Amalia was an easy baby. Despite my own difficulties, she was basically an angel and everyone who came to visit us during her first year was shocked because they never heard her cry. She slept well, ate well, and was generally good natured… We were so lucky with her!
But then she turned one and something shifted big time.
She’s still a great kid (exceptional if you ask me!), but has proven to be challenging in a lot of ways as of late. Based on conversations with friends, her teachers, and her doctor, all of this is very normal but we were so not prepared for our transition from baby to toddler, and it hit us suddenly and furiously.
Here are a few things that changed in the blink of an eye. We’re still navigating how to work through them all, and I’ll share more as I learn more along the way. I’m certainly no expert and am learning something new every day, but I also feel pretty proud of how we’re handling this new stage of her life.
Food: Luckily she’s still a good sleeper (I still swear by Babywise), but a switch flipped at meal times and she’s turned into a super picky eater who has decided to hate her mom during dinner, throwing food on the floor, and screaming at the top of her lungs. Dinnertime is fun around here, let me tell you! But our doctor and her teachers all urged us to give her whatever we’re eating for dinner or really any food that tastes great with two or three options on her plate and if she doesn’t eat that, there’s no dinner.
When I first heard this course of action, I was horrified. How could I send my angel baby to bed without dinner? But let me tell you, I’ve learned the hard way that it is definitely the way to go. If she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat dinner and when she’s not, she still gets her sippy cup of goat’s milk before bed. Not eating dinner doesn’t seem to affect her sleep in the slightest. The only noticeable difference is that she eats a lot more at breakfast which I’m fine with because breakfast is a breeze.
So, I’m sticking to the strategy of not being a short order cook (which I was for a few weeks), and it has definitely made a difference. Her dinner tantrums have calmed down (not disappeared, but at least calmed down) and it is a lot easier on me. My mom keeps telling me to stick with it no matter what because it will set us up for success in the long run. It reminds me of how we created really good sleeping habits for her as an infant. It was so hard at the time but worth it now! On the nights when she’s flipping out and won’t eat, I try to think of her in the future as a good eater.
Another thing that helps is to put two or three items on the plate. For example, the other night I gave her eggplant parm with a side of roasted butternut squash and a piece of bread with olive oil. She wasn’t having the squash but ate most of the other food. I tried the squash again in her lunch yesterday and she ate it all! It’s all about trial and error and a little persistence.
The last piece of the pie which has been a game changer is teaching her how to use utensils. She’s mastered the art of the spoon (ish) and we’re working on using a baby fork which makes dinner way more fun for her. I help her poke her food and say “poke poke poke” and she repeats “po po” and helps me do it then feeds it to herself. Making dinnertime something exciting and new takes a lot of the stress out of it. If you saw my Instagram story last night, you saw her laughing and smiling at dinner which I never would have believed possible a week or two ago!
Walking: When Amalia started walking a few weeks ago, we had another major shift. As everyone warned us, she now wants to walk everywhere and do everything on her own. This is fine and fun to watch at home where things are baby proofed, but frustrating and sometimes even scary when we’re out and about. Anel says it seems like she’s constantly trying to kill herself and that sometimes feels true! She is very curious which I love, but gets super frustrated if she is told she can’t do something like, you know, play with an electrical socket.
Our strategy here is to stick to our guns and keep saying no when she tries to do something dangerous or that she’s not supposed to, but also to choose our battles. Our doctor said it best with her advice:
Don’t ever say no if the answer will eventually be yes.
I love this sentiment because it forces me to think about what battles to choose. If we might end up giving in, we try to just start with a yes so that she doesn’t learn how to play us like fiddles!
Getting dressed: She’s never really cared about getting dressed, even when a shirt gets stuck on her head for a second, but in the last week she’s decided that she hates wearing shirts. Like the second a shirt comes near her, you would think she’s being eaten alive by sharks. The first time it happened, I thought the shirt was uncomfortable, so I changed her, but I’ve since learned that she is just not having it. Once the shirt is on, she’s fine, but getting dressed is becoming a hard-core moment in our day.
My strategy here is distract, distract, distract. She’s currently obsessed with singing Baa Baa Black Sheep so I belt it out at the top of my lungs which I’m sure sounds and looks ridiculous but it shocks and excites her, and more importantly it works.
Distraction works in many cases for us, in fact.
Sometimes Amalia gets fussy before bed and getting her in a diaper is a big to do, but singing to her or giving her a book usually work well in that case.
Tantrums: Just before her first birthday, Amalia threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t read her a book for the (literal) 16th time. I said “All done!” and put the book away like I always had and she was full on face down on the ground kicking and screaming. I was in shock and had no idea what to do but I had remembered a friend telling me that ignoring a child when he or she has a tantrum is the best course of action. So I did that, and within a matter of minutes she sat back up and was totally normal. It was as if another devil baby had taken over her body, and since it was the first time I had ever seen her act like that, it really freaked me out.
Since then, it’s happened a few times and every time I ignore it and she stops. But holy cow, it’s stressful!
Getting bored: I used to be able to plop her down in her playroom and hang while she played for hours. Now? Nope! She sits at the gate near our front door, pointing outside and says, “Go!” It’s so cute until she gets angry when I don’t move fast enough haha.
I’m still figuring out all the things to do with her that she likes out of the house, but hanging out at home for more than an hour or two doesn’t cut it for my little adventurer anymore. We love going to the playground (she’s partial to the swings), or a local nature reserve, and grocery shopping is her all time favorite, especially when she gets to eat an apple or banana (nanana). We are going to take her apple picking this weekend and have plans to finally check out a local aquarium after that but I’m actively on the hunt for toddler activities that are both safe and fun!
What’s to come: I am so excited for this next year with her because we’ll be able to communicate better and better, and her personality shines through more every single day. Anel and I are prepared to take on the challenges of toddlerhood together and as calmly as possible. We both believe that if we’re on the same page and support each other in this parenting journey, it makes things a lot easier and more manageable.
Before I sign off on this post I have to mention that there are so many amazing things happening as well. If your baby is turning into a toddler soon, I promise it’s not all scary! There are so many sweet moments and looking at the world from her curious eyes is heart warming beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. Her cries might be more intense, but her love is too. We get big grins, big hugs, and and big laughs. And every time she says a new word I feel like the proudest mom in the whole world!
If you have any tips on how to handle these or other toddler challenges, please share them below for me and for other moms to learn from!