Making Memories Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Toddlers

Turn Off the TV and Spend Time with Your Toddler

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When our daughter, Anika, was three, we took her out of daycare so that I could have some time with her and her brother over the summer before going back to work (I was headed back to the corporate world that fall). They spent the summer home with me.  I’ve never been so challenged to come up with creative activities to keep children busy.  Anika had been going to daycare for two years while I was in school, so she was all about “centers” and “jungle bus” and did NOT like to be bored (at 16, she still doesn’t). Parker had just finished first grade and was used to his days being filled with learning and recess (he still can’t stand days when there’s nothing going on). Their brother Kyle was going to a dayhab program, but their sister, Kira (who was going into her junior year in high school), was often around when she wasn’t working or at cheer practice.

Since it was nice weather, we did try to spend a lot of time outside, but in Boise, where we were living at the time, has a high number of days where the temperature is above 90 degrees and the ultra violet rays are at their highest risk.  Indoor activities become a necessity! I was extremely grateful for Nickelodeon –Dora, Diego, Lazy Town—they certainly made my kids happy.  But since this was to be my last summer off with the kids before taking the long-hour corporate job (who knew how things would work out), I made extra efforts not to rely on the TV.

We baked cookies every Friday.  The kids did all the measuring and mixing, and Parker was able to use his math skills when we doubled the recipes. We used water paints and practiced mixing colors to see what new colors we could make.  The brushes were quickly abandoned in favor of fingers and I ended up with some wonderful artwork on my fridge from my little ones’ fingers.  The summer went too fast, really, but we came up with some great ideas for spending time creating memories together:

  • Making tents out of sheets and having a picnic
  • Popcorn and movie days
  • Dress-up. Parker and Anika acted out scenes from favorite shows and movies, and then made up some of their own stories.
  • Art time.
  • Blocks. All of the kids have loved playing with blocks, either the wooden kind or the extra large not-legos.
  • Mommy’s helper. Yes, this is how the housework got done and the laundry got folded.

Now, Kira is the one home with young children. Her daughter, Hallie, is two-and-a-half, and until her baby brother was born, got to leave the house every day to go to a play center here in town. Now, she’s stuck at home and often has to find ways to entertain herself a bit when mom is working. This means getting to watch her favorite movie, Frozen, every morning…but Kira tries to spend quality time with her kids, just like I did with Parker and Anika.

Hallie has access to a lot of things her aunt and uncle did not, like electronic educational games (there are a ton on my Kindle that she knows how to use). Hallie also likes to take photos with her mother’s phone and spends quite a bit of time on FaceTime with her grandparents in England.

There are so many delightful ways to spend time with your little ones when they are little. I’m envious of Kira in a way that she is in this stage – it ends far too quickly. I hope she enjoys every moment of it, and when she’s not, this nana is more than happy to relive some memories by spending time with her granddaughter.

Parenting Toddlers

My Toddler Still Uses a Bottle and I’m Not Concerned

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

The amount of parenting rules is almost more exhausting than parenting itself. Almost. Everyone’s got an opinion, and I’ll admit that I get on my own high-horse every now and again. However, I try to check myself with important questions like these:

  • Is the child healthy? Looks like it.
  • Is the child loved? From what I can tell.
  • Is any harm coming to anyone else? Nope (looking at you anti-vaxxers)
  • Is it any of my damn business? Probs not.

See how simple that was? So even if I have a shred of doubt that I should poke my nose into someone else’s parenting, I can check my thoughts before I make an ass out of myself. I try really hard not to disrespect another parent who’s trying their hardest to get things right.

Which is why I don’t care at all what people think about my toddler using a bottle at 2 and a half years old. I’ll bring that bad boy out in public, too, along with my boob if I absolutely must. No shame happening here. My breastfed baby girl also loves her bottle, and I’m going to let her have it as long as she damn well pleases.


Because I don’t have a real reason not to. Other than some judgmental craphead being worried about something that’s not their business.

My toddler’s speech? Absolutely fantastic. She asks me why all day long and gives me attitude in clear, perfect sentences with angsty quotes from Frozen. No worries.

Her teeth? They look great. Most dentists aren’t concerned about things like thumb-sucking, pacifiers, and bottles until about four years old. We have a solid year and a half before I need to be concerned. By that time, she might have ditched the bottle on her own.

Does she look or act like a baby? Uh, no. My two year old is in 4T clothes. I promise you, she’s not being mistaken for a small child. In fact, she’s probably getting more judgment because people think I’m letting an even older child use a bottle. Even if I was, shocker, it’s still none of your business.

I’m not going to create a problem where one doesn’t exist. I sucked my thumb until I was 7 and carried a dirty pillowcase around until it was pried from my tiny child fingers. Every child has their source of comfort and a bottle happens to be what my toddler uses.

She doesn’t rely on it. She can go hours without her bottle, but when she’s upset, it’s what she asks for. When she’s getting ready for bed, she uses it to relax herself. At least it’s not my boob, ok? I got real tired of her gnawing on my nipples all day long, so we’ve cut that off to limited and scheduled sessions. But her bottle? It’s available upon request.

So let’s just toss the bottle use into the pile of things that aren’t your business. It’s not a big deal, I promise. We’ll all be ok, and hopefully you can find something better to concern yourself with.


Potty Training Has Changed

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I admit that it has been at least 14 years since I’ve really had to be responsible for potty training another individual…but has potty training really changed that much?

It seems so.

Now, I freely admit that I’m a shy-bladder type who doesn’t think any of the excretory functions should be done in public. I’m a little shocked that I’ve raised a few children who not only burp but cheer each other on to be the loudest and longest. And Hallie has discovered that if she sticks her finger up her nose and then in her mouth she can almost make me throw up.

And poop. It is a constant conversation – at the dinner table no less.

Some of this, I blame on my son-in-law. He has to live with me (I barely lasted living with my mother-in-law for five weeks; he’s been with us for almost 3 years) so once he knows something will get to me, he tends to take a little pleasure in making it a habit. Poop talk is one of those things. I don’t blame him. I can’t even imagine living with parents – in-laws or otherwise – for that long.

But potty training – that’s where I was headed with this. Hallie is potty training. We bought cute little seats that sit on top of the big person toilet so that she can right away get the idea that the bathroom and the toilet is where you go. She used those for a while, but she went to a friend’s house who has a potty chair. She loved the potty chair. She used the potty chair. She wanted to pee on the potty and not in her diaper because of the potty chair.

Her mom and dad got her a potty chair.

And it’s in her room.


It’s not in a bathroom; it’s not near running water; it’s not next to the toilet to make it easy to empty. It’s in her room.

And to help facilitate the whole learning to potty in the toilet stage of life, she is often without a diaper. Wandering the house. Occasionally peeing on the floor.


Yet, as grossed out as I am by the whole idea and as worried as I get that she’ll pee on my rug (I love that rug – it’s the only carpet in our entire downstairs since it’s all hardwood and stone flooring), she is potty training really quickly.

There may be something to this diaperless method of potty training with a chair conveniently located near play and sleep space instead of all the way upstairs (not sure if I could make it if I had to go bad).

So I cringe and shake my head and get grossed out – but my daughter is a good mom, and I don’t blame her for trying whatever it takes to get one out of diapers before the next one gets here! Her method seems to be working.

Parenting Teens and Tweens Toddlers

Quit Wrestling. Let Your Toddler Dress Herself

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

By the time our youngest daughter, Anika, was 3, she was a fashion queen. She was a confident and happy little girl who liked to make a statement.  She wore hats—a baseball cap to the side, or a flowery concoction, or even a winter cap as a part of her outfit. Fast-forward a decade-plus, and Anika’s fashion sense has matured, but it hasn’t changed. She still loves hats and wears unique combinations. She also wears wigs and lives for moments when she can get away with a little more than the school dress code typically allows.

Now, I feel like I’m reliving Anika’s toddlerhood through my granddaughter, Hallie. Hallie, who is not quite 2, has already learned how to dress herself – not because she wants to get dressed, as she prefers to be naked – but so that she can have control over what she wears. And l’m reminded of all the tricks we used to keep Anika dressed, especially when it was too cold for her skirts and sandals.


Don’t Restrict What They Wear – Just Add Layers

A pair of pants or leggings underneath a skirt will keep her legs warm while still letting her wear what she wants to wear.  She can do the same with a turtleneck underneath the top or dress to keep her arms warm.  Since hats of any kind make a great fashion statement, a collection of wool caps in all colors can help keep their little heads covered without forcing the stubborn little fashionistas from sacrificing their own personal style.

Let Them Have Control

Let your child feel like she is in control.  If she has to wear covered shoes instead of sandals, let her pick them out.  If she picks them and likes them, she will be more apt to wear them. Do the same with socks – and quit worrying whether or not the socks match.

Make Mornings Easier 

When Anika was young, we had to be out the door early in the morning to get her to daycare and me to school. To make it easier on everyone, we set out the clothes the night before—but I let her pick them. That way, she knew exactly what she would be wearing when she woke up.

My struggles with Anika and clothes started around the time she was 3. Hallie is not quite 2 and already demonstrating the same stubborn inflexibility about who gets to pick her clothes.


At the end of the day, though, no one is going to care if her socks match or whether or not she had coordinated her outfit with her shoes. And she’ll be happier for it.

Oh,  and it’s great practice for the wrestling you’ll do about clothes when they’re teens … But that’s another story!

On Motherhood Raising Healthy Kids Toddlers

Battle Wounds from the Toddler Years

 Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Almost from the time your child is born, you’re aware of the ticking clock counting down to the toddler years – particularly that second birthday. You’re prepared for it. You’re ready to embrace your toddler’s new-found independence. Of course, if your child starts beating his head against the floor because he can’t get his purple stuffed barney to stand up by himself when he’s 18 months old, you might panic.

I did.

Parker just turned 18 (finally moving through the worst of the teen years – a stage closely related to the toddler years), but when he was a toddler, he had the worst temper tantrums I’d ever seen. Something would set him off, and he would literally beat his head against the floor or scream and cry. Or beat his head on the floor and scream and cry. He even managed to give himself a lovely goose egg trying to beat his head against the bar of the shopping cart while we were grocery shopping.

The new-found sense of independence (blah blah blah) aside, this was frightening. Even though I was raising Derek, Kira, and Kyle with Dave, Parker provided me with my first trip through toddlerhood. It was scary. We had to leave places (restaurants, stores, people’s homes) because he would be so loud and out of control.

In those moments, especially when sitting in the parking lot in Walmart the one day a week I had the car to do grocery shopping and wondering if we’d even be able to get out of the car and go in, I felt like a failure as a mom.

As we approached Parker’s 3rd birthday, I was still naïve enough to think that we were moving out of the danger zone. Of course, between ages 2 and 3, Parker had his first seizure (and don’t think I didn’t torture myself about that being caused by one too many head beatings against the floor before I could intervene, even though the neurologist assured me it was not).

If twos are terrible, the threes are…terrifying.

By three, not only is your toddler self-aware but has a voice and a tiny, budding sense of reason. But it is all about wanting control.

Being a control freak myself, I found ways to help Parker manage his expectations that minimized our stress, doing things like telling him 30 minutes before we were leaving the park that we’d be leaving (shortly after his first trip down the slide) and remind him every 5 minutes.

By the time Anika came along, I was a lot more confident in handling the tantrums. Anika’s tantrums were a hint at the passionate theatre to student to come…they were incredible performances.

It was hard with Parker. In addition to being my first experience with this stage of development (where are the warning labels?!), we know now that there were some things going on – sensory issues, seizure issues, and an undetected iron deficiency and an overarching undiagnosed Asperger’s  syndrome – that likely impacted our ability to successfully resolve some of issues.

But a lot of it (as I’m coming to realize watching my darling daughter navigate this stage with her daughter, who will soon be 2) is simply the stage. As I listen to Hallie scream at the top of her lungs and hear Kira attempt to soothe and reason with her, I rest easy knowing she’ll survive this stage.

It’s a rite of passage for every kid – and every mom. It’s tough, and exhausting, and it can be a real blow to your ego when you can’t solve your child’s problems or appease them. It’s worse when you have to be the person who sets the boundaries so that they learn the behavior is not acceptable so that eventually they move through this stage.

I sometimes wanted to escape, but I never stopped wanting to be a mom, even when I was in tears on the phone with my own mother thinking I was a complete failure. And now I can reassure Kira that it will pass. Not as soon as she wants it too, but it will pass. I’m just not sure she’ll appreciate how similar the situation will be when Hallie turns 14 or 15.

That’s motherhood, though – and you know, now that Parker is taller than me and I can’t rock him to sleep anymore because wow, that would be so uncool Mom, I’d give anything for just one more temper tantrum that we could resolve with hugs.

Parenting Stress Management Toddlers Travel

What Moms Need: Encouragement, Not Judgment

Getting Real with Megan Gregory

On the plane, before the meltdown

It’s happened to me twice: My kid had such an epic meltdown in public that a stranger felt compelled to comment.

Parenting in public is a strange phenomenon because people stare, people judge, but occasionally we get my favorite people – the encouraging people.  The encouraging people are the ones who only intervene to offer emotional support to the parent, and it seems to come at the most needed moments.

The first time it happened was last year. We took our son, who was two at the time, on his first plane ride. We were going to the east coast for about a week and decided to make it a family adventure. Now let me tell you, I am a rule follower. I made sure to read all of the rules about traveling with a toddler, called the airline to verify I understood what I was reading, and planned accordingly. What I read and then verified on the phone, was that it was mandatory to bring my son’s car seat on the plane – and use it.

I had never seen this done, and I genuinely thought it was a mistake.  I had never seen those already-overloaded parents also juggling a car seat through the airport, but I figured it must have been a new rule, and I wasn’t going to be denied entry onto the plane because of it. So, we hauled our many carry-on bags, a stroller, our restless toddler, and the massive car seat across the airport. We begged the boarding gate attendant to allow us to board early, since we had to strap in the car seat and, luckily, they obliged – even though early family boarding wasn’t in their policy.

After securing the car seat, jamming our bags into the overhead compartments and shoving them under the seats, and strapping our son into his car seat, we pulled out books and toys to distract him during take off (which we heard was the hardest part).  Take off went smoothly, both for the plane and our son, and the first half of the flight continued without incidence.

But that’s where the ease ended.

Our son had started getting cranky and it became evident we were hitting naptime territory. Our son pulls a real Jeckyl and Hyde when he starts getting tired. It’s obvious (to us) that getting him to sleep is the remedy.  But, on a plane, my normal options to get him to sleep were limited. He was furiously kicking the woman in the seat in front of him (to whom I profusely apologized) and beginning to scream. I talked to him, sang to him, read to him, and finally – miraculously – got him to sleep.

Unfortunately, our plane was piloted by a man who thought himself to be both hilarious and a tour guide.  Every few minutes he would do a very loud ‘DING’ throughout the entire plane and then, in his amplified voice (practically yelling), he would enthusiastically point out we were flying over. If you looked out the window to try to see what the pilot was referencing, you’d be met with clouds, so the yelling ‘tour’ was not only annoyingly unnecessary, but woke up our son every single time.  By the fourth or fifth ‘DING’, our son was inconsolably screaming and my face was red with terror.  The ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ light was on, and I kept looking at my husband for a new idea to try to calm our son down….He had none.

I finally looked at my husband and said, ‘”Fuck it.” I unbuckled our son, wrapped him in his blanket, and took him to the bathroom. I tried to talk to him, splashed some water on his face, but he just kept crying. Someone knocked on the door – probably someone who actually needed to use the facilities, and so I walked out mortified and terrified. There was still 30-45 minutes left in the flight – and I was the mom with the screaming kid on the plane that everybody hates. It’s not like I wanted him to be so upset, and it’s not like I was letting it happen without trying to console him, but nothing helped!

We did end up having a great vacation

So I nervously paced up and down the aisle, bouncing our son up and down, whispering in his ear, and eventually he fell back asleep in my arms.  When I realized he was asleep, I felt like there was a silent applause from the plane.  I did it.  The misery has ended.  But then the damn pilot came on…’DING’…and announced we would begin our descent.  I looked down at my son, whose eyes had slightly opened because of the ‘DING’, and I looked at my husband who was just as nervous as I was, and I said “I don’t care what the rules are, I am not putting him back in that car seat.”  So as the plane gradually descended lower and lower towards the ground, I held my boy tightly against my body praying he would remain calm…and he did.

When the plane got to the terminal and people began rising to grab their carry-on luggage, I, again, apologized to the woman my son had been kicking.  But, the surprising part was the older woman who had been sitting next to her.  She turned around, her grey hair perfectly done, and said, “I just want you to know, I thought what you were doing when the plane took off was really impressive.  And we’ve all been where you are.” 

My eyes actually started welling up.  I had been so stressed and nervous and scared about ruining this flight for so many other people, and my son had screamed and kicked for so long, but this woman made a point to let us know it was okay.  As we started walking off the plane another passenger said, “You did good.”  This was exactly what I needed to hear.  I did good.  Being a mom isn’t being perfect, and believe me I have made many mistakes, but it really does take a village to raise a human being and I needed the other women and mothers to acknowledge my efforts and let me know they were with me.

The other instance of a grand public meltdown with a kind, encouraging stranger was much less traumatic and much more common: We were at the grocery store and my now-three-year-old wanted a particular brand of yogurt that had a character on the package that he loved. I reminded him I had just bought him yogurt and it was in the refrigerator waiting for him. He yelled back at me, “I don’t want THAT yogurt, I want THIS yogurt.” Poor guy. I am not the kind of mom who gives in to tantrums, particularly in public, so I simply said, “No.” He sat down on the floor and refused to continue shopping with me.  So, I slowly walked away.

Now, let me clarify, I would never actually leave my child behind and I would never walk far enough away as to allow anything bad to happen to him. But we were in the store, there wasn’t that many people around, and I was still in close proximity. The mere act of me attempting to leave him was enough to jar him and he came crying hysterically towards me. I reminded him that throwing tantrums is not the way to get what he wants and the tantrum was over. But, as I had been threateningly walking away, a woman looked at me and said, “I’ve been there.  You’re doing the right thing.” A little relief flushed over me. Truth be told, even if she didn’t agree with my method of handling the situation, at least she took a moment to encourage me and make me feel better.

That’s what we mothers need to do: band together to raise our babies to be decent human beings. 

I do not remember every one of my son’s tantrums, but I do remember these two specific instances when someone took a moment to build me back up during a meltdown. And the best part, I don’t remember how I felt during the meltdown; I remember how I felt being encouraged.

Sometimes the difference between an awful day and a wonderful day is someone else taking a moment to remind you that you’re doing a good job, even if you feel like you’re falling apart. 


Surviving the Teething Monster

Hallie’s teeth came in late according to standards. While she began teething at 2 months, nothing appeared until she was about 8 months old. Now that she is into toddlerhood, the molars are appearing, and it is horrendous.

A monster has replaced my child, and I would like a full refund, please.

Do you know how long it is taking for those molars to come in?! Oh, and only the bottom ones. We haven’t addressed the top ones yet, so I’m screwed.

toddler biting

Problem 1: The Biting

This is the most troubling, and not just because we are still breastfeeding. We have moved beyond the stage of biting the nipple that feeds us, and although Hallie has her feisty moments, my nipples are usually safe. What are not safe are my butt and thighs, I kid you not. I am not the only one who has suffered from a bite-and-run, but the last time she drew blood. It’s a terrible game she plays, sneaking up as if she wants a hug. Then, before you can act, the teeth are out and the damage is done as she runs away. Gremlin.

surviving the teething monster

Problem 2: The Crying

Yes, I know she is in pain, and I do feel bad for her. If I could take her pain upon myself I would in a heartbeat, but I cannot. Instead, I have to listen to relentless cries for attention, food, water, milk, toys, and anything else. The pain of the teething exemplifies every other displeasure, and I promise you I am suffering with her. Everything is offensive to Hallie as those molars come in, and although I can’t blame her, it is driving me insane.

Problem 3: The Pickiness

teething toddlers are picky

As if I weren’t stressed enough, her aching gums have diminished her appetite. I’m sure she’s getting enough, but I can’t help but worry anyways. Despite her gremlin antics, I want my baby girl to eat healthy meals. Instead she is throwing her yogurt at me and crying to be breastfed, because I didn’t want to wean anyway. Right? Sure. Not only that, but now I have no idea what she actually wants to eat on any given day. It’s a fun time picking her meals off the floor and walls, and there’s nothing like scraping peanut butter out of her hair when I don’t have time or energy for another bath.

She is a monster for sure, but she is my monster. I can only hope that her molars come in soon, and that I can ease the ache of her gums with ice and cold washcloths. We will get through this together, with hopefully less tears and biting. Until then, wish me luck, and let me know if you have any awesome teething tips!


Let's Talk Toddlers

Terrible Twos Become Terrifying Threes

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

From the moment your child is born, there is a little part of you that is counting down to that magic second birthday. From every account, birthday number two spells doom and terror in your household.  The terrible twos don’t just magically appear on your child’s birthday; the behavior associated with the terrible twos begins anytime after the first birthday or during the second year.

Your two-year-old is not really terrible; he or she has just discovered a new-found sense of independence and cognitively has begun to recognize him or herself as an individual.  This significant stage of development is an opportunity for you to begin teaching your child behavior boundaries.

Toddlers in this stage want control.  You can help them have a sense of control over their world by giving them advanced warning rather than abruptly changing activities.  “We are going to leave the park in ten minutes” works a lot better with a two year old than “C’mon, it’s time to go now.”  Temper tantrums, one of the standard elements of the terrible twos, should be met with time outs.

There is one thing you should know; while they aren’t called the terrible twos for nothing, if the twos are terrible, the threes are terrifying!  All of that independence and self-awareness your toddler gained at two comes with an increased ability to reason, argue, and speak at age three.  Depending on your child’s disposition, you may see less out and out temper tantrums, or you may see more, but you will probably have more tests of will.

By age three, your toddler is very aware that there is a world to explore. This exploration, however, can bring frustration when parents place limits for safety or the child simply doesn’t have the ability to do whatever he or she is attempting.  The good news is that three-year-olds are capable of communicating, so you can encourage them to use words instead of actions to express their frustration.  They are also capable of making simple choices between two things.

The best way to keep your three-year-old from becoming “terrifying” is to provide a lot of safe opportunity for exploration.  This is a great time to help your child focus on fine motor skills. Play catch, build with blocks, count and sort.  Let them help around the house with simple household chores.

Hang in there.  It won’t be long before your toddler is slipping on a backpack, getting on the bus, and heading to kindergarten.  At that moment, you’d probably give anything to have one more temper tantrum.


Terrible Twos, Revisited

The terrible twos are real, for most parents. It’s a time when our little ones are trying very hard to establish some independence and assert their personalities for the first time. Dave and I wrote about our experiences with our terriblest two year old (Parker) …

Originally published in the Corning Leader, March 23, 2003

We have five kids, and while this is Dave’s fourth trip through the toddler years, it is only my first. I sometimes wonder in desperation: How many times can a child throw a temper tantrum and beat his head on the floor and not sustain permanent damage? How long DO the terrible twos last, anyway? Parker is almost 3, and he is not really showing signs of being through with being terrible. I envy Dave his previous experience with this age and his ability to just tune it out.

I love my son very much, and having children has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I would not trade this child (or any of the other four) for the world, but there are certainly days when I measure my sanity in choosing to walk away from the relative ease of the corporate world to try and reason with a child like mine.

Dave has managed to forget his previous woes with the terrible twos (mercifully so). There are days when he can ignore the tantrums; yet there are other days when he feels like pulling out those hairs that have yet to recede or turn to gray. We could look at it this way: at least the older kids are no longer beating their heads on the floor.

Maybe we deserve what we’re dealing with. Our moms laugh and show little sympathy when they hear about Parker’s antics. I am told that I deserve everything I get because of the child I was. In fact, my mother’s greatest wish (as is the greatest wish for many mothers) was that someday I have a child just like me.

According to a reliable source (Dave’s mom), Parker acts a lot like Dave did when he was little. From Dave’s point of view, what father would not be proud to have his son follow in his own headstrong footsteps? Seriously though, Dave is sympathetic and he recognizes that leaving for work each day can provide a vacation of sorts; however, father-son pride still suffices as a “silver lining” when Parker is more belligerent than normal.

Because of our varied levels of experience, Dave and I do handle things differently. He didn’t cry when Parker had his first immunization shots, but I did. He knew the pain was short-lived and easily forgotten; I couldn’t get past my new baby boy’s alligator tears. Dave didn’t find it necessary to consult the medical guide with every new stage of development and go “by the book”, and he was often frustrated at my concern when we weren’t following whatever the newly prescribed method of parenting happened to be that month.

As Dave recollects days gone by, I handle issues much as he would when our oldest was the two-year old. Even still, Dave will feel moments of dread when the kids are in pain or saddened. Maybe he has improved his ability to rationalize that their discomfort is for the best. Who knows?

I understand more now why Dave finds it so easy to be relaxed about certain events. We just had Anika five months ago; and from the beginning, I behaved differently—I didn’t feel like I would die every time she cried and I didn’t feel completely incompetent when I couldn’t immediately soothe her. I don’t change her diaper every 15 minutes or read any books about where she is in her stages of development. I just enjoy every moment, knowing that if I have retained any sanity at all, this will be the last baby.

Part of relaxing may come from the understanding that the kids are really okay. Much of the hurt we feel, physically and emotionally, seems to be manufactured in our minds. What helps us is the understanding that the little pains associated with growing are more of an annoyance than a trauma.

It’s challenging, yet fun, to struggle and learn together to find just the right way to handle each situation as it arises. The one thing I have learned from Dave is that no matter how many times you make the trip with kids, it never gets less rewarding and you never stop worrying about them.

I’m grateful to have Dave’s reassuring insight on the toddler side of things. I do know that, eventually, Parker will stop beating his head when he’s mad, he will potty train, and some of those issues that seem overwhelming today will get easier.

Teenagers on the other hand . . .