Thursday, June 6, 2013

Toddler Josh vs Toddler Bug

Bug (2y) had a rough day the other day. Everything was upsetting to him, a combination of not sleeping well and not eating well. I realized that, although I also raised Josh (8y) through toddlerhood, I feel like I've never done this before. The reason is that I really haven't.

When Josh was two, I was going through a divorce with his biological father (Yes, Papa is not his bio dad. He adopted him shortly after we got married), and I was working full time. This meant that Josh was in daycare during the weeks he was with me. I saw him very briefly before dropping him off each morning. Each evening was a quick dinner, usually macaroni and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich because I didn't want to spend what little time we had together fighting over food. Then a little bit of play before bath and bedtime. Weekends were a whirlwind of laundry, errands, and other chores.

Josh was a "good" kid. He never questioned or resisted. He had emotional turmoil going on through everything, but had learned to internalize it and just shuffle along as he was told. This manifested into anxiety and self-loathing by age 6, along with the help of our authoritative parenting, something we've had to work through later with much heartache.

Now, in contrast, I have toddler Bug who has not been through what Josh went through. He is confident, outspoken, free to express his emotions, and demands respect for himself- all qualities I am glad to see in him. Parenting respectfully works well, but that doesn't mean it is always easy, especially since I have no prior experience managing a toddler in this way.

I feel like the easy compliance we got from Josh during his toddler years came at the cost of working through bigger issues when he was older. Helping Bug with communication and handling emotions now feels very similar to what we went through with Josh at age 7, only without all the hate and anger and negative baggage. Here's hoping our peaceful approach will help us avoid most of that when Bug is older. Only time will tell.

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