“The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place” ~ Barbara De Angelis
After nearly eleven months of a beautiful gummy smile, Baby Girl’s first tooth finally broke through last night. My husband called it our last first tooth, which made my heart break a little bit. At least it gave some reason to the random fever and increased nighttime wakings from once or twice a night to so many times I lose count. Brutal. My level of mombie state has been so high that I’ve struggled with forming simple sentences. Though her teeth have taken their sweet time arriving, she’s proven to be the precocious walker at ten months. My last baby, who at times feels like just arrived yesterday, is taking her Frankenstein steps towards becoming a toddler. How did that happen so fast?
These days I feel as though all three of my children are moving through their own significant transitions. Big Brother has turned a hard corner from little boy to big kid. Along with those grown up teeth coming in, he’s perfecting the art of tying shoestrings, he confidently reads to his brother and sister, makes his own lunches, loads the dishwasher, gets himself ready in the morning, puts himself to bed at night, and is quite helpful when it comes time to clean his room and putting away laundry. I’m really digging the big kid stage.
My strong-willed Little One’s transition has been a dramatic and welcomed change. For the past year we have struggled and painfully made our way through his threenager stage which quite frankly started around two and half or maybe even at birth to be honest. With his fourth birthday around the corner, we catch small glimpses of a somewhat reasonable human from time to time. When requests are made in the absence of a whine or we manage to get out of the house drama-free these moments offer a silver lining that the end of the three-year old struggle is near. For much of the past year, every moment of transition proved to be a challenge, from leaving the house to eating a meal. Any point in which one activity ends and another begins was causing him a great deal of stress. There were (and sometimes still are) stomping, screaming, and tears. There are countless moments of transitions in one day. Working our way through that much stomping and streaming left us frazzled at the end of the day. We have spent the last year trying a variety of tricks to ease the transitions: transitional objects, sticker charts, countdown warnings. Nothing was working. Transitions were made but usually through long lists of negotiations or just physically carrying him (often kicking and screaming) to the next task or place.
In the past few weeks, we finally stumbled upon a successful plan to get us moving through the day without drama. It’s quite possible that part of the success comes from him simply maturing and that busy little brain of his can start to connect the dots and have this whole life thing make sense. At night when I’m tucking him in he asks big questions trying to figure out how his body grows and why this whole eating thing is important. I dug into my treasure chest of experience in the classroom to put together a pocket chart that displays the tasks at hand. It has also provided him with concrete power. Many of these transitional moments are all about power and an aversion for being told what to do. So, for instance, if we need to leave the house I start a good twenty or thirty minutes before we need to leave by telling him that soon, he should make a plan to leave. Then ever so gently, I lay before him the task cards that need to happen to leave: socks, shoes, coat, on yeah and pants because MUCH to his dismay, he may not walk out into the world in just his underwear. This kid would be nearly naked for most of the day if it were socially acceptable. I involved him in the creation and coloring of these task cards so he felt ownership of the whole process. He chooses the order, he directs himself through the plan, checks off his list when a task is done (which consists of turning the card over) and proudly announces when he is ready to go. No stomping, no tears, no drama.
The first time we tried it for bedtime I thought the success in everything going smoothly was a fluke. But day after day it has been working. Don’t get me wrong, he’s human, so some days he’s just too cranky to do it all without a hitch, but for the most part, life doesn’t feel so stressful. I find that I’m not living my life in fear of the next transition. I feel just a little less worn out at the end of the day.
These moments, here in the trenches of motherhood, are fleeting and amazing. Watching my kids growing, changing, maturing, and becoming their own strong, confident people is why I chose this gig in the first place. It can sometimes be an intense, uphill battle, yet the view from the top is worth it all.