Thursday, February 7, 2008

Toddler Exasperation

These last few days have been wearing on me regarding toddler rearing. No, she hasn't had any tantrum spells and she isn't being unusually naughty or strong-willed. She's just being a toddler and frankly it nearly kills me to keep up with her for 12 hours a day. She's gotten to a stage of not napping during the day, resulting in a 2-hour power struggle, and then eventually napping and then staying up chattering for 2 hours past her bed time at night. So, if I let her skip the nap in favor of just reading books, she'll go to bed on time with her brother and not keep him up late, but then I have to deal with her for 12 hours straight every day with no breaks.

Maybe I'm just a control freak but I find it unbearably frustrating to deal with a toddler all day long. Every day I repeat myself a hundred thousand times.
"Get your shoes on! Get your shoes on! NOW!!!"

I know some of you are thinking that I must be ineffective at discipline because I have to repeat myself so much. If you are thinking this, you obviously don't have a toddler! Yes, I expect obedience the FIRST time but half the time the toddler is in a fog of their own and doesn't even hear you the first few times. And enforcing what you say is endless! Having to follow through on a threat or on a command isn't that big of deal when it's a few times a day. But try having to follow through on about 1,000 items a day pulling punishments out of your hat like confetti and you are ready to pull every hair on your head out by the roots. Following through on every command could result in disciplinary action every 5 minutes the entire day long.

Here's an example of the tiring routine: My toddler goes to the bathroom approximately 8 times a day, give or take a few. Each time she is on the potty I have to remind her not to get too much toliet paper, have to wipe her a few times a day when she goes poo, have to oversee her washing, scold her for spraying the water everywhere, tell her not to get her sleeves wet, help her change outfits when she gets her sleeves wet, remind her to turn the light off, etc. In order to stall nap and bedtimes she always has to go potty about 2-3 times during nap time and 1-2 times after she's been put to bed. Which means taking the clothing/pajamas off all over again and repeating all these steps. Yes, we force her to go potty before bed, but miraculously she always has to go again and when we stand over her and tell her that if she doesn't go she's in trouble and she's just making up excuses, BUT she always manages to fill the potty! It's like she has a button she can turn on to make herself go potty at the most inconvenient times. Here is a small sampling of my day:
*Ali begs me for a glass of water, juice, or milk a minimum of 6 times a day but even more if she sees me drinking something and wants the same.
*Ali loves to go barefoot and so takes her shoes and socks off at least 5 times a day. Including in the car and on trips home from the stores and at friend's homes, church, etc. Getting her to put all of it back on is at least a 10 minute process each time.
*Ali washes her hands about 15 times a day. 15 opportunities to wreck the bathroom, spray water all over the counter, complain that the water is hot and need me to turn the knob toward cold, and spray her clothes so they need to be changed.
*Ali steals toys from her brother on an almost CONSTANT basis whenever he is awake and in the same house as her. You'd think she'd learn after daily and multiple punishments but she still hasn't gotten the concept of leaving a little brother alone!
*Ali needs about 6 small meals/snacks a day resulting in 6 messes where the table needs wiped and the floor needs swept, etc.
*Ali asks "Why?" at least 30 times a day and is at the stage of trying to negotiate, beg, and plead for various priviledges. She's also recently been lying a lot which creates a need for more lectures, discipline, and talks about right and wrong.
*Ali has the energy of 5 cheetahs and it's a major challenge to get it all out in the winter. Having her run down the hall a few times a day with me when I go to the laundry room helps and going on playdates helps, but she is a child who desperately needs to have a home gym or be swimming every day to burn her eternal energy. She rarely moves if it's not bouncing, dancing, skipping, hopping, and running.
*Ali dinks around with the skill of a professional dinker! She will take as much time as humanly possible getting into and out of vehicles, going to and from the laundry room (and will try to pick up nasty things on the floor that she finds), getting dressed, getting ready for a playdate, cleaning her room, etc.

Jer has demands of his own, but even though he's considered a toddler and has finally started taking his first steps, he is SO EASY! He is easier by far than Ali ever was at his age. I know someday this list may apply to him but for now my biggest challenge is keeping up with Ali. I wonder if life will ever be sane with her or if our pastor is right in saying it just keeps on getting harder (he has 4 kids, 3 in their teens). I thought 2 was rough, but now that Ali is a week away from 3, I realize that it's still every bit as hard and getting harder, but in different areas. Parenting is a wonderful and rewarding endeavor but it is the hardest thing I have ever done!

This Mama is starting to think pre-school, or even boarding school sounds pretty nice right now! Of course that's just the winter blahs talking and I would neveractually send my kid to boarding school! But a break from my toddler sure would be nice!

Cheers for my friends who are doing it with twins!


shiloh said...

That sounds exactly how my days go! Especially the part where they dink around. I feel like I am constantly herding them everywhere and pushing them to get things done! I wonder if it's not that they get worse as they get older, but that we just get more tired!

the momma said...

right there with ya!!

20 years under my belt and I have never been more aware of how inadequate I am on my own!

Was reading in Nehemiah a few days ago - the naysayers were telling him that there was too much work to be done.... (feel familiar?) so Nehemiah prayed 'strengthen my hands'
That has been my constant prayer ever since ~ I canNOT do this child-raising thing in my own strength!

One suggestion I have is to make sure you have Ali's attention before issuing a command - that alone will probably save you lots of words every day....

and praise every single remotely 'praisable' thing you can.

praying for strength (for you, not Ali :-)

Mrs. Taft said...

I second the suggestion about making sure you have her attention before issuing a command. I have a space-case daughter, and this is necessary for our survival. LOL!

Otherwise, she sounds like a normal toddler.

Obviously, you're mentioning all the bad things and not all the good things, but I think we need to be careful as parents (ESPECIALLY) as toddlers that we are not expecting too much out of them or setting them up for failure, and that there is at least equal if not more positive interactions than corrections. I do have a small suggestion about the sounds like maybe you may need to be a little more proactive about the toilet and sink.

For example, one thing I've seen done in the past is to take a colorful ribbon, tie it to the toilet paper holder, and then cut it to the length of what a proper amount of toilet paper would be for one wipe (say, three sheets). Toddlers and preschoolers are very, very concrete. Abstract concepts like "not too much" are hard for them to quantify consistently. So that way, she has a visual and even visceral guide to figure out the proper amount of toilet paper, as she can either gauge it by eye or use the length of ribbon to measure it out.

About the sink, it may be prudent right now to teach her to roll up her sleeves, and then control the water yourself. Or, if she's really just not able to handle the water and you're not able to be with her at every potty break, you could teach her to use one pump out of a hand-sanitizer (as long as you don't think she'd try to ingest it, as it is basically alcohol and be very toxic when ingested).

Or it may just be that she's not ready for the responsibility of washing her hands by herself, and instead of having her do all the steps and scolding her for making a mess, you might have to physically do it for her still. Not fun, I know, but kids need to be free to make mistakes without fear, and if it's something she is consistently mistaking, it might be prudent for you to help her. That way, you are guiding and helping her rather than nagging. :) Just my 2 cents. :)

Kristin said...

When reading this post I couldn't help but think "Wow, is she talking about Ali or Madison here?!"

Right there with ya!

Anonymous said...

You sound like a single parent. You mention a 12 hour day. Does your husband help you with the kids when he returns from work? Perhaps when he comes home you can turn the kids over to him so that you can take a half hour or so to gather some rejuvenation.

Good luck, and remember the toddler stage won't last forever!


Mrs. Jo said...

I agree Shiloh! Maybe we just get more tired or they get faster!

Thanks for the great encouragement Tracy! I loved the example from Nehemiah. I definitely can't parent on my own!

No, I'm not a single parent but my husband has one hour at home for lunch and one hour at home for supper before the kids go to bed. He does help a lot with the kids but I'm still working even when he's home, doing supper clean-up and bedtime stuff. He helps and he often wrestles and plays with the kids and reads to them while I clean up.

Mrs. Taft,
The ribbon idea is pure GENIUS!!! Thanks so much! I'm going to try this!

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