For me, the most challenging part of life as a grandmother is taking care of newborns in a household with a 2-year-old. In August, two weeks spent helping my son and daughter-in-law move and get settled in while a second baby attempted a way-too-early arrival made me realize the need for better skills in dealing with toddlers.
In preparation for the return visit when the full term baby arrives—and for the other expected grandchild coming soon to a family with a 2-year-old and a not quite 4-year-old, I have been reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, a pediatrician with a sense of humor.
According to Karp, the right brain that controls impulses and emotions is more developed than the logical left brain until about age four. Therefore, living with a toddler is much like living with a small Neanderthal. They don’t understand long sentences, complex explanations, or much logic. Karp has found that little cavemen-toddlers respond much better to gesture, claps, even growls than to reasoning.
I skipped to the part on dealing with tantrums, but found Karp’s writing style so engaging I went back and read the whole thing. Mary Poppins I’m not, but I now feel better prepared to handle the granny-nanny situations in my immediate future.
This time when a granddaughter balks, I will get on her eye level and speak toddler-ese. I will repeat back her desires in my best fast food attendant manner, “You no want diaper changed?” I will use rewards judiciously, “Eat one goldfish while diaper changed. More goldfish after diaper changed.” I will not pound my head against the wall and swear under my breath while granddaughter’s screams wake the baby. I will not wear out my pocket calendar counting the days until my departure.