Friday, March 9, 2012

Parenting a 1 Year Old (a.k.a A Great Need For Coffee)

I know it appears that I have become lazy and slacking in this blog, but I promise I haven’t, at least not completely.  My laptop suddenly died and it was in the “shop” for a week (while I had all sorts of withdraws.) Even though it’s only been 2 or 3 weeks since my last post, it seems big stuff is happening around here anyway…

Um, friends---one of you or some of you neglected to tell me that a one year old is very different than an infant. A lot different.  In a lot of different ways. Raise your hand if that was you!!  ;) Abi Kate is 13 months old now and started walking about two weeks ago, right at the end of month 12 (which I predicted. See, do I know my girl or what?!) . She transitioned from only taking a few steps at a time to wanting to walk more often than crawl much more quickly than I expected. I think it’s probably because she is a later walker. Anyway, she thinks she’s big stuff when she makes it all the way across the room. She’ll throw herself into the couch after making it and start laughing. The other day I was in the kitchen and she came toddling out of her bedroom. I’m so used to seeing her crawl that it looked bizarre. She’s also started standing herself up alone, not pulling up to stand to walk. It's so fun watching her newly found mobility.

I didn’t think it was possible, but she is busier than she was before, even too busy to sit down and eat sometimes. She’ll immediately start saying, “Down! Down!” as soon as she gets in the high chair. Fun times. Her personality keeps evolving and I love the little person she’s becoming. She’s quite strong willed (we all know she got that from Tommy. If we could just make him a little more laid back…. Ha!) and pretty opinionated on what she wants to do and frequently on what she does not want to do. We are learning the ropes of discipline with her, what works for her and what doesn’t. She’s our little social bug, which we both love about her. She walked across the chiropractor’s office the other day to an older woman, arms outstretched, and climbed right into her lap. Stranger danger, anyone?! 

I really didn’t anticipate there being such a big difference between a 12 month old and an 11 month old, but in Abi Kate’s case, there has been. I’ve heard my mom say countless times that about the time you get them figured out, they change what they’re doing again. Or as my friend Rachel says, “Once you figure out what makes them tick, they start to tock.” So true. It’s been that way all through her little life so far,but I’m loving the journey just the same. She is entering into such a FUN age. She wants to play with us, she adores all music and dances and claps and shouts “Taomp!” (stomp) and pats her little foot on the floor.  

As she has gotten more independent and become more of her own little person, I’ve seen some other traits emerge. Some of them being a bit less than lovely. She has a pretty quick temper and is easily (and loudly) angered when she’s removed from somewhere or something. She started by throwing herself back and shouting, “No! No! No!” and kicking her feet. Oh dear. And then she’d get so frustrated she started to bang her head into the carpet and look at me for a reaction. This first time she did this, I pretty sure I said, “For real?!” (Sorry sister, not acceptable.) Some of that of course results from lack of communication skills and an inability to reason. It’s age appropriate. But some of it is just her personality. A few days after her first birthday, she had a day where these throw downs happened quite often throughout the day. I remember sitting in her room while she played that afternoon and just crying-- not because I didn’t know how to handle her or was exhausted, but because I SO identified with how she was feeling. I literally remember feeling angered beyond words as a 4 year old (my poor mom). And I was so upset because I know she got those traits from me. I was almost even embarrassed, just sitting in my little house alone.  I’ve always been easily and quickly riled up. Shocking, I know…..;) I never actually minded that about myself until I got older; and now that I have a daughter, I most definitely mind that about myself. It’s been something I’ve always struggled with. I think maybe I’ve gotten better with age, but not a whole lot. It was one of those things I wanted to get rid of so my children didn’t see me exhibiting such behavior and mimic me (I promise I don’t stomp my feet and shout no when I’m mad. Funny image though, right!?). Anyway, when Tommy got home I cried to him too, (bless him for listening to my 9000 meltdowns) and told him I didn’t understand why she was this way. She was so young, honestly too young (in my opinion) to be exhibiting learned behavior in response to an abstract situation. So I told him maybe she’d heard me when I was pregnant with her, when I was less cautious. She’d felt my emotions and quick frustrations and adapted them. I know I was kinda reaching there. Maybe not my most rational moment. Either way, I felt terrible because I felt like I’d passed on these ugly characteristics to her, and I felt discouraged because I felt like my best efforts weren’t producing desired results.

And then I ran across this and it basically slapped me in the face.

"How can we tell whether our efforts at parenting are motivated by reliance on God's grace or on self-trust? How can we know whether we're trying to obligate God or serve Him with gratitude? One way to judge is to consider your reaction when your children fail. If you are angry, frustrated, or despairing because you work so hard and they aren't responding, then you're working (at least in part) for the wrong reasons. Conversely, if you're proud when your children obey and you get those desired kudos - Oh! Your kids are so good! - you should suspect your motives. Both pride and despair grow in the self-reliant heart."  Elyse Fitzpatrick

I was so convicted of the despairing section, of depending solely upon myself. Abi Kate isn’t really old enough for us to have moments yet where we revel in her public behavior as opposed to other children’s. Babies are babies. But I will remember that part as well in the coming year because I will SURELY be needing it.

This is what I’ve come to realize about myself-- having a degree in “kids” has been both beneficial and harmful for me in regards to parenting. My degree is birth-3rd grade. I love little friends. I am comfortable with understanding milestones, gauging age appropriate behavior/expectations, and helping her reach or discover her next level of understanding. Having been around lots of newborns and babies throughout my kid/teenage years made a lot of “first time mom” things much, much easier.  I can’t tell you how many diapers I’d changed before having Abi Kate but it was a lot. I’d rocked fussy babies and know that sometimes they just cry and nothing works. Patience comes easily to me in dealing with little children because I know they’re just learning and childish behavior is to be expected. And even being a Nursing School drop-out helped in lots of areas as well, particularly in health, nutrition, breastfeeding, etc. But here’s what I’ve learned-- it is TOTALLY different when you have your own child. It doesn’t matter how much you know about child development, concern still crosses your mind in regards to your own child. The knowledge helps, but your own child is a different story. For example, I mentioned earlier that Abi Kate has been so on the go since she started walking, that she’s not interested in sitting down for a full meal. I know this is age appropriate behavior. I know that this is what toddlers do-- some meals they’re famished and eat like an adult, other meals they eat mostly air. My brain knows this, but did I still feel concerned over her when she started doing that? Yes, I did. Did I ask my been-there-done-that mom friends if their kids hit this phase to give myself a bit of comfort? You bet I did. And I have found that in raising Abi Kate, my experience is no different. I can discipline or correct an entire group of 20+ 4 or 5 year olds and not feel a bit concerned. But when it’s my own child it’s different, because I can’t apply what I did with those children to my own child. In essence, with a classroom, I was merely correcting behavior. I’m not simply correcting behavior with Abi Kate, I’m striving to correct her heart. So the approach is and must be entirely different. I naturally want to fall back into behavior modification strategies, etc. when teaching her how to better respond to a situation. But all that does is alter the behavior. It doesn’t correct the root of the problem, which is her heart. In the classroom, I needed quick results so we could continue learning and playing. I wasn’t in a position, legally, to discuss in depth heart issues with those children. But I’m not in the classroom anymore, and my calling in parenting Abi Kate is much higher than my call in the classroom. I find myself re-reading the above quote, reminding myself not to be self-reliant, to trust in the wisdom of the gospel message and in the capable, omniscient guidance of Christ.

We’re learning a lot these days as far as parenting goes. I’ve always believed that the needs of one child are different than the needs of another, that a “one-size fits all” approach doesn’t work, and that continues to be impressed upon me the older Abi Kate gets. What works now might not work later. I’m learning that we’re going to make mistakes, as much as we don’t want to. But the world will keep spinning. Abi Kate doesn’t require perfectionism from us. One thing I can say for sure-- I’m so grateful to be learning with Tommy. He balances me, reminds me that it’s ok to make mistakes, and reminds me to rely on faith. He makes parenting look easy. I’d like to say that I’ve taken all his wisdom to heart and don’t have a problem applying it. But well, I’d just be lying. :) I’m working on it….and in the meantime, I’ll just fill up my coffee mug again! Because seriously, as soon as she's awake, I'm gonna need it! :)

1 comment:

  1. *slowly raises hand* Yeah... Guess I could have given fair warning, HAHA!!! Something clicks when they turn 1 and suddenly they are trying to learn their own emotions and how the world really works. What they can and can't get away with, and it's a wild adventure. I will say the head banging is a phase that WILL go away. The goal is safety... if she's going to bang her head, make sure she is on the carpet. Sometimes you just have to walk away because all they are looking for is that reaction. Ignore her (as long as she's on carpet) and she'll move past it. Zoey is getting extremely different even now that she is turning 2. Now, when she "acts ugly" (as we call it), we take her to her room, set her on the pallet of blankets next to her bed, and tell her to come out when she's done acting ugly. She throws a major fit for about 5 minutes, then slowly walks out and comes for a hug. It's NOT easy to be that patient, but they have to learn somehow what ugly behavior isn't acceptable. =/ We didn't start that tactic until she was about 18 months old, but it works for her. Now she has started the "I don't want to go night night" phase and that stinks. She's always been easy to put to bed... she's always put herself to bed! But now, it's like we're murdering her if we even mention it. I remind myself that it's just another phase, and that is how I make it through. It's another phase that will pass and we have to stand firm in our reactions to her behaviors. I guess that is all I can say, haha! Abi Kate will go through some changes that will have you going, "what the heck happened to my sweet infant?!" But they all pass. Zoey was an EASY baby... sweet, well behaved, hardly cried. Now she's getting a bit dramatic, and I too have looked at her and said, "Really? We're going to do this?!" LOL! But I wouldn't trade it for the world... and I figure, my reactions are going to mold who she is and how she learns to deal with conflict and emotion, so I have to be strong and solid in what I will accept and what I won't. Sometimes, it's really hard!