Sometimes you have to look back to realize how far or where you’ve come and today when I accidentally scrolled up too far in the sent photos section of WhatsApp while chatting on a family group, I landed on some old pics of my daughters and realized how much they’ve changed (mostly how my eldest has transitioned from chubby baby to opinionated little girl!) in what felt like a time and space I missed – even though I’m certain I was there pretty much all the time!
It’s in moments like this that I’m forced to have a bit of an out-of-body experience and reflect on the fact that my kids are growing up much faster than I’m able to catch-up and it’s then that I start questioning whether caught in the day-to-day grind trying to satisfy their (and my) ever morphing needs (and thank you move for making this even more intractable) I’m perhaps losing perspective and losing the delicate balance between my needs and my family’s. Despite my best efforts, it seems that every time I go through that mentally tortuous exercise (which often starts through an old cute picture!) I end up thinking the balance is tilting one way or the other more than it should and I start micro-planning solutions around this… those solutions often involve planning and slicing my time into more pieces to address all the things I and they want to do… the problem is both those lists keep on growing and I keep on thinking one of them is going to shrink to give way to the other! + hey sorry to break-it to all the second-time-around moms, the synergies of having gone through it once do have serious limits, as the second kid can be very different then the first and you may have some completely new experiences / challenges with them (for instance I never had to deal with unruly curly hair with my eldest!) Of course, despite my best planning, it seems that with so many things, not everything gets done exactly as I saw it in my planner…
Perhaps nowhere is this tension between their needs, my husband’s and mine more apparent then during the weekend, when we’ve resolved that it’s important for us to recharge both separately and together. All it takes sometimes, is one incident that creates a domino effect on all the rest of the carefully planned day and there goes the whole balance… For example, we plan a day carefully designed around a nice car ride with music, lovely brunch with friends, stroll in the park and an afternoon relaxing on the beach / going for a run… this can turn out to become a shouting fest by fussy toddler in the car seat from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (bye bye Seascrest top 40), an ‘à table’ juice fight between my usually white but then turned orange daughters at the bewildered sight of our single friends (who are likely to stay single for a while after this!), and a miracle tantrum at Dubai’s Miracle Gardens by my eldest over not finding the perfect lollipop! So much time gets wasted of course dealing with those unexpected events and even more time when we try to stick to principles. I mean obviously if I settle to their every demand (and my husband often voices the let’s save the rest of the day argument) or don’t hold them accountable to their actions, things would go faster but am I not hurting my future self there too? That day I didn’t give in and hey I missed the beach and my husband missed his run… oh well not sure I made the right choice there 😜
Of course (and perhaps that’s a blessing somehow) those self-assessment episodes only last for so long (because I only have so long before I’m interrupted by either a cute moment: “Maman regarde cette coquine dit “Tigre”; ENG: “Mom look this naughty one says “Tiger”! or a disaster “Maman cette coquine descent les escaliers toute seule! Regarde elle peut! Je lui ai ouvert la barrière! Laisse-la!; ENG: “Mom, look this naughty one is going down the stairs! Look she’s doing it by herself! I opened the gate for her! Let her do it!”… Moi 😱
I’m not sure if I’m balancing right but surprisingly as time passes I’m becoming less vulnerable to realizations that I’m actually not always balancing perfectly… it’s a sort of a gradual peace-making with my limitations or realization that my trying to control everything ultimately circles back to create even more frustrations that I lack control over. So perhaps the best balance one can achieve is to accept without frustration or too much resistance that “something’s gotta give” and that from time to time the coloring is going to go outside the lines… but that despite that your life can still be beautiful.
There’s a pub in my neighborhood called The Anglesea Arms, as soon as there’s a shred of sunlight, its terrace gets flooded with drink and sun-seekers… the mood in it is often contagious and the crowds overflow to the streets. One way or the other I end up passing by this place on weekend afternoons with my family and just as my eldest is throwing some sort of fit and my baby daughter is demanding to be held…My husband and I inevitably look at the crowds, then each other and grimace a nervous resigned smile and keep on strolling our two kids away into a non-pub / kids friendly environment. I’m sure many mommies out there have that place in their neighborhood, which just like The Anglesea Arms, is the constant reminder of how much their lives have changed since they used to hang out carelessly sipping a drink with friends at a bar terrace on a weekend morning. These days my weekend ritual starts, not much later after the last Anglesea Arms enthusiasts are forced to go home, inaugurated by my morning alarm / aka my 3 year-old daughter shouting in my ear: “maman j’ai faim! / mommy i’m hungry!” (an earlier stint occurs as well sometimes, while Anglesea Arms revelers are probably counting down their shots, by my daughter shouting “maman, pipi!”)… So she’s got my attention, I remove all the bed linens and open the garden door to let in the freezing air to force my husband out of bed to help. I head to the kitchen to prepare my toddler’s breakfast and then head back to the bedroom to find that my husband has still managed to stay asleep and before I get a chance to say a word, inevitably, baby # 2 starts crying and I have to go breastfeed her. It’s at that time that my husband usually wakes up and passes by the nursery to ask me what we’re going to do today and it’s usually at that point that my baby # 2 burps all over me and that my daughter starts shouting from the kitchen that she wants more Cheerios…
Despite the increasingly grey and wet weather in London these days, I refuse however to be imprisoned at home over the weekends caught in attending to one then the other or acrobatically attending to both and generally find that it’s easier to distract the kids outside the house so I endeavor to make my best to head out of the house as soon as possible. There’s of course a lot to get done for that to happen: showers x 4, getting dressed x 4, etc… Slowly but surely however we do head out (I’m glad to report that we hit a 10am record yesterday!) + 2 strollers and having gone through our 100 items checklist of things we need to have done or need with us on the go… On our way, we often pass by The Anglesea Arms again, which by then is of course empty and my husband and I stare at the place, our well-groomed and calm kids, then stare at each other, take a deep breath of fresh air and unreservedly smile and keep on strolling into our new parent identities…
Halloween arrives this year as my daughter completes her transition from a toddler to a preschooler and therefore, unlike last year, I will have less control over her choices, and this time around her trick and treat experiences are much more likely to impact her eating habits… I will therefore want to make sure that this highly marketed and colorful occasion doesn’t turn into a celebration of unhealthy eating which risks creating a fascination with unhealthy sugary treats. Furthermore, as I’ve noticed at my NYC building last year with children racing to my door, Halloween literally becomes a competition of who hoards the most treats and therefore kids end up amassing loads of candy, which can last them for weeks or months! So, while I cannot control the neighborhood, I have plans to make the Halloween experience as wholesome as possible for my daughter and her friends by coordinating with a couple of moms and her school to create a fun event focusing on the pretend-play and the costume side of the event as well as line-up healthy replacements in Halloweeny disguise (i.e. themed packaging or presentation) to give them a chance to compete with the shiny packaging of the typical sugary and highly processed treats.
Below is my list of suggested replacements:
Cereal and granola bars
Trail mix, unsalted plain roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds (careful with allergic trick-or-treaters)
Cheese strings or individually wrapped mini cheese shapes
Unsalted plain popcorn
Mini boxes of raisins
Unsalted plain pretzels
Single serve boxes of ready-to-eat cereal
Individual juice boxes (100% juice)
Apple or pear sauce
Dark chocolate bites
Finally, what’s also important is that when the kids return home with their big bag of goodies (hopefully with more healthy than unhealthy stuff this year!) you should try to explain that while the treat wraps are colorful, those treats are not gift-wrapped toys! and they are not to be all opened and consumed in short order but rather they should be left in a “treasure box” and consumed as snacks and in moderation.
I can’t recall when or how exactly this started but my daughter just can’t stop talking!
By her 2nd birthday she knew a few words, but now, only 6 months later, her communication superpowers are blooming and she sure is loving them and using them! Although she still makes a lot of mistakes in pronunciation and sentence structure, she’s expressing herself in full sentences, opening structured conversations, debating with arguments and asking a whole LOT of questions! What’s overwhelming is mostly the volume of talk! It’s not that I’m not used to this at home, though I didn’t necessarily think (or wish!) she would inherit that specific behavior from her dad!
She always has something to say or to ask about. From the second she opens her eyes in the morning “mommy what food are you serving me?” in her clumsy French “manger quoi, maman?”, the interrogation journey starts… I hear “c’est quoi ça maman?” (eng: what’s that mommy) more than I feel the baby #2 kicks, although I have to say there has been a nonstop trampoline party going on in my belly lately!
She asks all sorts of questions:
- Funny ones: in a restaurant where the waiter was wearing a bright yellow shirt and was taking forever to bring our food, “maman, il est ou monsieur jaune? (eng: where is Mr. Yellow?)
- Weird ones: a 5 min cab ride turns into a drill of questions on the components of a taxi’s interior (most of which I had never even noticed before) from the little screw she found under the door handle to the taxi driver’s ID and registration number.
- Smart ones: “Papa, comment on appelle ça en anglais?” (eng: How do we say this in English?).
- Silly ones: “Maman, il est où papa?” (eng: Where’s daddy?) even though papa is holding her hand while crossing the street or when we’re all having dinner together and papa is just sitting next to her!
- Quizzes: she asks questions that she already asked a million times before and knowing perfectly well what the correct response is. When I try to trick her and answer incorrectly she corrects me “maman, il est où papa” (eng: where’s daddy?) to which I respond “il est sur la lune” (eng: he’s on the moon) followed by her final response with an attitude and a giggle “mais non maman, papa est au travail!” (eng: no mommy, daddy is at work!).
If she’s not talking to me or to her father, she’s scolding a doll because she didn’t finish her dinner or she’s doing a monologue while playing with the blocks. A sneeze or a cough wouldn’t stop her, she just says “à tes souhaits” (eng: bless you) to herself or “pardon” and continues the chatter!
This phase has been a lot of fun, I’m loving watching her growing up, becoming a little adult with a LOL sense of humor and an overwhelming curiosity while providing us with a lot of entertainment and crazy laughs. She has so much energy (verbal energy) that it’s so hard to keep up with her at times (or get anything – other than responding to her questions – done). It can be particularly draining when I am trying to focus on another conversation, an article or just thinking of something else I need to get done and she stops me 10 times to tell me for the zillionth time how she hurt her foot on the plane, or how huge Santa’s belly was, or that her teddy bear isn’t a bear but a pig…
At this development stage, it’s primordial to provide your toddler with a rich and nurturing communication environment to help grow his vocabulary, educate him and help him form his personality. Try to enjoy the ride as much as you can and while you will get tired of hearing the same questions and repeating the same responses, believe me it is one of the most fulfilling things you can experience to see your own child’s vocab, behavior and personality evolve gradually (but not so slowly actually!) by simply talking to him, describing to him what you’re doing, pointing things out, telling him stories, asking him questions and singing him songs…
I also find it very important to be a good listener and to be responsive to my daughter by giving her my attention when she’s talking to me and providing her with as accurate an answer to her question as possible (thanks Google).
Furthermore, while it’s well established that the reading itself is an important component in helping to enrich your child’s vocabulary and sentence construction, reading can also be an opportunity to start new conversations, to teach your child about new things or to give them a chance to express new ideas.
Personally I find that the key to constructive and effective communication with your toddler is to treat them not as child but as a mini adult. This doesn’t only mean that I assume that no question is too dumb and that she’s able to understand almost everything (so I don’t filter much and I don’t baby-talk my explanations much) but also that as a starting point I expect of her to act like an intelligent adult and not as a baby and I try as much as possible to convey to her that the same rules of communication and interaction that apply to me and her father apply to her and that she doesn’t get a special pass for screaming, pushing me or banging on the table because she’s 2! Of course balance is key however because as much as you want to take advantage of your child’s incredible learning potential, you should not be spending your whole day responding to questions as you have a responsibility to yourself (and your child) to stay sane and be balanced… teaching your child balance is after all, in and of itself, a very important life lesson!