Continuing the series on child x-ray vision and getting to know your toddler from the inside.
As adults, we think of time in terms of numbers-1 o’clock, 2 o’clock etc. Well, toddlers operate on NOW o’clock, things that they are doing right at this moment. And what are they doing right now? They are performing their daily routine. Now I’ve never been a routine person until I became a mother. It slowly surfaced into my life and it now provides meeting of the minds between my daughter and me. For toddlers, time is the routine and the actions that make up the routine.
Her routine (more or less):
Morning = Wake up, breakfast, bath, play indoors, nap time
Afternoon = Wake up, lunch, go outdoors, bath
Evening = Dinner, brush teeth, read, pray, sing, sleep
The routine has been vital in making her understand the concept of “not yet time for that.” Based on trial, error and observation, I’ve seen her become more reasonable when I specify some milestones that need to be met prior to the thing she wants to do. For instance, when she wakes up she’s super-kadooper-excited-squealing-jumping-up-and-down-dying to play with the neighbors. Instead of saying, “It’s not yet time to play” which usually results in whining coupled with futile attempts to drag us upstairs, we tell her “You can play after eating breakfast and taking a bath.” I feel like she visualizes these actions in her head before she accepts with a smile, “Ok ” (translation: Easy enough. Agreed!) And morning peace is declared.
(On a side note: I can’t wait for her to be more agreeable about matching shoes with her clothes. How do I explain that mary janes just don’t go with denim mini skirts and a tank top? All in due time I guess.)
The greatest challenge these days has been the evening routine. On her terms this is what I think it means to her:
Brush teeth = Living hell and I will make sure my parents and my neighbors know about it – Another drama to be dealt with in another post.
Sleeping = Lie down, listen to my stories, take my milk and close my eyes
The pre-requisite for the whole sleeping routine to work is being tired, thus highly dependent on her afternoon routine. When it takes more of everything to get there – more books, more singing, more games and more chasing her back to bed – it doesn’t help that she can open doors- I just wait for her to tire herself out. Yes, sleeping is important for growth, rest, immunity etc. But if she’s not tired enough to be sleepy, then something in the routine must have slipped. Maybe we didn’t go outdoors long enough or she took a second nap or someone gave her sugar. This also means that we have to do something more active the next day, like go swimming, not carry her, or kill the person who gave her sugar. So when the bedtime routine rolls around, her body welcomes the winding down rather than rejects it. Usually lights out does the trick.
The point is rather than battling it out and forcing her to sleep because it’s 10 o’clock, I (try to) think about her in terms of her routine not as a some unruly disobedient toddler who’s trying to making my life difficult. It might seem that way but she’s really just a kid still under development–until she’s 3. So let’s keep our sanity intact shall we?
How do you manage time with your toddler?