I’ve come to the well-thought-out conclusion that toddlers (well, ours anyway) love routine.
Kids like to eat at just about the same times each day. And they like to be fed the same lineup of foods in the same (or at least a very similar) dish. They like to sleep in their familiar beds in their familiar spots. They like to go to the same parks to play the same games with the same toys they’ve played with each and every day before.
A novel toy or activity or food (read: “treat”) is gleefully received. But if you try adding too much newness at once, it can really upset their little worlds. Toddlers don’t thrive on uncertainty. Too much of the unfamiliar can bring out the whiner and cling-on in even the best kiddo.
We know this all too well most recently in the case of our kiddos. We not too long ago threw a major monkey wrench into our lives and the lives of our little ones. Just when we thought we had our day-to-day routine packed to the gills, we decided it was time for a move. As stressful as a move can be, we self-professing adults do our best to cram all the move-related details and logistics into the mix right along with everything else. In the role of parent/adult, we know that, for a while, things will be even wilder than usual, but (God willing) things will calm down in the not-too-distant future.
Toddlers, not so much. They just know things are different. They don’t know how long things will be different or if things will ever not be different. Different house, different neighborhood, different pre-school, different friends. In the midst of the upheaval, our kiddos have clung to the comfort of the little things that haven’t changed—for Davis, 4, and Hudson, 2, the same Richard Scarry stories, “Cars” (the movie) vehicles strewn across the floor, and the silky trim of their respective “Blankies” (their favorite lovies) in those dark and quiet bedtime hours; for Ella Marie, 1, the familiar faces and voices of her parents and brothers, and, of course, the oral fixation embodied in her left thumb.
There is a positive flipside to not having any true perspective as to degree of upheaval while also possessing an innate longing for routine and familiarity. Toddlers adapt very well. They know not the duration or extent of transition. And so they go with it as best they can, making the best of their present situation, adjusting and exhibiting quite remarkable resiliency.
Much to our relief and delight, we have seen our brood cope and adapt, looking for new patterns and consistencies. Ours may be a transition, but theirs is a more complete transformation. What was initially “different” has become “new”–new house, new neighborhood, new parks and playgrounds, new pre-school, new friends. And the new is already morphing into the routine once again.