A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of an epic tantrum, I picked Pearl up and carried her outside. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can help calm her down and give us a fresh start so I held her, thrashing and screaming, against my body and walked to the end of the driveway. Turns out, a crew of men were arriving to work on our neighbours’ roof and so as Pearl wept and I paced back and forth, speaking to her softly, I had an audience. Most of them were young men who watched me with surprise and a hint of laughter but one fellow, a little older than the others, gave me a knowing nod. I can only assume that at some point, he too has done this walk.

Posing with flowers from our backyard.

Pearl is two. Tantrums are part of our lives right now. She has intense desires and a growing sense of independence. She wants to do so many things by herself and so many of those things are still hard or impossible for her to do. Sometimes she just can’t do them (like reaching the light switch in her room) and sometimes I can’t let her do them (like buckling herself into her car seat). Her vocabulary is constantly expanding but we often run into moments where she has trouble expressing herself or I have trouble understanding her. Sometimes I’m impatient, sometimes she’s tired. We might go days without a tantrum or we might have three in one afternoon.

A rainy day at the park.

More and more these days, when strangers ask how old Pearl is and I tell them, the reply is, “You have your hands full.” Sure, but not really. Pearl is smart and fun and imaginative and delightful. She’s two, she’s not a rabid wolf. She’s learning a lot – about herself and the world – and it’s my job to help her figure it out.

New gear for the summer.

I do believe that some ideas can be become self-perpetuating and so I make a concerted effort to avoid the idea of “the terrible twos”. Why should I approach an entire year of my daughter’s life with the idea that it is or will be terrible? Can I honestly expect that when she turns three, everything will magically be easy? I can miss the docility of a newborn and look forward to the independence and real conversation of a five-year-old and still embrace and enjoy where we are right now.

Stories with Bella.

Two. It’s playing games that she’s made up all by herself. It’s waiting a painfully long time for her to climb into the tub “her own self”. It’s the morning cry of “Hi Mum!”. It’s the sharing of lip gloss, it’s pulling toy cars out of my washing machine because she fills her pockets with them. It’s rushing out of the shower because I can’t hear her anymore, only to find her quietly looking at books in her room. It’s learning who is this little person that I helped bring into the world but is suddenly so much herself.

Observing what Pearl refers to as a “pillar-cat”

The tantrums are hard and frustrating, I won’t gloss over that. The reasons for them vary and are often minor and I regularly find myself wondering if I should have just given in right away but of course I can’t give in now or I’ll teach her that tantrums work. So we walk to the edge of the front yard or we rock together in a chair or we read stories and look at birds and it usually ends with a cuddle. Two also means there is always another chance, always a time for cuddles.

I pray a lot. The last three years of pregnancy and parenting have brought me more joy and sorrow than I ever knew before. They have stripped me of many of my illusions and brought me continually to my knees, praying for the Lord’s guidance. I have a feeling that won’t change any time soon. They have also filled me with a greater and larger and better thankfulness than I have ever before experienced. Two is good. I am thankful for my two year old.


Book Review: How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber & Julie King

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen – Joanna Faber & Julia King (Scribner, 2017)

In the world of parenting books, one I had heard frequently recommended was How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk Adele Faber. I figured I would wait until Pearl was older/ more verbal to read it but when I saw a new edition titled How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen out this year, I thought it might be the perfect time.

The book is written by Adele Faber’s daughter and her childhood friend, both experts in early development. (And obviously fans of how they were raised.) It is geared for children ages 2 to 7. With Pearl having just turned two, she is at the young end of this book’s range and there were definitely suggestions that just won’t work with her yet. (Though may be good to keep in mind for the future.)

That said, there is a lot of good information and great ideas in this book and things I have been working to implement in the weeks since I read it. The core of Faber and King’s advice is acknowledging your child’s emotions. Saying, “You are frustrated!” and naming what has frustrated them, or what has made them sad or mad, etc. The idea is that this teaches them how to name and understand their emotions, as well as validating what they’re feeling. For many parents (myself included) our first instinct is to try and apply logic. “You have to sit in your stroller because this will be a long walk.” Turns out, logic doesn’t work that well with two year olds! Faber and King suggest that sometimes the simple act of naming and acknowledging your child’s emotions can be enough to foster more co-operation.

While I haven’t had quite the quick and stunning results that some of the stories in the book portray, I have found it helpful to take a moment and accept that Pearl is feeling whatever she’s feeling, no matter how inappropriate the emotion may seem to me. Part of our job as parents is to help our children learn how to deal with their feelings in an appropriate manner. And I’m certainly getting better results by talking to Pearl and being patient than simply forcing her into a stroller!

The book is full of stories and anecdotes, many from Faber and King’s own parenting experiences and others gleaned from years of workshops run for parents. The stories are easy to read and make the book a quick one to digest.

The parenting style here is one you probably agree with or don’t and there isn’t much that is going to sway you in either direction. Many parents won’t like the lack of punishment (or even consequence) that Faber and King employ. Others, like myself, will realize this was a style of parenting they were already leaning toward. One of my big goals as a parent is to avoid yelling at my kid. This has been pretty easy so far but I sense that the older Pearl gets, the more challenging it may become. It’s helpful to identify and put into practice some techniques to avoid this now. Plus, my hope is that Pearl becomes an adult who feels frustration and anger and sadness and knows how to react and deal with those feelings. I want her to know her feelings are valid but that there are good and bad ways of expressing them.

I can’t speak to how similar or different this book is to Adele Faber’s original but if you have a toddler or pre-schooler, I would recommend spending an afternoon (or naptime) skimming through this book.

Book Review: The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers - Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw Hill, 2005)

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers – Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw Hill, 2005)

In sixteen months of parenting, this is the first parenting book I’ve read. While I’ve definitely been guilty of the middle-of-the-night-google-search (Always a bad idea. Always), my parenting resource so far has been friends. I have a few trusted friends who are slightly further along the road on this gig than I am and whose kids I happen to like. When I’m wondering how to deal with a situation/is this normal, they’re the ones I go to.

But when I saw this book in the thrift store for a dollar, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I’d flipped through Pantley’s first book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution (geared towards infants) in the book store and thought I generally agreed with her style.

First, a little background: Pearl has generally always been an okay sleeper. She slept through the night at a few months old, though not consistently. I nursed her to sleep until she was around seven months old when we sleep-trained. From that point she slept through the night probably 80% of the time. Most recently, she’s gotten in four molars and in the last month we’ve been away and had a few disruptions to her routine and so she hasn’t slept through the night much in the past few months. I still nurse her right before bed (though not until she’s asleep) and when she wakes in the night. My goal is to wean her completely by the end of the summer.

All that is simply to point out that everyone has different goals and desires when it comes to how and when their children sleep. One of the things I appreciated most about Pantley’s advice is basically something I’ve said all along: Do what works. If the way you get your child to sleep and how you spend the night works for you and your family, then you don’t have a problem. But if you don’t like the way things are, she might be able to help you.

Pantley’s advice is very breastfeeding and co-sleeping friendly. I appreciated her chapter on night weaning and have already instigated some of it and I’ve stopped nursing Pearl when she wakes at night. We’re not co-sleepers (though we did it for the first time in June when we travelled) so some of the advice wasn’t relevant and I did skip over a couple of chapters. One or two I might come back to when Pearl’s older. (Like when we make the transition from crib to toddler bed.)

Pantley doesn’t offer any quick fixes and is pretty straight forward about it. She does offer a lot of grace and some ideas of how to gently guide your toddler toward the behaviour that you want to see. A lot of the book’s suggestions are geared toward kids a little older than mine – kids you can discuss things with a bit more than you can with a sixteen-month-old – but there are many simple suggestions that aren’t overwhelming and feel easy to implement. Since reading this book, we’ve placed more emphasis on our house on bedtime routine and making sure the time right before Pearl goes to bed is quiet and calm. Pearl knows the steps now and knows what to expect next. I’m not into long and complicated bedtime routines but, as Pantley points out, spending a little longer on her routine is better than spending that time getting up with her repeatedly after we’ve put her to bed.

Overall, I think reading this book gave me more confidence in what we were already doing. No, my toddler doesn’t sleep through the night one hundred per cent of the time. And that might be the case for months longer. Maybe years (though I hope not!). But it’s also the case for many other families and it doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with ours. In the meantime, if you’re willing to put in the time for a few rough nights, there are some things you can do to make things better.

Parenting Merit Badges

Since around the time Pearl turned one (i.e. hit the toddler stage), I have been awarding myself mental merit badges. Basically, when I do something as a parent that I feel a sense of accomplishment about, I give myself a merit badge to pin on my imaginary parenting sash. (I was never a Girl Guide so I have no idea how this actually works. Everything here is imaginary.) While this makes absolutely no real difference, it makes me feel good about myself. And isn’t that what parenting is all about? (Haha, no.)

Also, give yourself flowers. You've earned it.

Also, give yourself flowers. You’ve earned it.

Here are the merit badges I’ve earned so far:

  • Getting hard-soled, lace-up shoes on a toddler. (The first time Pearl wore these shoes, she lay on the floor, dragging her legs behind her, as if she’d suddenly lost the ability to walk. Which was hilarious and frustrating because it took me a long time to get those shoes on. For the next few weeks I skillfully shirked responsibility and let Peter put her shoes on but I  have now get the hang of it. Which means she’s almost outgrown these particular shoes.)
  • Putting sunscreen on a toddler. Less painful than shoes but still involves a sort of full-body hold using my legs while I smear sunscreen over any and all exposed skin and generally get it on both of our clothes.
Pearl brings me flowers because I'm such a good mom. (Don't worry, she's wearing sunscreen in this picture.)

Pearl brings me flowers because I’m such a good mom. (Don’t worry, she’s wearing sunscreen in this picture.)

  • Washing AND drying Pearl’s favourite Bear without her noticing.
She loves this bear so much.

She loves this bear so much.

  • Wrangling both a dog and a one-year-old out of the house and to the park. (Not my dog so I don’t have to do this all the time but the timing is always tricky. They both get very excited when they realize what’s about to happen.)

This is Bella’s guilty face because she knows she’s not supposed to be using the couch pillows as her own personal pillows.

  • Successfully strapping Pearl in to back-carry position in the Ergo all by myself. Bonus points because neither of us cried and I didn’t drop her!
  • Shifting (somewhat) painlessly from two naps a day to one nap a day and stretching that nap out past two hours.

What parenting merit badges have you earned? How do you reward yourself for a parenting job done to a mediocre standard?