The following are lessons learned from cohabitation with two toddlers, called N and E, ages 3 and 2.
Early to bed, early to rise.
One wonderful thing about children this age is that they are, for the most part, over the sleep problems that plague babies and tend to make it all the way through the night, sleeping 10 or even nearly 12 hours. Their bedtime is 7pm, if not a bit before on days when they have had an especially exciting agenda. At first this seems amazing, because you do have practically the whole evening to yourself. Make some dinner, check your e-mail, cuddle up with your spouse and chug some wine. However, this also means they rise around 6am.
Now I realize 6am is not that early, theoretically, and many people get up and ready themselves for work around that time. But when toddlers wake up, at least these toddlers, it doesn’t seem to be the slow wake up process that I am used to in adults. It’s not get a coffee, sit down for a second, pop in some toast, sit down for a second, let out the dog in your robe, sit on the stoop while it wees, and so on and so on until you are gradually fully awake sometime around 9am, long after you started working. N and E awake and after about 30 seconds of eye rubbing and possibly one or two yawns, are full-on awake and ready to go. Ready to run, ready to ride bikes in the kitchen, ready to sing, ready to watch some programs half-heartedly while wrestling on the carpet. For me, in the adult waking routine, this can be really intense. I find myself suggesting activities like coloring, laying on the couch with blankets, or reading silently. Not usually a bit hit.
Lesson learned: don’t get carried away with the wine and late night exploits after your toddlers hit the hay, you will need your strength in the morning.
Have a biscuit on the toilet.
Now, you may think this is rather neglectful of me, to disregard what seems like a logical rule of sanitation and hygiene like this. But this activity is actually mother-approved, because if I have learned anything it is that living with two toddlers in various stages of potty-training changes your perspective on such trivial things.
Even children who are self-motivated to potty train, such as N and E, need some prodding sometimes. Because life is very distracting, and while the child fully knows it has to go and realizes it isn’t diapered, there is a toy/program/dance/song/truck passing by the window that makes it very difficult to tear yourself away just for a wee.
Bribery is the best trick I have discovered so far, and bribing children is surprisingly easy. You can bribe them with things you fully intended to do with them or give to them whether they go to the potty or not, and they haven’t picked up on that sly trick yet. I can say ‘How about this, how about first we got to the toilet, and then you can play with your cars?’ or ‘How about this? First we go to the toilet, then we will put on Postman Pat.’ Yes, they can play with cars or watch Postman Pat regardless of whether they get on the toilet. But don’t tell them that! They always, always think it over for a second, which tells me there will certainly be a day when they realize what a deception this is, but as of now this is a winning tactic and I have less than two weeks left. Let the next nanny deal with what to do when this stops working.
On the off-chance that the terms I have put forth are not satisfactory, the children usually name their own terms. So far, they have only come up with two original ideas. First, they suggest that yes, they will go on the potty IF I put it in front of the television. And I do it. Because honestly, who hasn’t wished for that luxury at some time or another, and when you are using a training toilet that is so easily portable, this dream is quickly realized. Second, they request a biscuit to eat while pooing, which can take a while I assure you. My first instinct was to say no. Toddlers hate ‘no’, but I have become an expert at ignoring the fit that follows ‘no’. So when I denied the first request for a biscuit on the toilet, I wasn’t really worried about the child being upset about the biscuit, but more so about the child subsequently refusing the toilet and then soiling it’s drawers. Accidents sure do happen with potty-training, but this one seemed so avoidable. So in short order I got the biscuit (actually a rice cake, that these kids think are cookies, ha). And onto the toilet they went. And shat. Er, sat. Whatever, it worked.
I am notorious for my sweet tooth. I like chocolatey, fruity, sour and tangy sweets. Candy, cookies, cakes, sorbet and ice cream are all contenders. Who the hell knows when I picked this up, but I know that it escalated when my mom, anticipating missing me very, very much, sent me off to college with a bulk-sized box of York Peppermint Patties. Children, however, appear to be a blank slate when it comes to food habits. And considering that their parents have already taught them to believe that rice cakes are cookies, N and E find joy in the simplest of sweets. They don’t even stock actual cookies or proper candy in this house. In fact, I have witnessed ‘nature’s’ candy, also called a raisin and given out by lame-o’s on Halloween, send them into a sugar high of epic proportions. Thank god for the merciful crash that followed.
When they want a treat they beg and plead for…bananas. Or apples. Or, at the height of their cravings, yogurt. And I do of course love all of these items, but can you blame a girl for occasionally wanting a piece of toast slathered in Nutella? In fact I had such a hankering this morning while they were gnawing and salivating on some bananas (kids can make eating a banana into a test for the weak stomachs) I made myself just such a piece of toast. And I saw them eyeing me curiously when I brought it to the table. So I offered a tiny piece to each, generous helpings of Nutella for both, and with only a moment’s pause they both refused. N even went so far as to say ‘It’s brown.’ Yes, I know. And it’s delicious.