He's two: 6 Priceless Gifts All Parents Can Give to Their Children
What a difference a year makes! When you realize life is really fast and fragile it makes so much sense when people tell you how important it is to cherish the moments you have right in front of you.
Celebrating Aiden's second birthday was an emotional milestone for me given the recent loss I experienced from my miscarriage. I suppose this created even more urgency around being grateful for what I have versus longing for what could be.
Which got me thinking about the simplicity of childhood. The magic that we, as parents, can create from our very presence with our child. Yet often we get caught up in all the things that don't truly matter to their happiness.
I will be the first to admit that I spent way too much time and money planning the perfect 2nd birthday party for my son. And even though it was truly a wonderful day with our friends at a beautiful location on the beach, the best moments for Aiden were not really about the party at all. His joy came from running around, exploring and being free!
I ignore all the things people say about the "terrible two's!" I personally love this age because of it's innocence and perceived independence, both mentally and physically. Soon enough he will be more concerned about the gifts he gets, how tall he is or what friends like him.
Which is why I compiled a short list of the 6 best gifts you can and should give your two year old which are priceless and will last a lifetime!
1. Freedom to explore and be themselves
Aiden is a free spirit who loves alone time and the ability to explore the world around him. He has recently become so independent that holding his hand is not an option even in moments of danger where, as a parent, I must enforce it despite his protests of dropping to the floor.
Our response to these moments is key. Helping our children understand their personality and feelings with simple words and actions.
"Aiden is a big boy and can walk by himself most of the time. Right now mommy needs to hold your hand until we are safe."
As a toddler, this ability to think about themselves from the perspective of a second person also marks the start of their acquisition of what’s called “self-concept” – stable thoughts and feelings about the self. Between their first and second birthdays, children will be able to produce simple self-descriptions and evaluations such as “I am a good boy”, which will become more complex over time. By the time a child is around eight-years-old, they will have a relatively stable idea of their own personality traits and dispositions, and whether they feel like a valuable and competent person.
Individual differences in personality and feelings of self-worth can influence a child’s approach to social situations and academic achievement. Children with positive perceptions of themselves have the best social and academic outcomes, perhaps because they focus on success and aren’t deterred by failure. Parents can help their child develop positive self-esteem by reacting positively to them and their achievements, and helping them to overcome negative events.
Psychologists think parents can also shape children’s self-worth right from birth: when they provide a positive response to an infant’s actions it provides them with their first experiences of having a positive impact on the world.
2. LOVE and encouragement
To this day I can hear my father encouraging me to try new things. His voice of confidence from my childhood telling me to have my own opinion continues to give me confidence today to go outside of my comfort zone.
Even after my grandfather passed a few years ago, I can still feel the tightness of his hugs and the sound of his voice saying “I am so proud of you, Laura!”
And just the other day, I received an email from my mom with the subject line: "Nancy wants you to check out this idea," linking to a Pinterest pin titled "To my beautiful daughter, I love you."
All of these words of encouragement from my parents and grandfather have helped shape who I have become and the way I want to touch my son.
What do you say that will stay with your kids for the rest of their lives?
3. Laughter and silliness
They say "Laughter is the best medicine," and I could not agree more. After a rough day at work or a challenging moment with my hubby; Aiden's laughter makes everything else seem trivial!
A baby's first step toward humor is the playful response to actions like bouncing and tickling, body contact that produces laughs, wiggles, and smiles. Interesting sounds captivate infants. Since every child responds differently to new stimuli, it's important to tune in to their innate temperaments. One baby might be frightened by an activity that another baby finds hilarious. A well-timed and sensitive approach will bring out the baby's charming smile.
Babies' humor evolves quickly as impressive thinking skills, emotional connections with others, and physical coordination increase. Babies also need to feel secure in their relationships. This gives them the confidence to try new things.
4. Creative inspiration
Ever wondered how you can inspire creativity in your kids? The first step is to get creative yourself and think beyond toys and games you purchase or videos that distract! Instead, look for things that are free in the environment around you.
While you are cooking, for example, your child can arrange macaroni into interesting patterns. Multi-colored lentils and beans can lead to interesting designs, and a little bit of glue turns those designs into something that they can hang on a wall. (Always remember, though, not to give such small objects to very young children.)
Cleaning the house? Allow your child to help you. Aiden loves sweeping and wiping up the floor. He gets such pride from the fact that he is "mommy's little helper!"
Play dough is the perfect “manipulative” to enable creativity and it’s easy to make your own play dough, with many recipes available on the Internet.
And sometimes, the best creative inspiration is provided by nature. I truly believe that my own creativity was inspired by this park with a huge tree not too far from my childhood house. With my friends, we would pretend this tree was our home and the playground nearby, our city. We would spend hours in make-believe land, getting lost in time. These memories still bring a smile to my face and they were absolutely FREE for my parents.
5. Your time without distractions
Instead of worrying about how many minutes you can spend with your children each day, focus on turning those minutes into memorable moments. Parents often compensate for having such a small quantity of time by scheduling "quality time." Two hours at the nature preserve. An afternoon at the movies. Dinner at a restaurant. But the truth is that quality time may occur when you least expect it—yes, at the nature preserve, but also in the car on the way to ballet practice.
Try this mental trick to help you readjust your thinking: in the course of a crazy day, imagine your life in future when your children have grown and have left home. Picture their messy bedrooms as clean and empty. See the backseat of the car vacuumed and without a car seat or crumbs. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Quietness all around. Now rewind the imaginary clock back to now, and see today's minutes of mayhem for what they are: finite and fleeting.
Let's face it, not every day with your kids will be perfect, we will get upset, lose our patience and even cry. But hopefully one day you will greet their departure with a profound sense of satisfaction because you've given them what they need to succeed and also given yourself what you need to feel like a successful parent.
Although I don't know how to slow down time, I do have some ideas about how to optimize the time you spend with your kids—while they are still tucked into their beds, where you can peek at them before you go to sleep. And this simple list of 7 priceless things you can do is a great start!
6. love what they love (even cars)
Unconditional love isn't just what we feel. It's what the object of our love feels: love without strings attached. That means our child doesn't have to be, or do, anything in particular to earn our love. We love them exactly as they are. Even if it means your world has become everything about "cars!"
Seriously though, unconditional love can be a tall order, since most of us have a list of things we hope our child becomes or a things they shouldn't do.
"If only he'd be nicer to his sister....When will he use the potty?.... He's so timid and needy...I just want her to sleep through the night... He's great, but I would have loved a daughter this time....She argues with everything I say; why does she have to be so strong-willed?...Why does he lose everything?! He drives me crazy!"
It's true, our children can drive us crazy. But can you imagine feeling like you just aren't good enough, the way you are? That's not what any of us want for our child. And the paradox is, it's hard for any of us to change when we feel defensive. That goes doubly for a child, who feels more threatened by our disapproval. When your child feels unconditionally loved, they are more likely to blossom. And you're more likely to see positive growth which you can be proud of.
So what can you do to accept your child unconditionally? Start with these five habits.
- Appreciate your child wholeheartedly, even their "weaknesses"
- Come from a place of love
- See your child's "faults" from your child's point of view
- Accept feelings, limit poor behavior
- Manage your anger or disappointment
What would you add? Leave your comments!
P.S. A special shout out to Brenda Marine Winburn who captured all the beautiful photos during Aiden's 2nd birthday party. Brenda is such a pleasure to work. Never any stress, extremely professional and has the eye to see your vision with very little direction! Thank you Brenda from the bottom of our hearts!
Planning a "car" themed birthday party for your toddler boy? Here are some tips on the best places to shop:
- Oriental trading company: Cups, plates, tablecloth, orange cones, checkered flags, car pencils, wooden toy cars
- Amazon: Car t-shirt, Annie's variety snack pack, water bottles
- Local Pavillion's store: Custom car cake (using my Pinterest board for inspiration), croissant platter, fruit tray, veggie tray, kids juice boxes, sparkling water, pretzels