I guess it was inevitable that my baby would not stay a baby forever.
In many ways it is a pleasure to see him mature and develop. I can count on him to give me hugs and kisses just for the heck of it. He increasingly understands what his father and I say to him and he responds (selectively) in kind. He recently discovered that he can dance. Since then he hasn’t heard a dance beat that he can resist. Then today, he fearlessly climbed down four steps on his own only to stop because my whoops of joy alerted him to the fact that he was entering unprecedented territory.
Every day brings something new.
But along with the cuteness and the awe comes the awareness that my sweet baby is now a Capital-T-Toddler.
How do I know this? I can’t take this child out to restaurants anymore.
Check this: Once upon a time, C and I could take Baby E to a restaurant and get comments on “What a good baby” we had. The commenters came to this conclusion because Baby E was mostly quiet. He either sat in our laps or in a high chair. In the really early days he even went to sleep for a good part of our meal time. We could generally count on him being mostly chilled out unless he was hungry and of course that could be solved with nursing.
Capital-T-Toddlers do not do these things.
What I have learned, is that my Capital-T-Toddler will have a meltdown if we take him to a restaurant after 7:00 pm. He will not sit in a high chair. He will not sit still on our laps. He will insist on running away from our table. He will not be satisfied by nursing. He will do the “stiff-body laying on the floor while screaming thing.”
If we take him to a restaurant earlier in the day, things go much better. He is a much happier child. However, happy Toddlers still want to play with everything on the table. Happy Toddlers throw/drop food on the floor. Happy Toddlers leave big messes that lead certain parents (me!) to be even better tippers out of guilt.
My child is developing what I call, “The cuteness threshold” which is the point where the level of cuteness becomes inversely related to the level of Capital-T-Toddlerism.
In other words, it’s when the “awwww” turns into “noooooooo!”
I’ve started saying “No” to Baby E.
No to nursing when my nipples have had enough.
No to him playing with electrical cords.
No to him playing in the kitchen cabinets.
He usually just looks at me and laughs then goes right back to doing what I didn’t want him to do in the first place. Such is the way of the toddler.
I’m trying to redirect him instead of just saying no all the time. Most of the time I am able to do this.
Well, some of the time.
That “No” comes flying out of my mouth before I’ve even realized what has happened.
Such is the way of the mama.
I know that the oft-cited danger of saying “No” to a toddler all the time is that it encourages them to start saying “No” back to you for any and everything. However, I think that children learn how to say “No” anyway, verbally or otherwise, regardless of how many times they’ve heard you say it.
But here’s the thing: I think “No” is a really important word for Baby E to learn. And as tempting as it is, I don’t mean this in a “reinforce the parent-child hierarchy” way. I mean that “No” is important because it helps us set up boundaries. And just like I have boundaries for Baby E, he has boundaries for me. By honoring his “no” I’m hopefully teaching him to honor mine and the “no” of others.
This is a hard lesson to put into practice when I’m steeped in a culture that doesn’t truly treat children as fully realized human beings. It’s a hard thing to practice when I’m trying to keep Baby E’s reasoning abilities in perspective while balancing his need for safety and care with honoring his right to say no.
But it’s important enough for me to keep trying and doing. I want my son to be well aware of his rights as an individual but I also want him to be aware of and respect the rights of others. Honoring his “No” is just the first step.
I used to check his breathing while he slept. Newborns have this knack for seeming like they’ve stopped breathing but they’re really just taking shallow breaths. It freaked me out every time. Sometimes I would prod him and hold my breath until he moved out of irritation.
I still check on him occasionally. I wake up in the middle of the night and make sure his belly is rising and falling with his breaths.
I developed a fear of driving. I foresaw a collision of twisted metal every time a another vehicle got near my car. All I knew is that I had my heart seated behind me in a rearfacing carseat. It didn’t matter how much my friend, the Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, reassured me that the carseat was crash-resistant.
One of my mandates of motherhood was “Protect.”
It’s why I paid attention to the way I ate while I was pregnant.
It’s why I educated myself on birth matters.
It’s why I chose not to circumcise.
It’s why I choose to breastfeed.
It’s why I choose to parent the way I do.
It’s probably why most of us choose to parent the way we do.
But then we realize that no matter what we do, we can’t always protect them.
It’s why they say that motherhood is like having your heart walk around outside of your chest.