solo parenting a toddler

I feel like this post’s title is a bit of a lie because I am not a solo parent.  Elliott is very much alive and well, he’s just not here.  But not here for three weeks at a time is hard.  I am very ready for this separation to be over… and we’ve still got two weeks to go.

Lena seems to have turned a corner recently and has become so willful and sassy.  Her new thing is to shout, “No!  Nooo!” just for the fun of it, often while looking me right in the eye and declaring she will not do whatever I deem a good idea or proper behavior for a 1.5-year-old.  I’m somewhat at a loss as to how to address this.  What is proper discipline?  And what is the heart of the issue that I can address in a way she will understand?  Just to illustrate a bit, those photos above were taken after a flippin’ tantrum because this little miss of mine didn’t want to wait for the dough to be finished before we tasted it.  (She sure was happy and cute by the time we took the pictures, though, with a chocolate cookie dough-covered beater in her mouth!)

Also, she appears to have given up her afternoon nap.  Guys, I love her naps.  Love them.  Every day that 90 minutes or so in the morning and again in the afternoon are bliss for me.  At home I use them to clean the house, catch up on emails, write a blog post, read a book… enjoy the peace.  There is such a sense of peace in the house when you and your child have a routine and he or she settles peacefully down for a nap!

I knew this day would come, but I hoped it would take another year (!) or so.  As I write this she is in her bed for her afternoon nap, happily chatting to herself, occasionally yelling, every now and then calling “Mama!  Maaaama!  Mamamama!”  This is Day 4 of this routine.  Yesterday I left her in her crib for 1.5 hours!  At one point she was quiet (“yay, at last” I thought) and then suddenly she began crying in distress.  I raced up the stairs and found her standing in her crib holding her fingers out to me, asking me to clean them.  They were covered in thick gel, and in the other hand was an open pot of Vaseline!  She is now big enough to reach out of her crib, open a nearby drawer, and pull out the contents.  I couldn’t believe it.  I rebuked her firmly, emptied the drawer, moved her crib, and left her… only to listen to another 30 minutes of babbling upstairs.  Finally, I gave up entirely and lifted my relieved little toddler out of her crib.  I had been stubborn, but that day she was stubborner.

Anyway, I guess I’m feeling the aches and pains of motherhood these days.  I miss my husband and I’m definitely feeling the effects of pregnancy combined with jet lag (yes, still… days later).  Lena’s new routine of waking up by 6:15am also isn’t helping things.  I need grace to mother and respond to Lena without my hubby to take over when the going gets tough (or when 5pm rolls around each day!).

And I’m also feeling my inadequacy at this whole enormous parenting task.  For all the other parents (or adult children of wise parents) who are reading this, do you have any ideas or advice?

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On an entirely different note, this blog got a facelift!  What do you think?
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12 Responses to solo parenting a toddler

  1. P. September 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    what a funny and warm post! It sounds like Lena is starting to have quite a personality!

    I have no doubt in my mind that you’re a wonderful mother!

    Sending my love!

  2. Tiffany Norris September 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    My sympathies on the nap! Those are blissful times. :)
    We’re not to the toddler stage yet, but I thought Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp gave some interesting guidelines on discipline. We aren’t 100 percent on board with the methods but liked the principles. (We’ll just have to see if they work in practice.)
    Best of luck!

  3. Emily Danner September 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Love the facelift Becca! It’s so clean and crisp, looks great. I’ll have to get some tips from you on how you set up your blog. Good luck going solo-just like all the other stages, it’ll be over before you know it! But, it’s gotta suck through it. xoxo

  4. RDT September 19, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    If you figure out how to consistently and constructively discipline a toddler for defiant behavior, please write a book and I will be sure to read it. Our little 1.5-almost-2-year-old has started yelling “don’t say dat!” and “don’t take it!” and “don’t do dat!” and a lot of other things that start with “don’t”. She also will ask WHY? whenever we tell her to stop doing something and the do it again right away. We have so far tried time outs, which don’t really work – but maybe they will over time? One thing I know, though, defiance in a 1.5 year old is nothing compared to what they can do at 3.5. All I can say is YIKES!

  5. Aunt Kathy September 19, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    I guess she’s just mature for her age, already into the terrible twos!

  6. The Amazing Trips September 19, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    Becca, I may have mentioned in my note to you (a few months ago) that I have seven-year-old triplets and a newly turned five-year-old. Oh, how I remember when I had four children under the age of four. It wasn’t easy! They are rapidly growing in to their own fiercely independent selves and they tend to have very strong opinions on things such as NAPS and what THEY want to do (which is usually in direct opposition to what you want for them to do!!)

    My advice: Stay strong, sister. As I wrote in a blog post (many years ago) …

    If I still need a nap at 36-years old, I’m confident that my TWO YEAR old toddlers do, too! Our kiddos did drop their morning nap, but stuck with the afternoon nap until they were nearly four. Perhaps you eliminate the morning nap and enforce the afternoon nap? Just remember: sleep begets sleep … if you keep with a consistent bed time, the rest should quickly fall in to place. Part of the reason she might be having trouble now is because of the recent travel which can wreak havoc on a schedule.

    Good luck and God Speed! :)

  7. Hollie Shannon September 19, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    Love the facelift! So great!
    As for the parenting… it all sounds right on track to me. Normal. Ok. Hard to accept but normal. Jesh started napping only once a day around 14 months I think. And we’ve struggled with knowing how to discipline and parent and all that jazz.

    We also love Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. I try to be firm with Jesh and if he is simply refusing to do something, I take him by the hand and help him do it even if it takes longer than it would for me to just give up and do it myself. Its important that he learns I mean what I say. And I try to love on him as much as I can when he starts acting up just to cover the bases in case its because I’ve been ignoring him too much or doing my own things that haven’t engaged him enough.

    Maybe she’ll take a longer nap if she cuts out one of them and give you a bigger chunk of time. I pray for that!

    You are an amazing mama! Keep it up!

  8. Maggy September 19, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Hello! I read your comment on my blog this morning (Tel Aviv!) and came right over to say hello! I don’t yet have any children, but it sounds to me like you are doing the best you can and it seems like that is what makes a good Mom. Don’t be too hard on yourself, grace is new every morning. I think you are SO brave to handle all this while your husband is gone. Lets be friends :)

  9. The Hitchcocks September 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Becca,
    I feel your pain! When Z was that age Nathan was taking about 3 two-week trips a year to Edinburgh. Ugh.

    I always hesitate to give much parenting advice, since I’m a newbie too, but since you asked . . . :-) Once we went down to one nap a day, I kept the afternoon nap rather than the morning one. Z didn’t need a morning nap (and neither does Eden now), but when we skipped it, both of my kids started taking a longer afternoon nap (2.5-3 hours). Lovely! And even when Z stopped sleeping (at about 3) he still had what we called a “quiet time”. He was awake, but still in his crib and responsible for amusing himself. Quiet times usually lasted 1.5-2 hours.


  10. Amy September 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Okay, since I have read your blog DAILY since Jen at The Amazing Trips first linked to you, I feel I must come clean and offer a comment! No more lurking. And first, I cannot offer enough sympathy regarding your sister’s death. I have shared your Dad’s beautiful letter with many people and I praise God for the way His Spirit is alive in your family, truly. Our community recently lost a sweet, vibrant 5 yr old to drowning, and I’ve passed along your Dad’s words to a family close to them to give to them when the timing is right.

    Not only have I been moved by the way your family has linked arms and unwaveringly walked forward in this life, recognizing that it is not really our home after all, but I’ve also made your delicious lemon cookie share from a couple weeks back. They are GAME-CHANGERS. :) Thank you! And not only THAT…but I pored over each and every kid link that you shared last week. In other words, your blog is now part of my routine and is a delicious, beautiful, authentic treat! Thank you for carving out the time to share your life with strangers! (And hey, Jen at The Amazing Trips, that goes for you, too!)

    So finally…my youngest son will be 2 in January and frankly he’s a mess. :) A little tyrant. “No, no, no.” It’s all we hear. Along with demands for “BANANA!” and “TURTLE!” (his stuffed animal) and “GEORGE!” (Curious George) and “SOLO!” (which is code for anything Star Wars related.) If any of these demands are unmet, we get to enjoy a face-down good old fashioned tantrum. I’m thinking that once these little people find their words and communicate a little better, everyone’s lives will be a little easier. My first son was so laid back at this age, this one is throwing me for a loop. :)

    As for afternoon naps…well, quiet time is still valuable for these little people, so my vote is that you just let your Little Lena peace out for her standard 90 minutes with a nap or a book or pretend-time with dolls or WHATEVER, but you continue to claim that time as your own private refreshment! (easier said than done, I know, I know.)

    Anyway…thank you thank you for the wonderful breath of fresh air at your delightful blog! We live outside of Baltimore and all of my husband’s siblings are military academy grads and live the similar exciting-yet-crazy life that you guys lead! One brother is at the Pentagon and one is at Langley right now, so, not that you need any connections at all, duh, but the family at the Pentagon just moved up in July (to Fairfax) and are trying to get used to their new home. If you have any tips or just want a new friend who has an adorable 1 1/2 yr old girl, I’ve got a lead. Ha! Pretty sure your life is plenty busy in that arena.

    Anyway…it’s obvious I’ve had too much coffee this morning. :) Thanks again for the great blog and for bringing that feeling of community to a virtual arena! Grateful for it, Amy in Baltimore

  11. April September 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Hi! Sounds like you are having fun! I am not a parent yet, but have been a nanny and have had a home daycare. Have fun with this stage! It will pass all too soon. Hope you got pics of her with vaseline on her hands. That will be memory to treasure.
    Thank you for visiting my blog. I look forward to getting to know you through your blog.

  12. Sonia B September 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Hi Becca, Thanks for commenting on my blog. My 4th child is almost 2 so I know about the tantrums this age brings. This time of their lives is such a challenge as a parent, but something that’s helped me is to know that it doesn’t last forever. I agree with what some of the other moms have said here . . . perhaps it is time to get rid of the morning nap and have her just take one long nap in the afternoon. Hang in there.

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