Toddler time: Transitions. Big Girl Bed Gone Wrong…..
I’m switching things up this post, taking a break from our TTTS journey to bring you a toddler tale with insights from my occupational therapy lens… I hope you like it!
I’ve seen this quote many times before, “my child isn’t giving ME a hard time, THEY are having a hard time”. It’s basically what I preach all the time in my OT practice. Self-regulation, impulse control, TODDLERS, sensory processing; keeping ourselves calm and in control so we can be the anchor through the storm of a child’s ever-changing emotions. But it’s funny how even though this is the stuff I eat, breathe and sleep for- in the depths of sleep deprivation, over-exhaustion, and overwhelm- I can feel my “down stairs brain” (slight aside- I also highly recommend ‘The Whole Brain Child’ by Dr. Dan Siegel, then you could catch my “downstairs brain” reference) try to take over control, and my own impatience and anger bubbles close beneath the surface. My logical, reasoning “upstairs brain” threatens to give up, I struggle to see beyond my interrupted “to do” list and I’m annoyed that things aren’t going as I thought they “should be” or how I might like them to in that moment.
Tonight, I was only able to bring myself back to my “Emma isn’t giving ME a hard time, SHE is having a hard time” mantra only after I finally won the three-hour battle of getting her to fall asleep in her “new big girl bed”. I was laying there curled up in her toddler bed around her finally still, little body; her tiny hand playing with my ear lobe (a SURE sign she is tired and about to fall asleep, PHEW!) and finally took a deep breath. The breath helped to bring me back in the moment, reflect, and then cue the mommy guilt. Why did I raise my voice when I did, why was I so short, why did I handle that so poorly? I took another deep breath, let my cheek rise and fall on her back in the rhythm of her inhale and exhale, waiting to be sure she was sleeping before I slipped out of that tiny, creaky toddler bed. Then I refused to let the mom guilt win, promised myself that each day is an opportunity to do better (tomorrow is a new day!) and continued to reflect on all that the little munchkin has been through.
They. Are. Hard.
For adults, but especially for children. ESPECIALLY for toddlers. And my little Emma has had A LOT of them over the past year. It’s so easy for me to see all of the things that are hard for ME right now, but apparently it takes a more seemingly innocent transition to a big girl bed to put it all into perspective.
First, last fall we introduced her to day care a couple days a week. She HATED it. Then, just as the teachers were telling me that she was beginning to spend less of her day crying, BOOM we got the Twin to Twin Transfusion diagnosis, and I’m off work, so we pull her out to be home with me. I have the laser surgery and BOOM, her mama can’t lift her up for two weeks. That’s confusing when you are one and a half. The next few months consisted of different grandparents coming and going for a few days here, a few days there; loving all of her time spent with them but probably struggling to understand who was going to be around when and where and why. Not to mention when I was finally hospitalized at the end of the pregnancy, and all of a sudden after months spending every day together- I was gone for 10 straight days. Where’s mama?? This was followed by a new routine of spending every day with a grandparent/s, while mom was visiting two babies in the hospital. Five weeks later, one new sister comes home; 5 weeks after that she gets ANOTHER new sister. She gets a bedroom change and now mom is home, but her attention is certainly split a few new ways. Again, just as she settles into a routine with one grandma after a couple weeks, that one goes home and the other one shows up. This cycle continues on, 9 months along now. She is “slow to warm up” at the best of times. She plays shy each time either grandma gets here, even though they were BFF’s by the end of their last visit. Not to mention we’ve been working on peeing and pooping somewhere other than the diaper she’s been using the last two and a half years- and oh yeah, we threw her back into preschool this fall.
Transition. Transition. Transition. TRANSITION. TRANSITION. TRANSITION.
All the changes. All. The. Time.
However, dare I say it… the last month she’s been really happy to go to school. Her routine at home has been solid. She loves her little sisters. Things were really settling…. Then she finally managed to fall out of her crib last night, and BOOM she comes home from preschool to a “big girl” bed. Which, I mean is really just her old crib with the front taken off and a guard rail in it’s place. So, to me it didn’t seem like a big deal. If anything, she should be elated- she can get out of bed BY HERSELF! Wow, was I wrong. But now that I’ve taken the time to actually write down all the changes she’s been through, it has dawned on me that perhaps the crib was the last thing to remain the same in the 2 years and 9 months of her little life. Four walls surrounding her, keeping her safe, staying consistent.
And did you know that your brain is changing most rapidly when you are a toddler? Making so many new connections, so many new synapses, putting it all together. It is an incredible time. However, this also makes your child extremely dysregulated- even on a good day. They are working on learning to communicate, putting sentences together. They are gaining independence, “I can do it MYSELF”. They are learning about and testing limits. They are climbing, running, jumping and moving their bodies in all kinds of new ways. They are experiencing emotions they don’t understand and impulses run through their body they can’t control. Sometimes we forget their littleness, put expectations on them, rush them to be bigger so that we can achieve our goals and wishes.
But sometimes it’s just too much, too fast. Slow. Down. And yes, even pediatric therapists get things wrong sometimes. I didn’t even tell her I was going to change it before I did it! ME! Someone who specifically helps parents and teachers prepare children for changes and situations they may find difficult. *face palm*
Anyways, I’ll keep you posted on the strategies I use to help us through this transition. Or I’ll keep you posted if I completely abandon this whole situation and put the crib back together. But in the meantime, I need a nap. My toddler who resisted her much needed nap and refused to go to bed until 10pm woke me up screaming like an over-tired hot-mess a few times before I gave up and brought her into our bed around 3:30am (in between two night feedings for the babies). Let’s just say I had lots of practice muttering “SHE is having a hard time, SHE is having a hard time, SHE is having a hard time, SHE is having a hard time.” Perspective is powerful folks. Compassion for my toddler (and myself) will go a long way in this parenting journey.