Tuesday, August 2, 2016

9 Pre-Toddler Survival Tips

Every night, as we get my son ready for bed, I muse over how he looks just a bit more like a little boy and a bit less like a baby than he did the night before. Some nights, I look wistfully at his now-discarded baby swing and feel weepy. Some nights I pour a big glass of wine and revel at how my big boy sleeps 11 hours straight. Some nights, I weep into my wine.

For you new moms out there, get ready. It happens so much sooner than you think it will!

If you are about to celebrate your child’s six month birthday, or just want to think about a time when you get to sleep 8 hours straight, then now is a good time to learn the tips, tricks, and realities of a pre-toddler.  

1.       Improvised movement is FAST. Even before my son started crawling, he could get from the spot safely by my side to the closest choking hazard in the time it took me to like a Facebook status. Trust me- pre-toddlers don’t have to be crawling to find their way into mayhem. Learn to keep one eye on them at all times- they are like little landmines.

2.       Puffs are a must. I used to watch other people give these kids these mushy balls of air, gross out, and think “not my kid.” However, my eight month old is shockingly stubborn when it comes to grabbing chunks of foie gras, so puffs have been really helpful in teaching him to pick up food and feed himself.

3.       Store brand is just fine. When I acquiesced to the puffs, I went out and bought organic, grain-free, sugar-free quinoa and kale puffs. I was going to teach my child healthy eating right away! I soon discovered that kids are born knowing only two things: how to suck, and that your organic, grain-free, sugar-free quinoa and kale puffs are bullshit. I guess nine months of a steady cake diet in utero gives you the ability to understand when you’re being denied sugar.

4.       Sleep is a gift. As soon as you take it for granted, someone (in this case, your little tyrant) takes it away. There are separation anxiety, growth spurts, ear infections, teething, and just general lack of consideration at play during the last half of the first year. However, rest easy because now these are periodic disruptions. You will still likely get to sleep WAY more than you did a few months back.

5.       Your kid can start screwing with other people, and there is very little you can do about it. Just learn to accept it. My little angel had frequent ear pain, and he coped through biting. Usually he bit things, or me. However, I did bring home his first Incident Report from day care when he decided to chow down on a little girl’s leg. And OF COURSE he didn’t pick the kid of uptight pencil-skirt mom who wouldn’t wave at me in the parking lot. He picked the kid of the cool mom that I Facebook stalked a little in the hopes that we would become mom friends. I then felt awkward saying “hey, want to grab dinner sometime and talk about how your kid was my kid’s lunch today?”

6.       Changing diapers becomes like trying to put a onesie on a squid. Did you think it was hard when they were newborns and screamed and thrashed? Oh, honey. That was just training. Now that dirty butt is a moving target, which may or may not be poop-painting your living room while you try to wrestle the kid that is enthralled by their newfound ability to move.

7.       You do not need to buy a ton of toys. Really. Our $100 exercise thingy is collecting dust. All of those “educationally approved” toys I comparison shopped for have been way more exciting to the dog. Yesterday, my child banged on a pot on my kitchen floor for thirty minutes, and then tried to fit my entire yoga ball into his mouth for another 20. Voila. Dinner was made, he was ecstatic, and had started to learn spatial reasoning skills (i.e. I hope he has begun to understand that the entire yoga ball will not fit in his mouth).

8.       Your kid will reach for you, dive into your lap, and demand to be cuddled. And it is AWESOME and EXHAUSTING. At month six I was so excited that he could play solo for 5 or 10 minutes so I could pee or have a cup of coffee. By month eight, he screamed if I left the room. My inner guilty working mom was delighted by the evidence that he did love and need me. My inner pragmatist REALLY needed that cup of coffee.

9.       Every day is a little harder and a little easier. Now you aren’t as sleep deprived, but your knees might ache from playing pack mule. Now your child can entertain himself for a few minutes and free you up to do other things, but he can also climb into the fireplace to recreate a scene or two from Mary Poppins. Now your child eats some solid foods and isn’t permanently attached to your nipple, but feeding him takes pre-planning and shopping trips and strained peas are really hard to get out of your hair.

All in all, I sometimes miss the joys of the newborn days. There are few experiences that compare to the first time your baby smiles at you, or feeling a tiny little being fall asleep on your chest. Nonetheless, my kid is a person now. He has opinions, adorable, maddening opinions. He discovers new things every day. He grins from ear to ear when I pick him up at day care. I am not sure I would trade one minute of it in.

OK, maybe one minute… or twenty. That’s a shower and a cup of coffee!

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