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
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.