We have a very happy boy. He is always smiling, and he is only unhappy when he is hungry and we are not feeding him fast enough. Or, he is tired and we are in a situation where his bed isn't readily available. The rest of the time, he is adaptable to almost all events we go to; he tags along like a pro when we run errands; he is patient; and he is agreeable. How do we keep him so easy going? Well it started at the beginning.
I put him on a schedule at about 6 weeks, and I was very strict about making sure he was always comfortable. It wasn't always easy for mommy and daddy, and it sure was inconvenient to us sometimes. It made him comfortable and happy, and during those first few months that was super important. I did, however, try to take him out as much as possible. I got him used to grocery shopping and running errands, so that it would become a familiar thing for him. Then once he knew his schedule and things ran pretty smoothly around here, we could adapt small changes here and there, and he would just go with the flow. I worked first and foremost with his schedule, and in turn, he worked with ours. If we could keep him happy and let him nap or get the rest he needed before we went out and about, then he worked with us. We took him to movies, on our dinner dates, and so forth. With those events, we usually timed his nap well. We would cater to him all morning, give him lunch, then go to a movie and he would sleep through the whole thing. I would put him in my Moby and he was snug and happy. (Moby is a wrap to hold your baby to you. http://www.mobywrap.com/)
Then around 6 months, his schedule changed again. He started sleeping in his own bed. (Prior to this he was in a sling rocker thing next to our bed. http://www.target.com/p/fisher-price-newborn-rock-n-play-playard-sleeper/-/A-11699689#?lnk=sc_qi_detaillink And remember, we were still living with my husband's parents.) He took two naps a day and was on a pretty regular feeding schedule. He was no longer breast feeding because we had issues with latching. More on our birth story and breast feeding in a different post. So, he was eating solids and drinking formula from a bottle before every nap and bedtime. At around a year, he went down to one nap a day. So here we are today...one nap, bedtime around 7-7:30, no more bottles...and here are my personal rules to keeping a happy boy while I still enjoy getting out and about.
1. I only take him out after he naps and/or eats. His naps vary. Sometimes, he's not tired until the afternoon. Sometimes, he's tired by 10a. So its a toss up as to when he naps. Now, if we are doing something fun that morning, then he is interested enough to stay awake until the afternoon. If he is awake and things are going great that morning, we go grocery shopping. If we are having a bad morning where he is just cranky, then we don't go until either after he eats lunch or after he naps. Keep in mind we play it all by ear, but I read his moods and in turn, he works with me.
2. I always have a snack in the baby bag. Even if he has just eaten lunch, I have a "treat" for him, if he gets fussy. This is probably not the best idea for many reasons. For one, some parents would say I am teaching him to eat while he shops. One might say, I am teaching him, if he gets fussy, he gets a reward. This works for me. So let me say this...if he is antsy, but still being sweet and smiling here and there, then I give him the cookie or whatever. If he is flat out being demanding, disagreeable and so forth, then he gets a "no sir", I talk to him about his behavior and we move on. If it doesn't improve, we leave. Which leads me to #3.
3. If he's being a brat, we leave. There is nothing that is more important than me and my child communicating well and being on the same page. If we are not on the same page, these errands can wait. We will go to the car and talk. If he screams at me there, we go home. If he calms down and listens, we try again.
4. I always treat my 17 month old (almost 18 month old) like he can understand me. I do not pretend anymore that this sweet little dumpling does not understand the things I am saying when he is upset. If he can understand me when he is happy, then he can understand me when he is not. We talk about why we are at the grocery store, why we need food, why we need to know math to get the best deals, etc. I also let him know I understand him. If he's upset, I let him know I get it. I tell him I know he's upset and I try to engage him as to why. "Are you hungry?" "Would you rather be playing?" Then I let him know, that I will give him a snack when we get home (remember, if he is being disagreeable, he doesn't get that "treat" in my bag) or we will play blocks (his favorite) when we get home. Or if its a lost cause, I say "Ok, I get it. Lets go home and we'll do this later." Next time we go, he is a champ because I listened to my toddler and how he felt, even if he can't talk yet. It may be that he really only understands my tone of voice and body language. But, by talking to him as if he understands all the words, we're communicating.
5. Apps. Oh the fun of an iPhone. I swear, my kid knows my phone better than me. Fisher Price has some great apps. They are free, and they don't go dormant. If he hasn't touched it in a minute or two, then the app will talk to him to try to reengage him. Brilliant! He loves them and there are like 7-8 different ones ranging from songs, to counting to animal sounds. He only gets to play with the iPhone when we are out. At home and in the car, it's mommy's phone and he has to ask permission to use it. My phone does NOT belong to him and I try to teach him that daily.
6. Lastly, we have "off" days. If the week or weekend was hectic, then we always have an "off" day. At least once or twice a week, we stay home. We don't go anywhere. I let him nap when he wants to, twice even sometimes. I let him eat or snack when he wants to and we play whatever he wants to. I try to reward him for his awesome behavior while he was being dragged around all weekend doing mommy and daddy stuff, by letting him just have a day to make all the decisions (in moderation) and feel important. Then the next day, we go out again, sometimes to run errands and sometimes to go do something fun. We do swim a lot, go to the library, go eat with daddy at work, etc.
The main point to this blog, is that I had to make some mistakes and struggle to figure out how to have a life, get things done and have a happy kid all at once. I don't always succeed, hence #3, we leave. I will say this, I have only walked out of a store once. I believe this is is because the other rules work well and my son and I communicate well. I try to read my kiddo too. I don't make him do things because I want to, I ask my child to help me find the colors at the grocery store and look for animals on packages while I get my things done. Now, when it comes to him going to bed on time, yes, he does what I say, because it's what's best for him. Parents, I think, have to find a fine line between making their kid do something because they know whats best and working with their kid to adapt to running errands and doing things that don't have to be done at that minute, but can be done.
I am not saying that I have it all figured out. Please understand that we are learning from each other daily. What interests him today may not tomorrow. I am always having to find new ways to adapt to him so that he can adapt to me and my lifestyle. I am able to go have lunch with friends and go to the mall, all with a happy, agreeable baby. Then, we go do something fun for him, like the park. Lastly, as rule #6 says, we then have an off day. All this combined makes for a great kid who is so wonderful. I hope that baby #2 will be just as easy going because we try to tune into her. Until next time...
This was our little one at 7 months. Our pumpkin.