Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
To-Do Before Baby B Numero Dos Arrives:
Pack hospital bag
Nap my face off
Move Harper out of the nursery
Channel Wendy Peffercorn and lotion and oil, oil and lotion the belly
Teach Harper the art of independence…
Um, maybe the last one isn’t exactly attainable in six weeks and truthfully, it’s probably a labor of parenting love but sometimes, I think I could kick it up a notch in the “fostering independence in our toddler” department.
Word on the street from more experienced mothers is that it’s easier to transition from one to two children if the first is relatively independent.
The thing is, she’s my first. I’m not exactly clear on when it’s realistic for her to do certain things on her own.
When I saw my friend’s 22-month-old change outfits seven times during the course of a morning play-date, my jaw fell to the floor. My daughter has never stripped a day in her life (a record I’d like to keep as a parent), but her playmate’s quick change ability made me think that the Harpinator is ready to master the art of changing her own clothes.
She’s coming into a fierce “I’ll do it myself” stage, which is helpful in fostering independence but as I stated, I’m not so sure what’s reasonable for someone of her miniature stature and age to do. I don’t mean to underestimate her, I’m just parenting from a place of “I’ve never done this before kid. Let’s just make it up as we go along. And yes, I’m still peeling your bananas, tszujing your hair, spooning a few mouthfuls of eggs into your open mouth, and squeezing the last morsels of GoGurt out of the tube for you because it never occurred to me not to. ”
Observing my friend’s daughter go to the bathroom was also a game changer. While helping Harper wash her hands, I saw this baby take herself to the bathroom, do her business, deposit it from her training toilet into the adult toilet, wash up, and continue on her way. What the miracle of miracles did I just witness?
Harper has never gone to the bathroom by herself. She’s always escorted by us, her loving but perhaps overly accommodating parentals. We help her with all the bathroom nitty gritty and then continue on our way.
This play-date turned revelation of independence really got me thinking.
I understand that the independence game with toddlers can be a tricky balance. Enter opinions, standoffs, and sometimes feeling like the ol’ house has turned into a nudest colony. But most days, I think I’d take a nudist colony instead of trying to wrestle a small cyclone into her clothes.
While I may be guilty of aiding and abetting a bit of first born child co-dependency, please don’t think this is my ultimate intention. I believe in independence in children. I just don’t really always know how to go about teaching it.
We do teach her to pick up after herself; she puts her clothes and shoes away, and she helps unload the dishwasher. She’s really a great little helper. We do chores together everyday. She’s earning her keep.
I guess I am looking to you oh wiser more experienced mothers, what are reasonable expectations for a 2.5 tiny human to do? What tasks would be most beneficial to have her master before the new baby arrives? Getting herself dressed? Solo bathroom trips? Mowing the lawn? Paying the bills?
Friday, September 28th, 2012
How do you tell a toddler for whom the concept of time is elusive and really just a permanent state of Veruca Salt’s “I want it now!” syndrome that their life is about to change for-ev-ER in…9 months? I’m still not sure I know the answer, but I am sure I was overly and unnecessarily terrified that the way in which we told our daughter about the new baby would potentially cause her undue psychological damage.
Like the serial worrier that I am, before we told her, I looked to the infinite source of wisdom for some answers, Google. Lo and behold, I didn’t yield anything that promised to be the foolproof antithesis of psychological damage technique. I did read that at her age of 2, I should not expect it to resonate with her or even garner a response.
To our advantage, she does love herself a baby…for .03 seconds, long enough to say in an adorably sickening high pitched voice, “a baby, oh it’s sooooo sweet” before she’s off jumping on couches or pretending she’s John Smith from Disney’s Pocahontas.
Prepared for anything, I figured the best route was to just talk first to her about babies. With unpredictability being the name of the game we proceeded with caution but excitement and my astute parenting mantra: “let’s just wing it.”
Our exchange proceeded a little something like this:
Me: H, how do you hold a baby? (She proceeds to cradle her baby doll, albeit at an arm’s length but with tenderness).
Me: How do you burp a baby? (She does her best attempt at a sweet burp on the back of the baby’s neck).
Me: How do you hug a baby? (Cue her affectionate death squeeze).
Me: Are babies so sweet? (Cue her sickeningly sweet baby voice).
And here’s where it happened. I told her a new baby was going to join our family and she was going to be a big sister. And with her head at a tilt and a thoughtful pause, she looked at me and my husband and said, “I don’t want to scare her.”
Come again? Scare her? What kind of MONSTER are we raising? What does that mean? Quick internal worry meter, analyze that.
I gave some reassuring response that I winged of course, and then she asked, “Who’s coming tomorrow?” Ah, poor, sweet thing, the concept of time is a rough one. Even now, when people ask her what’s in my belly she’ll just rattle off what I had for lunch.
And finally, she asked, “Who’s going to hold her?”
I remembered what Google said to make it inclusive and say “EVERYONE,” especially her, and not to emphasize me in the new baby situation.
Satisfied, she switched the subject, we did the rest of our nightly routine and off to bed she went. As I jotted down her responses I came back to “I don’t want to scare her.”
Despite my initial panic, in retrospect, I think this is the highest compliment a toddler can give. There are few outside stresses, worries or fears in toddler-hood. They do not know the adult world of anxiety and excessive worry yet. The thing toddlers do know is the immediacy of being scared. They can be scared of the garbage truck, blenders, vacuums, pooping, a pesky fly, the wind, or whatever strikes their toddler nerve that day. But their worries are usually immediate or anticipatory, and rarely long term.
In reality, it seems her assertion that “she’s not going to scare her” is the toddler equivalent of protection, love, and devotion. It is how I hope she views us as her parents, people who won’t scare her but will always love and protect her even as our family grows and changes.
With my “wing it” method earning another gold star and my mother chest puffed with pride, I feel certain our little girl will be an excellent, loving, overbearing big sister.