Chris and I parent very differently, but with the same end result. We figure as long as we both end up at the same destination, what does it matter what road we each take to get there? I guess that’s a good thing? I’m not sure yet. Time will tell. Lately, the biggest difference in our parenting style has been timing. And it is about to drive me cah-razy.
How can I explain this? Chris moves at the pace of a turtle. Or as slow as a 90-year-old man. Roughly.
I, on the other hand, move faster than the speed of sound. Or as fast as a toddler on a sugar high. Take your pick.
He says he just likes to take his time and I say that I am just being efficient. Either way you slice it, we are polar opposites when it comes to our timing. Somehow, though, we always end up ready to go at the exact same time. Just further proof that we are meant to be.
Lately, I’m starting to notice this timing issue in our parenting styles, too. Chris’s job in the mornings is to get Bean up, dressed, and fed by the time I have to leave for work, while I do the same for Gracie. In order to get myself and Gracie ready on time, I get up earlier and get myself ready before going in to get Gracie, who is usually playing happily in her crib by then.
Chris, on the other hand, sleeps until the last possible minute, then goes and wakes up Bean, who has slept until the last possible minute. Then, they both stumble into the kitchen and stare at the box of Cheerios for fifteen minutes, trying to decide if they want milk in their bowl or yogurt. Finally, they make a decision and then sit down to eat. Which takes, roughly, thirty-six hours at least. Once they have sufficiently eaten as slow as humanly possible, they discuss the idea of going upstairs to get dressed for the day. This conversation usually lasts approximately 20 minutes and ends with Bean crying about how he doesn’t want to change his underwear. When they finally manage to make it up to Bean’s bedroom, they spend the next 10 minutes picking out underwear, followed by another 10 minutes to choose the perfect pair of pants (Bean insists that everything is too big, even when it’s not…), followed by another 10 minutes to find the appropriate shirt for the school day.
By the time those two yahoos make it downstairs, Gracie and I are packed, dressed, fed, and waiting. And you’d think we’d be close to leaving because – hey! we’re all dressed! – but you’d be wrong. Bean has to find his shoes. Both of them. And choose the correct pair of socks for those specific pair of shoes. At this point, I am gnashing my teeth with frustration and biting my tongue not to yell at Chris, “JUST PUT HIS DAMN SHOES ON AND LET’S GO!”
Perhaps this is why it is to our kids advantage that we have different parenting styles. I am great in a crisis. I move quickly, I react calmly, I get us in and out and on the way again. But I’m not so great at giving Bean the time to make his own choices. I know in my head that toddlers require extra time for things, but in real life I get frustrated and often times end up doing things myself rather than giving Bean the chance to try to do it on his own.
Right now, as I write this, Chris and Bean are getting ready for bed upstairs. Chris and been up there for almost an hour, talking over things like how much toothpaste Bean should use and which pajama pants go with which pajama bottoms. And once I heard Bean yell out, “But, Dad! I almost pooped!” Ahhhh…parenthood. It’s funny that most of us go through it, and yet we have such different responses and experiences. I’m glad that my kids will get two different experiences in their home.
Even if it does make me want to kill their father sometimes.
If I have become an expert on anything this past holiday season, it would have to be eating out with two small children. Whether we’re at someone else’s home, sitting in a fast food drive through as we travel, or eating at a restaurant, taking two kids out to eat can be a real challenge.
Michael is at the age now where he knows what is expected of him in a restaurant. Mostly, that’s because we expect him to act the same way at our kitchen table as we would expect him to act in a restaurant, so there’s little confusion about table manners. Of course, there are times when he’s tired or cranky or exceptionally hyped up, and those meals are a bit more challenging. But, generally speaking, Bean is pretty good when we go out now. He’s two and a half and so he sits in a booster seat next to me or Chris. We try to get a booth, when we can, because it is easier to contain Bean. Most of the time, Bean sits in his booster seat through the entire meal. I make sure to order his meal when we order our drinks, so that he has his food sooner rather than later. I’ve also started bringing crayons and paper for him to play with while we eat. Restaurants are also one of the only times he ever gets to use a real pen to write with and so that’s always good for a few minutes of novelty.
Gracie is now nine months old. She can sit up on her own and so we get a high chair for her. Usually, I put my shopping cart cover in the high chair, just because she likes to chew on anything around her. It’s also convenient because she tends to drop things (like, EVERYthing…) and that cart cover helps trap falling debris. I like the cart cover because it has these rings that I can hook toys to, so even if she throws them, they just dangle.
For food, we used to order Bean a children’s meal every time we went out, but lately he is so hit and miss on whether he’ll eat a whole meal or not and so we’ve been just ordering him a side item or two. Gracie is also eating table food now and so we usually just give her pieces of whatever is on the table that she can gum to death. Here is a quick list of what are our go-to foods at each meal when we eat out:
Breakfast – Bean:
Plain biscuit (which we put butter or jelly on at the table – we keep it plain if we’re in the car)
Cheerios (he likes me to mix his yogurt and Cheerios together in one bowl)
Single pancake (no butter or syrup because I’m a Debbie Downer and don’t like the sugar, although his Nana always gives him syrup)
Breakfast – Gracie:
*All of Gracie’s food is cut up into bite sized pieces and she either feeds herself or I feed her as I eat. I usually let Gracie sample whatever we have on our plates. Be sure if you’re giving your baby something for the first time, you wait about 3 days before introducing anything else new so that you can monitor for an allergic reaction. I’ve had one pediatrician who said to stay away from nuts and peanut butter strictly until they were one year old, but I’ve had another pediatrician who said that we could try it now at nine months with Gracie in small amounts. We’re choosing to wait a bit, simply because that allergy can be really dangerous in wee ones. We also don’t do honey until they are two years old and we keep the shell fish out of their diets until they are about two years old, as well. Other than those two things, though, we really let her try all kinds of foods. Be sure you talk with your pediatrician about what they recommend for introducing new foods to your baby. These are simply big hits that work for my particular family.*
Toast (If you butter it a little and let it sit first, the bread becomes a little soggier and easier to chew)
Single scrambled egg (be sure to ask that they not cook it in butter, if you’re particular)
Cut up pieces of fruit
Lunch or Dinner – Bean:
*He can pretty much eat anything and he tells us what he wants or doesn’t want, but these are some of the most popular when we’re out. Our best bet is usually to look at the side items part of the menu, instead of the kids menu for Bean, unless I know he’s particularly hungry.*
Grilled chicken strips (usually from my salad)
Mashed potatoes (especially if they are sweet potatoes)
Applesauce (the biggest thrill EVER, if you are Bean)
Cheese quesadilla (sometimes I get chicken and cheese to get some protein in there for him, but Bean usually picks it out. He’s not much for meat…)
Lunch or Dinner – Gracie:
*Basically, if it’s relatively bland and unsauced, Gracie gets to try it.*
Fully cooked turkey or chicken
A french fry (if I’m desperate and she’s getting fidgety. She’ll slobber all over a french fry for an hour!)
Any vegetable that’s on someone’s plate
Avocado (these are great in Mexican restaurants with a cheese quesadilla. Both my kids love that meal.)
Rice (brown, when available)
With the kids getting a bit older now, eating out and on the go has become much easier. The trick is to get them in, keep them happy and as healthy as possible, and get them out quickly! Meals on the run aren’t necessarily relaxing anymore for me and Chris, but they certainly are an adventure!
What about you? What are your kids favorite things to eat when you’re out and about?
For a while, we really encouraged it. It was keeping him excited about going potty and it kept him interested in potty training. But, we started drawing the line the day that he tried to carry three pair into his Sunday School class. And it was getting awkward to have a kid carrying underwear sitting in the grocery cart at Target. I felt the need to explain to strangers that he was carrying CLEAN underwear. But that explanation just made things weirder. Finally, Chris and I made the rule that underwear stays in the house, unless we are wearing it out.
Bean protested this new decree.
He protested much.
While the carrying of the underwear thing was weird, it didn’t become a problem until recently. In the past two weeks, Bean has suddenly become obsessed with changing his underwear each time he goes to the bathroom. We don’t let him change because we want him to learn how to wear underwear the, you know, normal way…one pair at a time. But every time he’d go potty, he’d start asking for a different pair of underwear.
“I want Thomas!” he’d cry. “Let’s wear Thomas now!”
When he realized that this wasn’t going to get him a change of underwear, I think Bean got a little smarter. This past weekend, Bean started having multiple accidents in one day. He’s been really good about going potty, but on Sunday he had two accidents and on Monday in school he had three. That was highly unusual. And what got my attention was that when I’d pick him up from school, he would announce very proudly, “MOM! I PEED ON WALL-E AND NEMO! NOW I WEARING BUZZ!” He was so happy that he had gone through so many characters.
Now, I had a dilemma. I didn’t want to discourage Bean from going potty and I didn’t want him to think he was in trouble for having accidents (we’ve tried to keep potty training as positive and upbeat as possible so far), but clearly he needed to know that going potty was not a way to get a change in underwear. So, in a fleeting moment of parenting genius, I had a shining moment.
I went to Target and I bought two packs of plain white underwear. This morning, I explained in my happiest voice to Bean that he would get to pick one pair of fun underwear that he would wear for the day. If he had an accident at school, then he would have to wear the white underwear until tomorrow. He just kind of stared at me a little and I couldn’t tell if he understood or if he thought he was in trouble. When we got to school, Bean stood there with me while I explained the new system to his teacher (who thought it was a great idea). Then, both his teacher and I reminded Bean that he needed to tell someone when he needed to go potty so that he could keep wearing his Cars underwear. He kind of nodded his head and I thought that maybe this idea wasn’t making sense to him.
But when I picked him up at daycare today, guess what! NO ACCIDENTS! ALL DAY! And Bean came running up to me saying, “Mom! I still wearing Cars!”
There are a lot of things I mess up as a parent. (Remind me to tell you how I may have been starving Gracie for the past month…) So when I solve a problem, I very seriously pump my fists in the air and yell, “SCORE ONE FOR MOM!”
Being two years old is rough work. Exhausting, really. It takes all that Bean has to hurl himself emotionally onto the floor in order to let me know that he would rather have water than milk with his dinner. These kinds of statements don’t just happen, people. Two year olds put blood, sweat, and tears into their decision making. Being two ain’t for the fainthearted.
Neither is being the mother of a two-year-old.
Can I be honest with you? I feel like a total failure about 85% of the time with Bean. Like, I must be doing something wrong for him to have such explosions of emotions and tempers. I do what everyone says to do, I ignore the behavior that I don’t want to encourage. But this just seems to exasperate the problem.
After a whole year of ignoring the bad behavior, I decided last month that I was over that. It didn’t correct his behavior or show him what he should be doing instead and he didn’t seem to have a problem laying on our kitchen floor wallowing. And, quite frankly, I was tired of hearing him wallow. Now, when Michael flips out, I do one of two things. If he’s flipping out about a frustration he has that I can help him with, I go to him and tell him very calmly that I can’t hear him when he is crying. Then I wait and 9 times out of 10 he gets himself together and tells me what is wrong. The other times when he is upset simply because he doesn’t get his way, I put him in his bedroom to cool off a bit. I don’t yell at him or punish him, I simply walk him up to his room (or drag him…whatever you want to call it…) and explain that when he stops crying, then he can back downstairs.
At first, I felt really bad sending him away like that, but I’m learning that it really is a better option for Bean than a time out. For one thing, I can send him to his room and he can still calm down and play (which is how it usually goes) and for another thing, I can save the time outs for defiant behavior – which is not allowed at our house.
But no matter what the game plan is or how we choose to handle Bean’s two-year-old outbursts, I still feel like I’m doing something wrong. That he wouldn’t be so emotional if I was a better mom.
Maybe better mom’s don’t watch their two-year-olds pitch temper tantrums while thinking to themselves, “That kid needs a Midol…”