Making Time: Careful Daddy
Getting some good advice from my 2-year-old

“Careful! Careful Daddy!”

The day Adam was old enough to have his car seat turned around – from rear facing to front facing – we were excited. Sarah and I thought he would love seeing everything from a new view. Nope. We were wrong. Very wrong.

Seconds into the first drive, he started yelling, “Careful! Careful Daddy!” and “Too fast!” Two and a half years of driving him around and now he’s the worst backseat driver. Sarah had it even worse (so bad she had to call me just to help get him to calm down).

Seeing Adam’s genuine concern, I found myself starting to question every move I was making (even though I’ve driven the same roads at the same safe speed mind you). I tried to comfort him, “It’s okay buddy. You are safe. Everything is fine…Oh, look! A school bus! Let’s count and look if we see more!” (Ahh, the art of toddler distraction.)

But Adam’s different perspective had me thinking. He tests limits far more than Brandon ever did as he learns what he can and cannot do. He also tests the consequences of what happens when he doesn’t listen. I’ve been struggling with how to respond to all that – because I know I need to be careful with what I do and what I say.

Before we had the boys, Sarah and I would joke about who would be “the heavy” to handle the discipline and who the kids would then run to for the hug. We assumed they would go to me as the softy and Sarah would probably be the one putting her foot down. Somehow that’s not really the case. We both handle discipline, and we do our best to communicate and ensure we are consistent, but I find that sometimes it’s hard for me to find the right balance between letting the boys discover and learn for themselves versus hovering to stop problems before they start. I am often tempted to teach them the right thing to do instead of letting them figure it out. I struggle just writing some of the words in those last sentences – learn, hovering, figure it out – because they’re pretty loaded words, and people have different opinions on what they mean and what is best.

I try to figure out how to discipline and respond without being too negative and reactive. Especially with Adam, who’s pushing boundaries far more than Brandon ever did, and at a much younger age. But it’s hard to know how to respond sometimes because toddlers are not always logical, and using too many words with them is meaningless. Trying to make sense of a 2-year-old often leaves me with more questions than answers. Sometimes I can’t help but laugh when I watch him. Other times it’s so frustrating that I feel like I have to do everything not to raise my voice. I’d like to say I’m always calm and rational. I’m not. And many times, I feel I’m being challenged more than ever before to be consistent without overdoing it.

No matter what Adam does though, I have learned that how I react determines how things go, because he’s what you might call a textbook toddler right now. But it’s not always easy to be the patient parent when your child is throwing toys, trying to hit to get attention, or looking you in the eye and hearing what you say, but still not listening (or just actively choosing to ignore you…usually with a smile).

I find I’m the one telling Adam to “be careful” or to “slow down,” perhaps because he is running through the house or trying to climb somewhere he shouldn’t. Maybe I should let him explore more. Maybe I should let him see the consequences of his own actions if he’s relatively safe, even knowing I used to break bones when I didn’t listen. But when Adam yells, “Careful Daddy!” I try to take it as a reminder to not just go slower in the car, but to have a good perspective and patience as my boys continue to test boundaries, determine their limits, and become the people they want to be.

Read More “Making Time” by Jason Springer


September 2022
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