Toddler: “Mom! Stop!” *yells from back seat*
Me: “What kid?!” *annoyed mom tone*
Toddler: “You need to stop! You forgot to strap me in!”
Once we get passed the ‘you’re a terrible mom’ guilt, standard mom guilt, and any judgment you’ll face from husband when you inevitably tell him the story later, I realized just how important it is to listen to my toddler. I’ve always been partial to listening to my toddler since she was a newborn. Listening to each cry, finding the subtle difference between the I’m tired cry and the I’m hungry cry. Same with New Kid. Instead of trying to control the situation, we have to figure out what is causing the symptom of crying. Sounds easy enough!
I lost sight of that when Kid was between two years old and three. When she started saying words, getting her own snacks, etc. We still had meltdown after meltdown. Then one day, I stopped to listen. Not just to the few words she was saying, but to her body language. She was giving me all the signs that her teeth hurt. Poor girl had her molars coming in. No wonder she was cranky all the time, those things look like they hurt! Since then I’ve tried hard to take an extra second and facilitate that communication effort between the kids and me. Try to breakdown those meltdowns with words. It’s definitely not easy, but communication is very important in adulthood. Every time the kids do something I try to think of it if it were me at work, and I often cringe. <Insert husband’s saying ‘they’re kids, not adults’.>
Speaking of husband, we often have the same end goal of raising happy, healthy, respectful, kind, caring kids. Our ideas on how to get there are often wildly different. When I say to listen to the kids, he often thinks I’m saying “give them what they want”. Not the case. When I say listen, I mean just that. Listen to what they are trying to say. If they’re hungry, yes- get them some food. If Kid wants to watch television, then that’s great she communicated that desire, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn it on for her. My goal is to facilitate those moments where we communicate. We talk about things we want to do, things we want, and even things mom sometimes forgets.
At the end of the day, listening in my opinion is the most important component of communication. When my toddler yelled at me that morning, nice and early at 7:00am driving away from the house, I pulled into the neighbor’s driveway and tightened her car seat straps. Had I not listened, not questioned why she was yelling, or even paid attention- I unfortunately would have made it to daycare in a very unsafe way. I’m thankful my daughter calls me out when I’m forgetful. I hope she only builds on these communication skills- it’s the foundation of relationships.