How to Train Your Tween and Toddler~ Simultaneously!
Bottles and Bras.
Diaper Cream and Makeup.
Learning to walk and learning to shave legs.
Baby dolls and Barbie dolls.
Lift the flap books and chapter books.
Trying to get one to stay IN bed and trying to get the other OUT of bed!
There is a decade between my two girls. My oldest turns 12 this spring and the youngest turns 2. For the past two years, my world has been a strange mix of baby stages and adolescence and there are times when I am struck with what seems like a dichotomy in my life, but what is actually teaching me more than I could have ever imagined.
I am learning how to train my tween and toddler simultaneously and I am often amazed at how one informs the other. Here’s a bit of what I am learning…
1. Be Patient. For some reason, I find it easier to be patient with my little one. I expect that she doesn’t know how to do things and that she requires my constant help and support. I understand that I must pick out her clothes, dress her, get her breakfast, feed her. I get that I need to brush her teeth until she learns to tie her own shoes.
But I struggle to have this same kind of patience with my tween. Perhaps it is the fact that she is about to surpass me in height, the reality that her feet are already bigger than mine or her ability to devour books and learn facts as if there is no tomorrow. I find that I expect her to know things that she doesn’t really know. I expect her to get herself up in the morning, make her bed, pick out clothes that actually match and don’t make her look like a hussy, pour her own cereal and eat her food without talking while she eats.
Expectations are good, but they are not always fair. Just because my tween is growing so quickly in some areas, doesn’t mean that she is growing quickly in all areas. My toddler’s needs are reminding me to still engage in “mothering” my tween. She might act like she can do it all, but the truth is, she can’t. She still needs me, a PATIENT me, one who is not expecting too much, but instead helping her along the way.
2. Be Hopeful. Life is a journey. I know this in theory, but sometimes I get stuck at different points in the journey and I forget that things will change, they will grow, they will learn. My tween reminds me constantly to have hope. When I see how far she has come, how much she has learned, I am reminded not to get stuck on where we are right now and not to allow feelings of hopelessness to creep in. My toddler WILL learn to use the toilet. The day WILL come when we no longer have to use a baby gate. We WILL get to go places without having to deal with car seats. We WILL get to play games without trying to entertain a baby at the same time.
This hope that I can have for my toddler is also what I cling to with my tween. We WILL make it through these tumultuous years. She WILL see me as a friend and a confidante, because I am doing the hard work now of loving her well. She WILL be a strong leader (this is one I repeat every time she voices her “opinions”!). She WILL learn the things she needs to learn.
When my oldest was a baby, I read all of the baby stages sheets and all of the expectations for each new year, but I don’t do that any more. Hope has taught me to expect change, but not to demand it. Change and growth will come in their own time and letting go of my expectations makes this so much easier. Life is a journey!
3. Savor Every Moment. There is a tendency in parenting to be in survival mode, a desperate feeling of just trying to make it through whatever season you are in. But having a tween while raising a toddler is a constant reminder to truly enjoy each phase. With my oldest, I felt like she would never learn to sleep through the night. But with our youngest, I KNEW that it was a season and as a result, I was able to appreciate the interruptions in sleep, knowing that the baby snuggles in the middle of the night would not last forever.
The sweet giggles, the tiny arms wrapped around my neck, the ability to dance without inhibition, the way she makes us laugh hysterically, every “first”~ I’m savoring all of these sweet moments! The achievements, the creativity, the honor rolls, the long conversations, the shared love for books and movies~ I’m savoring all of these precious moments as well! There is difficulty and struggle in the training of my tween and my toddler, but I refuse to allow the difficulties determine or define my relationship with my girls.
4. Set an Example. We didn’t plan to have our oldest and youngest be a decade apart, but God knew. When the doctor told me that I was an advanced maternal age during my pregnancy with the youngest, I knew we were in for some challenges. It was quite possible that I wouldn’t have the same energy that I had with my first (or even my third for that matter!). And so, I knew I would need to be deliberate about making sure I stayed “young”.
And so, we have dance parties and I started running. This spring my oldest two plan to run their first 5k’s and I am thrilled about this. Knowing that my kids are watching me has challenged me to be intentional about leaving a legacy for my little ones. This applies to so much more than the physical. I desire to set an example for my children in all aspects. Having children at all different stages of childhood helps me to remember to seek Christ in all things, to live life with intention and to not be too hard on myself. After all, I am a work in progress as well and when I fail, I have an opportunity to demonstrate my need for Jesus!
Potty training and period training.
Candyland and Cranium.
Wonder Pets and Saved by the Bell.
Disney Princesses and Ever After High dolls.
Play Dough and Pizza dough.
The decade of differences is intense at times, but I am learning to embrace it all and see it as the gift that it is. I watch as my tween plays with my toddler and I am overcome by the beauty of sisterhood and how they are both being blessed by this time.
And so we celebrate the tween and toddler years, acknowledging that life is a little bit crazy right now, but it is also extraordinary. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Who knew?