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People automatically assume because I’m a yoga teacher that I must be a super chill mom.
That I don’t raise my voice, or ever get bothered by things.
Yes, I’m pretty chill most of the time and yes, I’ve learned to let a lot of things go that once would have completely rocked my world and flipped it upside down.
But, even though we may try to be superhuman, we are, after all, just human, so emotions can get the best of us—even yoga teachers.
Times are trying lately. I’m dealing with an almost three-year-old, and a 14-month-old…and did I mention that I’m with them all day? Basically, we’re in toddler hell.
I’ve got one who is slowly becoming a threenager and is insistent on being independent. She also is known for erratic mood swings and literally cannot make up her mind—she could tell me yes and no within the same sentence five different times. However, she is potty-trained. (Hooray, we made it through that a few months back!) Not to mention, she’s flat-out hysterically funny and incredibly cute, so I’ll cut her a little slack.
My 14-month-old is definitely going to give us a run for our money. She is straight-up feisty and has shown this personality trait from the get-go. She gives a mean mug like nobody’s business but can also melt your heart with her smile and sweet snuggles. She still hasn’t mastered walking, so she’s content to pull everything off the shelves. She’s basically a cruising tornado.
Oh, and currently, neither one likes to eat.
So all that healthy (and expensive) food? Yep, it’s going right down the drain, literally (well, whatever didn’t make it onto the floor, and into the dog’s mouth.) Offer them some cookies, though, and they’d have no problem chowing down. Funny how that works, isn’t it? And for the record, I’m pretty tough with the food. What we have is what you’ll get. I’m hoping they realize this soon or it’s going to be a long few years.
So what’s a mom to do when you’re dealing with the terrible twos, or threes, or fours…? (Oh my gosh, please tell me it’s over by four!)
Here are my top 10 tricks for staying zen with toddlers:
1. When you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I mean—stop, drop, and get present. Get on their level and play.
Put your phone down, and remember that the dishes and laundry aren’t going anywhere. But your kids are only little once and the time really does go by so fast. They need you and your attention. Sure, independent play is a great thing sometimes but they’ll remember that giant tower you built together and knocked over, or the make believe party you had at the Barbie beach house.
2. Breathe. This is obvious right? Funnily enough, not always.
Just like cueing it in a yoga class, it always seems to come as a new reminder, and a shock because yes, it actually works. It sends that much-needed signal to the brain for us to pause and reset.
“Daniel Tiger” is pretty popular in our house—he counts to four and takes a deep breath when he is upset. Naturally, this makes it easier to get my two-year-old to do this one with me—thank you PBS. So get the kids to play along, and everyone will feel better. Amazing how much power we have right here within us!
3. Lock yourself in your bedroom or bathroom. Okay, maybe it doesn’t have to be that extreme, but seriously, if you’re on the verge of a meltdown, it’s time to take a breather.
Set the kids up so that you know they are somewhere they can’t get into trouble. Put a show on (gasp) and let them veg for a few, or set them up with some books and toys they haven’t seen in a while. If I need my little one to be somewhere safe that she can’t escape, I’ll put her in her crib or highchair. And I’m not talking for long here…a few minutes, tops. Enough time to maybe take a quick shower, or walk the dog out in the front yard to catch a breath and start your day over.
4. Coffee! Or tea. I know for some moms that coffee is a must.
I personally am not inclined either way. I do enjoy a good latte every now and again (more for the taste really) but don’t have to have the caffeine (there’s that superhuman power right?)
Anyway, most days, I opt for tea. There is something about turning the teapot on, waiting to hear that whistle blow, and sipping the warm, aromatic flavors that turn on some sort of super relaxed chill vibe. So whatever your go to is—coffee, tea, green juice, or smoothies—fill up your cup with positivity, and drink up! While you’re at it, bust out the toy tea set and toast with your littles!
5. Get outside! This one can be tough in the winter if you live in the northeast like we do, between the freezing cold and lack of sunlight (not to mention all the sickness going around).
But even if it’s just 10 minutes, it changes perspective, breathes fresh air into everyone’s lungs, and soaks in even the tiniest bit of vitamin D. Seasonal depression is a real thing, so make sure you get your daily dose of sunshine. If temps are just way too frigid and literally have you stuck indoors, get creative and make-believe you’re going to the beach. Play “Frozen’s” song “Summer” in the background. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face (and your toddler’s), I don’t know what will.
6. Speaking of smiling…laugh. Like really laugh…until your belly hurts, and then laugh some more.
My older daughter is famous for negotiating (already!) and when she doesn’t get her way lately, watch out for tantrum central. But when I can distract her, it seems to do the trick (most of the time). So, change the subject and get silly. Laughter is the best medicine after all, and it’s contagious. Often times, we end up in an uncontrollable fit of laughter that has us both forgetting what we were upset about in the first place.
7. Having a bad day? Phone a friend—whether it’s your local mom friend who can bring her kids over and join you for a play date so the kids can (literally) get off your back and play with each other, or it’s your sister (who shows up with coffee).
Even better when that sister offers to hang with the kids if you need to run out for errands. But you get the gist—call for reinforcements! Even if you don’t have friends or family in the area, many communities have local mom clubs, or Facebook groups. Get active in the community and you might make a friend. I’ve met a lot of my mom friends just in the neighborhood, through my town’s mom’s club and at local community activities (library storytime, for example). It really does take a village, they say!
8. Pray. Seriously, pray.
To whoever or whatever you believe in, just put it out there. Call me crazy but sometimes just the idea that I’m talking to someone and they’re listening makes me feel better. This is another good one to get the kids in on too. We also practice waking up to gratitude. Amazing how just a simple daily act can start (or end) the day right, and set things at ease.
9. Yoga practice. For me personally, this is a no brainer.
Yoga calms my mind and sets things right. I can free flow, and I’m reminded to breathe, be present, and be kind to myself (and others). It urges me to let go of the small stuff and enjoy what’s really important on this amazing but crazy journey. If you haven’t practiced yoga, or you don’t have a mat, that’s okay. Roll out a beach towel instead, let go of your thoughts, and just let your body move.
10. Meditation. You’re probably thinking that I’m some hippie, crunchy mom by now—and you might be half right.
But meditation is practiced by thousands of people, some that you may never expect. And if you’re imagining sitting super uncomfortably on a pillow with your legs crossed for 20 minutes in silence, think again.
Meditation can be done anywhere: on a crowded bus or train, in the car (eyes open for that one), or even in the midst of complete chaos with kids. Ideally, yes, it’s in a quiet, serene environment and somewhere you can get comfortable. You can sit or lie down and just let your body relax.
Start out small—maybe just a few minutes and gradually increase to where you feel comfortable. There are plenty of free resources to help get you started online if you’re not ready for sitting in silence just yet. You can try this with the kids too, believe it or not. We use nap time for guided meditation. My daughter turns on her sound machine, and I turn on my yoga voice, and voilà, we breathe and watch our troubles disappear as they prepare for dreamland.
So, to sum things up: be present, get active with your toddlers while making memories, and take time-outs as needed. Remember that they are little humans looking to us to guide them. We can’t expect to take care of them and guide them if we don’t take care of ourselves.
I hope these tips can help to offer a little reprieve through the tough toddler years. From a fellow parent, I wish you the best of luck on your journey. It’s not always easy but know that you are not alone, and you got this!