Positive Parenting Series · Toddler Issues

Humbled.

I was served a heaping serving of humble pie yesterday. Twice.

Last night, I didn’t even want to write about the first incident. And I’m still not going to. But it was frustrating, it was draining, it was exhausting, and it involved both my twins. Later, I realized that I felt inadequate. I don’t always – most times I don’t, actually. But I did last night. My strategies, my tips and tricks, my well-intentioned positive parenting techniques – nothing worked.

And so be it. I suppose that’s meant to happen once in a while. There’s not a single parenting strategy that will keep all meltdowns, all incidents away. Things happen, children have big feelings and sometimes pregnant moms don’t feel like they’ve got it all under control (yep, still pulling the pregnancy card).

What I keep coming back to a day later is the fact that I felt as if everything I’ve said and done in the past few weeks, which have worked and still feel right, failed me last night and I felt this pressure of doing something else. Yelling. Pointing a finger. Blaming. Because I was angry. Even though I truly believe in positive parenting, I still felt that if I had a stranger in my house who was watching me, they might judge me for what I wasn’t doing to handle the situation. That pressure came back so quick when my strategies went out the window. I don’t know why I still feel that.

Regardless, I didn’t yell, or point a finger, or blame. That has never felt right and it didn’t last night either. There wasn’t much I could do, and eventually, it all passed.

Today’s a new day. I’ve been with the twins alone since they woke up, and we had a good time at breakfast, the produce store, the grocery store, and lunch. My son was a gem. My daughter threw mini-meltdowns at each of those events – over milk, over a toy, over a car ride issue, over strawberries. I’m still feeling a bit humbled by the strategies I may have gotten overly confident about, but they still feel right and I haven’t given up yet.

Humbled.

My second serving of humble pie yesterday was just a little while after the first one. We’re having issues with bedtime. Not the sleeping part – my twins sleep very well, knock on wood. And have since they were infants. But the process, the routine to get to bed has gotten, frankly, completely out of control.  I thought it was normal. I know preschoolers thrive on routines and heck, so do adults. My son, in particular, struggles to cope with any changes to a routine, and has for a long time. And my daughter has learned how to stall and take her sweet time so perfectly, it’s an art that drives us crazy. So, I mean, we don’t mess it up. My husband and I could do the bedtime routine in our sleep. What does it entail? I won’t post the whole thing because it’s that long. But there’s – let’s see, just coming up the stairs:

B turns on the hall light at the bottom of the stairs and says, “When I flip the light switch down it turns off, and when I flip it up it turns….ON!” B and I wait upstairs as C does her ten bounces on the couch downstairs. Once she’s upstairs too, I sit in my rocking chair and B tells me to “buckle my safety buckles”. And I hold him and rock while I sing the first verse of “you are my sunshine” – while C does laps around the chair making B laugh. Then, I sing the Barney song. Then we switch – I hold C (who has to climb up on my lap in a certain way), but she gets “you are my sunshine” hummed to her instead of with words, while B does the laps around the chair (and tells C not to look at him while he’s doing it).

And that’s just the beginning. After that, there’s a game they play “in their corners” next to their crib, then they “get the air” of the humidifier with their hands, then they throw their animals in their cribs (in a certain order, and while B does it I say a certain word to him after each animal, and while C does it she throws each animal to Daddy who has to make the sounds of the animals – if he drops it, she demands it’s done again), they each do two somersaults that they demand to be “perfect”, then a hug and a kiss, then they’re in their cribs, then we sing them the goodnight song……

You get it. What have we done? Again, I thought it was normal and then I spoke to a friend at work and realized that perhaps – perhaps this isn’t normal at all. Perhaps we’ve let it go WAY too far in the past six months. Perhaps we both had no strategies that felt comfortable, because the only option we could see is saying “Nope, not gonna happen” and that would result in two toddlers who would render themselves dysfunctional. Now we’re in so deep, and changing this routine up seems harder to me than the sleep training we did when the twins were babies!

Are routines normal? And what constitutes a routine?

It’s both amusing and embarrassing to post this, about the bedtime routine. I just assumed all toddlers had these little routines and games they played. It’s not that my husband and I never say “no” (there’s that pressure again). I try to – reserve it, for when safety is at stake, for when something bad truly happens. I don’t think it’s fair, either, to do a routine a certain way every night and then one night, just tell the twins, nope, we’re not doing somersaults tonight, by the way. Get over it. I can’t do that. And yet – we’ve allowed bedtime to become this massive thing, over 45 minutes long (that includes getting dressed while watching the end of Jeopardy/beginning of Wheel of Fortune), brushing teeth (I won’t even tell you THAT routine, but it involves me saying certain words at certain times in a certain order), book reading,etc. And it keeps taking longer and longer.

Is it wrong for my children to want me to say something at a certain time? Is it wrong for B to want me to ask him what his toothpaste tastes like (after he touches it to his tongue), and he touches the same spot on the floor as he says “black raspberry ice cream” and then he runs down the hall and then he asks me what peanut butter ice cream is and then he runs back to me and says, “what about jelly ice cream”? Are these things wrong? Do I stop them because it’s strange? Do I refuse to answer, even though he and I both know what he wants to hear? Do I let them go on because it’s his comfort?

I’m not sure anyone, including my family, realizes the detail in our bedtime routine. How do we break it, and just expect the twins to cope with no coping strategies? HELP!

So. After yesterday’s tiring, draining, humbling adventures plus a realization that we’re idiots in the bedtime routine department – we’re hoping to make some changes. Changes that are still positive, with a kind voice and love and support. But also with firmness. With a bit more authority. Unless anyone else has a better idea, we’re going to create a new bedtime routine, and it’s not going to go over well.

Wish us luck.

 

5 thoughts on “Humbled.

  1. Such a great, honest post! Thanks for sharing and sorry for the struggle. Toddlers are so, so tough. I wonder what would happen if you changed small parts of the routine gradually but still let them have a sense of control. Keep the change positive and fun and silly. I’m envisioning something like pretending to sing or hum their songs but pretending your voice won’t work and then telling them you need their help to pick a different song tonight. Or doing some “smelling play” during the day and then let your son know at the store that you need his help to pick a new flavor toothpaste to smell at bedtime. Just a few thoughts. That need for structure and routine usually comes from a desire to have control {that feels safe for all of us 🙂 } so finding ways to introduce CHANGE while still allowing them to have some CONTROL might be a good start! Good luck and hang in there. Humble pie tastes so terrible as a parent!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. You’re totally right and you make really great suggestions here. We have tried this very thing in the last few days, tweaking little tiny parts of the routine just so he knows that routines CAN change, and it seems to be going pretty well. Thank you again!

  2. Our bedtime routine is kind of long and very ritualized. When my husband pulls them out of the bath he has different words for them “Don’t tickle my beard, don’t honk my nose” etc and then they do the same action, and then so and so is first, and then there are the rituals around story and turning off the lights and who goes first for singing and WHICH songs and then counting to a certain number at a certain speed … The kids do change it a little bit every once in a while but things are added, never deleted. We did successfully delete one portion of the routine by completely overhauling the order that things go in, and we kept the smaller routines but shuffled them, and were able to take away some things in the confusion of the overhaul and shorten the whole thing by quite a bit.

    I mean there were weeks when the kids were making my husband draw 3 robots every night, they each had a turn, he drew the same 3 robots (three for my girl, then three for my boy when it was his turn). I recently went through the room and threw out pages and pages and pages of the exact same robots.

    I don’t think these rituals are abnormal and my belief is with typical 3 year olds if you continue to let rituals stay then they will never disappear on their own. It does take time to delete some of them but you can do it. Every time I do something with them once that they like, I see that they want to do it again EVERY TIME AFTER THAT. So I have to nip it in the bud, we don’t get to do things over and over, because rituals around everything … while useful, sometimes making processes go more smoothly, get really really cumbersome.

    Good luck !!!

    1. As always you have the best comments! I’m glad it’s not just us, with the rituals. Yours sound very similar to ours in the crazy department. So I feel better just from that! But you make a good point that when it starts to get out of hand, we have to put a stop to it or make a change. Which is where we are at right now. Thank you!!

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