slippery slopes

18 months

A year and a half in and deep, deep in the toddler weeds. I love this age except for when you’re exerting your healthy will (pretty much always) to the point of frustrating all three of us.

I have come to the realization that I’m not a baby person, meaning I’m not a baby-baby person. I’m not nostalgic for your infancy nor do I feel driven to have another baby so I can relive those newborn months that pass so quickly. I mean, I loved the cuddles. I loved (mostly) that you stayed where I put you. I loved that you needed me desperately. But the rest of it didn’t necessarily enthrall me.

What I love now is that you are you. You’ve become your own person with your own preferences and desires; you know what you like and what you don’t, and you can express that. I love that we can play, sing and dance together. I love that you can make believe, and you take me with you. I love that I can ask you questions and you respond. And I love that every day, you surprise me with something new that you can say or do.

You’re beginning to string words together into short sentences, and you’re able to use words and phrases absolutely appropriately. You’ve learned that if you say please (“peas”), you get what you want much more quickly. You’ve recently started saying “you’re welcome” when we say “thank you.” You do funny things like mimic Darth Vader and say “pew pew pew” (as in what a shooting laser sounds like) whenever you pick up any sort of stick. You’re getting really good at certain gross-motor things like getting on and off your push toys, walking up and down stairs, balancing precariously on the arm of your armchair (I wish you wouldn’t do that) and going down slides by yourself.

You’re also terribly possessive, incredibly stubborn and given to bursting into tears at the slightest hint of the word “no.” If we try to take something away from you that you shouldn’t have, it’s like your world is coming to an end. Daddy read to me tonight from the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ Caring for Your Baby and Young Child about toddler behavior, and it could have been written about you: Doesn’t play well with others. Doesn’t share. Offers things to others only to snatch them back. It said we shouldn’t expect anything different.

And that’s the fine line we’ve been walking. We feel like we have to set boundaries and to begin teaching you what’s right and wrong. But sometimes we feel like we’re saying “no” more than anything else. And if you’re incapable–like actually cognitively incapable–of processing the limits we’re setting, how do we even begin? Sometimes, I’ll admit, I give you a cookie just to keep you from harassing me. And that is not the only one of my parenting vices.

I try to remind myself, during these particularly trying moments, that it’s really, really hard to be a toddler. You’re not in control of anything: not your emotions, not your environment, not your schedule, not what you eat or who you play with or where you go. You can express yourself only in limited terms. (I think about how I felt when I first moved to Italy and couldn’t really communicate with people on any sort of adult level–frustrating!) Sometimes, it’s enough to make you cry. I get that.

So we’ll continue to bumble through this, which is, I suppose, what everyone does, perhaps some more gracefully than others. I’m going to work really hard on not getting frustrated, and I hope you can, too.

This is all compounded, of course, when you’re not feeling well. And we’ve all had some sort of upper-respiratory/sinus infection for what seems like months. You were out of daycare all last week because you were running a consistently high fever (up to 104!), and Daddy and I were struggling with all sorts of congestion and other nasty cold symptoms. Finally, finally, we were all feeling better this weekend only for me to come down with a case of pinkeye (of all things!). I’m terrorized by the idea of you getting it, too. I’ve been avoiding snuggles to keep you healthy, and it makes me sad. Also, you’re teething–one of those first molars on the top–and it’s making you cranky.

But through it all, we’ve been having some pretty exceptional adventures together, the kind that are so awesome they immediately become a memory. Two weekends ago, we went up to State College to be with your Aunt Becky and Uncle Greg, cousin Olivia and Mimi and Beebee. We had so much fun! On Sunday, Daddy, Beebee and I hauled you up to Tussey Mountain and got you on skis for the first time for a whopping 30 seconds. The rest of the time you played in the snow and giddily watched Daddy ride the ski lift. It made me so excited for winters to come when (hopefully) we can all hit the slopes together, slippery as they may be.


  
  
  
  

just one

17 months

You’re racing fast toward a year and a half, and I can barely keep up with your frenetic development. Just yesterday, I said, “He’s not really running yet,” and today, you took off running (or what running looks like on those little toddler legs of yours) across a doctor’s office waiting room. I applaud your effort to contradict me.

Last week in the aftermath of our historic blizzard, we hauled you up to the top of the hill at the middle school so you could sled down it over and over again with Daddy and me taking turns running with you in the 30 inches that Jonas dumped on us 10 days ago or so. You giggled the whole way down. You kept saying “choo choo,” and we couldn’t figure out if you were calling the sled a choo choo or if you were telling us you wanted to go home and play with your train set, of which you’ve recently become a huge fan. But each time we arrived at the bottom of the hill, we’d ask “More?” and you’d say “More.” So we kept at it. Eventually, another family arrived with a toboggan and a couple of little boys. One was crawling straight down the hill. We got into conversation as we often do with other parents of little kids that wind up sharing space with you. The baby had just turned a year last Friday. The older kid was two and a half. The mom said they were 17 months apart. 17 months! That’s like if I were giving birth to another baby right this minute. I can’t even imagine.

Which is why we’ve decided we’re good with just one: just you. There are a lot of reasons for this, and it’s actually, strangely, kind of a relief to come to this conclusion. But we’re sure: Our little tribe feels quite complete as a trio.

I don’t at all intend this to be disparaging of those who have more than one child; to the contrary, I’m in awe of parents who manage with more than one. Actually, I’m in awe of parents, period. Especially the ones (and there are a lot of them in our life) who make it look effortless. It is by no means effortless on my part; it is effort-full. So I’ll call that Reason No. 1 that we’re good with one:

We are managing. Finally. After many, many, many months of kind of just barely scraping by. We feel like we’ve got this. We’ve succeeded if not conquered. We’re finally having fun! We’ve got an awesome schedule that we can pretty much bank on. We feel like normal humans again. And we’re just reluctant to start all of it over again from scratch. (Unlike many people, I wasn’t in love with the newborn stage. You were cute–the cutest!–and super cuddly, but this, this, is what I’ve been living for. I love toddler you! I love how you respond to us and play with us and have a personality and an opinion. And we can do stuff together. It’s the best.)

We like the idea of being able to focus solely on you. You’ve got our full attention and our full resources. We can both be there to support you, pick you up, cheer you on, help you out and everything else we need and want to do with you. And we can do it together, Daddy and me, at the same time. We don’t need to divide and conquer. And neither of us will ever miss any of your classes, games, recitals, performances or other shining moments because we’re doing the same for a sibling of yours.

We want and need a bigger house, which means a bigger mortgage. And daycare is expensive as all get-out. That’s with just one.

We love to travel, and we want to share our love of travel with you. Traveling is much more doable with just you, from both a resources and a logistics perspective.

Right now, you’re outnumbered. We often (more often than we’d care to admit) need four hands to wrangle you.

Everything we do, we do for you. Period. You are our raison d’etre. I don’t want you to have to share that (spoken like a true only child). And, while I know this is silly and completely irrational, I don’t know that I could love any other child as much as I love you.

You fit nicely into my Prius. And I will never need a minivan.

I could keep going, but I think you get the gist. Just one suits Daddy and me. I hope and pray, though, that it suits you, too. That you won’t feel like you’re missing something from your life.

So the answer from here on out to all those who will, inevitably, ask if or, worse, when we’re having a second child is: Nope. We’re good. Entirely complete just the way we are–with just you.