The Toddler Years: Important Lessons for a First Time Mother

I was told to fear the toddler years. At the very beginning of my induction into motherhood, everyone told me repeatedly that I was going to miss the infant stage and toddlers were the most challenging. While I have found it difficult (I’m in the thick of it now), I personally find it much more enjoyable — and easier actually — than the infant stage.

Why? Firstly, I can actually do it on my own. With two infants I needed physical help and it was impossible to leave them alone and unsupervised. Even though toddlers might be more physically demanding, they're more independent and I can do simple things. Now I actually have time to pee AND wipe without rushing out of the bathroom frantically with bouts of anxiety.

And my favorite part: they’re just so cute! They grow up quickly so you get to witness all the funny things they say or do. I love that I can interact with them — I hug and kiss them and they respond. To be honest, I didn’t have much of a connection with my kids in the super early years.

Now of course, there are the tantrums and the inexplicable opinions about things like what they want to and refuse to wear. For me, that means cute and coordinated outfits and shoes never get worn, but I love that they have their own voices. And I want them to feel free to express themselves. Sure, they look absolutely ridiculous in the outfits they choose, or better yet look like I recycle the same clothes over and over again because my son sometimes insists on wearing the same dirty clothes 5 days in a row and doesn’t give a shit. I was upset for a while about not having them dressed up and groomed as I pleased, but I learned to let go of the reins and let them be.

I want to raise them as independent human beings that can make their own choices.

If I shelter them too much, I’m not granting them free will, and I want them to be bold to assert themselves and make their mark in the world, even if that means that they look disheveled and dressed in uncoordinated outfits. Now this of course goes to matters beyond just what they wear. Now it’s clothes, but as they grow it becomes decisions about what they choose to wear for school, what sports they want to play, which colleges they go to, their majors, careers, and becoming free spirited and independent human beings that can navigate through life. Many of us can get so used to doing what our parents and society expect us to do that we second guess ourselves, which i believe is an unhealthy pattern and doesn’t allow us to fully be ourselves.

Mind you, this is something I am very conscious of because it’s the opposite of what my parents instilled in me, and so I grew up fearful of making my own choices and always second guessing whether it was the right thing to do or not. My parents expected me to do as I was told and expected me to share their aspirations and views on life, which wasn’t the case many of the times. They wanted me to be a clone of them and didn’t quite understand why I had different likes and dislikes and dreams. I think it’s something every parent wants, to somehow not make history repeat itself and avoid the mistakes our parents made with us, or am I the only who feels this way?

Sylvia Plath once said, “doubt is the enemy of creativity.” Another saying I hear a lot is, “If you can remove your self-doubt and believe in yourself, you can achieve what you never thought possible.”

My ultimate goal as a mother and parent is to see my kids be happy, grounded and confident that they can achieve the impossible. This is something I believe relies so much on those toddler years — how you interact with them, treat them and the confidence you give them through freedom.

Apart from that conversation, there are the new, physical tasks that come along with toddlers. Cue nursery and potty training. The advice I’ve gotten about these two topics has been non-stop, so what I’ve learned is to not pay too much attention to it. Everyone has their own unique experience. For example, everyone told me that with nursery the kids would have separation anxiety and be upset and cry. Not for me. Mine just happily walked past me into the nursery. In anticipation of the reaction that I didn’t get, I felt bad about myself. Why weren’t they sad to leave me? Was it because the other mothers were closer to their children? Did that make me a bad mother?

I then realized, “hey, maybe my kids are just that cool that they don’t even have separation anxiety.” Maybe they’re just more confident and look forward to exploring new things. Just like I want them to be.

As for potty training, I’ve tried three times already at different stages with no luck. My search history is just a list of articles, “How to potty train your child in 3 days,” “How to potty train the most stubborn child,” “10 tips on how to potty train your child,” and I’ve asked so many women for advice about it, but I just can’t get it done. So, instead of getting depressed and feeling the pressure, I've decided to ease off for my own sanity and let nature take its course.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “you go girl,” or wondering if I’m feeling the guilt of being lazy and taking the easy way out. Will I regret it in the future? Who knows honestly. When I start to feel like this, I confront it as I do with all of the serious dilemmas I face: with humor. So, I’ll keep you guessing, but for the moment, I’m doing just fine.

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