Here's what I believe about toddlers, at least two year old toddlers. They don't know how to misbehave, or how to do things to annoy you on purpose. They only know there are things that will get your attention, and things that won't.
And if they're doing something to get your attention, it's because they need you and don't know how to say so.
Lately E has been trying to get my attention more and more, and has been getting increasingly frustrated when he gets my divided attention. Getting a sibling is hard, and is an ongoing adjustment. I never have enough arms or time to give to either of them, and it’s worse when I’m alone with both of them. It also means E doesn’t get enough time outside, because that’s also hard to do with both of them.
So when I found myself with some extra time recently, I decided to head to daycare early and pick up E for some one on one outside time. After checking on G briefly (sleeping), I headed to get E. He was a little confused at first, but after being told we were going outside, he got onboard quickly.
There were a few confused “where baby go?” but he was mostly excited. We headed to a new playground that he’d never been to before, and I had all his favorite snacks ready to go. He had the entire place to himself, and I let him decide what we were going to do. We went up and down a few stairs, but after determining that his best friend wasn’t there, he was no longer interested in the playground.
So we picked up sticks and went into the woods and did a lot of running around - one of his favorite activities. He looked up at me with a question - “running?” and when I gave him permission, he took off. There was a giant field he could just run and run through, and when he got hungry he picked a spot on the sidewalk to eat his snack. He was hot and sweaty and outside with his Mama. Happy.
I had a feeling he needed both the time to run around outside, and my undivided attention, but I couldn’t predict how he’d react. I figured it would fill up his need for Mama time, and would allow me to spend some time with the baby. Instead it seemed to remind him of when he used to have me all to himself, and he craved it more. When we got back to daycare to pick up his brother, he refused to walk and wouldn’t leave my arms.
I hope that in the future he’ll grow to love spending time with his brother and his family as a whole, but I know that one on one time will always be important too.