I bought a book a while ago, called "The Toddler Busy Book" that I've been enjoying immensely.
It's a whole bunch of simple ideas for toddler activities. None of them require any fancy materials; I'm pretty craft-supply challenged, and even I usually have the stuff they call for. Many of them are great learning activities without being hung up on the learning part. And most (not all) require just a little bit of energy, setup, and many, the toddler can help do the setup that's required. Which is often more exciting than the activity.
However, even a great idea book does not fill every gap in our afternoons.
Yesterday, I had a hard time coming up with things for us to do.
I just felt short and irritable all day, despite the fact that I'd gotten enough sleep, and enough to eat. And despite the fact that there were some activities during the day that broke up our time at home.
Still, though, when I opened the Busy Book for some ideas, nothing appealed to me, mostly because despite not being sleepy, I was just too tired for water play! or paint! or anything requiring glue! or exclamation points!
I hate those afternoons.
Today, well, today I was still tired. But Lucy entertained herself nearly the whole second half of the morning, which, in hindsight, was a marked changed from yesterday.
Finally, it clicked: it is a lot easier to come up with interesting ideas to do when you only have to do it once or twice in an afternoon, and not every five minutes. And, when the toddler is a little less cranky and demanding.
Today, in the grocery store, though, I was tired, and she was tired, in that new, very three-year-old way she gets tired, where she is unable to follow directions or listen or control her body very well. It's not defiance, exactly, just that she kind of gets a little bit drunk or like Rain Man. Lack of control, not willfullness. And I was able to get her through the store with only one meltdown (short) and with nearly everything we came for, and without losing my patience (barely).
When we got back to our car, I sat for a minute and prayed. Because I know, if I'm tired now, that a time is fast approaching where I will be much, much more tired. And where Lucy will likely be that much more three/drunk/RainMan.
And I would dearly like to continue to have my patience and grace with her. One of the things I most worried about with mommyhood was how to control the anger that sometimes bubbles over in myself. I so appreciated "The No-Cry Discipline Solution" because it talks all about how to control your anger as a parent, which I struggle with even when I'm not sleep-deprived and dealing with a preschooler. Apparently "discipline" begins internally: if you can't control yourself, you haven't a prayer of controlling a tiny bundle of willfullness.
I'm so thankful that those techniques, and the temperament of my child, and a lot of prayer, has kept me, most days, from losing it. That most days, I keep well away from that loss of control with her. Truly, no one is more surprised by this than me.
I'd like to keep that true when the next one comes. Because frankly, it's what my daughter deserves. She doesn't deserve to have me melt down just because she's a typical three-year-old. Or because my choice to have a second child means I have less of myself to give. I want to be gentle with myself--I know that maybe I'll have less time or energy to play with glue! water! fingerpaints! and I hope to be okay with that. But I would like to continue to be gentle and kind, and I know how hard that is, from experience.
I'm thankful to be practicing now, when I'm tired, and often chock-out of clever ideas to entertain us. Hopefully, the habit of gentleness will be so engrained that it will take more than a little sleep deprivation to dislodge it.