We're in the thick of the early-toddler phase at our house. We're all opinions and emotions and a sprinkling of tantrums, typically caused by being made to get in the carseat or out of the stroller or into the highchair. Before we hit this stage, however, I spent over a year learning a whole lot of lessons from my baby girl that will (hopefully) help me parent her better as she grows. These 10 lessons my kid taught me before she became a toddler are all such a bonus gift from parenting, whether it really feels like it in the moment or not.
I remember sitting on the floor of the living room with my daughter as she worked for what seemed like hours (but was probably only 20 minutes) to put the cap back on an empty bottle. It was taking all my energy not to help her to figure it out when I realized I had been missing part of the point of parenting. Part of the point of parenting was going to be learning new lessons from her. Watching her try the same thing 20 times over wasn't just about her, it was also a reminder that I used to have that kind of perseverance but it was lost along the way as I grew up.
From quick forgiveness to a little less judgment, before my kid even turned into a toddler, she was already teaching me and reminding me of more things than I realized.
That I Don't Know It All
If there's one thing I learned from my daughter during her first year on the planet, it's that I categorically do not know it all. I just don't and I can't and I won't ever know it all. Having a baby made me realize that no matter how smart I thought I was and how much I thought I could figure out on my own, I am just never going to have all the answers when it comes to my kid. Better to learn that when she's a baby than wait until she's 10, right?
Where Your Reserves Of Patience Are
Before my daughter became a toddler, I had already found reserves of patience I never thought were in me. Trying to get her to nap in the first few months took more patience in one day than I had ever had to use before I was a mom.
How To Do The Same Thing 8 Million Different Ways
Having a baby is an exercise in trying just slight variations of the same thing over and over in slightly different ways. It makes you endlessly more creative and persistent than you ever thought you could or needed to be.
Getting my daughter to eat in the first few months involved trying every single way we could think of. First it was trying to get her to stay awake long enough to finish a bottle, but then it was trying to get her engaged enough to actually suck on the bottle. We'd bounce her and walk her around the room trying to find distractions that would keep her attention and help her zone out and eat, or finally we'd sit outside under the trees and blue sky to help calm her enough that she would suck more than once or twice. It was exhausting but it taught me so much about how to do the same thing in varying ways, and with patience and as much grace as I could muster.
How To Ask For Help
To Enjoy Life Through The Messes
Having a baby forces you to relax your standards of what a situation has to entail in order to be enjoyable, which is a darn good skill to have on hand as your kid grows. Babies show you that life may have gotten messier and involve a whole lot more bodily fluids than they ever did, but it's pretty darn enjoyable nonetheless. If you can't laugh when your kid gets into the lotion and smears it all over the bathroom, you're not going to enjoy the next 17 years as much as you could.
Which Books To Avoid Like The Plague
When our daughter was a baby, we made the mistake of not pre-screening books very carefully before we brought them home from the library or before introducing them. Rookie mistake.
If your almost-toddler is anything like mine, and obsessively loves the annoying books that have barely any words or just repeat the same three words over and over again, you're in for a rude awakening. Either weed those ones out while they're sleeping or find even more reserves of patience because they are bound to pick the most annoying book to read over and over and over again.
How To Function While Exhausted
Before I had kids, I thought college had taught me how to function on little sleep. Boy was I wrong. Having a baby teaches you to (mostly) function while exhausted for a very long period of time. Our daughter has slept through the night since fairly early on, and I still feel like I have to prop my eyelids open when she wakes in the morning. The upside is that there's something about functioning on such little sleep for so long that actually makes you feel like you've completed a marathon every day, giving you just enough adrenaline to do it again the next day.
How To Try Harder
Watching my daughter explore and learn and try new things has been one of the best lessons from having kids. She will try the same thing repeatedly with just as much effort and usually minimal frustration until she figures it out. Her perseverance is inspiring and a reminder to me that I could give things a few more tries before packing it in.
No matter how tough a day we have, my daughter forgives and forgets so quickly: a lesson we could all learn from any day of the week. No matter how grouchy I might have been with her for dumping her dinner over the highchair tray 20 times, by bedtime all is forgiven. It's utterly humbling.
My daughter doesn't give a hoot if the toy she's playing with cost a dollar or a hundred dollars. As a baby, she is a judgment-free zone and I want to help her stay in that zone for as long as possible, while also joining her there as much as I can.