As I muddle through all this parenting nonsense, every once in a while, I gain some clarity that usually shocks the hell out of me. Not that I have any clue what I’m doing, but sometimes I at least catch a glimpse of the road I’m on. Which is better than nothing, I suppose.
Tonight it dawned on me that parenting is just one window of opportunity after another. Or at least one window-watching opportunity after another. There is always some milestone on the horizon, some new skill to be learned and practiced. But how do you know when it’s time to introduce something? How do you know when to push and when to hold back? You don’t, that’s the hard part. You just have to watch for the chance to try.
I do think as they get older, the clues become more obvious, because the milestones become more obvious. Things like potty training. You know around 2-3, it’s time to introduce the toilet. But then you have to watch for clues. At least at 2, 2 and a 1/2, they can talk and walk and, well, hold their pee, so you can kinda gauge when to pull the diapers and switch to undies.
But then there are more subtle things, like ditching the paci or the bottle. A child isn’t going to say “Hey, mom, I think I’m done with this bink now, thanks.” Well, they might if you wait til they are 10, but as toddlers, that conversation isn’t likely to happen. So you look for signs — these windows of opportunity — that your kid is ready to move on past the paci/bottle stage. If you open the window at the right time, the transition will be a smooth one. If you miss the window or try to force it, things will be much tougher on everyone. We were lucky when Declan ditched his paci and bottle in that I think we caught the window both times. With the bottle, he was about 15 months, and we switched from bottle to soft-spout sippy, then switched up the nighttime routine so that having his milk wasn’t the last thing he did before bed, and that was it. No tears, no screaming, just done.
The paci we actually ditched twice. Once, I felt he was just of the age to try and ditch them, so we tested the water. Declan was just over 2, and only needed his binkies at bed time (and yes, he had about 6 in bed). But I had a suspicion that he actually didn’t need them any more and that they were just one more thing in his bed to keep him occupied. So we told him about the “Binky Fairy” and how little babies needed his pacifiers, etc. He bought it, we took them, and that was that. No tears, no disruptions. Until a month later. Declan had back-to-back illnesses that completely disrupted his sleep and for about a month, he would NOT go to bed without an absolute SCREAMFEST. It was horrible, actually. Paul and I were at a loss. One night during the midst of his troubles, I found a paci under a chair, and I immediately gave it to him, hoping it would help. It didn’t, but the paci love came back in full force. I wanted to kick myself.
A few months later, I noticed that at bed time he wasn’t paying that much attention to his pacis, so I suggested to Paul that we discreetly phase them out. Not make a big deal about it, but just kinda keep them on the back burner. And lo and behold, a few weeks later, we were paci-free and Declan never even noticed. Jackpot, again.
So now I’m facing some of these windows again with Simon. And I’m still making mistakes, with both of them. Sometimes I really beat myself up for missing the windows of opportunity, because I feel like I should recognize them by now. Or I may recognize the window but push too hard before Simon is ready. I have to remember to take a step back and look at him and where he is in his development and his needs. I hate making mistakes with my boys so much, but like everything else in life, that’s how I learn. I have to keep an eye out for these windows and jump when the time is right.