It’s that time of the year when we look back and then look forward. Usually, that’s just a recipe for anxiety! To be in the present moment is the best way, always. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to look back at all the things I’ve learned in the past two years—well, for just a little.
As a mom of a toddler, I’m constantly learning and discovering—whether it’s about nutrition, handling sickness from preschool or potty training. As soon as I feel like I’ve mastered a stage, something changes and I’m confused again. Like the time my boy slept through the night, then hit a regression and I was back sleeping in his room. Or the time he ate every vegetable and fruit on his plate, then I had to start hiding vitamin-rich foods in his pancakes.
Life with a two year is still so fun. I love hearing him talk and put together funny sentences like, “I have to go to Costco and buy doughnuts.” I love seeing him dance and sing and appreciate the small things in life, like a cracked piece of cement on the ground where ants crawl though, or snowman decorations in front of our neighbor’s house. Peeling a small orange with him is magical. It’s amazing how the tiniest parts of life will fascinate and entertain him, which does make it hard to walk anywhere fast! But I try to slow down and get in his zone as much as possible and share the joy he sees in our everyday’s nothingness. Who knew that was actually everything.
Now, to looking back so we can look forward and then be present again. Here are the most memorable things I’ve learned raising a toddler:
1. Sleep Gets Better
When it seems like my days were dark, because I couldn’t get much rest at night, it eventually got better and my toddler started sleeping for longer through the night, without calling for me. Even though it felt like I had the worst sleeper in the hood, and I made the mistake of never sleep training, I was able to sleep again. Maybe not like I did before I had a baby, but enough to feel like myself again!
2. Your Gut Knows
If I’m feeling stumped and unsure about what to do during a tough toddler moment, I learned to take a few moments to get quiet. Usually an idea will come to me and I’ll try it. I’ve had the most luck finding solutions to our challenges that way, over asking friends and family for advice or consulting the Google gods.
3. Mom Friends Will Come
Eventually I was able to make the mom friends I wanted and needed. I stayed open to everyone around me, and I also stopped “needing” friends. I continue to stay open every day, and know I will make even more connections as my toddler grows.
4. Trust Their Instincts
Just because your kid is two doesn’t mean they don’t know when they are cold or hungry. I’ve learned to let my boy lead, in general. I don’t try to make him do things he doesn’t want to. Well, most the time! I always remind myself that he needs to know how to lead himself from his instincts as well, and me trying to control things, is taking away his power.
5. Love is Real
If there’s one reason why I had a child it was to show me the deepest truest love I’ve ever experienced. Not that I don’t have that with his daddy! But this is a bit different. My heart exploded when I had a son, and I was exposed to a love so incredible. It’s that love that I try to bring to other relationships. Though, I admit that’s a little challenging with my mother at times!
6. I Can’t Do it All
I have my whole life to work my dream job and fulfill all my career dreams. Now is the time to focus on raising my boy. I personally couldn’t work a full-time job and be there for my boy as I would like. Even though my mother worked and also cared for me, my life is different, and I know I want to be with home with our son. This road isn’t for all mom, but I know it’s the right path for me. Of course this doesn’t mean I can’t plant seeds and work on smaller passion projects in the meantime!
7. I’m Not in Control
An astrologer once told me that my boy was going to be a lawyer or politician when he grew up, which made me happy. A year later another one told he would be an artist, which made me nervous. Then, I realized I was already trying to control his future! This boy comes with his own path, and I just might need to stay out of the way.
8. They Whine and Say ‘No’ A Lot
Part of a toddler’s development is to say ‘no.’ This is how they assert their independence. I can get annoyed and frustrated, or I can accept that this is part of their growth. I have also learned not to take this personally. The whining is also part of what we go through with toddlers. I’m learning not to respond to this tone, and hopefully it will end by the time he’s a teenager! However, even though there’s a lot of opposition going on, this doesn’t feel as bad as people describe the terrible two’s.
9. Life is More Precious
I have a few friends who are battling life-threatening illnesses while trying to raise their young children, which is devastating. Life seems so much more precious now that we have little ones. I’ve actually become a bit of a hypochondriac since the birth of my child! I remind myself to appreciate the gift of life every day.
10. Teach Through Being
It’s easy to worry about not teaching our children enough or doing enough for them. I’ve learned that the best way to teach our children, is to be the best version of ourselves around them. The best way they learn is from our energy and our example. Instead of fixating on my child, I work on finding my own happy place and creating peace and balance in my life. From there, my child has a good chance of being his best self too. Let’s hope!
There are endless lessons learned these past two years, but these ten have stuck out for me. I’m sure you have many of your own too. As the New Year approaches, let’s appreciate all we have learned and how far we’ve come. May it be a New Year of great growth and happiness for you and your family. And may we all look at cracked sidewalks with a new appreciation. Now back to this moment. Cheers!