The project begins…

The first month
My body got a shock and went into a protest. There were movements in my womb, my energy levels dropped and I felt nauseous at one point. I was suddenly more sensitive to smell and all little discomforts/abnormalities felt were closely linked to the possibility of a pregnancy. I couldn’t do my usual workout routine too as the body was not receptive to it and kept sending signals of “Too much, way too much. Please stop it now!”. I was very convinced that we got lucky the first time around. I told the Husband, “your swimmers are very powerful” and we joked about “Ini kalilah!”

Then, my period came. A day before it was due. Was I disappointed? Yes. More ready than ever? Yes! The failed first attempt further convinced the Husband and I that we are more than ready to add another baby to our family of 4 now.

The second month
E was conceived 6 months after we tried to conceive, Xan was almost immediate. For both experiences, it only happened when I stopped fretting about it and let nature took its course. Bouts of extreme moodiness followed throughout the month. I was so sensitive that I cried while watching a Youtube advert video. The hormones were raging at its peak; I even tried to pick a fight with a man twice my size – all because his car blocked my way for less than 3 minutes. I don’t usually do that, it wasn’t me.

I had to take a nap every now and then too but it didn’t raise any suspicion as my energy levels already plummeted during the first month. Maybe I did overwork in the gym. Yes, my breasts hurt once in a while but that’s just a symptom of impending menses like every other month. Truth to be told, because the first month’s symptoms were 10 times more prominent and stronger, I didn’t suspect anything at all.

Then the day my period was due came and went. Nothing. So was Day 2. I didn’t want to get overexcited this time around, unlike the first month when I tested twice before my period was due and got hugely disappointed after that. I reasoned that if I were indeed pregnant, I would need to adjust some daily routines (ie. intensity of physical workouts, food intake, prenatal vitamins etc). Additionally, we were due to leave for Tokyo two days later for the Husband’s birthday vacation and I needed to find out if sashimi could still be on my must-eat list.

Hence, on Day 3 on 1st November 2o15, I decided to take a first-pee-in-the-morning test. Surprise of surprises….

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Yes, we are third time lucky!

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“3 kids? Are you kidding me!”

That’s what I would have said if you have suggested the idea of a third child to me, two years ago. Not because I don’t like or enjoy children. Not also because I know I’m not the perfect, Zen-like mum so I’d better conserve the patience for my existing children. It’s just that I’ve always thought we are so done with two. Because every time I imagined pitter patter of three pairs of feet in my house, this came into my mind:

Stressed Mom at Home
Me with 3 kids. Sans that chic dress. And firm boobs.

Or so we thought.

The family dynamics is thriving, the children are happy, I am almost ‘free’ again with even my youngest off to school now…what’s not to like? Apa lagi gua mau? Nothing. I’m contented.

Then the calling struck. I began thinking about having another baby. The oohs and ahhs over strangers’ newborns. That “Why did they grow so fast?!” and “How come they’re no longer baby-cute?” What was I thinking?!

Even the Husband, who was always more done than I was, started toying with the idea of adding another little person into our family. Something about the family feels pending and waiting to be completed.

It took me almost a year to ponder on this subject. I asked friends with more than one sibling about how they felt growing up in a bigger family. I asked mums with more than two kids – what are their experiences and how did they cope mentally and financially? I also spoke with friends with older kids; did they ever wish they have had more children instead? It wasn’t a decision we would want to jump in and have a go. Having another baby would change everything. FOREVER.

Alas, everyone’s experience is different. Each child is different. At one point, we concluded that quality is more important than quantity. But still I couldn’t shake off the idea of having a third child. Oooh the smell, the bond, the first years…

Then, the ironic part came. The more I tried to distract myself from the idea, the more my mind seemed to be attracted to the little signs. Families with 3 kids were suddenly popping up everywhere I went. Everywhere – literally! Celebrities expecting their third child. The perks and joys of being in a family of 5. I couldn’t even go near the kids’ photo album from yesteryears without feeling all emotional. When I think of the future, there are always 3 children. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know the reason either.

The Husband and I finally agreed that since the thought kept coming back, then perhaps we are meant to be parents of 3 kids. Everything happens for a reason, isn’t it? We would try for 2-3 months – enough for destiny to work its magic – and if there was going to be a third child, there will be a third child.

 

Toddlercalm – week 4

On the last week of the Toddlercalm course, we learned about setting up a positive relationship with food. This topic made me realised how I have been cultivating E with an unhealthy association with food. For a start, E wasn’t a fussy eater since young. The eating situation only got tricky recently when he started stating his preferences, which we ignored – of course! Thinking that eating is a necessity and should not be something negotiable, we used the conventional must-eat-everything-and-lick-clean approach all the time. “Eat quickly”, “Eat your vegetable”, “You’re not getting down until you finish your food” “Don’t want to eat? Go ahead and starve yourself” are common phrases heard at our dinner table. We have also tried the food-recycling method: if he does not finish his meal, it will be served to him the following meal and so on until he finishes all. Sometimes it took him over two hours to finish his dinner!

A negative relationship with food can lead to eating issues later on in life eg. binging when sad/happy, anorexia, obesity. This topic opened my eyes and taught me to implement a better approach in managing mealtimes with my kids:

► As adults, we choose what, when and how we eat. It should not be any different for children too.

► During a tricky eating situation, parents often feel frustrated. Coincidentally, if we really tune in, our child feels frustrated too.

► Toddlers are grazers. Like babies, they have the innate ability in knowing when and how much to eat. Studies showed that they regulate their energy intake by grazing (eating small amount of food throughout the day). They know how much their bodies need.

► What we taste may be different from what our toddler truly tastes. For instance, it may not be spicy/bitter to us, but it can be extremely spicy/bitter to the child.

► To curb the fear/concern of the child feeling hungry or not getting the appropriate nutrition, leave bowls of mom-approved snacks around the house. Have your child help himself to the fridge but first of all, you must ensure that whatever that’s in there are healthy and nutritious.

► Make mealtimes fun. Have the child determine how much he wants to eat by letting him scoop the amount of rice and allowing him to help himself to the dishes. Serve buffet style. Pretty bento once in a while. Let him help with cooking or food preparation. Once he’s done with eating, let him go. Always have healthy snacks on standby for your toddler.

Applying C.R.U.C.I.A.L. to eating

(C)ontrol – give choices: what food, colour selection, places to eat (big table, small table, picnic style?), when (now or later?)

(R)hythm – play a certain kind of music during mealtimes, set expectations, mealtimes routine (wash hand, set the table, scoop rice, bring plate to the table)

(U)nderstanding – Look deeper into why the child isn’t hungry or eating. Is he not feeling well? Is he under stress? Any changes to his lifestyle lately?

(C)ommunication – No praising for eating. Instead, see and say ie. “I see that you’re enjoying the broccoli!” or “I like it when you work very hard to feed yourself”

(I)ndividual – Find out their preferences. Respect them.

(A)voidance – Don’t rush mealtimes or plan something urgent right after mealtimes.

(L)ove – Protect the relationship between you, your child and food.

Recommended read this week:
Raising our children, raising ourselves by Naomi Aldort

Finale of Toddlercalm course

Jasmine, the teacher, wrapped up the course by sharing this with us:

“I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it”

It was hard saying goodbye to Jasmine for all the knowledge she has imparted. As we were her very first Toddlercalm students, she decided to do this for free. In return, we bought her some gift vouchers as a thank you present.

In a nutshell, the Toddlercalm approach is simple, makes sense and easy to understand. It correlates with what I believe in. It teaches the fundamental skills of human interaction yet it doesn’t come across our minds to do the same with our kids. However, it also requires gigantic amount of patience and empathy from parents to successfully execute and live the Toddlercalm approach.

My progress
Thanks to Toddlercalm, I can now see light at the end of the tunnel. I have dropped my previous parenting style and switched to empathic parenting. Albeit highly challenging, I find it working wonders with E especially when we incorporate the playful parenting approach. To date, the ugly, shouting/spanking incidents have decreased substantially although I still snap once in a while. E has become more cooperative, more willing to try and less whiny. He’s a lot more pleasant to be with now.

One particular incident is worth remembering. It was a hectic and tiring day for me. After being the mom I have always envisioned myself to be for three weeks, I lost it. As usual, I was exhausted from lack of sleep. E started getting on my nerves when he whined for my attention despite my playing with him just a while ago. It was getting late already, Hubby would be home soon and I hadn’t cooked. As I was busy preparing dinner in the kitchen, I heard E whining louder and louder, then came running into the kitchen – half naked – with tears in his eyes. “My pee pee came out on the floor,” he said.

Kns, I cursed. Another episode of play-first-pee-later. I was furious because that meant more work for me. As I tried to contain my anger, I saw Xan sitting on his pool of pee, splashing away. “Stay calm, breathe breathe breathe” I got E some tissues to clean up the floor. All hell broke loose when he wiped his face with his pee-stained hand while cleaning. I went berserk seeing that. To think about it now, I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t an emergency, was it?

I screamed at the top of my lungs and showered both of them for the third time that day. I let my emotions got the better of me, spanked and scolded him. Daddy came home from work, took over the situation and I calmed down. I lectured E repeatedly, asking “How many times do you want to pee on the floor?” To which he replied, “How many times do you want to scold me, Mommy?”

I was taken aback by his question. It was like a hard slap on my face. I felt ashamed for needing a three-year old to shake me into senses. Proud that he’s finally confident in speaking his mind to me, which means he knows his feelings are safe with me. True enough, how many more times do I want to scream and punish him? Did I not learn from my lesson? When is enough, enough?

That night, I decided to dedicate my full, undivided effort in practising the Toddlercalm approach. I decided to take a break from things that distract me and take my attention away from my kids the most – Facebook and Instagram – for the next one month. I want to be an empathic mum. I will be one, soon.

Toddlercalm – week 3

The course resumed after a two-week break. We discussed about how the CRUCIAL framework helped us in managing tantrums and shared our stories.

We also learned the key words to remember in coping with a tantrum – SENSE:

(S)afety
(E)mpathy
(N)ame the feelings
(S)upport, be there, and don’t suppress your child’s feelings
(E)xchange or give options

As there are quite a number of things to remember, I conclude several key strategies from Dr Laura Markham’s book to make things simpler:

1. Regulate my emotions – be in control of my emotions and take good care of my well-being
2. Foster connection – make an effort to play and spend time with E. I’m trying to commit to a 10-minute Ewan time everyday. Carry out playful parenting games and activities.
3. Coach, instead of control – validate their feelings, respect and give options.

We also looked into tricky sleep situations in toddlers. Toddlercalm recommends the three-step bedtime ritual:

1. Expectations – . Setting a bedtime routine
2. Cues – Adding cues such as smell and sound to trigger sleep
3. Comforters – Giving a favourite lovey conditioned with mom’s scent can be a powerful sleep aid

Another topic explored revolves around child-led play:

► Dedicate 10 minutes a day for a child-led play session with your toddler. Put away your phone or anything that can distract you. Give undivided attention. You may switch on a timer and let your child know that once the alarm goes off, it’s time to stop playing. Let your child choose the number of minutes he wants and let him start the timer. Once the session is over, hug and thank your child and tell him you look forward to playing with him again tomorrow.

Treasure basket – an example of child-led play which can keep the child occupied for hours. Gather a mix of natural and everyday items in a basket for your toddler to discover. The items may include a natural sea sponge, pastry brush, spatula, large feather, pinecone, silky fabric, old purse, tinfoil and things that can stimulate their sensory skills.

Story sack – another activity which you can do with your toddler. Choose a story book that your child is familiar with. Get a basket or sack, go around the house and hunt for the things that correlate with the story. You may tell out the story with the items or puppet style.

Last but not least, we learned that using consequences can be a good tool to empower your child in making choices. However, due to brain development for varying ages, this method is only suitable for kids aged three and above. For instance:

► If a child won’t eat, let him feel hungry.
► If a child won’t put on his coat, let him feel cold.
► If a child won’t wear his shoes, let him walk barefoot and feel the ground.
► If a child spills his drink, he must clear it up.
► If a child ignores instructions when using a scooter, the scooter is carried and they must walk the rest of the journey.
► If siblings argue over a toy, the toy is removed for 5 minutes.
► If a child won’t get ready for bed, he loses one story.
► If a child won’t sit down for dinner, he does not get TV time after dinner that day.

IMPORTANT: Always remember that your intention is to help your child learn, not punish. Saying things like “See?” or “I told you so!” will only make him feel resentful. The experience should be short too. Instead, once your child experience the consequences, offer him words of empathy such as “It’s cold today, isn’t it?” or “You’re hungry now, aren’t you?” This is not giving in to them, but rather to let them experience a natural consequence of their decision.