Some level-headed advice from a pro

Namely, not me!
I recently wrote to my favorite blogger to ask for her advice and I wanted to post for you all what she said.

First, is my email:

So, my 21 month old son isn’t acting out against my newborn son. In fact,
he’s delighted! He wants to touch Wyatt’s face and hug and generally lie on him any chance he gets. The funniest thing in the world is Wyatt sneezing.
However, I have noticed behavioral changes for us – namely anything I ask
him to give me becomes a game of keep-away and he wants me to hold his hand
and walk with him everywhere – at home, on the playground, at other people’s
houses. I think he’s coming out of the general shell-shock of having a new
person around (as are we) and realizing he’s needing something and doesn’t
know what. The problem is, neither do we! My heart is breaking for him
because it takes me so long to just get the minimum done – dishes, a bit of
laundry, getting myself ready (we’re still getting meals delivered to us 3x
a week and I can’t seem to pull it together even though I don’t have to
cook) – and sometimes – more than sometimes – we resort to the t.v. just to
get things done. I am trying my hardest to get him out and playing and to
get out some new types of activities at home when I just can’t make it out
the door (coloring, sorting, tactile play). At my friend’s house today and
at the park yesterday, he was so possessive of his truck that yesterday he
would take it from a boy who picked it up just to put it in another spot and
leave to play with something else and today was literally running scared
from my friend’s 8 month old barely crawling baby. I think it was because he
didn’t want her to take his toys, but he acted like he didn’t even want her
to touch him! I made the mistake of picking her up to sit with us on the
couch. Worst mistake ever.

I will try not to ramble on. Hopefully you read quickly. First of all, I
don’t know what to do about the t.v./getting things done conundrum. I have
cried about his watching t.v. too much more than I have cried about almost
anything else during this postpartum season. I tried getting up early to get
ready before he gets up, but we haven’t had a week go by without me getting
some type of infection because I’m run down and if I’m laid up with mastitis
all the time, I’m no help to him and he ends up watching more t.v.!!
Secondly, the possessiveness I can understand but should I not try to vary
his daily routine even as much as going to visit a friend? And how will we
avoid becoming unwelcome everywhere because I can’t get my toddler to
share?! It’s a huge deal at the park around here. A nap in a new place
probably wasn’t a good idea, I realize, but how do I help him deal with the
fact of other children being around and my not being able to take his hand
and follow him around (aimlessly, most of the time) when I’m nursing or
doing something else?

Really, I don’t care that much what strangers think and my good friends will
understand, but we feel kind of clueless about what he needs right now and
kind of constantly a little guilty that we’re not doing enough for him. And
that dang t.v.! I almost wish he wasn’t so easily glued to it. Of course,
this is all muddled together with not much sleep and the hormonal craziness
of breastfeeding and postpartum life, so I could use a more level-headed
perspective than my own!

Thanks again, so much. Loved the recent post on nursing!!!


And her response:

Dear Jenn,

Take a deep breath 🙂

You are right — you have a new baby and need time to settle things
down. It’s hard to juggle all the needs at first, but rest assured, it
will all sort out with time, prayer, and a little work each day. When
you have a setback, don’t beat yourself up — just realize that life
is one step forward, one back.

As to not sharing — that’s normal for a boy his age and you shouldn’t
worry too much about it. He is just learning that some things are his
and that’s enough for now. Your job is to see that he’s engrossed with
his truck and to sort of fend off interest from others. Maybe bring
two trucks or enough trucks for everyone. Keep the interactions short
and be ready to distract him. Developmentally speaking, it’s
unrealistic for him to get the concept — your best hope is that he
not actually deck someone!

Time visits and park play for his lively, awake periods, and get out
of there before you know that he will need something to eat and a
snack. Grownups can be flexible — kids can’t. If he is ready for
lunch and a nap by 11, 11:30, then get out of the park by 10:45.
Everything takes at least 15 minutes! So plan ahead.

For home time, go by the clock! If you are still getting meals, then
good for you. Use this time well by getting to bed early yourself,
taking lots of vitamins, especially vitamin D, C, and iron. Drink
plenty of fluids. GET TO BED EARLY. Seriously. Put that donated supper
on the table by 5:30 and be in bed by 9. I call this “intensive sleep
therapy” and it really works!

Don’t worry about getting up before him, but do strategize about what
you will do when he’s up. Try your best to get him washed up and
dressed and fed in a timely manner. Don’t let him moon around, even if
you are mooning around!

Did you see Rosie’s post about Pippo helping? Maybe that gave you some
ideas. Instead of thinking about entertaining him, think about
enlisting him to do the things that need to be done. “Let’s get to the
bathroom and you can wash up. Get your stool! I’ll help you brush your
teeth.” Etc. Do everything in the same order every time. Be aware of
things that he wants to do himself. Speak to him in a normal, even low
voice — that overly loud, overly cheerful voice is a trip wire! It
puts him on his guard that he is being controlled.

Ask him — in a normal voice — to get you a diaper, to throw a dirty
diaper away, to get you a blanket for the baby, to get the baby a
rattle, etc. Teach him to go away from you to do something and then
come back. If he balks, don’t make an issue — say, “never mind, Mommy
will do it. Thanks anyway.” If he gets it and won’t give it to you, go
get another one or turn away from him gently.

If he does it, just thank him naturally — don’t overdo it! Soon, when
you’ve overcome the sort of anti-willingness game, you can start
making it more of an obedience thing. But don’t get into a tug of
wills right off the bat. Use your mind.

If you are doing dishes, give him a basin and some plastic things and
let him do dishes too. Put it all on a big towel. If water spills,
well, it’s one way to get the floor clean! If you are doing laundry,
ask him who each thing belongs to! You will be surprised how much he
knows. Put it in the pile of the person when he says whose it is. He
can “fold” the dish towels and he can put same socks together in
little piles.

The big challenge for you is to teach him to play on his own. He
should do work for you and he should play on his own! This is hard for
lots of moms to wrap their minds around. It takes time for the child
to learn. He needs a “set-up” — a kitchen corner, a train area to set
up his wooden train, a blocks corner, a place to park his trucks —
whatever absorbs him. When you are going to be doing something that
absorbs you, you first have to get him interested in his own play. At
first it can be quite near you. Just keep saying, “Play with your
trucks while mommy makes lunch.” If he whines and grabs onto you,
firmly put him over where his things are.

If he keeps coming back, sit him up on the counter or somewhere where
he can’t move — the high chair. Don’t pay much attention to him and
don’t be mad but keep him immobile. Soon he will realize that he’s
freer when he goes off and plays.

If he likes playdough, do it by the clock. Have a time that you give
it to him that coincides with your need to do something of your own.
Don’t sit down and play playdough with him.

If you must resort to the TV, use only videos. Get high quality short
films/shows — avoid ones that are pure noise. Keep him away from ads.
Really have a high standard for them. Decide what you will let him
watch and then turn it off when it’s over. Other ideas for rest time
are — you read to him and then give him the book to look at, you set
him in his crib with books, or you have him lie down with you and
cuddle together while the baby naps. He can also lie down with little
trucks and cars on a blanket, or with other little toys.

When you are with others, keep him near you. Keep him on your lap —
you can give the baby to your friend. If he seems like he wants to
play, you can talk to him quietly and say something like, “Want to go
show your friend your truck? Do it nicely! Then come back.” Model what
“do it nicely means.” Tell him what to say! Keep him on a short leash
until he is wanting to break away to be on his own, rather than you
reacting to his behavior when he’s off and away from you. This will
only last a bit.

So — two things — get him to do more alongside of you for work, and
get him to play on his own with a few well chosen toys. Keep him near
you and baby and play with him a little more. Don’t worry that things
are not super normal right now — just keep at it every day!

God bless,

2 thoughts on “Some level-headed advice from a pro

Add yours

  1. Thank you thank you for sharing this. She is so wise! I’m sure I’ll come back and read this again and again as my 5 month old gets older.

    Hang in there … You will get the hang of parenting two, I’m sure, and will do a wonderful job!

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