10 Things for Your Survival Kit: A Letter to My Toddler

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Dear Piglet,

You are two. There is a term for this age, the “terrible twos”.

Please don’t be shocked by the name. It’s easy to be misunderstood. You’re investigating new frontiers. Charting new territory. And as an explorer, you’ll need 10 things for your journey.

1. Me!  My consistent emotional and physical presence means so much to you. You don’t just want quality time, you crave quantity time. You’re the sweetest and most cooperative when I’m attentive and when you get lots of one-on-one play/reading time with me. An iPad would never match up.

2. Independence.  You want to do things. By yourself. This develops your skills and helps you feel good about yourself. Today, you had a big slice of pizza on your plate and you didn’t want me to cut it up for you. It was pretty gooey and messy, but food never tasted better than when you use your own fingers.

3. Help.  Sometimes you get upset when I try to help you. I know it seems I’m trying to get in your way. Remember the stew in the hot dish? You got near it and the steam made you gasp. I guess you’re feeling bad because you’re beginning to realise you can’t manage everything on your own. I know that feeling. I can’t manage everything on my own at my age either and sometimes I feel frustrated too. We live in a community and we need each other. Don’t go it alone. Let me help.

4. Understanding.  When I say “no,” try to understand. I know learning this takes time. I’ll be patient with you. You might throw a tantrum, fling something, or try to hit your siblings. When that happens, you won’t be publicly shamed. You may need some time away from the scene to calm down. I’ll be firm and you’ll hate it. But you know you’ll always end up with a cuddle in my arms and you can dry your tears on my sleeve.

5. Emotional management. You’re not the worst kid in the world just because you have strong emotions. You simply need to learn how to acknowledge negative feelings and express them appropriately. That’s a process. I hope you’ll learn by watching me. I’ll be asking you, “What else could you have done instead of yelling?” Most of the time, you won’t know. That’s all right, I have some suggestions. You can learn to say things like, “I’m sad because . . . ”

6. Laughter.  Sometimes I need to lighten up, see the funny. You will get into the fridge while my back is turned and ask me “Wha dat?” I could get mad because you left teeth marks on a few apples, or I could choose to be glad because this is a chance for me to tell you that that bottle holds the vanilla flavour I use to bake cakes.

7. Acceptance. You change so quickly. The moment I think I’ve got your routine down pat, developmental changes necessitate adjustment. In time, you’ll make more evident choices on the kind of person you want to be. I’ll accept you for the organic, dynamic, little person you are. You didn’t arrive neatly packed. I’ll show you I love you for who you are, not for who I hope you’ll be. Don’t ever grow up thinking you don’t measure up.

8. Encouragement. I need to spot you doing what is good and right, thoughtful and considerate, more often than what you do wrong. You need me to highlight it. “Good job!” “You were so generous with your brother!” When you do something wrong, you’ll receive discipline, but you’ll also hear me say, “I know you can do better than this.”

9. Identity. Growing up, you’ll receive many false messages about your identity. You’ll be told your worth is based upon your cuteness, your charm, your academic record, your ability to make money. These are lies. You are inherently valuable. You’re special simply because you’re human, because you’re made in the image of your Creator. Believe in those lies and you may turn out brilliant to the world, but you’ll be broken.

 10. A role model. I’m not perfect. Yet if I don’t deal with my bad habits or mistakes, these will have a direct impact on you. You’re watching how I treat others, how I relate to your Papa. Am I kind? Gracious? Respectful? Self-controlled when I’m angry? You’re learning values not from a textbook but from the open book of my life.

It’s a long and winding road, and we may feel like giving up sometimes. But we’ve got to get through it, Piglet. Let’s travel together.

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Jin Ai traded refugee work for diapers, dishes and homeschooling. She blogs about parenting, home education and life as mom to four kids (one baking) at Mama Hear Me Roar.

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