Having shared the 15 Things No One Told Me I Could Do to Prepare for Motherhood, I thought I needed to continue the journey. So here’s my sequel…
If you have managed your pregnancy well and did a reasonable job at managing your newborns/infants, you probably think you've got it figured.
News flash! You've just seen the trailer. And as is typical of trailers, they get you excited about the movie (with clever editing and terrific background score) but watching the movie is something else!
So here’s the thing. Toddlers are babies on steroids. If babies cry, toddlers screech. If babies wriggle like octopus, toddlers jump like red kangaroos (fastest jumpers among mammals – 56km/hr). If babies break things within their reach, toddlers rampage through the house (and sometimes the entire neighbourhood/shopping centre/friends’ houses). If babies are fussy eaters, toddlers go on hunger strike. If babies are fun, toddlers are a party!
Here’s what having a super active toddler has taught me:
- Don’t stress about being overweight. When people ask me how I have lost so much weight lately, I usually tell them that I have joined a gym that is open 24x7, has no membership fee, and has designed the most personalised and extreme boot camps for me. Of course, I am only referring to the fact that I have a toddler at home, who is my personal gym. So all you new mums struggling to get rid of your pregnancy weight, hang in there. Your own personal gym is under construction. They’ll make you run, hop, skip, jump, squat, push up, dance, stand on your head or do full locusts. At the end of it all, even the Scorpion Handstand will feel like relaxation.
- Be outdoor more often. Take them for picnics, beach, BBQ, zoo, parks…anywhere. Mother Nature is far more interesting and accommodating to them, than indoors. Avoid spending your weekends at friend’s/relatives houses. Even if they love kids (or your kid in particular). Not unless you were planning to take them off your friends list anyway. Toddlers are curious creatures. A new house full of new things to break/damage/explore is their dream!
- Do not take them shopping. The sight of shopping trolleys, rows of shelves neatly stacked with colourful items, announcements over the Public Address (PA) systems, other kids in prams, LED message displays, animated billboards….do strange things to their brains. Is this based on any scientific study? I hear you ask. No. But am sure of it. As sure of it as I am about the fact that my child becomes possessed in shopping centres. Of course there are those perfectly well behaved kids who hold their mummy’s hand when walking, sit quietly in their prams, never put eleven different types of chicken corn soup in mummy’s trolley and never roll on the floor wanting to buy a broom. But I don’t have one of them. My little girl is a delightful personality….but let’s say that she is not her charming best at the shops.
- Don’t stress about their meals. People who know me, know that my toddler doesn't eat. Because I told them. Not once. Several times. I have become the kind of person people avoid at parties…because they have nothing new to talk about. Yes, I stress about my child not eating. And when I say “not eating”, I don’t mean “not eating as much as she should” or “not eating as much as I would like her to”. I mean “not eating”. Full stop. They call her a “plant” at day care, because they think she survives on photosynthesis. Her carer told me that in her 22 yrs of child care experience, she hadn't seen anyone like her i.e. someone who survives literally with no food all day, and has no lack of energy. That’s how they concluded that she must be a plant. Anyway, the point is, it’s normal to get stressed about their nutrition. But don’t let it take over your life, so much so that you miss out on all the other things that are going great. I am yet to practise what I preach (this one in particular). But I know I’m trying. And I know that nothing makes me happier than to watch her eat half a cracker on her own.
- Accept germs. Toddlers seems to catch many. From day care…or kids at the park…or other friends’ kids. Their immunity isn’t fully developed yet, but it is getting stronger. Babies/infants usually don’t fall sick so often, because they are not as exposed to those pesky bugs. But toddlers are germ magnets! If it’s out there, rest assured they will catch it. As mums, all we can do is to spot symptoms, see reliable doctors we can trust, be timely with medicines (if prescribed), give lots of cuddles…and be patient. This too shall pass. And before we know, we won’t have to take days off every second week.
- Do not compare with other kids. It’s tempting to do so. But don’t. How many times have we heard the “every kid is different” theory? But it’s amazing how often we forget it! Our kids will walk, talk, interact, dance, run, smile at strangers, know their colours and numbers, be toilet trained, grow taller/bigger…all at their own pace. Do you know of any adult who wears a nappy to work or doesn't know their colours (unless they are colour-blind, of course)? So, chill. They will learn everything when it’s the right time for them. Enjoy their journey and stop comparing or rushing them!
- Have music handy. Or at least ear plugs. Because there will be noise. Enough noise to make you jump out of your skin. Pots and pans being hit with metal spoons, toy musical instruments that have no volume control, screeches when the television is switched off or the iPad taken away, sirens on toy automobiles, TV remotes being hurled from one end of the room to another. And if there is a group of kids at play, be afraid….be very afraid.
- Find your “me” time. Because when you become a mum, you don’t suddenly stop being a person. Of course your kids mean the world to you. But you are not scarring them for life or depriving them in any way if you go for that girls’ night out, or a pedicure or a shopping day. Provided they are in good care (husband, carer, family, friends), you should not feel guilty for pampering yourself with the much-needed (and well deserved) “me” time. When you are back, you’ll be ready to take on the world! And they will love you for it.
- Be OK with exposure to technology. Just balance it right. I see a few eyebrows being raised! But let’s face it. Our kids will be exposed to technology, sooner than we like it. Almost all the kids I know (and I know quite a few), were able to navigate the tablet or smart phone screen before they turned two. What’s important is what they watch…and how long they watch it for. There are some great videos/movies/TV shows out there that entertain a young mind and help it develop. As long as they are not glued to it for hours or watching age-inappropriate content, that TV or iPad is not necessarily their enemy. As long as they don’t think that a book is an iPad that does not work, all is good with the world!
- Be a child again. Your child is your last (and perhaps only) chance to be a child again. So “jump in muddy puddles”, read fairy tales or superhero stories (real books, not on a tablet), build that Lego castle, ride your bicycle as they ride their trikes, pat farm animals, run through the sprinklers, have a tea party under the dining table, go camping, sing out loud, kick that big blue ball, blow bubbles in air, play dress-up, dance to crazy tunes, make sand castles, watch the stars… and relive your childhood with your precious little darlings.