We officially have a toddler now. I’m not sure what to do with this information because as far as I know, we have a baby. He’s a baby. He’ll be a baby when he’s 32 and about to get married (if he so chooses) and needs to tell me to shut up because “I’m not a baby, mom” and I’ll weep because “YOU’LL ALWAYS BE MY BABY” and my whole life will flash before my eyes and suddenly I’ll understand my mother.
But he’s a toddler now, officially.
We had a small, family birthday party for him on September 29, his exact birthday. It fell on a Saturday because the Gods of Planning were shining upon us on the day he was born. It was perfect and he was perfect and excuse me, I’m weeping because my tiny baby — my potato — is one. Inching toward 14 months, if we’re getting technical, which we’re not, because counting months gets complex after one.
He’ll be one until he’s two.
No, he isn’t walking yet, but he’s crawling up a storm. Finally. In the last month he’s also gotten the hang of pulling himself up onto the furniture — the coffee table, the couch, the wall, his crib, the bookshelf in his room that desperately needs to be secured before it topples over and all my worst nightmares come true. Most mornings when we go to his room to spring him from his crib, he’s already waiting. Head peeked over the crib rail, all eight teeth grinning at us. There are teeth marks on the rail.
I assume he’s learned his chewing skills from Luna.
And yes, he remains perpetually happy. Although a recent cold knocked him down a few pegs on the joy scale. We had a rough week of crummy naps, cranky moods, shitty sleep and a runny nose. I think he’s got a few more teeth on the verge of arrival, too. Since he’s a toddler now — sniffle — molars are on the horizon. Ouch.
While we’re on the topic of milestones, let me offer some advice on small talk with your mom friends.
“Is he walking yet?”
It’s such an innocent question. Harmless. Good small talk. But, lord, it gives me anxiety. Babies (and toddlers) are all over the place while learning and growing and becoming people. I know babies who were walking at 8 months old. Some not until they were 2. I feel like Owen has been very much on his own timeline — slower to sit up, slower to crawl, and certainly slower to walk.
He got plenty of teeth very early, but that doesn’t feel as advanced as a walking 8-month-old, you know?
Moms of babies across the world are filled with angst over these milestones and timelines. We fret that we’re doing something wrong or that something is wrong when our children aren’t hitting milestones at the rate which society deems appropriate. When I see babies Owen’s age using words or basically applying to college, I have to remind myself that the tiny person isn’t being skilled at me. That Owen will walk (or talk or eat more advanced foods or, as he did, crawl) when he’s good and ready.
So, in common, innocent small talk, when someone asks, “Is he walking yet?” I feel as though I need to justify the reason he’s not.
“Well no, not yet, but did you know he was premature? He can crawl really well! Finally! Boy, he’s cute. He has 8 teeth!”
I feel anxious. Like I failed him by not teaching him to walk yet (even though I know that’s not how it works). Even though I know I’m not being asked the question as a test of my parenting abilities or Owen’s validity as a human.
Here are better options:
“What new skill has been exciting lately?”
“Tell me what Owen’s learned these days.”
“Did you know that babies with 8 teeth are predisposed to be geniuses?”
Just kidding on that last one. But do you see the difference? It shifts the conversation from yes or no, and therefore something that’s so easy to incite a feeling of failure, to something more gentle and open.
Related: DO YOU SEE WHAT IT IS TO BE A MOM? These feelings of inadequacy run deep. Something tells me this never, ever, ever goes away.
But holy shit, do I still love being his mom. I toiled for hours (AND HOURS) (days, really) on a video for his birthday (I promise to upload it one day and share it here) that consisted of one photo from every single day of his first year. I set it to handpicked songs that I can’t even listen to anymore without crying. (“Lullabye” from Billy Joel? COME ON, NOW). We watched it on his birthday, squawking over his early weeks, while I wiped an endless stream of tears and snot onto the sleeve of my shirt.
HE WAS SO SMALL.
I MISS IT SO MUCH.
I feared that I loved the newborn stage so much (and I did) that I’d be less enthusiastic (and less good at this job of mom) as he got older. That he’d be less cute (LOLOL) and the entire parenting gig would be less enjoyable. All of these fears have proven 100 percent false, and part of that may be because we lucked the hell out and got an incredibly easy-going and low-maintenance baby. But still. I’m enjoying every new stage as much, and more, as the one before.
I remain PETRIFIED of his teenage years and will remain petrified until, well, forever, but for the moment, I am in love with this role. For now I get to feel unconditional love. He knows me, he recognizes me, he reaches for me, he chooses me.
I will always remember, very early on, when newborn Owen struggled through a few weeks of colic and reflux and screaming, when I’d hold him and cry because I was 100 percent out of ways to soothe him, and Todd said, “One day he’s going recognize you and look up at you and smile, and all of this hard stuff will be worth it.”
HE WAS RIGHT.
That isn’t to say anything wasn’t worth it, but we’re here now. In this place where our baby (TODDLER) knows who we are, reacts to our actions and words, smiles at us constantly, and works so hard at forming the words to express his big baby feelings. He’s got a personality and opinions and so many abilities to show them to us. He reaches toward us, crawls toward us (and away and down the hall and over the dog and into the bathroom and behind the chair…), he babbles “ma ma ma ma ma” and “da da da da da” and “ba ba ba ba ba” and nine other variations thereof. He’s our little person who smiles at us and I forgot how much despair I felt when nothing I could do for him would soothe or calm his cries.
Those smiles are worth it.
Todd was right, and he’s currently taking a mental note of this moment because “you were right” is often spoken in our household, but the words are coming from his mouth. Because I was right. I am right. A lot. Shh, those are the rules.
But he makes some mean waffles, so his wrongs are forgotten.
We like him.