Before we can look forward to our New Years resolutions, it’s useful to reflect back, examining what worked and what didn’t this year. In the best case scenario, you know what to continue; at worst, you know what to stop doing. For us, we had such big changes this year that we had to learn a lot just to keep up.
Here’s what worked for us and totally failed this year in parenting. Hopefully, some our lessons learned will help you too!
What worked for us
Preparing Sprout for being a big brother: Both Chris and I wanted to do as much as we could to reduce jealousy and sibling rivalry. So we did a lot to prepare him before Little Bird was born: read books, talked about the baby, hung out with other babies, and went on a hospital tour. Overall, I think it’s made a big difference. While there was a bit of a bumpy adjustment in the form of not liking me very much, he adores his brother. He gives him big hugs, says he loves him, and has at least some patience when Little Bird chews on his toys. He’ll often say, “That’s for three and up!” and then offer him something different to play with.
Spending time with Sprout by himself: One of the things I knew would be important after Little Bird was born was to find special time to spend one-on-one with Sprout. During maternity leave, I tried to carve out an half-hour a day with him. When I went back to work, I stopped doing it – to everyone’s detriment. Recently, I’ve started finding 5 to 10 minutes a day after work, before bedtime, to spend with just him. It’s definitely strengthening our relationship and making him less jealous of Little Bird.
Improving my listening skills: My personal word for the year was “listen.” With two kids, I knew I’d need to listen more than ever before! And I think I succeeded. The best part is that when you really listen to your kids, they’re more likely to listen to you.
Starting preschool: Preschool has been awesome for Sprout. Three years old was just the right time to start it. It helps that he goes to a cooperative preschool, which is both substantially cheaper than a traditional one and allows Chris to participate in the classroom. It’s also play-based instead of academic, which is both more enjoyable for Sprout and better for learning in the long run. If you have the ability to send your kid to a co-op preschool, I would recommend it.
Patience in waiting for a phase to pass: One of the things that’s hardest for me to deal with is the idea that all phases will eventually pass. My anxiety insists that unless we deal with this issue NOW, it will be a problem forever. But we recently had some great evidence to the contrary. We had a terrible transition from Sprout’s crib to his toddler bed this summer. When exciting things were obviously happening without him, he simply didn’t have the self-control to stay put. So one of us would sit in his room with him until he fell asleep – sometimes for more than an hour. And then, one day, he didn’t need us anymore. He just stayed in bed. Voila!
What didn’t work
Assuming once a phase was over that it was over: Now, the bedtime story above wasn’t the perfect ending. After several days of excitement and getting to bed late over Thanksgiving break, we were back to the wound up bedtime. I was despairing a bit, but a week or so of normalcy reset everything. God knows what we’re going to be like after we get back from Christmas.
Using authority to get my kid to do much of anything: Sprout is anti-authoritarian. Which the activist hippie in me loves. No fascism for us! But the parent in me who just wants the kid to comply? Less thrilled. Unfortunately, demanding Sprout just do something – even something logical – doesn’t work. As I try to avoid both bribes and punishments, we do a lot to teach him cooperation instead of just compliance. But when I’m frustrated, I fall back on bossing him around. It’s generally to everyone’s loss.
Three day potty training: This summer, we decided enough was enough and Sprout was going to be potty-trained. Our pediatrician recommended “three day potty training,” where you basically allow your kid to run around bare bottom for a long weekend. (In some versions, you also have them sit on the potty at regular intervals.) In theory, the kid should be put off by being wet. In reality, it sounds like it works well for a lot of kids. But definitely not ours. It assumes the child will pee on a regular basis, not hold it almost all day. That insistence, combined with having to sit so often, added up to an awful power struggle that no one won. It took a week of backing off potty training altogether for him to even consider sitting on the potty again.
Assuming babies won’t be early: “My son was born five days late. Even if the second one was early, that just means he’d be on time!” I insisted before Little Bird was born. So much for that plan. He was almost a month early!
Not checking to see if things were open or there were tickets available: I love a good plan. And I pride myself on coming up with fun activities for our family to go do. But sometimes, I don’t do the homework beforehand. First, we showed up to the Museum of Natural History and the butterfly house was closed for repairs. Then we met up with a couple of friends at Cabin John Regional Park for the “Eye Spy” Halloween train, only to find out the tickets were sold out for the whole day. Thankfully, both places had plenty of other things to do, but I’ve learned to always check ahead!
I got the what works/what didn’t idea for this post from Sarah at Yes and Yes in her blog post on 11 End of Year Traditions that Will Make 2017 Amazing!
What went well for you and what didn’t in terms of parenting in 2016?