Explaining the passage of time to a toddler is a unique situation. To them a minute can be as quick as a few seconds of real-time or as long as…well, as long as they want it to be depending upon what is happening. When I tell my two-year old, “Just give me one more minute in the bathroom!” She translates that as, “I’m going to open the door right…about…now!” However, when I tell her she only has a minute left of playtime…I’m sure you can figure out how my sweet Claire stretches that minute into 15 more!
So, when my sweet daughter asks, “Where’s Daddy?” My reply that, “he’s on a trip, and he’ll be back later,” doesn’t quite make the grade. She needs something tangible and a visible representation to help her understand. Enter the Vitamin Countdown Jar! This was actually my darling husbands idea for Claire. (Evie, at 11 months doesn’t seem to even grasp he is gone).
Basically, the premise of this idea is to estimate how many days Daddy will be gone and count out the corresponding vitamins (I’m sure candy could work too, but hey, we try to be healthy!) and put them in a clear container. At the beginning of the day one vitamin is eaten and I tell Claire, “When the vitamins are all gone Daddy will be home!” I might have to fenagile it a bit towards the end with dates always apt to move, but so far this is working wonderfully to aid in giving a little more understanding to the process of deployment!
As much as I feel I have gained ground on this area, it is a completely different story elsewhere in toddlerhood.
It’s only been a few days, but I can already see how disruption of routine and having Daddy home is creating an emotional maelstrom for my two-year old. Before this past weekend we had occasional meltdowns, but they usually corresponded with a missed nap, illness, or over stimulation, and they also ended as quickly as they started. Needless to say my brief duration of single parenting has already been fraught with tantrums that could be heard around the world! I’ve suddenly experienced biting (to my wrist, but thank God not to little sissy), fourth of July fireworks extravaganza screaming, complete jello leg meltdowns, deliberate pushing down baby sis, and whole body throw down on the dirty mall floor with pounding toddler fists and kicking feet with tears that would flood the Hoover dam…
This is when grace enters and I ask God to give me more patience, understanding, kindness, gentleness, and whatever else is necessary to responnd with love. I’m not perfect. I’ve yelled back. I’ve given a swat to the butt out of pure frustration and want of compliance. But 9 to 10, I amazingly find myself just giving hugs and kisses and whispering “I love you’s” in the midst of chaos, snot, and tears. When I’m feeling my worst, and when I’m hyper emotional, that’s what I need…understanding and unconditional love, so why should it be any different for a small child just beginning to learn about themselves and the world?