Everyone told me while I was pregnant that when I had my second baby, my toddler would instantly look so much older. That was definitely true (especially the size difference of their heads while holding them in my arms and their diapers, am I right?) but what I wasn’t prepared for was how much having a baby would make my toddler grow up in other ways. We spent months preparing her for how things would change when her baby sister arrived – how I would have to feed the baby often and for long periods of time at first, how I’d need her to be my helper, and how she was a “big girl” now.
We had our second little girl two days before Thanksgiving, so in addition to her world being rocked, it was right in the middle of the chaos of the holidays for our toddler. She did pretty well, outside of being incredibly sensitive for several weeks, which we tried to meet with lots of patience, love, and grace.
Once we were past the holidays and the adjustment phase, though, I found myself expecting completely unrealistic things out of her 2 year old self. Somehow in my mind she should have been able to go to bed without doing the majority of our bedtime routine because of a traveling husband and needy newborn. She should have been able to listen and obey the first time. She should have walked right next to me without straying or getting distracted when my hands are full in the parking lot. She should have been potty trained. The list went on and on, and even writing it out I feel ridiculous for expecting those things from her.
I’ve researched and talked to a lot of other moms about their firstborns and the personality traits they all seem to have: responsible, eager to please, achievement oriented – and I wonder if I’ve always had unreasonably high expectations for my own firstborn since she exhibited these characteristics. I think having a second baby and going back to the infant stage definitely magnified this and probably reinforced those traits in my toddler. She seems so “grown up” compared to a new baby, but developmentally and emotionally she still has so much growing to do. While I don’t think being responsible or achievement oriented is a bad thing, I’m trying to continually remind myself that she’s still little – and I want her to stay little for as long as she can! I’ve been consciously trying to reinforce and give lots of praise any time she does listen the first time, help me with something, or goes down easily for bed when I’m doing bedtime by myself.
And those times that she doesn’t and instead acts her age? I’m trying to have extra patience and grace knowing that they’re both already growing way too quickly and this season will pass before I know it – I sure don’t want to be responsible for speeding that up.