Maybe it’s the start of a new year, a new baby or simply just the prospect of spring, but I have found myself looking back on the past two years feeling slightly more wise, more relaxed and above all, reflective. Surreptitiously looking back – not something I am generally a fan of – gave me such a positive feeling I decided to make it more of a conscious effort to explore the past. Something was clearly telling that right now it’s OK to look back. Often this is how we learn and maybe change, or not change, things as we go forward.

A time for reflection

The little bean growing inside me has instinctively turned my thoughts to when Siena was just a tiny baby; 6lbs 3 Oz and now a bouncing, talking two stone toddler! I can remember how much I loved that baby phase – the teething and sleepless night memories have not yet totally faded, and I don’t mind that they probably never will. Every part of that first year was worth the smiles and giggles we got in return.

I have since spoken with many mums and I can now confirm that although happy, Siena was a more demanding baby. I have questioned if I spoiled her, always picking her up, wondering if I am doing enough activities with her each day. My over enthusiasm does now make me smile; she was just a baby and I was doing everything I could for her – did my actions really make that much difference? The voice of reflection says, yes, actually it did make a difference. Of course a child’s personality will prevail, but it can be encouraged or it can be dampened.

Making a difference

When Siena cried I danced with her. We always had music on – and now I have a child who is centre stage and singing all the words at the top of her voice while many other toddlers are sucking a finger or hiding behind a pair of legs. We visited friends and family from the day she was born and encouraged play with other children. My two and half year old will walk up to any group of children and ask, ‘What is your name?’, ‘I’m Siena’. Telling her what we were doing each day and explaining what we could see on car journeys has led to me being given complete, full and lengthy responses in our conversations. It’s only taken a year or so, but I genuinely feel that everything I have done and encouraged in Siena has taken a place in her everyday life and has given her a richer experience of life so far and will continue to do so.

The awkward in-between bit

So, the baby phase is very special; precious in fact. I now have a confident, smart, witty, all singing, all dancing toddler and we are starting to have some real fun together. In my process of reflection I can now say that I struggled a little with the in-between bit: twelve months to two years. The greatest impact at twelve months was the lack of naps. When talking to other mums about potty training and naps, I get a look shock, disbelief and sheer terror when I say that Siena stopped napping at one year (and she only really got the hang of it for a total of 6 weeks prior to that!).

Right now, I’m totally over it and have well and truly moved on, but the look on people’s faces very nicely sums up how I felt at that time. I can now look at them and think to myself – Yes, that’s how I felt at that time and I now believe I was justified to feel that way. When I was in that period I felt that I had a visit from the terrible two’s early and all I kept hearing was – Oh no, it gets worse. Now I know I had the terrible twos early. Siena was not yet two, therefore too small for so many things. She desperately wanted to talk, but she was too young. She wanted the world to conform to her way of thinking and tantrumed when it didn’t – so most of the time. I did feel a little as though I was going, well, a bit mad. But Siena behaved fairly well when we were out and about (i.e. when she was fully entertained) and I started to feel as though people actually didn’t believe me!

Change, and change again

Reflection (such a brilliant idea of my brain to do this) then revealed that just as when Siena turned one, when she had her second birthday she changed again. We also started preschool very shortly after her birthday and she started to talk very well. She could finally communicate. She was learning new things when she was at preschool. When she was away from me she didn’t hit other children and as a consequence that phase started to draw to a close. She was using the toilet and nappies were for babies – Siena announced she was a ‘big girl’. At last she could do all the things she had wanted to do. Preschool gave me a break from Siena, without guilt! I suddenly realised that all the things holding Siena back and causing her frustration were gradually lifting and everything felt ‘lighter’.

As I continue to talk to other mums they are often discussing how to drop naps, while some are still loving nap time – lucky so and so’s! But now when I hear the topic of conversation I feel OK about it all, because not only do I now know there is light at the end of the phase but, even better still, I am out and on the other side. The emotions, the battles, the struggles, the despair, the worry, the simply ‘fed up’ faces and ‘I had no idea it could be like this’…..all of that was me – terrible twos come early. Now, I’m not saying I have a perfect child and that there are no hiccups and tantrums, but I am definitely saying that Siena has changed and it’s been like this for a few months now, to the point where my mind has caused me to pause, look back and say ‘oh, that’s what that year was all about’.

Remember to trust your instincts

Capturing these thoughts initially seems somewhat self-indulgent, celebratory even, but just under the surface there is a message: Always, always, always trust your own instinct. Don’t ever stop talking to other mums and hearing what they have to say – what they are going through, in my opinion, it’s essential. However, just be prepared to steal away, sometimes even stash away some absolute gems of information and equally be ready to leave behind what doesn’t fit with you and your child at that time. I never wanted to choose ‘attachment parenting,’ ‘baby-led weaning’ or whatever labelled methods were swimming around, but I did really like the sounds of some elements. So I took those bits and left the rest. But I do know that my own mother’s instinct works the best, followed by the chitter chatter of other mums. They can be your sanity especially if you’re in that sticky bit and not yet out the other side.

The message in this blog is also that sometimes pausing and looking back – particularly if it just feels right – is not a bad idea. You can gain a different perspective and in doing so maybe shed some light on the future.

That said, I have also heard that terrible twos are just the build up to the terrible threes. My celebratory moment of reflection may be short lived. So I’d better enjoy it all the more.