“Age-Appropriate Behavior”

At 18 months, Maya is the textbook toddler: active, curious, and asserting her independence at every turn. But she wasn’t always this way. Somewhere around the 13 or 14 month mark, a switch flipped and she went from this docile, sweet, quiet baby to a full-fledged toddler. I’m beginning to see why all my friends with kids say the “Terrible Twos” is a misnomer; much like how you’re really pregnant for 10 months (not 9), the “Terrible Twos” seem to include the second year of life — they don’t necessarily start at the two-year mark!

Right now, we’re dealing with three new challenges in our household: extreme clinginess, mega- tantrums and bed-time fights. Both of these are surely phases she will experience on and off throughout childhood so I know neither are ending any time soon, but I’d be lying if I said they aren’t causing us some stress.

Clinginess: Everyone loves the feeling of being needed — it was a feeling I longed for when I was pregnant — but there is something extra special about the feeling of being wanted. And while I love that feeling more than anything, it comes with its own set of challenges. Maya’s in that “all-mommy-all-the-time” stage, and it can be exhausting — and hurtful to Luis, because in addition to being very clingy with me when it’s just the two of us (I can’t even run to the restroom alone some days), sometimes Maya will be playing with Luis, but squirm out of his arms or ditch their play if she sees me come in the room. I see the hurt in his eyes when it happens, and I can’t even imagine how that must feel. He says he knows it’s age-appropriate behavior, but it still hurts. The irony is she is a huuuuuge daddy’s girl who literally races to the door when he comes home from work. Yet she screamed when he put her to bed the other night and wiggled out of his arms when he took her from her crib yesterday morning. I know there will come a time when she doesn’t want me — or to be even around me (I remember being 13!) — and will favor him, but for now … it’s all about mama. And that can be hard on all of us. I get the whole stranger anxiety stage — we started that around 15 months — but I guess I was surprised about how she’d treat Luis. After doing some reading, it does seem normal for her to show preference for one parent at this stage. But it doesn’t make him hurt any less.

Tantrums: Little Miss has quite the temper these days. Her teachers expressed it delicately: “Maya’s really coming into her own!” But we know better. They mean she’s getting sassy. She used to just let the other kids take her toys away or push her and she’d stand there and do nothing. She has never been aggressive (knock on wood) but now she won’t stand for it. Now, she cries and pouts, or yells “Mine!” (which actually sounds like “mayh!!!”). And though they are BFFs, she and Rocco also do a similar dance every time he snatches one of her toys: he runs away with said toy and she stands there, beet-faced yelling “mayh!” These are minor tantrums. Then there’s the bigger tantrums like tonight, when she completely flipped out because we had to leave the park — kicking, screaming, straightening her legs so she couldn’t sit down in her buggy … the whole she-bang. It’s hard not to laugh when she gets this way … she is so tiny and watching her writhe around like her world is collapsing can be amusing. Sometimes I get annoyed, but most of the time, I have to hide a smirk. I am soooo getting what I dished out as a kid 😉 Per usual, within five minutes, she had forgotten all about the park. For us, the trick seems to be not to give in and to just redirect … much like with puppy training 😉

Bed-Time Fights: Since becoming a mom, my parenting philosophy has been, “You do what works … until it doesn’t work.” For example, we used to be able to lay her in bed fully awake; now that she’s in a clingy phase, we rock her a little and put her to sleep either drowsy but chatty or sound asleep; we’ve learned to be flexible depending on the day — and we’ve been lucky; Maya has been a great sleeper. Much like her daddy, she can sleep through anything … so unless she was hungry or needed to be changed, she would go to sleep relatively easily and stay asleep. By 11 weeks, she was sleeping through the night. But now her bed-time behaviors have changed. Now that she gets a solid 2-2.5 hour nap at baby school, she can stay up later and still get in her necessary 11-12 hours of straight night-time sleep  … but getting her to bed hasn’t been as easy.  We’ve recently pushed her bed-time back to 8 PM (from 7 PM), which has been a saving grace for us because now we get more quality time with her. The problem is, her world is so exciting now that she doesn’t.want.to.go.to.sleep! Some nights she is rubbing her eyes by 6:45/7 and, recognizing this over-tired sign, we will try to put her to bed earlier … but she fights us and ends up asleep at 8 on the dot anyway. It can be exhausting but I try to remember how much is going on in her little brain right now .. no wonder she doesn’t want to go to sleep!

All of these examples are completely age-appropriate behavior, but they are still frustrating for us parents. I would be curious to hear from other parents about other “age-appropriate behavior” their kids (babies, toddlers, school-aged, teens) are engaged in.

How about you? Does knowing it’s “age-appropriate behavior” soften the blow any?

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