10 things about a 2-year-old’s birthday

1.  How is my kid two years old already?

2.  No, seriously, how did that happen?  It feels like it hasn’t been that long since I was pregnant.

3.  We didn’t host a birthday party for Little Boy this year.  (Technically we didn’t last year, either—that party was for us, to celebrate surviving a year of parenthood.)  We just did cake and candles and presents and Skyping with family.

4.  Little Boy is starting to grasp the concept of ripping open the wrapping paper on gifts.  I foresee him being very excited this Christmas.

5.  I finally understand the concept of buying character-themed toys/shirts/books/blankets/etc.  The delight that Little Boy gets out of Cookie Monster and Elmo made me want to buy him every Sesame Street toy in the store.

6.  Except for this Cookie Monster in a toy car—turns out Little Boy gets very displeased that he can’t separate the Cookie Monster from the vehicle.  We had to hide that one.

7.  Turning two means Little Boy moves up to a new classroom in daycare.  He has been transitioning over the last few weeks and it is going very well.  So well, in fact, that he has twice thrown a fit about having to leave at the end of the day.

8.  His daycare provides snacks in the two-and-older classrooms, which means I no longer have to pack snacks, just lunch.  This reduces my nightly workload by a small fraction and I am thrilled.

9.  It’s only a matter of time now before Little Boy learns to climb out of his crib, at which point we’ll move him to a toddler bed.  He already knows how to open doors, and I have visions of him wandering the house in the middle of the night.

10.  This is a good age.  Yes, he throws tantrums and has strong opinions about which shirt he wants to wear, but he also reaches up to hold my hand when we walk and asks to carry his own lunch box and helps put away the groceries and braves the slide all by himself.  Our Little Boy is growing up.

 

(P.S.  Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post to let me know that publishing from the WordPress mobile app worked OK.)

Counting with an almost-two-year-old

“Let’s count!  One…”

“Too!”

“Very good, two!  Three…”

“Seven!”

“Four…”

“Seven!”

“Five…”

“Seven!”

“Six…”

“Seven!”

“That’s right, seven comes after six.  Then comes eight…”

“Nine!”

“Yes, nine…”

“Seven!”

It’s the little moments

When I arrived to pick up Little Boy from daycare today, his class was in the hallway looking at the school fish.  Before I even had time to register his position, my child was galloping down the hall toward me, his face filled with joyful excitement.  That was my reward for a day’s work: the extra-long run of a glee-filled toddler, so happy to see me that he couldn’t contain it.

I’m not going to end this with a trite platitude about what makes parenting worth it, but I have to tell you: toddler hugs are the best.

What’s next, the plague?

I took Little Boy to the doctor today, only to discover that he has an ear infection AND another (!!) case of hand, foot, and mouth disease.  The former is treatable with antibiotics and the latter is not severe, but still, really, universe?

Oh, and there’s a non-negligible chance that he inherited my allergies.

Our evolving toddler TV policy, part III

I have a confession to make: Little Boy’s been watching more TV.  Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Curious George have permanently joined Sesame Street (still his favorite) in rotation, with an occasional smattering of Mighty Machines and Reading Rainbow.  There are two main drivers of this increased screen time.

The first reason is that Little Boy has been sick a lot.  And I mean A Lot.  Just this week, for example: he came down with pink eye on Tuesday and is running a fever today.  Books and friends warned us that the first year of daycare would be bad, but we didn’t realize just quite how much illness it would involve.  I’ve been hoping that it would taper off as cold and flu season ended, but no such luck yet.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, the rules get relaxed when people are sick.  When Little Boy is uncomfortable and cranky, you can bet that we’re going to try to distract him from that discomfort however we can.  We also read, and go for walks, and snuggle, but yeah, TV is a big part of sick time.  After all, what do I do when I’m sick?  I lay on the couch and entertain myself with screens of the TV or tablet variety.

The second reason for the additional TV is that Little Boy has grown to be highly mobile and curious.  He’s also becoming increasingly social and, I think, gets frankly rather bored stuck at home with his mom and dad.  This combination means that he can get into lots of mischief.  Now, that normally isn’t too big of an issue, since we offer plenty of supervision, but sometimes as a parent you have to get things done that require your attention, and that’s where TV can help.

Do I feel guilty about this?  Of course.  I’ll always feel guilty about something.  But Little Boy has made recent leaps in verbal development, and he loves to read books and stack blocks and chase bubbles.  Television isn’t stunting him in some kind of terrible way.  In the end, I suspect it’s like most things: use thoughtfully and in moderation.


I wasn’t quite expecting this topic to turn into a series, but hey.  Here are parts I and II.

Caught between too many words and too few

I made myself a promise, when I first started blogging, that I wouldn’t let myself get stressed if I didn’t write anything for a while.  Nevertheless, when days go by with posting, thoughts of the blog turn into a constant background process in my mind.  Do I have anything to say?

Life has been a stretch of ups and downs lately, with the downs hitting harder than the ups.  I tried a new brain med, which was great, then my psychiatrist upped the dose, which did not go swimmingly, so we backed off, which walloped my mood with the darkness of withdrawal.  Self-care has been the order of the day these last few weeks.

It doesn’t feel like I have much to say right now, no grand blog topics on which to opine.  I can speak of sofas and knitting needles, of novels and Netflix, and of the fluffy ball of purr currently sprawled on the desk next to my computer.  My powers of thought are worn out by the end of the day.  Nothing to say.

And yet somewhere beyond words, tucked away behind a wall of exhaustion, are a mess of thoughts and feelings, so many and so muddled that they can’t find their way to a coherent sentence on my tongue.  Things I want to say.  Things I’m afraid to say.  Things that I just don’t know.

Like how I’ve managed to fall into a side project at school, and it’s totally frustrating and aggravating and I don’t think I can live up to their expectations.  But I can’t back out now—they’re counting on me for the last pieces of a grant proposal that’s due in two weeks.

Like how I just sent my co-authors another draft of a paper for a much better project, but my mind was so numb by the end of the day that I’m worried I missed something important.

Like how the darkness tells me I will never finish my PhD, that I am too slow, that everything takes just far too long.

Like how staying at home with a toddler is so incredibly boring—there, I said it—but I feel like a terrible parent for just browsing social media while he plays with his blocks.  The “bad mother” thoughts are back in force (if they ever really went away); I think they hit hardest when he’s changing the fastest.  Do I talk to him enough?  Should we be singing more songs, playing more games?  Look at how much fun he has with his father.  What if I’m the lesser parent?

Like how the lunches need making, the kid needs bathed, and the clothes need putting away.  And how tomorrow I’ll have to get up and do it all over again.

The blessing of Tylenol

Little Boy woke in the night with a mid-level fever, moaning and crying and generally unhappy.  I gave him an age-appropriate dose of Tylenol, then sat back in the rocking chair to soothe his wee self.  As we snuggled, his hot head pressing against my shoulder, I felt a surge of gratitude for that basic drug, and for all of modern medicine.  I don’t have to sit through the night, listening to his cries of discomfort and praying for the fever to break.  I can make him comfortable and loved and relaxed and give him the sleep his body needs.

What’s your favorite part of modern medicine? 

Of toddlers and tantrums

As you might have deduced from that last post, Little Boy has entered the tantrum age.  He’s smart and curious and loving and he makes noises that sound like a cute gremlin and he giggles like crazy when we tuck him in at night—and he throws a fit when he doesn’t get his way.  Sometimes those fits are rather dramatic.  He’ll fling himself on the ground and angrily refuse all attempts at comfort.

You know what?  I kind of get it.

Some people say tantrums as kids trying to get their way, but I don’t think they’re that, not really.  Trying to get his way comes before the tantrum, when Little Boy communicates via word and gesture the thing it is that he so desperately wants.  Despite a vocabulary of less than a dozen words, it’s usually pretty easy to understand him.

No, the tantrum is the frustration at being denied.  It’s an expression of the anger and vexation and helplessness that comes when you don’t understand why Mommy said no, we can’t put on our shoes and go to the park right now.  I suppose that a kid could learn that tantrums get them what they want, depending on the parent’s response, but they don’t start out that way.

When I say I get it, what I mean is this: I know what it’s like to feel hopelessly frustrated, to the point of great anguish, by something that’s out of my control.  I know what it’s like to be angry about something other people think is totally irrational, or even by something I think is irrational.  Little Boy is experiencing totally valid feelings, even if he’s acting on them in a somewhat socially inappropriate way.

Which isn’t to say that Little Boy’s tantrums aren’t sometimes frustrating and tiresome for me and his dad.  Just that I get where he’s coming from.

An honest chat between parents

My husband and I often touch base on chat when we first arrive at our workstations.  Here’s how that went this morning, when I got to campus after dropping Little Boy off at daycare:

Me:  At school.  Grumpy boy this morning.

Husband:  No kidding.

Me:  He was OK playing with stuff while I signed him in, but got very sad when I handed him to [Teacher A] outside.

Husband:  I don’t know what’s up with him lately.

Me:  Me neither.

Husband:  Well, daycare’s problem for a while.

Me:  Yes, thank goodness.

Husband: #realparents

Me:  “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!”*

Husband:  Heck yes.

Me:  I think it used to be more culturally acceptable to say that.  Now we have to go through this act of how much we miss our kids when they start school.**

Husband:  Bleh. 

Husband:  I’m going to channel Red Forman.

Me:  LOL
 

*For those who don’t immediately recognize it, this is a line from the carol “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

**To be fair, I did miss Little Boy when he started daycare.  But that was one of the best things that’s ever happened for our mother-son relationship.

Our evolving toddler TV policy, part II

Following up on my post about our evolving toddler TV policy, I have a few other thoughts on kids and screen time that I wanted to share:

  • The original post was in no way meant to cast aspersions on parents who let their toddlers watch more or less TV than we do.  Rather, it was intended to be a “here’s one approach and why we take it” post.  Just an example.  As with most parenting choices, there’s a wide range of options that are perfectly fine.  Unless you’re letting your two-year-old watch Game of Thrones, you’re probably OK.
  • When we’re sick, the rules largely go out the window.  I was feeling awful yesterday and Little Boy was getting over a bad cold, so we pretty much just camped in the living room and watched a rotation of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Curious George, and Sesame Street (for him), and Property Brothers and House Hunters (for me).  Except for when Sesame Street was on, Little Boy got bored and played with his toys instead.  I guess we technically weren’t violating our house rule against unsupervised TV, come to think of it.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy against screen time starts by telling us that children aren’t learning from TV before age 2.  Which is fair, if a little conservative in my opinion.  Baby Einstein isn’t going to make your infant a genius.  The second part of the policy, though, warns us that parents speak fewer words when the TV is on, depriving kids of valuable interaction.  Here’s the thing, though: In reality, it’s not a choice between TV and a pair of ideal, chatty, energetic parents.  It’s a choice between TV and Little Boy’s real parents, who are sometimes tired, quiet, and introverted.  If the TV wasn’t on at times, we’d probably be watching Little Boy play while scanning the news on our iPads.  We do plenty of talking and reading and playing, but we’re real human beings and we don’t do those things 100% of the time, TV or no.

That last point is one that’s always worth bearing in mind, I think.  In parenting, you’re rarely making choices between something perfect and something not.  You’re making choices between two imperfect options and looking for the one that works best for your family.  And that’s going to depend a lot on who you are, and who your kid is, and what your circumstances are.  Anyone who says there’s One True Way is full of crap.