by Jessica Lawrence
Well, hello there! If you picked up this book, it’s probably because you are responsible for a flailing, wailing, wriggling bairn who is gradually transforming into a mobile, babbling one. Congratulations! You survived the first year of your progeny’s life, and you’re ready to dive into what’s next.
What’s that, you say? “Ready” is not a word you’d use? Hmmm… Well, like it or not, that tiny sprout of yours is changing, and you will need to change, too.
Which is why we have gathered a team of crack experts to give you advice on all the right things you must do to ensure that your child develops into a contributing member of society. Read on for information such as:
Chapter 1: My child wants to potty train, but they don’t make underwear that small
Chapter 2: My child has zero interest in potty training and no preschool will take them, and no, rewards don’t work
Chapter 3: I tried every strategy in the Sancti-mommy Handbook and my child will only eat three foods
Chapter 4: Will I ever sleep again?
Chapter 4b: 18 different positions for a 6’ human to curl up in a toddler bed
Chapter 4c: Will I ever sleep in the same bed as my partner again?
Chapter 5: “Do sumping NEW today, Mommy:” The burnout of inquisitiveness
Chapter 6: Why aren’t the other toddlers at playgroup conversing with my child?
Chapter 7: No, I’m not hothousing my 2-year-old, they learned to fingerspell in sign language by watching DVDs
Chapter 8: Maps, monuments, and dinosaurs, oh my! Special interests are cool
Chapter 9: This child will never play on their own
Chapter 10: “Your reaction does not match the situation” (Spoiler alert: telling them this doesn’t fix dysregulation)
Chapter 11: Automatic flush toilets, shoplifting alarms, and other evils of modern society
Chapter 12: “When will I die?”: Heartwarming bedtime conversations
Epilogue: WHY IS THIS SO HARD
You may have guessed by now that this is not your ordinary parenting book. I know, there are volumes out there by learned experts with decades of experience. Who have great advice. That works for lots of kids.
But not your kid. Or at least, not all of it. Or all of the time. Or any of the time.
If any of this resonates, you may have a gifted toddler. Oh, I know, I know, everyone thinks their offspring is gifted. And every child has gifts. But there are kids who are extra: extra intense, extra curious, extra talkative… they’re just… more of a lot of things. And some of those, as they get older, will be identified as having intellectual gifts and need to learn in a different way.
It can feel very isolating, when your child is always the outlier. When they can recite facts verbatim but lose all language if their socks fit wrong. When they rely on you 24/7 to co-regulate their emotions, which means that you’re regulating for two people TWENTY-FOUR SEVEN.
Fortunately, you’re in the right place. There are people here who have been there, done that, and written their own unique journey through toddlerhood for their child who defied all the recommendations in the parenting books.
So my number one recommendation is:
Reach out and connect with other parents of gifted kids. This is harder in rural areas, but COVID has really spurred the growth of online communities. They frequently know more than the books.
Provide your child with interesting materials, books, sensory materials, and experiences. This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. One friend of mine had a weekly expedition to Goodwill, where her child played with the toys in the toy aisle for an hour and then they bought one to bring home. Rotate toys so things seem new, and swap with friends if you can. Go on nature walks and collect sticks and rocks and leaves. Let them play with cooking utensils and ingredients (or just water and ice) while you cook. Libraries often have more than just books, and sometimes even museums have lending libraries.
Follow your child’s lead. I’ll be the first to advocate for play-based early childhood experiences, and this doesn’t supersede that. But if your child wants to dive down a rabbit hole about the elements, or shows passion for a musical instrument, or loves numbers so much that you can entertain them with a pocket calculator, go for it! Support their love, make it fun, and learn to ignore the knowing looks from parents and teachers who think that it’s coming from you.
Remember that this, too, shall pass. No stage lasts forever (though some may seem like it). Your child will eventually eat/sleep/toilet train (but may need professional allies or medication to help with one or more of these things, and that’s ok, too!). There will be many imperfect days, and each one is just one day. Model grace and forgiveness for your child and yourself.
You got this.
P.S. - Keep a pad of Post-It Notes in your pocket or purse. When you encounter an evil automatic toilet, put one over the sensor. You’re welcome.
Self-Reg for Parents: I wish I’d known this when my child was a toddler. Anything by Dr. Stuart Shanker or Dr. Mona Delahooke is incredibly eye-opening.
Raising Human Beings: This is a book written for parents of young children by one of the greatest experts on complex kids, Dr. Ross Greene.