Tag Archives: toddlerhood


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’?”



Grand Theft Avocado


It was bound to happen.  Anyone who takes a small child into a store knows the risk involved. We talk about paying for things and what honesty means, but deep down, I kind of knew my 2.5 year old just wasn’t there yet.

I remember the first time I stole something.  I must have been about four.  My mother and I were in some sort of fabric store and there was this really awesome patch that I had to have for my tiny jeans.  I don’t remember asking for it and I don’t remember taking it.  I do remember my mother marching me back in the store to return the contraband and to make sure the ladies behind the counter knew she was taking care of the situation.

When I saw the avocado my son had stealthily removed from the checker’s shelf, I had immediate flashbacks to my own brush with the law.  I pictured blue lights surrounding our Honda Fit in the parking lot, “Put down the avocado and no one gets hurt!”  I imagined my son’s face as they cuffed him and put him in the back of the paddy wagon with the other wayward toddlers.

To save him from what would obviously be a very slippery slope towards a life of crime, I simply went back in and paid for the avocado.  We talked about what it means to steal and I told him I was sad he had done that.  He seemed to be processing as he looked up at the ever-cloudy sky, the pensive look of a man who knows what he has done.  He turned to me as I awaited the lightbulb moment, “Mama?  Can I have gum now?”

And that, my friends, is what I continue to learn every day about having a toddler.


I’m a Really Great Papa

images-6My son is in love with his bunny. Baby Bunny Betsy, if you will.  Today, for the first time in his life, he took a stuffed animal in the car and to the playground.  He held on tight to her while they climbed and went down the twisty slide or while steering the car or whatever adventure was on tap.  This is big for my boy as he has never really attached to one object.

The past four or five days, Bunny is where it is at.  He will tell me that she is crying, then rush off to the rocking chair because rocking calms her.  When he drinks water in bed while trying to fall asleep (which is often), he makes sure bunny has some too, “But not too much so she doesn’t pee in the bed.”

The best part of all of this was when he said this morning, “I’m a really great papa!”  He said it over and over again, thrilled with the fact that he had made the connection between caring for something and being a parent.  I was thrilled to see this blatant example of the empathic, nurturing boy we are raising.  In that moment, I felt proud.  One day, when he is holding his own child (way,way,way down the road), I will remind him of this early practice and of how he was meant for the role.



Hocus Pocus

imagesI made a decision the moment I looked into my son’s eyes to never lie to him.  We talk about where meat comes from and what it means to die.  We don’t do Santa Claus and won’t do the Tooth Fairy.  I know that may sound harsh.  That’s just the way it is.  (Don’t worry: He finds magic in lots of other places!)

What I haven’t decided is if making-up stories counts as lying?  I think not?  Here is the situation:  A few nights ago we three were deep into battle over flossing and brushing M’s teeth.  He was yelping and covering his mouth with both hands anytime one of us came near.  Exhausted, we watched as M darted for the door only to find S’s foot holding it closed.  He didn’t notice her foot and just kept tugging at the door, getting frustrated and then, finally, giving up.

At that moment, it dawned on me (maybe on S…but let’s pretend it was me for the sake of the story): Here is a golden opportunity to change to game.  So, I/we told him that the door had a magic spell on it and wouldn’t open until he flossed, brushed and said the magic words, ‘hocus, pocus, open the door-us’.

Can you guess what happened next?  You are right!  It fucking worked!  Four nights running, we have not battled over his oral hygiene.  There have been no battle of wills.  If it looks like one is coming down the pike, we just invoke the magic spell and ta-da!

I realize that this story may have us crossing very close to lying territory.  That part I am not so keen on.  The lack of battles?  Well, that I love.



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.


A Hunting We Will Go

il_fullxfull.244918128One of the advantages of living on a college campus is that the opportunities for exploring with a toddler are pretty much endless.  This is especially true on our campus.

Now that summer is in full swing, M and I have a favorite activity.  We pack some water and a berry bucket and we go hunting.  We will spend several hours walking in the woods, along the river, through gardens in search of the ripest blueberries, blackberries and in desperate search for the last remaining strawberries.  While we hunt, we sing songs and talk about our adventures.

Today, after our bucket was full, we made our way to the cabin in the garden and spent some time enjoying our berries from the comfort of an old porch swing.  We then walked up to the weekly garden market and listened to someone play an African instrument, a ngoni.

On days like today, my gratitude spills over.  On the really tough days, when toddlerhood rears its ugly head, I try to remember days like today and hope I was able to save a little of that gratitude in a safe place for just such an occasion.  On days like today, I am reminded that this really is all there is.



Today has been a whopper of a day.  My sleep-deprived child woke up with fire coming out of his eyes, a steaming dragon.  Since 5:30 a.m., that child has been with us.  My sweet, compliant, snuggly boy has gone into hiding.

Could there have been a better night to try a new approach to sleep training?  I think the answer is yes, but we did it anyway.  We have allowed ourselves to become his sleep crutch.  He is a pain in the ass (chatting, singing, whispering, asking questions) for a LONG time.  Regardless of what we tell him, he flip-flops sides of his bed about twelve times, requesting a blanket adjustment and that his water cup be relocated to the new side.  He wants his back patted and his hand held.  And we, in desperation for some quiet at the end of a long day, have acquiesced.  I know we are responsible for digging the hole that we once again find ourselves in.  Regardless, it sucks.

It sucks to hear him crying for companionship.  It sucks to hear him sad about these changes.  It sucks that he isn’t one of those kids who came out of the womb asleep.  It just sucks.


PS.  If your kid is a good sleeper and can put himself to sleep unaided, please don’t comment on this post.  If you do, I will hunt you down and make my crazy-ass shih tzu move in to your house.  And, trust me, you don’t want that.