This week, I’m celebrating my toddler.
Not long ago, she was in the thick of the “stranger danger” phase. If someone looked at her or talked to her other than her dad or me, she would hide behind her arm or burst into tears or both. Going places was challenging, particularly now with a little sister in tow, because in any situation that made her even slightly uncomfortable she would plant her feet and not move unless she was being held. At doctor’s appointments I often couldn’t even carry on a conversation with the doctor because she was crying so hard. When someone came over to visit it was almost impossible to be social because she was so upset.
This phase lasted a long time. And I was beginning to feel like it would never end and that I had surely damaged my child by sheltering her at home with me rather than shipping her off to daycare. I had no idea what to do. Frankly, I didn’t even know how to ask google what to do.
But I decided to try a few things anyway. First, she started going to a speech therapist once a week, which has been an amazing experience because she gets to go out to a new place and have positive interactions with another adult while I’m still in the room for comfort if needed. When we first went, she cowered in my lap for most of the first session. This morning, the only time she acknowledged that I was there was to ask me for help getting the lid off the toy container.
And we also signed up for the toddler art class at our local children’s museum. This has been such an amazing resource because it provides a no-pressure opportunity for her to socialize with a group of kids and adults. They sit and listen to a story, do a short activity and a quick art project and then they are done and free to go play in the museum. If she isn’t feeling it, we head back out to the museum. So far we have only been twice, but I think she will get more comfortable each time we go.
This has definitely been one of those parenting challenges where I didn’t know where to start so I just started. And now I’m glad I did, because looking back on the situation, I think having her not only branch out and have new experiences but to keep repeating those experiences weekly so that she has time to build up a comfort level has been so good for her.
Last week we attended a crowded pancake feed. She normally would have panicked in the crowd, but she did great and loved the pancakes. She came with me to her little sister’s appointment and said “hi” and “bye” to the therapist without acting shy. She walked everywhere on her own without me needing to carry her.
We’ve also been working on her following directions and her attention span, mostly because these skills are more important now that she is developing her newfound independence. Several times this week, when I asked her to pick up the toys she had been playing with, she did so without needing a lot of extra prompting.
So basically, this post is one giant bragfest about my rockstar toddler. There were several times after her little sister was born that I felt like the toddler made things more difficult than the newborn did. But this week, as I watch her grow into this new bravery and responsibility, as I see her learning and using the skills we have been working on, my heart swells with pride. I’m so excited for her to show the world what I have seen all along–a joyful, sweet, sometimes mischievous little soul with the best laugh and a heart of gold.
A few month ago I thought we might never get over this hurdle. But this week it feels like there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
And it’s so worth the wait.