He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

3 Tips for Moms in the Trenches of Toddlerhood

That's right, 3 things.  Not 10, not even 5, but 3.  Besides, I already wrote about 10 things I would tell new moms that you can find here, and there is some overlap, but these are 3 things that I really think are most applicable in the toddler stage, or at least are so important to start thinking about by the toddler stage.    

 I'm right there with you - deep in the trenches of toddlerhood, and I know that if you're like me, as much as you want to have loads of time to read, process reflect, you simply don't.  And if you do actually have the time, you probably don't have the brain power-at least I don't.   

I started my last post about not being such a great toddler mom anymore with the intent of sharing some things I've learned from having little people in my home, but I decided to separate them into a different post for the sake of simplicity.  

So here they are: 3 things that I really think have helped me keep my sanity (well, mostly) that I've learned largely by trial and error and making plenty of mistakes.   3 Things that if I were to do it over again, I would focus on more deliberately.  And finally, 3 things that I hope will encourage other moms who are also deep in the trenches fighting for the developing character of their little people.  

1. Comparison: just don't do it!  
 It's amazing how much more difficult this has become in the 10 years since I was first in this stage of parenting.  With facebook, pinterest, blogs, instagram, twitter- wow, the list goes on and on, anyway, with all these different forms of social media constantly at our fingertips, it is so easy to begin to doubt yourself and the choices you are making for your family when you see what the Jones' next door are doing.  There is a constant temptation to compare birthday parties, room decor and even daily activities that you engage in with your little one, because at any given point, the activities of so many others are just a click away.  The reality is that most of us don't share our failures or mundane activities in these places, and since we know that to be true, why do we see the highlights that others post, and assume that the grass is so much greener on their side of the fence?  It's amazing really how quickly I can begin drowning in my sorrows because of all the many things I am NOT doing that it appears everyone else around me IS doing- at least according to their facebook wall or pinterest boards 
Remember that just as God gifts us all uniquely as individuals, he also places us in families with different strengths and areas of service.  Families are not cookie cutter molds of one another, so don't make decisions on what is right or wrong for your family based on what is right or wrong for someone else's family.  God leads us all and guides us according to His unique plan for our lives, and Scripture says that He "gently leads those that have young."  (Isaiah 40:11)  The pleaser in me wants everyone around me to be pleased with the decisions I make for myself and my family, but reality says that is just not possible.  We will make decisions for our girls that others around us may not agree with.  We may choose to fight certain battles with our toddlers that others may not choose and vice versa, but if we are making our decisions based on the conviction of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then we should not second guess ourselves if we value certain things as families that others don't.

Also be careful that you don't take comparison in the other direction.  As in: "well at least my kid doesn't do THAT"...  Give grace to others just as you hope they would give you.  That mom in the grocery store aisle with the screaming toddler who just tuck a piece of candy in his mouth, may very much value healthy eating habits for example, but she just wants A FEW MOMENTS OF SHOPPING IN PEACE or she will lose it.  It's very easy to talk about how our kids will never eat sugar BEFORE we have kids...  Anyway, GRACE!  We all need it, often much more than we are sometimes willing to give it, especially in the trenches of toddlerhood.

2.  Cyberspace can be a dangerous "go-to" source
I know that I am showing my age here, but having gone through a season of toddlerhood with my first 2 when the internet was just really not a factor, I think I can see the comparison between then and now and speak to this a little.  With so much information literally at our fingertips, whether it be something as simple as what brand of stroller or carseat to buy or something a little more serious like childhood vaccinations, we need to be very, very careful in the way we view the internet as a credible source.

I'm not talking about stroller purchases here.  Obviously, I see the benefit of being able to comparison shop, read other people's reviews, and even jump between stores to check availability all at the stroke of a key.  No, I'm talking about bigger, often medical things.  As a nurse, it scares me a little when I hear people referencing blogs and/or internet articles they've read as reasons for making major decisions for their little ones.  When did the internet become a substitute for the years of medical practice and expertise that our doctors and scientists have?  Whether it be childhood vaccinations, dietary patterns and the restrictions of certain foods, sleep patterns for babies, home birth vs. hospital birth, I guess what I'm saying is check the sources of the blogs and articles you count on as information sources.  Is it credible or is someone's opinion based on their specific situation?  The internet IS convenient and does offer a wide range of information, but it cannot see the bigger picture of your situation the way an actual person can.  Most of you may be thinking, "do you REALLY think I'm going to make a major decision based on someone's opinion on a Facebook post?!"  Maybe (hopefully) not.  But some people do seem to truly seek advice in that way.  You're probably going to get a lot of "you should never" or "you should always" on certain topics, and you just have to be so careful.  Especially if your emotions are already raw from being in the trenches with your toddler.  And, yes, I do have a reason for my soapbox when it comes to all things medical and the internet, but since that's not the thrust of this post, I'll save it for another day..

From personal experience, when you're raising toddlers and you're sleep deprived therefore physically exhausted and likely emotionally exhausted on top of that, sometimes you just want to know that you're not in it alone.  So you throw some post out to cyberworld seeking to know that others relate and often end up getting reactions to and advice for your current situation that is not necessarily the best.   I remember when my oldest 2 girls were toddlers, receiving the advice to make sure that God was still my main source of advice, comfort, wisdom etc. because it could be so easy to find yourself turning to other things before God.  In that day and age it would likely be parenting books (remember this was before facebook in the age of dial-up internet so books were on your bookshelf and not online) or simply calling up a friend (again, I raised them in the dark ages before texting was a thing-you actually had to call, and sometimes you had to be still because the phone had a cord attached to it....), as opposed to turning to God first whether it be through prayer or searching the Scripture.  I guess this is essentially what I am saying (to myself as much as anyone else), it's just 10 years later so it applies a little differently.  Make sure you have searched Scripture/talked to God about whatever "it" is before you surf the web, or at least before you turn to the web for the answer that you're seeking.  The other sources aren't bad in and of themselves, just as the internet is not bad, it's just not the best.  God is the best, and your kids deserve to have you seeking Him first.  Toddlers are such volatile little people - they can bring amazing joy and overwhelming stress sometimes at the same time and end up leaving us as parents thinking, "AM I DOING ANYTHING RIGHT?!"   Allow God to be the first one to speak to that heart cry and lead you in the direction He would have you go.  Remember that as a parent, He desires to gently lead you and your young.  (Isaiah 40:11)

3.  Center your family around Christ, not your child
 I loved the advice early on in our parenting journey that children are to become a welcome member of the family, not the center of the family.  It is obvious in reading the Word, that God very much values children and the family unit.   Scripture calls our children a blessing, a heritage, a reward (Psalm 127).  Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him (Matthew 19:14), and we are commanded as parents to require obedience of our children (Proverbs 19:18) and impress upon their hearts the commands of God (Deuteronomy 6:7).  Recognizing the value of our children as huge PARTS of our family, however, is vastly different from setting them on a pedestal and creating a family life that revolves completely around them and their activities.

To clarify, I know that in the trenches of toddlerhood, you are probably thinking (especially if you are a stay home mom) "how in the world can life NOT revolve around my child?"!   As toddler moms there is very little that we do that does not relate to our children.  That is normal and is not what I'm referring to.  In my opinion, in the toddler stage, it's more about establishing the attitude from the start of teaching your children that the world does not revolve around them and their needs.  Things like keeping time with your spouse a priority, being willing to be flexible with your child's schedule if other needs or priorities of the family demands it,  or simply praying regularly for the wisdom to recognize if something, or someone is starting to take the place of God as the focus of the family, are things that can go along way in establishing a family centered around Christ, not children.

Yes, of course we love our children.  I don't know about you, but I actually adore mine.  They are amazingly precious gifts from God.  But we are not doing them or ourselves any favors if we begin to worship our children as opposed to the God who created them and gave them to us.
Toddlers are funny, amazing, aggravating and delightful little people.  You never know what to expect and no two days are ever the same.  They bring an energy and an excitement to life that can be contagious and exhausting all at the same time.   Just because you've successfully navigated the toddler trenches with one, even two, does not even begin to qualify you for the challenges and joys that the next will bring.  Days are never dull, that's for sure.

 If you're like me, with my current toddler, (my other 3 have long passed this stage...), I go through some days wanting to pull my hair out, but at night when I go in to kiss her sweet little cheek, I am just overcome by the preciousness of the gift that she is to our family.  I pray that for her sake, for the sake of all of our girls, Jason and I will keep our priorities straight as parents as we strive to raise God-fearing, Christ- loving young ladies who will be ready to face the challenges and joys life brings them.  We are far from perfect parents, but thank goodness we serve an infinitely perfect God.  And it is only in His strength, that we are able to navigate the trenches of toddlerhood in a way that won't leave us too battered and bruised on the other side.

"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."
Proverbs 14:26

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Great list! I love this!