Sunday, February 5, 2012

Inside the mind of a toddler

Something I try to keep in mind when making the myriad parenting decisions that I do every day is Sprout's perspective on the world. This is hard for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I can't remember what it's like to be a toddler, so I have to try to imagine what it would be like to not be able to talk yet, to still be learning how to walk. Secondly, it's hard to keep his point of view in mind in the moment when I'm trying to change a diaper & he's mid-tantrum or he's demanding attention when I just need a minute to myself.

I'm sure it must be endlessly frustrating for Sprout because he doesn't have much control over most aspects of his life. We decide when he eats, sleeps, when his diaper gets changed, when he can get out of his stroller or high chair, where he plays, what he wears, nearly everything in his life. I try to take my cues from him as much as possible, feeding him when I think he's hungry, nursing him when I think he needs milk &/or comfort. We've never really followed a strict schedule when it comes to naps, bedtime, meals & so on. The way we introduced solid food--Baby-Led Weaning--has this principle at its roots: taking the baby's lead & letting them eat as much as they want of the foods they choose.

I see Sprout starting to realize that he can control his environment a little more with his new-found language skills. He's realizing the power of "No!" & I try as much as possible to respect it when he does say it. My rationale is that if he gets results from using words rather than shoving, hitting or crying, it will reinforce the behaviour that we want. I also try to pay attention to him & respond when he asks for something, though it's often difficult to figure out what that is when he's just repeating, "Amah! Amah! Amah!". We know this is a strong request for something, roughly translated as "I want that!" or "Can you do this for/with me?". However, when he's just saying it from his high chair & looking toward the kitchen, I have to play a guessing game with him. Is he looking at the fruit bowl? My drink--is he thirsty? Does he want cutlery? (he generally insists on using a fork or spoon if we're using them)

The fun side of trying to understand how Sprout sees the world is how much delight he takes in simple things like cuddling a teddy bear, being flipped upside down or reading his favourite board book. He makes me laugh constantly & I get to do all kinds of silly things as a parent with a toddler that would seem really odd as a lone adult. Playing on swings & playground equipment, making goofy faces & animal noises.

I hope the effort pays off in future & our relationship is as connected as we are now when he's able to verbalize what he's thinking. I hope that we'll talk about not just what he wants to eat when he's three years old, but also his hopes & dreams when he's a teenager.

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