Category Archives: Toddlerhood

Birthdays

Little boy with third birthday crown covering his face, wearing payphone costume

M at his 3rd Birthday Party. He is dressed as a Payphone and, yes, it is awesome.

Today, my baby turned three.  With all the fanfare and over indulgence fitting such an age, he turned three.  Three.  THREE.  Whew.  I said it.  It feels like we have crawled here and, simultaneously, taken a bullet train.  When M was first born, I remember someone saying that the first six months creep by and the first six years fly.  I have visions of my boy at eighteen and can already feel time moving too quickly.

It is amazing to look back at all it took to create M.  Deciding who would carry him.  Choosing his donor.  Losing the first pregnancy so that M could come to us.  And now, here we are.  Together we have made it to three.

He is funny as hell, which I am counting on to help us all survive this next year of his life.  It seems that most toddlers have some sort of rapid-cycling emotional disorder.  One minute he will be laughing and having a great time and the next he is hiding his face under that table because the waitress tried to sing him Happy Birthday.  Over the next year, I will probably write a lot about this disparity.  I will also write a lot about the funny things he says.  Mainly because funny things are more…fun.

Tonight, on his first day of three, I bring to you installment one:
The M Chronicles
“Mama? On the weekend, can we call Lady Gaga and see if she wants to come over to play?  I think she would be really nice to me.”
“Uh…I don’t think she would be able to, Buddy.”
“Well, could we call her and see if I can go to her house?”
“We can’t really call her, Buddy.”
“Why not?”
“Well…we don’t know her.”
“I’m disappointed.  I really wanted to hang out with her.”

If any of you know Lady Gaga and can get her the message, I’d appreciate it.

-Betsy

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I Will Survive (or Not)

I have a really brilliant friend named Phoebe who has mentioned several times how easy a two-year old is compared to a three-year old.  She recalled barely making it some days, feeling like her head might pop off.  I can remember listening to her stories and feeling so grateful for my super mellow boy.

We are just about three weeks away from three and now I get it.  Earlier today, bag of chocolate coinsI thought I was going to lose it.  I made a big mistake yesterday.  While in Trader Joe’s, I told M he could have some chocolate.  We came upon some awesome little chocolates coins.  Perfect!  He could just have one or two a day.  All would be well in the world.  But I got the opposite.  My sweet, mellow boy turned into a monster.  When denied a fourth or fifth coin (I had already caved), he started screaming and demanding chocolate.  “NOW!” my precious boy hurled my way through the tears and life-threatening pain of the chocolate being put too high on a shelf for him to reach.

This wasn’t the first time the terrific threes have made an appearance.  By the end of most days, I am beyond grateful for the safety of my bed.  Tucked under the covers with the lights off, I don’t have to negotiate with anyone.  S knows not to talk to me while I unwind from the hours of “Stop giving the dog food from your plate” or “If you ask me about the chocolates one more time, I am putting them in the trash”.

My plan all along has been to home school M.  Tonight, I am not so sure. Tonight, I am thinking that full-time school out of the home might be the only way to survive the next year.  I decided that every time I feel like screaming at the beautiful little person who is developmentally appropriately infuriating, I will do push-ups instead.  I hypothesis that I will look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger by the time December 2014 rolls around.  People will cross the street when they see me coming, not sure what to make of my guns.  Little will they know that all they see is a year’s worth of forced patience.  In the meantime, I have been sneaking those damn chocolate coins, trying to dwindle his stash so we can have to over and done with.  I figure he will never remember how many he had and if he does, I can always blame S.  May the wrath be with her.

-Betsy

Feelings

There is a tradition at my college that I have been looking forward to sharing with M.  Every year at homecoming (think BBQ and square dance in a cow pasture, not tailgating at a football game), there is good food, horse drawn large bonfirecarriage rides and then…there is the bonfire.  I love the bonfire.  It is one tradition that I get really excited about.  Once the sun sets, a long line of students come down the hill and down the farm road carrying lit torches.  The crowd notices and starts to gather around the fifteen-feet tall pyre, anticipating the annual lighting.  We all know there will be fire spinning after the pile is ablaze, perhaps an illuminated hula hoop or two.  Good times.

It all happened last night.  I had been building M up all day talking about how much fun the big fire is and how I was so excited to show him now that he is a big boy.  When we saw the torches in the distance, he got really quiet.  We inched our way closer as the torch-bearers lit the kindling around the base of the pile.  The wood began to catch and alumni from the last sixty years cheered.  M was pretty quiet.

He asked to stand on a chair right in front of the fire.  After a couple minutes, he said, “I’m feeling nervous.  I’d like to go home now.”  I felt so…proud.   Proud that my little guy is in touch with how he feels.  Then I realized that my job, as his mother, is to help him stay that way.  My job is to raise a boy who will become a man who can talk about how he feels, who can express himself in gentle ways, who can have his voice heard without dominating.  Last night was just the beginning.

So, when my boy told us he was nervous, even though I had been really excited to share the tradition with him, we each gave him a huge hug and headed for the car.  Last night, we did our job.

-Betsy

Jail

I know there are a million things that need a lot of explaining.  Clouds, bugs, law of conservation of matter, cooking, math.  I know this.  What I did not anticipate was having to explain to my son what jail is.littleboy with long hair holding a bunch of different colored balloons

Here is how we got there:  As a lesbian, I have no choice but to sing Indigo Girls songs to my son.  The specific songs have ebbed and flowed over time, but when I am tired, I can easily got back to that time in my life (you know, shaved-head-not-armpits, baggy jeans, freedom rings around my neck) and the lyrics just come to me.  Recently, I started singing Hammer and A Nail.  I thought it was a lovely choice as it talk about being a responsible global citizen and fully participating in life.  Then he started to take-apart the chorus:
Gotta get out of bed get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail.

…and there it was.  You see, M has a way, like most toddlers, of asking the same questions over and over and over again and picking up on things you really wish could be overlooked.  Now, every time after requesting Hammer and Nail, he asks what jail is.  At first, I just told him it is somewhere I hope he never goes.  But that wasn’t enough.  So, I settled on this: Jail is a place where adults go who need a really big time-out.  He got it immediately.  Now, he still asks every time I sing the song, but now I have a stock response that has almost become part of our lyrics.

It is because of his new awareness of and curiosity about lyrics and specific words that S and I have decided to not let M listen to pop radio.  We are now iPod only.  I have become so discouraged that most songs on the radio promote rape culture, over indulgence in drugs and alcohol, degrade women, hyper masculinity, etc.  The eighteen-year old me would die of embarrassment that I just wrote that, but I have come a long way since then.  I don’t plan to shelter my son always, but for now, I am happy to explain when he asks me, “What is a nomad?  What is an Indian?  What is a saint?”  That feels better than, “Mama?  Why does he keep saying ‘you can blow my whistle baby’?”

-Betsy

Time Flying

Woman, dog and littl boy walking on a wooded path

M and S on a recent walk

M and I have gone to the same drop-in gymnastics for the last year.  When we started there, M was toddling.  He would fall often (which is why we chose a gym with padding EVERYWHERE).  He would trip over his feet or objects or…nothing at all.

He was super shy those first few months.  He would watch kids from afar, more likely to observe than interact.  He would often ask to leave early or to have a snack after ten minutes.  It was fun to go, though, a little stressful that he wasn’t so interested in other people.

Then, he started to change a little.  He grew attached to another little boy.  They would play side-by-side, though not quite together.  M would run all around, getting more and more coordinated as the days passed.  We knew everyone’s name.  Wednesdays was our day at the gym.

Then summer came and it got really hot, so we didn’t stay away from places without air conditioning.  When we started back this fall, we didn’t know anyone.  The first day back, M tried to get another kid to play with him and she just stared at him, then ran back to her mother.  None of our old friends come around any more.  Today, there were six other kids.  They were between 10 months and 14 months old.

All of a sudden, M looked like a kid.  All traces of that stumbling baby were gone as he climbed onto and through obstacles with ease.  He tumbled on purpose, showing the babies his skills.

As I looked around and noticed what a big kid my baby has suddenly become, it was all I could do to not start sobbing. My eyes filled with tears and I took a deep breath, knowing that time is moving so fast and there is nothing I can do to slow it down.  Before I know it, he is going to be at our Thanksgiving table with his significant other, maybe kids of his own, and I will wonder how it happened.  I remember someone telling me before he was born that the first six months would crawl by and the first six years would fly by.  It is so, so true.

Most days, I don’t want it to be.  I want to be able to freeze time, to keep him in this super innocent stage where he still doesn’t understand how terrible the world can be.  Since I can’t do that, I will just soak it up and write as much down as I can so that when I am old and my memory is failing, I can look back at those pages and tell M what an amazing little boy he was.

-Betsy

If I knew then…

Be Here Now on SidewalkI am sitting on the couch next to my boy as he watches t.v. He is laughing, eating a snack and…contained. In this moment, I am remembering my pre-child self. I swore up and down that my kid would not watch any t.v. until he was at least five and, then, only occasionally. As it turns out, t.v is the cheapest babysitter in town. If the sink is full of dishes (as it was twenty minutes ago) or if the laundry needs folding (like it did yesterday) or if Mama needs to bathe (as I do regularly), a show makes it all possible.

For a long time, I felt guilt turning on the boob-tube. My boy would zone out so intensely that I would have to turn the show off and shake him a little to bring him back to us. At the time (when he was between one and two-years old), I told myself that it was the educational aspects of shows that made it o.k. for him to watch. In reality, it was the down-time the twenty-seven minutes afforded me that was the true benefit.

He does learn from these shows. He knows his letters and numbers and is starting to try to spell. Now that he is older (2.75…so old), he is starting to interact with the shows. He puts his hand in when they tell him to. He says his name out-loud when asked. He might dance a little if they are singing a catchy tune.

Mostly, these shows give me the time I need to sit on my ass for a few minutes or to keep my house from going over the edge of utter despair (we live dangerously near that edge way too much of the time). So, if I could talk to my pre-child self who judged friends for allowing their kids to watch t.v. and who swore to never do the same, I would tell myself to shut-up. My kid is growing up smart and funny and outgoing and inquisitive and much more. Relax, Betsy. Just relax.

Sometimes I crave Survivor or The Amazing Race or Revenge or any number of guilty pleasures that have no educational value whatsoever. I imagine M is the same. Sometimes, a little veg-time is just the break our brains need.

You know what? M will be fine. I grew up on Fraggle Rock and The Smurfs and I think I am fine (most days). Now that I have the hang of this parenting thing (sarcasm intended), I am working on being gentler with myself and my expectations. How about you?

-Betsy

Whoa.

Toddlers are funny creatures.  When you want them to listen to you, they seem to be on another planet.  When you don’t want to be heard, they interrupt a million times asking, “What did you say, Mama?”  Then, they can repeat verbatim whatever you said.

Stop sign that says Whoa with beautiful mountains in the background

My boy is particularly good at ignoring me.  We were swimming in a river today and I kept asking him to move closer to me.  It was like I wasn’t even there.  Use of his full name was required to acquire said attention.

I sing Indigo Girls songs to M when I put him down for nap or night.  Cliche?  Yes.  Yes, it is.  But they are the only songs I know by heart when I am asleep inside.  Most nights, I will rock him and my eyelids will get heavy.  Sometimes, this translates into me slurring the lyrics a bit or substituting words that either sound alike or mean sort of the same thing.  M, who should not be listening because he is sound asleep, actually listens rather intently to these songs.  Tonight, as I rocked and fought sleep, World Falls was being butchered.  M kept correcting me, “No, Mama.  Burning hope turning all my blues to black.”  “No, Mama.  You forgot to say ‘I woke up in the middle of a dream'”.  At this point, the kid was lucky my mouth was moving at all.

What I have learned: He is always paying attention, even if he seems like he went to Mars.  He is picking up everything, ears constantly perked.  Songs lyrics to bad jokes to unkind words, and everything in between.  Tonight’s lesson is to be kinder with my words because what I really want my boy to hear is kindness.

-Betsy