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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Watching little personalities emerge

Stephanie Ukkola
Posted 12/8/21

“I’m such an idiot,” I said to myself as I realized I made an obvious mistake with my bread machine. Over in the corner I heard my two-year-old daughter, Dot, fumble out the …

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Watching little personalities emerge


“I’m such an idiot,” I said to myself as I realized I made an obvious mistake with my bread machine. Over in the corner I heard my two-year-old daughter, Dot, fumble out the syllables, “Id-i-ot, you’re an idiot,” she said.
…I guess I’ll need to be more careful about how I talk, but it was pretty funny.
Dot’s ability to express herself has grown so much over the past few months. She has been able to say words for a long time but now she shows her personality with her spoken and body language. She can tell me what she wants and she can tell me what happened when she gets hurt.
When Dot has to think hard about how to explain something she holds her hand up, like a waitress carrying a tray, and looks up to the corner of her eye. She’s such a girly girl and sweet too. She likes to rub her face on my face and go, “mm, mm.” There’s truly nothing better.
But being two is rough. Toddlers have a lot of ideas about things and think they know how things should go. They want to do everything by themselves, and they get cranky when things don’t go the way they want.
Being a parent of a two-year-old is rough too. It’s easy to be bull-headed because you too have your own ideas about things. But then you need to remind yourself day after day to compromise and let them lead, you need to let them write the script and then roll with the punches with your best attitude.
I used to think I was a patient person, now I know I’m not. Parenting takes a lot of (mountains of) self-control. I spend a lot of time evaluating my parenting. Did I take the kids outside today? When my three-year-old Ed got angry did I respond the right way? Did I engage them enough? Did I feed them the right foods? Are my kids getting enough socialization during the pandemic? I feel guilty when things are less than ideal.
I know it’s recommended that children watch less than two hours of television a day but it’s so overwhelming to have the kids focused on me all day. I often let them watch more than they should so I can have a break or get things done.
In the summer we watch almost no TV at all, we spend most of the day outside in the yard and garden. But in the winter, despite my best intentions outlined in my column last month, “Resisting the urge to hibernate” we’re still mostly hibernating. I try to make sure the kids get outside once a day for play in the fresh air.
Motherhood comes with a lot of questions. For something so “natural” that we’ve been doing forever, how can it be so complicated? There are thousands of books, blogs, and experts trying to dole out advice, offering answers to the never-ending questions that come up while raising little ones. Humans are complicated, and we live in a complicated world. Theories and best practices for parenting seem to change with every generation; they vary from culture to culture.
One hotly debated example: sleeping babies. Co-sleeping, or sharing your bed with an infant, is practiced around the world and is very common. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not sleeping with your child in the interest of safety. Before the 1990s, we were advised to put babies to sleep on their stomachs, now we are to put them to sleep on their backs. I can’t tell you how many Google searches I did for both my babies. I was so worried they would die in their sleep and I looked at article after article on safe sleep and spent hours trying to find answers to all my “What if” questions.
Now that they’re a little older I don’t worry about stuff too much anymore; I know mostly what is right and wrong and I try not to feel too guilty when things don’t go the ideal way.
In college I registered for a 400-level philosophy class on motherhood. After going to the bookstore and finding the 10 pounds of required reading, I decided that it was just more than I could handle that semester and I dropped the class. Now I wish I had taken the class. An armful of books sounds a lot easier than actual child-rearing and maybe I would have learned something helpful.
And all kids are so different! What works for one kid may not work for another. Just when you think you have everything figured out with your first kid, the second one changes the whole game. Ed and Dot couldn’t be more different.
Ed’s very cautious. He’s scared of dogs and most other animals. But on the other hand, he’s rammy. He’s interested in being tough and fast. Dot is laid back, she loves animals and is cuddly. Ed was a very fussy baby and kid, Dot not so much.
When we potty trained Ed he would get so angry, “I DON’T WANT TO!” He’d scream in my face while on the toilet while I reassured him he could. After he was done he was fine but he’d scream and scream when he needed to go. I tried everything, I looked at a million websites for advice and I kept gently pushing him because I knew he was ready but it was so hard to know what the right thing to do was when he responded so violently. Once he figured out he could do it, he was great about it.
Dot has made more messes while potty training but just needed encouragement and reminders. She’s never gotten angry, she is happy to do it. We’re still working on it with her but she’s doing great. She gets a little Hershey’s Kiss every time she goes and that keeps her going.
It’s easy to think that when a child learns to talk, things will go more smoothly. Instead of guessing what a child needs, they just tell you, right? I’m not so sure.
Sometimes Dot will randomly say, “go in the kitchen, mom.” Uh… ok. I think that’s another way of saying, “I’m hungry” but we’ll work on that.
“Why?” I ask.
“I want strawberries, I want the salad. Get up. I want candy. I need candy. I need candy, mom.” Nothing is ever simple with kids.
Her new thing is “uh, mom.” She keeps saying it over and over on repeat. With nothing else to say after.
“Uh, mom,” she says
“Yes?” I say.
“Uh, mom. Uh, mom. Uh, mom.”
My kids teach me to be a little more light-hearted. I’m prone to being so serious and straightforward about things. They help me exercise my imagination when we are pretending we’re on a boat ride. I enjoy watching them play with dinosaurs or showing them new ways to use their Play-Doh. They keep me completely exhausted and push me to my limits, but it’s really a privilege and a pleasure to see their little personalities emerge.


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