knowing yourself

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“Night night.”

Anyone who’s hung out with Etta knows what those words mean. She is D-O-N-E. When she comes over to me, wherever we are– zoo, story time, splash pad– and says “mama, night night,” I pack it in and we jet. Because apparently, my tiny tot knows herself well, and she lets me know when she’s reached the point of needing to get home and get to bed for a nap ASAP.

It seems bizarre, almost laughable. One minute she can be dancing her little tushie off, attempting to perform up front with the Raffi-types at a library concert, and then she runs her little self over to me and says “mama, home. mama, night night.” She shifts gears so fast it could give you whiplash, but she’s giving you an important warning: get me outta here now, while I’m asking nicely, or soon all hell will break loose. Sometimes, like today with the concert, I wonder why she doesn’t want to stay and enjoy the rest of the show, and I’m tempted to try and make her stay to the end. But I think it’s mostly a good thing to encourage her to listen to her body and to understand her own needs. So I gather up our stuff, we head out to the car, and we go straight home. Once here, I fix her a milk, change her diaper, give her some hugs, and down for a nap she goes, no protest– she knows she needs it, and she welcomes it.

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I have no idea where this comes from, but my theory is that my bucking of pretty much everyone’s twin (and baby in general) advice to “get them on a schedule,” led to this development. I have always watched my kids closely for their own little cues that they’re tired or hungry or just overwhelmed. I have always said to them things like, “Oh, you seem very sleepy, would you like to go night night?” I think this close observation has taught her to know the signs her body gives her that she needs rest and to heed those signs.

Of course, lest you think I’m bragging or trying to pass off one-size-fits-all advice– Claire is NOT a great napper, though she’s always been pretty willing to go to sleep at bedtimes. And on top of that, Etta is not particularly keen on observing her body’s cues about potty learning, something that is causing both of us a lot of confusion at the moment. Still, I’m determined not to put either of them on any sort of timetable but their own, for anything, be it naptimes or potty time. We’ve gotten into a good pattern with naps, and I just have to have faith that potty cues will come too. And I’ll keep telling myself that, as I clean up messes and change toddler clothes umpteen times a day.

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