Tag Archives: toddler

Talking to Toddlers about Death

two women smiling, one holding sign "Welcom Rock N Roller Betsy Archer"

Me and Nance in 2008 when I ran the Rock N Roll Marathon in San Diego.

My mom’s best friend of fifty years died Saturday morning. She was an amazing woman; generous beyond generous, kind, hilarious, completely loving, fiercely loyal, tough, and so much more. She died after a long fight with an auto-immune disorder that left her lungs battered and bruised and so, so tired.

I have felt so sad since I got the news of her death. Lots of tears. S and I made the decision to be upfront with M, so often, tears are in front of him. He is a sweet and sensitive boy. Usually when we cry (especially S), he wants to hug us and be close and tell us that everything is going to be ok. When he saw how upset I was and asked me why, I told him.

We have been trying to explain what ‘dead’ means without overloading him. I tell him that it means that someone’s or something’s body quit working. I can see his brain trying to process what that actually means.

At the local nature center today, M noticed the taxidermy owl and squirrels on the huge fake tree in the lobby. He asked if they were real. I explained that they are real, but their bodies don’t work anymore. I could tell he was processing, but not quite there, which is ok because he is still a baby.

In the next few days, we will head to San Diego to remember Nancy. M will come with me and will see his grandparents and everyone who loved her grieving. But he will also see us all laughing because that is what Nancy would have wanted. I hope that M will internalize that just because someone’s body quits working, it doesn’t mean they leave us. I hope he feels that Nancy is still all around.




imgres-2As my son was falling asleep tonight, green bouncy ball in one hand, he started whispering something to me.  There was just enough light in the room for me to recognize the white of his teeth as he smiled. “jaja-jo” was what I heard.  I asked him to repeat.  It came across the same.  “Once more?” I asked knowing I was now pulling him farther from sleep.  “Cujo,” he said loudly with a bigger smile.

“That’s what you call our dog.  Why do you call him that?”
“I’ll tell you when you are bigger.”

Their tiny brains are amazing.  He sits there watching the light disappear outside his windows, running through the events of the day.  Eyes wide open, his breathing deepens as he remembers walks or play dates or, perhaps, when I needed a few minutes alone and gently escorted him to his room for my ten kid-free minutes.

Despite this being my least favorite time of year (humidity+heat=VERY unhappy Betsy), we have been rather busy.  New adventures, new friends.  All of these new things and he thinks about ‘Cujo’ right before he falls asleep.  While their brains are amazing, they are also quite strange.


Rain, rain. Go away?

It has rained every day except one for as long as I can remember. The rivers are swollen. Everything outside that is not metal is covered in mildew. Serotonin levels are on a fast decline. You get the picture.

Today, the sun was out for most of the day (after a rain shower this morning, of course). My boy and I had a nice berry-hunting kind of walk this morning before the depth of the humidity really set it. When it is 90% humidity and 85 degrees, the only think I want is for the rain to come, soaking us and our clothes for some momentary relief. It is only then, when you want it to come, that the clouds part and the brilliant rays you thought you were longing for beat down on you like moist fire. It is an all together unpleasant experience.

You may be asking yourself, “What does that have to do with parenting?” Well, it translated into spending as much of the day as possible sleeping in the direct path of a window air conditioner or at someone’s house who has central air. This weather makes me really grumpy. My boy seems to be unfazed by any changes in weather. He wants to hike in the rain, walk naked in the snow, wear fleece pants in June. It is all the same to him. Me, I want to crawl in bed and stay there until the leaves start to change colors. At the end of today, I feel d-o-n-e. Done. My boy was quite pleasant today. We had some lovely company. All I can think about is getting this post up and going to sleep in the hopes that tomorrow might bring 50% humidity and 65 degrees. I know that is a pipe dream and that come February I will be saying that I can’t wait for the heat of summer. But tonight, I can wait. I can wait a long, long time until it is this gross outside again.


Transitional Object

Photo on 2013-06-25 at 20.27 #3

We have tried very hard since my son was born to get him to attach to a transitional object.  We hoped it would be Babo’s Bird, an Ugly Doll.  We bought five knowing that we were so smart to have extra’s on hand for the eventuality of one being lost.  We would have 4 more!  So smart!

Well, M has never had any interest in Babo’s Bird.  Now, we have four sitting on the shelf and one at the bottom of the stuffed animal bag.  We tried a tiny stuffed cat, an enormous sock monkey, a squishy pillow.  Nothing.  Then, last year, he decided he loved Gerald the giraffe.  Gerald became his nighttime buddy.  He would snuggle with that long neck tucked under his little arm and they would sleep face-to-face.  All of a sudden a few weeks ago, Gerald got kicked to the curb.  M didn’t want Gerald anywhere near him.  He was flying solo at bedtime.  “M doesn’t want any friends in his bed,” he would proclaim.

Ok.  No problem.  Then, he started sleeping with his metal kazoo at nap time.  I thought that it was kind of cute, albeit a little odd.  But TONIGHT takes the cake.  Tonight, he fell asleep holding his travel toothbrush cover (see photo above).  Not sure how this came about, but there it was tucked firmly in his hand until he fell asleep and it fell to the floor.

The whole point of this post, you might be right to assume, is to point out that children are strange little creatures with funny habits and odd proclivities.  I think that is why we love them.  They experience a freedom to be who they are that most of us can’t quite remember.  If we could only figure out a way to help them hold onto that…


The Nanny

Sometimes, I feel like the nanny.  After S returned from being out of town for a few days, M can’t get enough of her.  He wants to nurse and snuggle on her to no end.  Right now, he is sick.  He came down with an instant cold after playing in the rain for an hour yesterday.  All he wants is S.  He woke up from his nap every twenty minutes today, sobbing for Ima. He would flail his arms about and squeak out through the ears, “No Mama.  Go away.  Ima!  Ima!”  He knew full well that she was at work.  He just knew he wanted her more than me.

This is the part of being a non-gestational parent that is tough.  He gets something from her that he can never get from me and I can’t help but think that came from being in her womb.  He gets a lot from me.  I know that.  But there are just some intangibles that I can’t replicate.  It is hardest when he is sick or hurts himself and wants her and not me.  In those moments, it doesn’t matter that I am home with him day after day, wiping his butt, making him food, teaching him fun things.  He just wants her.

When I think about the important people in my life, I know that I get things from each of them that the others might not be able to give me.  I love them all just the same.  I am hoping this is what goes on with M.  He loves me deeply, but sometimes he just wants her.  I get it.  And it still hurts.



I am on my own for a few days while S travels for work.  I am feeling really tired from a few nights of a sleepless toddler and have maybe been a little shorter tempered than I would like today.  It is always on days like today when something happens to remind me how amazing my child is, helping to wash away the stress.

As I was putting him down for his nap, I laid my head next to his so that our faces were nearly touching.  Pretending to be asleep, I was almost overwhelmed by my sweet boy when he gently started touching all the features of my face.  First eyebrows and eyelashes. Nose. Cheeks. Lips.  Gingerly, with one finger, he traced the outline of my eyes and of my exposed ear.  It was pure sweetness and just what I needed.


“That feels like fun!”

As all parents of young boys can attest, there exists a certain fascination between a boy and his penis.  My son, lucky enough to have two moms, has been blessed with parents who talk about his relationship with his penis.  We tell him that it is ok to play with his private parts when he is alone.  He has known the word erection since he could talk.  It’s all good.  Sometimes, though, I am blown away by the things he says in relation to his penis.

Take tonight, for instance.  (Too much information coming…) After M’s bath, he was sitting on the potty and he started to play with his penis.  With a huge grin, he looked up at us and said, “M is playing with his private parts.”

“What does that feel like?” I innocently asked him.

With an even bigger grin, “That feels like fun!”

I know this is one of those blog posts that, if brought to his attention, will embarrass him to no end.  Maybe he will never read this.  If he does (if you do, M), I want him to know why I wrote it.  As someone who has struggled with body image issues for the vast majority of my life, I am pleased to hear my son so effortlessly and shamelessly explain how he feels about his body.  Yes, I know that as he gets older that will probably change, at least for a little while.  For now, I love that he loves himself and all his parts.