The 70/30 Rule
My husband and I have a few rules that we both greatly agree on. One of them is what we refer to as the 70/30 rule. Most days have a normal predictable routine for our toddlers. My child can expect to go to certain activities on certain days and that lunch and nap will happen at the same time every day as will bed time. That’s the 70% part. However, life requires us to be flexible and we believe our child should as well: enter the 30%. Some weekends there are special events to go to, holiday affairs, family in town or you guessed it…traveling.
We did not have a child so that we would stop doing the things we love, we had a child to bring into our lives. For us that means we still go camping, grab the occasional meal or happy hour, see a concert and travel with kid in tow. I beg you to not be afraid to do the things you and your partner love because you’re afraid your toddlers won’t sleep perfectly or might get a little fussy. Yes, be consistent but allow for flexibility in your child’s routine every so often. Say there’s a fun event you want to go to this weekend but it means your little one naps an hour and half later or in the stroller, they will survive and so will you! In fact, I argue they will be better for it.
As adults know, even when you plan everything perfectly life has a way of saying “haha nice try but I’ve got other ideas.” Why not teach your child to be flexible from the start. To enjoy the things you love that might mean your kid gets a shorter nap on the go, gets on a plane, gets dirty, sleeps in a hotel. WHATEVER it is don’t be afraid to add a little variation to your kids routine, they might surprise you and I venture that your relationship will benefit from it!
The A Parent and the B Parent
The other rule my husband and I agree on is that at certain times of the day there is an “A Parent” and a “B Parent.” The “A Parent” is responsible for the needs of the child, entertainment and basically making sure the offspring stay alive. The “B Parent” is dealing with other responsibilities like working, paying the check, or yes getting to socialize and enjoy themselves without a kid connected to them. This rule can really come in handy while traveling. As most parents will tell you traveling with toddlers is an experience, a trip that allows for growth and bonding, it is however, not usually a vacation in the traditional sense of the word. But you can find pockets of “vacation mode” by tagging out as the “B Parent.”
For example on the last trip we took I had just spent two hours playing in the pool with my son who wanted to repeatedly jump in and out of the water, while my husband had cocktails and socialized with family. So then I tagged out and got a facial (hello vacation!) while my husband took over “Parent A” duties. Take turns sleeping in, putting the kids to bed while the other stays and has another drink etc. There’s plenty of time for family activities and bonding but make sure you each get a little me time too!
Toddlers and Tantrums
Even when you have the “chill kid” toddlers are toddlers and meltdowns and fussiness are going to happen. And yes, that might happen when you decide to break your norm and do something new with your kid(s). DON’T let this stop you from trying again! The more you try, the more they learn to adapt. And let’s be honest, even adults have good and bad days! Toddler brains are developing brains and sometimes they get false alarms that set them off into a flight or fight tantrum and change can trigger this. That doesn’t mean you stop showing them new experiences!
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” – L.R. Knost.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times this quote has helped me cool my jets when my toddler is losing it. But I too am a human and so sometimes I loose my -ish. As I’m sure you’ve witnessed your child forgives you when you forget your role as a parent, show the same kindness when they do what toddlers do. Share your calm, comfort, redirect, correct behavior, forgive. But don’t be afraid to live your life because your kid misbehaved or got overwhelmed!
Somethings will go Awry
We’ve taken our son on many trips and most of them go off without a hitch. However, he just turned two and it’s like someone told him the rules of being a toddler because he has very strong opinions, wants to do everything “by self” and is starting to disagree with parent directions from time to time. So on our last trip he decided to show us what it was like to travel with a toddler. The flights were a success but when we arrived to the family wedding and there were planned events with many people he turned into a kid that had me wishing it was all day happy hour. He yelled at people when they tried to say hello to him, threw fits, and became a stage five clinger to my husband and I.
On day two, my husband asked what I thought was wrong with him. I said, “Well he’s in a new time zone, with a large group of people he doesn’t know well trying to get his attention, getting little to no naps, and meals are on the fly, what do you think is wrong?” But by day four, I was losing my cool with him (thank you parent B role) and my husband was able to be the more understanding one. We continued to swap roles waiting and praying for our son to adjust. Which didn’t occur until the end of the trip when we left the resort and we were staying at Grandma’s with just her and Papa. There I saw the kid I know again. He was sweet, playful, and content. Too bad no one else saw it. But hey, that’s okay! Next trip he might do better, we presevere!
The Forget Them Rule
This is a very important rule I highly recommend you adopt! Here’s the thing my husband and I were embarrassed that our son couldn’t get it together for family and friends we rarely see. We were bummed we couldn’t have the kid that gives you bragging rights with strangers. We had the typical toddler: some moments he was good and others he made you glad he wasn’t your responsibility. Here’s what I want you to hear and believe, most people don’t notice the mortification you feel inside because they just see a kid being a kid, many have been in your shoes and get it, and for the rest of them, the ones who might judge, who might get a small glimpse of your kid on a bad day and assume things about them and your parenting… forget them! You are out there living your lives and showing your child new experiences and challenges and you KNOW your kid and your parenting philosophy. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but you are out there refusing to become completely house trapped by parenthood and helping your child grow. I applaud you and remind you when necessary it’s okay to tap out and be Parent B. Just don’t be afraid to still get out there!