At age 2, he is beginning to learn the meaning of independence and there are many things he can do. There is a world of things he is learning and yearning to do. It’s my job to support the directions he chooses. And boy does he go in a lot of directions but he surprises me all the time!
Like, when he asks to help wash the dishes… As awesome as that sounds, in reality it can be really annoying. After a long day, the thought of him splashing water everywhere, wiping a spoon once & calling it “clean” or putting all the soapy un-rinsed dishes in the strainer to dry… Really makes me want to say “NO”. But, I try my best to involve him and watch for cues of him being “done”. When he gets bored that’s often when he starts to go a little “overboard” at which point is a perfect time for me to ask if he would like to try something else. A solid attempt to save both our sanity and avoid getting annoyed.
He can cook a mean pizza and zucchini bread. I won’t lie, homemade pizza is a staple in our house. So, letting the little guy step in as mommy’s little helper is a regular thing. Sure, it’s messy, he eats more than he puts on the dough and he doesn’t always like the waiting for it to actually cook part but he is some proud of himself when he gets to reap the rewards of his tasty efforts. And I have to tell you, it makes me a proud mum when he tells people “me & mumma make that!”
He can do it himself. Mr. Independent has become great at UNDRESSING but wiggling both limbs into two separate pant legs and realizing that the big hole at the top of your shirt is for your head and not both your arms is not a simple task. neither is getting every tooth shiny white or every toy in his room exactly back to the right place. But, he can do it. So, every time he says “mumma I can’t” I remind him that he can and he has. It’s super hard, but I try my best not to step in to offer very little assistance unless it’s really needed.
He can make decisions. This can be a semi-controversial topic. You’ve got to be thinking I’m that pushover kind of mom who’s son is head of the table in our castle. Before you jump to conclusions, let’s clear one thing up – I believe in BALANCE in all that we do. Which means, there is a happy medium here. Do I let him scream through the store because he decided that he wants a new toy? NO. But I do let him decide whether he’d like to “take a break, breathe & try again.” Because happiness & self-control are choices. If he makes the right choice, it’s not unusual that it could be rewarded with an extra special trip to our favorite playground or a new book. I love to watch him in thought or take small steps towards a positive outcome.
He can negotiate. You might be thinking why? Why should I have to negotiate with a toddler? But as adults don’t we have to compromise & negotiate all the time to find that “happy medium?” Why would it be fair to always make the toddler do what we want or vice versa? It isn’t and I think teaching him to meet in the middle & negotiate is more important than my impatience or game preferences. So, when he picks the same old picture book to read at bedtime, I ask if he’d like to bring that one to bed and pick a book with words to read. He might think about it for a minute & reply either yes or no. Even though I’ve “pretend read” the picture book with trucks a thousand times, if he insists, we make a deal to skip it next time. When it comes up again, I remind him about our deal and even through disappointment sometimes, I can see that he understands and remembers. They understand way more than we think!
He can control his own body. I’m not talking about the sensations leading to potty training or holding back retaliation to the kid that just sucker punched him… But I want him to understand that “NO means NO” when it comes to HIS BODY. So, when the family reunion rolls around and all the loud scary uncles he hasn’t seen in a year want hugs & kisses and he bluntly denies them, I don’t force it. When were having a tickle war and after endless rumbling giggles, he cries out “no” or “stop”, we stop. We listen cause’ seriously, as a kid don’t you remember being tickled to the point of almost peeing your pants or being in physical pain? No one likes that. But more importantly, if I don’t teach him that he has control of his own body now, when will he learn? How will he tell us when someone makes him uncomfortable? This is one topic I don’t budge on.
He can make “Pinterest Worthy” crafts. So, you found the cutest fall-themed pin… Now all that’s left to do is get your toddler to sit down, uninterrupted for at least 20 minutes to carefully place his red, orange & green handprints all over a paper so it looks like the perfect confetti of fall leaves. So, when he’s only one handprint in and decides he wants to be done or paint his body instead, get over it! Let’s not focus so much on the finished project and enjoy the messy laughs just a little more, ok? And whether or not it looks remotely like the photo you found online, not only is it your duty to hang it on the fridge but you best be sure to post his work up for all of social media to see too
He can comprehend things that seem “too complicated”. So, take the time to listen when he’s trying to tell you something important. It’s almost always important. Because when he tells you about his dada and sissy or on another day what he did with his daddy and mummy, he is referencing two very different, yet very meaningful people to him. You think a toddler can’t comprehend this “blended family” or that he’s “confused”? You’ve got it all wrong. He chose those labels all by himself. You know why? Because it’s more than a label. He knows who loves him and cares for him. He knows exactly what he’s saying and even worse, he knows exactly what your saying too!
All in all, we are far from perfect. I throw his clothes on as fast as I can when we’re in a rush. I spoon fed him his yogurt when I couldn’t stand him making a mess. I skip running errands so, instead we can take double the time to bake a treat. I encourage him to give free hugs. I do my best to shelter him from conversations he shouldn’t hear and I don’t correct him when he calls the babysitter “mumma”.
But please, try to take it slow. Follow his lead. He’s ready to show you that he can do it. He’s seeking your approval and reassurance. He is finding his own way and pride. He will ask many questions and you won’t be ready for all of them. But you are both learning. He needs you to let him try…
Because as ‘Bob The Builder’ says, “Yes We Can!”
With patience & grace,