We just switched our toddlers to toddler beds at 26-months old. I switched our oldest to a toddler bed... I can't seem to remember when now. We switched him because it was cute, no other reason. We just thought he was so big and we were excited to go to the next phase. I do know that we switched him before we moved from Hawaii; we moved away when he was 21-months old. We switched him a couple months before that, so I would put it somewhere between 18- and 20-months.
I remember thinking what a big boy he was. Here is a picture of D at 18-months old:
At 18-months old, I thought C and O were still babies:
|North Carolina 2012|
At 26-months old, I thought D was so big, his own little person. I remember all these expectations I had of him and I would say, "He should know better by now." Here is a picture of him at 26-months:
|North Carolina 2010|
Here is C and O at 26-months. I feel like they are just now starting to really come into themselves, really become little people and members of the family with voices and opinions of their own. I say, "They are still learning. They are only two-years old."
I look at those pictures of D's little two-year old face and I wish I could go back in time and just be like, "Okay, this doesn't matter and that doesn't matter. Let's just let you be two." I feel like we are really letting C and O be two, cutting away those extra expectations. Yes, some of those expectations we would have a hard time enforcing, even if we wanted to, with the juggling act that has become our family, but some things just don't matter. For instance, D was out of his high chair when he was 14-months old. We switched to a booster seat at the table:
That worked fine until we moved from Hawaii and I got rid of the booster seat. Our new apartment was really small. I didn't want to dedicate a chair to the booster seat or make room for a high chair. So we taught him to sit at the table at 23-months:
|North Carolina 2010|
My mom is always saying, "Pick your battles." I wish I hadn't fought that battle. I wish I had just found a smaller high chair and fed him meals there instead of feeling disappointed in him that he kept getting down at mealtimes or that there was food all over the place. He was doing the best he could and I sometimes had a hard time seeing that. I wish I had said, "He's still learning; he's only two-years old," instead of saying, "Come on, bud. I know you can do this!" This was a battle not worth fighting. Our toddlers are still in high chairs.
I know that I was making the best decisions I could for us at that point in our lives. Right now, we are making the best decisions we can at this point in our lives. He was our oldest, our one child to dedicate our time to. Now I have three children to care for. I don't have a desire to push for the next phase and I see our twins much differently than I saw our oldest at the same age. I look at D at four and I think, "Wow! He is little. He is a little kid. I used to think he was so big..." which then makes me look at his little 2-year old brothers and think, "Wow! They are babies." These ages are so small in the scheme of life, four-years old, two-years old.
Sometimes I get frustrated with him now, how he solves problems with his brothers. His two-year old brothers take his toys and he snatches them back. His two-year old brothers hit him with a toy train and he pushes them away. He is bigger and stronger than they are; I tell him, "You need to be gentle with your brothers! They are much smaller than you are." But he looks at them as his peers, his equals, his brothers that are being rude to him. He tries the problem solving I've taught him and when he runs out of options, he reciprocates. From his point of view, he said, "Hey! We don't hit!" From his point of view, he moved away from his brothers so they would leave him alone. From his point of view, he had the train first. And then, from his point of view, he got in trouble when his brother hit him first.
Transitioning our twins to toddler beds made me realize how little I think they are when I thought our oldest was so big at the same age. It also made me feel guilty and sad about some of the things I expected from our oldest at that age, things I no longer feel are age-appropriate expectations. I think I kept pushing him for the next thing, the next phase, the next challenge, whereas now I feel I pull back with the toddlers, say, "Whoa! Let's just wait on that. What's the rush?" I feel I struggle more with decisions for them, "Do I really want to push them?"
The toddler bed transition (don't worry-- I'm working on a blog post on it) has made our lives busier (read "Keep calm and carry on"). Sibling rivalry issues that we've never had before or only briefly delved into, such as when the twins became mobile and interrupted D's previously quiet playtime, have suddenly been brought to the forefront. The first couple days I felt like I expected D to constantly be understanding, much like I did on our recent family vacation (read "Impossible"). As an elder sister myself, I know that there are plenty of times in life where being the oldest does require acceptance of the fact that you are a role model to your younger siblings; however, there are also times when younger siblings must balance their needs with the rest of the family.
The feelings I had in regard to the expectations I had of D at various ages compared to the expectations I have of his younger brothers and the frustration we have all been feeling with the sibling rivalry issues collided, leaving me with an epiphany: I don't want to feel bad about how I dealt with this phase. Sure, in the future I will look back and say, "I could have done this or that," but, facts are, I don't think D always has to be on hold, tolerating of his brothers' bad behavior. I don't think four-year olds have the communication skills or the maturity to deal with two 2-year olds chasing him with plastic swords. If I was him, I would probably hit back too. It is challenging not to always view the kids as "the one I can control verbally" and "the two I can't."
There is a lot of pressure being a mother. You love your kids with your heart and soul and want to get it right. Facts are, I've never done this before. This is my first time. There is a lot I don't know and that I'm figuring out as I go. I don't always like the feeling of flying blind, which is what I feel I'm doing now as I balance C and O's growing independence and D's needs as an older brother, plus all three boys' frustrations being one of three (must everyone need Momma now??).
I love Psalm 121:1-3 "I lift my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber." My prayer is not that I am a Perfect Mother at all times or that I always Get It Right. No, my prayer is that our boys grow up in a home deeply rooted in God's love and that they know, from the depths of their souls, how loved they are both by God, the Maker of heaven and earth, but also by their earthly parents, who have done their very best raising them, depending on the Lord each step of this unknown journey.
I hope I'm teaching our boys how to admit when they were wrong, how to forgive yourself, how to live each day to the fullest. I hope I'm teaching them how to laugh through the tears, deal with the hard times. Manage stress. Make the best of things. Or how to pursue your dreams while dealing with real life. How to resolve an argument. Most of all, I hope they are learning how to pray without ceasing, to hand your life over to God and say, "Guide me, Lord!" They will only learn all these things because I'm not perfect.
2 Corinthians 5:15, 20-21 and 6:1-2:
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again... We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.