

Sure, it’s an extremely challenging age and the temper tantrums  can drive you to the very brink of insanity, but there are also moments of pure joy, lots of laughter, and days that I would like to freeze in time and replay over and over and over again.

Living with a 2-year-old is not terrible…well, not all the time. It’s sort of like finding an absolutely perfect little chunk of land–beautiful scenery, amazing neighbors, close to all of your favorite restaurants and entertainment–and then discovering that you just built your dream house on top of an active volcano. You have to be constantly on guard. There are always little fires to put out and, even on a good day, there is always the threat of danger lurking just beneath the surface.

See, the thing about 2-year-olds is that, at any other age, they would indisputably be diagnosed as suffering from a severe combination of multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, narcolepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, anger issues, and narcissistic personality disorder. Hell, at any other age they would likely just be considered a danger to themselves and society and be locked up. They are little ticking emotional time bombs. One minute they’re bubbly and smiling and charming every person in the room with their sweetness. The next minute you’re wondering if you need to call a priest to perform an exorcism before the screaming little banshee who is now foaming at the mouth and writhing on the floor in front of you manages to scare any other shoppers out of the cereal aisle.

And all you can hope is that the employees watching it all unfold on the security cameras are having a good laugh at your expense.

Yet, in spite of the tantrums and the sudden emergence of the word “No!” at the top of my own personal Things That Piss Me Off the Most list, I have to say, 2 is a pretty cool age.

At this point, Cadence’s personality is absolutely her own, and it’s fun to watch her already beginning to carve her own little place in the world. She loves movies and can recite lines from her favorites. She loves baseball–watching the Mets at home with her Daddy and going to Husker games with her Grandma Jayne and Papa Duane. She’s fearless, spunky, and wickedly funny. Her Daddy taught her to fart and then point at someone else and say “You fart!” which she thinks is hilarious. And we think it’s hilarious that it’s now become “You stinky fart! Ewww!”

We can’t wait for the call we’re inevitably going to get from her preschool teacher for that one.

She’s also wickedly smart, which can be both a good and a bad thing since she’s still at an age where she lives purely by impulse instead of reason. She loves music and art. She loves to color and draw, and carries a notebook around with her to write in. She loves playing the piano and Daddy’s new practice drum kit. And she sings along to dozens of different songs. No Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Itsy Bitsy Spider for Cadence. She likes Sugarland’s Stuck Like Glue and Karmin’s Brokenhearted and the Family Guy theme instead. And these days, she’s got some pretty sweet dance moves these days, courtesy of watching Dancing with the Stars on Monday nights with her Momma and Daddy.

I’m slowly learning that this volatile stage of development  is just as important for parents as it is for the 2-year-olds themselves. See, it’s this point, during these Terrible Twos, that you are really molded into the type of parent you’re likely to be for the rest of your life. Are you going to pick your battles, or insist on always being right and having the last word? Are you going to let your children explore and fall down and learn from their experiences, or are you going to constantly hover and shelter them and tell them no. Are you going to worry and fret that the house isn’t spotless, or are you going to get down on the floor and play and make a few messes yourself? Are you going to let yourself get caught up in the tantrums and scream back louder, or are you going to take a deep breath, wait for the storm to pass, and help your children understand their sometimes overwhelming emotions? Are you going to hug and kiss and tell your children that you love them and that you’re proud of them every chance you get, or are you going to just assume that they know?

Parenting is trial and error. No one has the perfect answer. There is no handbook, no instruction manual, no magical formula that can guarantee you will all come out of it unscathed. But you can try. You can do your best. You can learn from the mistakes, and show your children that life is not about perfection. It’s about finding the beauty in the imperfections, and finding your own way in the chaos.

Here are just a few recent photos of my own little chaos maker…

Playing in the birdbath and helping Momma water flowers
Hiding from Momma’s camera and doing a little mowing.
Running! Running! Running!
Telling stories.

Daddies and Daughters

The hardest part about taking a trip without my husband is not that I have to navigate the airport by myself with our 2-year-old in tow or that I’ve forgotten how to sleep in a bed by myself without someone stealing the covers or crowding me. Yeah, those things can be tough, but the worst part about not having Steven along while I’m out of town for a week is the simple fact that I miss him.

Go ahead and roll your eyes. Make retching sounds if you want. I don’t care.

Truth be told, life’s just a lot more fun with Steven around. He makes me laugh. He gets my jokes. He likes to discuss and debate things I like to discuss and debate. He sometimes even knows what I’m thinking without me having to say a word. Sitting next to him, I can’t help but feel that all is right with the world.

But even better than all of those things combined is seeing him be a Daddy. And boy, does his little girl miss him too. After fighting with my crappy old laptop for the last four days, we finally managed to get online and have a Skype date. Cadence freaked out when she heard her Daddy’s voice and saw him appear on the computer screen. It was all I could do to keep her from tearing a hole in my laptop to get to him.

If that doesn’t absolutely melt your heart, I’d have to question whether you’re even human.

Let Them Be Little

I watched a story on Nightline tonight that made me feel a little ill. In case you didn’t tune in, click on the link below and check it out before you continue…

Parents Spend Thousands on Test-Prep to Get Kids into ‘Gifted’ Kindergartens

Now, let me be the first to admit that I understand a parent’s desire to see her child succeed. I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve never daydreamed about Cadence’s future, that I’ve never pictured her growing up to be an amazingly successful human being. Believe me, I would be overjoyed if, someday, my little girl grows up to cure Cancer or win a Pulitzer Prize or bring a packed house to their feet in her Broadway debut. And you better believe that I am going to be there to encourage and support along the way.

What I have an issue with, a BIG issue with, is overzealous parents who heap ridiculous expectations on the shoulders of their children and rob them of their childhoods.

They’re kids, people! They’re freakin’ KIDS!

When you’re 4 years old, the biggest worries you should have is how high you can build your block tower before it falls over, and whether your Mom will let you have some chocolate milk with lunch. There is not a 4-year-old in the world that needs to spend several hours a week with a tutor preparing for a test. Kids learn by playing. They learn by experiencing the world around them through their five senses, by exploring and moving and interacting and letting their imaginations soar.

They learn by being allowed to be kids.

The way I see it, “gifted” children are children who have a passion for learning. They are children who hunger for knowledge, and who will go above and beyond to master a new skill or acquire a better understanding of the task at hand. They see learning as an exciting opportunity instead of as a chore. And how can parents foster that in their children? By encouraging them, supporting them, uplifting them, helping them, paying attention to them, teaching them, listening to them, interacting with them, challenging them, believing in them, and, most importantly, by allowing them to grow and develop and just be kids.

There’s plenty of time for the adult stuff later.

My daughter turned 2 in February, and I’ve never tried to force her to sit and learn anything. Lord knows, I’d probably have to tie her to a chair to get her to sit still for more than five minutes at a time, and honestly, I don’t see the point in trying to force her to sit down for any sort of “lesson” at her age. Even so, Cadence has learned to count. She’s mastered all the way up to 13 and adding more numbers all the time. She can identify several colors, and can identify all the letters of the alphabet. She’s obsessed with the alphabet, shouting out letters wherever she sees them–on t-shirts, license plates, and TV. Sometimes she’ll get one wrong, and she’ll say “No” and shake her head and correct herself without Steven and I ever saying a word.

We’re amazed at how quickly she’s learning, but we know that it’s because Cadence thinks it’s really fun. It’s a game to her. She loves shouting out the numbers when the judges on Dancing with the Stars give their scores, or when the bids on Storage Wars are climbing. She laughs when she hollers out the correct color M&M we reward her with when she goes pee-pee on the potty. And she beams with pride when we applaud her for correctly identifying all of the letters on the page in one of her storybooks.

Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert here by any means, but I do believe that the most important lesson that Cadence is learning right now is that learning is fun. She doesn’t need to be entertained by a crazy circus sideshow of “educational programming” (aka annoying TV shows marketed to children) or coddled or forced to sit and memorize. And she certainly doesn’t need us to spend thousands of dollars so she can spend weekends with a toddler tutor. She just needs our time, our attention, our patience, and, every so often, a little nudging in the right direction.

And what our educational system needs is a complete freakin’ overhaul, but that, my friends, is another post for another time. I’ve already written a few posts about it, so feel free to check those out…

The Mis-Education of America

All Play and No Work Makes Jack a Dumb Boy

Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait for my next education-themed rant. But, in the meantime, do me a favor and take a moment to play with your kids. You just might be surprised at what you learn from the experience.

The Joys (and Pains) of Potty Training

It’s Thursday. And at this point, we have officially survived 5 1/2 days of potty training our 2-year-old.

It’s already been one helluva ride folks.

We purchased this potty chair for Cadence months ago…

We knew it might be awhile before she actually started using it, but we wanted her to start getting used to the idea, and used to the chair. After all, the thing sings to you. It’s got a little sensor in the removable tray, and just a few drops of liquid (or solid for that matter) starts the fanfare of music.

At this point, I’m starting to wonder if Cadence is going to start developing some sort reverse performance anxiety…like, maybe she’ll be a teenager and she’ll have trouble going to the bathroom without a 6-piece band and a loud round of applause.

And I can’t say that I’m helping. After a rough day yesterday where she ran away and yelled “No! No! No!” every time I asked her if she needed to use the potty (only to pee on the floor not 20 seconds later), I was so excited today when she used the potty today for the 12th time in a row with no accidents that I jumped and hollered and clapped so loud that a picture actually fell off the wall.

No joke. I had to catch it on the way down.

But I have to say, at the end of our 5th full day of potty training mayhem, I am amazed and proud and excited at how well my daughter is doing in this transition from babyhood to biggirlhood.

Of course, the Peanut Butter M&M bribes sure help. 😉 But hey, we found something that works, and I, for one, am not going to mess with a perfectly good system.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings…

365 Project- Day 354 – Who Needs Gifts When You’ve Got Boxes?

Put aside the occasional temper tantrum and the fact that Steven and I nearly kill ourselves at least once a day just trying to step over one of the three baby gates we have in our home to keep Cadence corralled in the fully babyproofed rooms, and I think that toddlerhood would be the perfect age.

One of the things I love most about parenting a toddler is how she can turn even the most mundane thing into an absolute thrill ride. Every day is an adventure, and there is potential for gut-busting fun in absolutely every situation.

This past week we have gotten several deliveries, since we tend to do most of our Christmas shopping online. Cadence is always interested in the empty boxes that we toss aside to either throw away or use to pack things in. Yesterday, we got a large box in the mail, and Cadence wanted it immediately. She spent a bit of time throwing toys in, climbing in, tossing the boys back out, and closing the flaps over herself in a rowdy game of peekaboo.

Suddenly, I had an idea. I told her to sit down and hang on, and then took her on a wild spin around the dining room table, down the hallway, back up the hallway and into a spin on the living room floor.

Best. Idea. Ever.

Cadence LOVED it! So much, in fact, that she hollered and demanded, “More go! Momma go!” when I sat down to catch my breath after nearly twenty solid minutes of spinning her around the house like a crazy go kart ride.

Luckily, Steven arrived just in time for me to take a much needed break…

By the the time we were finished and the box was beaten and torn to shreds, we were all worn out and ready for a good night’s sleep. It left me wondering though why we even bothered to buy anything for Cadence for Christmas when obviously any old cardboard box would do.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to our imaginative little girl and all the ways she helps keep us young. There’s nothing quite like having a toddler in the house to help you find the fun in life.