Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I learned in my second year of parenthood


As Maya has just turned two, I'm feeling reflective of all the things both she and I have learned over this past year. In a nutshell, this year was ACTIVE! It was so different from her first year, where she basically slept round-the-clock. This year presented new challenges in patience, discipline, teaching, and re-learning how to take care of myself (and her!)

Having more patience
My patience was really tested this year with Maya having common temper tantrums and bouts of random frustrations. I wasn't really sure how exactly to handle these tantrums and I felt bad that they were reflective of my parenting. Many times, she would get in a "mood" and I wouldn't really know what to do to calm her down. It agitated me and many times it made me snap and shout, in which I felt guilty for. But throughout the year, I started to notice her moods mimicking mine. If I started off the day on a bad foot, she would pick up on that energy. In many ways, her moods are a reflection of mine. Now, instead of snapping at her - I take a moment, pause, and figure out if there is something wrong with my own mood that she is reacting to. And 100% of the time - there is. So when she has a tantrum, I have learned to breathe in and out and speak to her with a gentle voice, instead of yelling. It truly has tested my patience...A LOT!

Going outdoors is the solution for everything
This one goes for adults too - if something's wrong - just get your butt outside! Oftentimes when Maya gets fussy, I take her out to the park. The park is a parents' god-send! We walk to the park and get exercise, we are distracted by the busyness of the road, she gets to play and I get to sit down at the park, and we are both in the moment without fussiness. So we worry less, the fresh air fixes our mood, we get exercise, and then we sleep well! I call that a win-win...

The importance of teaching
When my MIL came to stay with us, she taught me some fantastic methods of how to teach Maya. It involved a lot of repetition and pointing at things and saying words. Over and over again. She taught her in a way that encouraged her to speak and learn - like it was a fun and positive, interactive thing. I have continued this method and I like to teach her when we are out, playing inside, and when I am reading to her. I definitely believe this has paid off - Maya is an early talker, she is speaking sentences, she knows how to read letters and numbers, and she is picking up several languages. Teaching her has also been a big bonding experience for both of us.

Losing my rigidity
I used to like to keep Maya on a strict schedule - that is, until she became an active toddler. Now she says "no" to things and I have to respect that! However, I do like to feed her and put her to bed in a timely manner, but I'm no longer so strict about it being at a certain time. Some days she naps at 1:30pm and some days it is 3:30pm - it depends what is going on that day. I have learned to tune in more to her rhythms and follow her lead. For meals, I serve her the dish and she decides how much she wants to eat. I no longer worry about it too much anymore and have learned to be more flexible. Simply put: I'm less of a control freak! (Cue husband-ji's sigh of relief...LOL!)

Encouraging independence and fearlessness
This year I have learned to step back as a parent and let her start to figure out things on her own. She is naturally quite attached to me, so this is easier said than done. I am still working on it too - my tendency to step in and hover over her. When she was learning how to walk, I let her fall and pick herself up. When she runs and falls, I don't make a big deal of it. Most of the time she falls, she gets up without crying. In swimming, I let her stay underwater for an extra second so that she learns how to bring herself up. I have had to let go a little bit...in order for her to learn (despite my fears!)

Taking care of myself is taking care of her
A major thing I learned this year was that I need to take care of myself - and that makes me a better parent. Early on in the year, I was really struggling with how to manage my time as a full-time parent with no help. I could barely eat, or do much of anything for myself as she made the switch to only 1 nap per day. In the middle of the year, I was on the verge of a breakdown and I also came down with meningitis, plus a 6 week recovery. Toddlerhood can easily wear one out - the kids just have SO MUCH energy at this age. After spending time focusing on my well-being and setting up healthy routines for myself (such as eating, sleeping, my free time, regular date nights) I feel as though I've got a better handle on it. I have had to make mindful decisions for myself every day by tuning in to my OWN needs as well. As a mother, it is easy to fall into a slump of putting your kids before yourself and sometimes you don't even realize that you're doing it...until your energy tank has gone empty. Taking care of yourself is not selfish - it is self-FULL.

It's ok to ask for help
It is hard looking after a toddler with non-stop energy. This year I had to learn to put my ego aside and ask for help before I hit my breaking point. If I don't ask them - then they will be unaware that I require help. My mother works full time and my dad is recovering from an illness, so they can't babysit too often. But I try to schedule them to do it once a week or twice a week, for a few hours. For the first year of Maya's life, I did not let my parents' babysit her (which is probably why she is so clingy to me) but it has been a nice bonding experience for all of them. Maya loves Grandma's cooking, and Grandpa loves to sit and read to her for hours. It has been really nice for their grandparent-grandchild bond. Plus, she's old enough now - she's walking and eating on her own, and I think she finds them very entertaining!


As always, my child has really taught me so many things. Just as much as I am teaching her - she is teaching me....I can't wait to see what the next year holds!

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4 comments

  1. Alex,

    Great pictures of you and Miss Maya! You sure have learned a great deal being a parent. All my best to you and Maddy. Great post as always. Thanks for all that you do. Have a great weekend!


    Love,

    Melissa

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    1. Thanks Melissa! I've learned so much already!

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  2. Those are some beautiful lessons. I swear as our kids grow we just keep learning more and more. I agree most with losing the rigidity. With mine I had to learn to be diplomatic, or we both were going to unhappy. I learned to phrase things in such a way that I still got what I wanted done but she felt like sge had a choice. So instead of saying go to bed. I say what toy would you like to sleep with. Or would you like the sandwitch cut in rectangles or triangles. Toddlers are a tough age as you know. Great article Alex

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the phrasing! I have been doing that too! Or using a gentle tone of voice instead of a hysterical one LOL.
      I still feel anxious but I feel like I have been loosening up a lot. Hope it continues that way, because anxiety is just useless!

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