Toddler Regression and Other Thoughts

My youngest, Margot, is about to turn three and just entered into what experts call a “toddler regression.” She has gone from being our most independent, capable, strong-willed child into our most independent, capable, strong-willed baby overnight. She refuses to use real words, (which she knows and used before this moment), she wants to be held all the time, she colors on walls, refuses to attempt potty training and a host of other issues. It is honestly as though she has woken up as an 18 month old at best. A few days ago, I was at my wits end for how to help her after my usual bag of tricks was not working. So I did what anyone would do, I turned to the internet. And in this case, unlike the time I needed to know why I had a headache and left thinking I had a brain tumor, the internet did not fail me.

Most children go through regressions throughout childhood. They mature, develop new skills and then realize they are growing up and their little brain gets overwhelmed and they act younger than they are. It’s sort of a two steps forward, one step back situation. Or in Margot’s case, beautifully drawn pictures one day, scribbles on the wall the next. Everything I’ve read says this is a stage and to be patient and hold her as much as I can and give her lots of affection because all of this is a reaction to stress. The article I read suggested that parents ask, “Has anything changed in the child’s life?” Um, yes. We left the only home she’s ever known, all of the friends that she can name, her car, her park, her babysitter, her best buddy. Someone came and packed up her stuff and her bed and put it in a container and that container is somewhere between Antwerp and the port of Houston. I think it’s fair to say some things have changed.

Sometimes I don’t give my kids enough credit and in this case, I really think Margot gets it. She feels the change and is acting on it. She can’t say she doesn’t want to move or that it’s upsetting her to not have her things or her house or be able to go to her best buddy’s house. (That’s her term for her friend Magnolia, not my words). So in her own way, Margot’s trying to go back to a time that felt really stable and easy and safe.

When I think about it that way, I want to regress. Moving, despite being a main feature of my life, is hard. I’m not sure it’s fully hit me because we often come to Virginia in the summer. It’s not out of the ordinary yet. Then I remember we are not going back to Geneva. Our house doesn’t belong to us anymore. My stuff is in a container on a boat somewhere in the Atlantic. When my kids ask when we can go to Reid and Chase’s house, I just pause and hope they forget the question because the answer is, “not for awhile because it involves international air travel.” In some ways, moving with three kids has been a less emotional move for me because there are so many more details to manage. There are other people crying or upset and I need to help them process their emotions. I don’t have a lot of time to dwell on all we’ve moved away from or even on all we get to do in Houston. Though, maybe I do regress in my own way. Like a lot of adults, I rewatch tv shows or reread a favorite book. I respond more emotionally than I normally would. I find myself falling into patterns I thought I’d addressed and moved past. Maybe I am going through a regression. Maybe I just need to be patient and kinder with myself and hope it passes.

I have an advantage over Margot. I do know a little of what is coming. I’ve moved before and started over and I know that Houston has so many good things for us- family, friends, a great school, church, house. But for now, you can find me rewatching Parks and Rec and reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. Give me a break, it’s just a regression.