Establishing a Routine for Our Toddler’s Stability
Our baby, Cittie, is now the textbook specimen of a toddler. My husband, Jared, often finds himself surprised by how quickly she is developing.
Her vocabulary doubles by the day, and she is even learning interjections. As funny as it is to hear her suddenly screaming “Oh no!” or a Korean expression she picked up from the TV dramas we watch, she is, in fact, learning the nuances of language.
She’s beginning to assert herself often, too. Once she insisted that she wanted to sing “Baby Shark” in the middle of the night. Lately, a favorite word of hers is “no,” exclaimed emphatically and with a dictatorial tone.
She’s also throwing full-blown tantrums at high enough decibels to wake the entire neighborhood. As annoying as they may be, we must accept that tantrums are an inescapable part of child rearing. In fact, they can even be a good thing, signaling that the child is developing normally.
Cittie’s tantrums are caused by many things. She has thrown small fits for silly reasons, such as not being allowed to climb over unstable structures. Her bigger fits have a much deeper reason: inconsistencies in her daily routine.
Toddlers are creatures of routine and structure. They like going to bed at a set time, knowing when and what to eat, playing repetitive games, and listening to the same songs over and over. They enjoy the company of specific caregivers who make them feel safe. And they freak out at the first sign that something is different.
The pathways in the brain that allow humans to cope with change take years to develop. In fact, the brain doesn’t fully mature until early adulthood. We spend much of our childhood and teenage years learning to flex our emotional muscles so we can face the unpredictability of the real world.
In the early years of life, a sense of certainty is important. Children are quickly developing social, language, and motor skills. These changes that are happening to them can overwhelm them quickly, and cause them to spiral into meltdowns.
Lately, we’ve had trouble getting Cittie to sleep in our bedroom. Jared and I normally sleep on the big bed, while Cittie sleeps on an adjacent cot. After Jared recovered from a recent knee bleed, we noticed that Cittie started waking up in the middle of the night crying and looking for the nanny.
After some deliberation, we figured out how the problem started. Over time, we had gotten used to leaving Cittie with her nanny for a long time. She’d be asleep by the time we picked her up. Since my responsibilities tend to increase whenever Jared has a bleeding episode, I would also rest longer, leaving Cittie’s nanny in charge of putting her to bed during those times.
Without realizing it, we had trained Cittie to become reliant on her nanny, who became a cornerstone of Cittie’s daily routine.
I believe it’s important for Cittie to have a healthy and secure bond with her nanny. But as her parents, Jared and I feel it’s important that we maintain our position as primary caregivers.
So, we acted quickly, vowing to be more consistent with Cittie’s routine. Jared and I put her to bed. Jared accompanies her most of the time, while I focus on running the business.
So far, it is working well. Cittie has been sleeping better in our room.
Sometimes I worry that the next time Jared gets a bleed, Cittie’s routine might change again. We may have to depend on our nanny a lot more while he nurses the injury. Inevitably, I need to work. I fear that I may end up spending less time with Cittie, as much as I hate the thought of doing so.
Jared assures me that he can still take care of Cittie, even when he has a bleed. So far, that has been true. Even when Jared was recovering from an iliopsoas bleed during her infancy, he still helped to care for her.
I always hope and pray that Jared won’t experience additional severe bleeding episodes, because I need his help. In this parenting journey, we are a team. For now, our team’s greatest challenge is figuring out a routine that works.
When Cittie gets older, she may not need to rely on routines too much. But when she one day gets a sibling — and I hope she eventually has a sister — we may have to go through the same challenges again. I feel reassured that when that time comes, I might even be able to ask for Cittie’s help. But of course, Jared and I are still the parents.
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