When Ted was just born, I was pouring all my energy into keeping him safe. I was all about making sure he was fed, warm, and happy. It was physically exhausting, but at the core it wasn’t extremely complicated. There were things he shouldn’t play with, things he shouldn’t eat, but the rest was simple. DH and I had a rough idea of where we were going with parenting, and soon enough it was smooth sailing.
As Ted’s running into his second year and learning to make his own fun, however, there are more and more unknowns, more and more things we haven’t decided. Things that, it would seem, matter to our child’s future an awful lot.
As other moms in my PEPS group discuss the best neighborhoods for raising children and possible preschool choices, I’m left wondering how I could have let that one slide, and what else I’m missing. (Okay, I grew up in a different country and was “home-schooled” until I was six and somebody told my mother I was too old to be left blissfully kicking it the country with my grandparents, but still…)
So here it is - there’s a lot I need to learn about what’s coming, and I want to get this as right as I can to give Ted the best possible start, but there are only so many hours in a day, and he’s been sleeping less and less. Being a stay-at-home-mom is a luxury, but, the way I see it, it’s also an obligation - I’d rather spend quality time with my child when he’s up, so the only time left for me to learn how to be a better parent is in the evenings, when he sleeps. (I’ve got a stack of parenting books ready, but when I try reading while he’s playing, he comes over, climbs in my lap, and starts turning the pages.)
Something’s gotta give, and this something has to be blogging. I’ve never been particularly good at it, I don’t have a wonderfully efficient process that lets me just push stuff out there fast, so it always takes me a long time to put anything coherent together. I’ve been doing my best to be timely about anything that happens, but that often means staying up ridiculously late. (Which also doesn’t make DH particularly happy, as over and over again his attempts to spend time together in the evenings get shot down with a, “Later maybe, hon… I’m blogging now.”) After over fifteen months, I’m too tired to keep up. It’s time to say good-bye.
Thank you for keeping us company this far.
It’s only age-appropriate that Ted should enjoy scribbling (pictured here eating the ink instead). This morning, however, he blew our minds by telling us what he drew:
Airplane! (the thick knot of purple lines in the middle)
He was messing around with his pens and crayons as usual, practicing pulling the caps off and threatening to draw on the wall. Redirected back to the paper, he did lots of usual dots and lines, then a few big shapes. Some were rounded, and I pointed out one that could almost be a circle, and a nearby one that was a very good triangle. At that, Ted got excited, gave me a big grin and started deliberately drawing between the shapes I showed him.
When he finished, he looked up and signed “airplane”.
I realised then that I had no idea what the natural progression in children’s drawing skills is supposed to be. I thought 15 months was a little early for purposeful action and the use of symbols to represent reality, but it seemed just as likely that other children simply might not have had the signs to name their efforts this soon.
I did what I do then, and quickly searched the Internet. This article on when children draw sums it all up very well. In passing, it also mentions the point about “talent” I’ve been coming up across a lot recently: there’s no such thing. Start them early, keep their practice intensive and focused, and you’ve got yourself a Pollock:
Both equally fascinated by urination.
The weather turned nice again, so we crowbarred Ted into the car seat and took him on a three-hour round trip to the Skagit Tulip Festival. Because, you know, toddlers looove long car journeys and flower-based tourist activities:
Those tulips are called “Seattle”?… Like, wow.
Why, mother, whyyyy?!! Why do you want me to sit here and “look cute”?
Tulip? At a tulip farm? Whoop-dee-doo!
Daddy, look! A bubble!… Let’s make it pop!
Whaaat-ever! You won’t let me pop mud bubbles, you won’t let me take off my clothes… I’m outta here!
This morning, he pulled out all the sippy cups he could find and my water bottle. Then proceeded to perform a taste test… It would seem water’s best out of mommy’s bottle.
Adam Gopnik, A Point of View: Science, magic, and madness
When it comes to research and babies, I’m of two minds. On one hand, if I’m so keen on using research-supported child-rearing techniques, it stands to reason I shouldn’t mind helping with said research. On the other hand, it’s not me helping, it’s Ted. And Ted occasionally minds. And when he’s upset, I’m upset.
The study I dragged him to today was about fairness - how children perceive it and whether it influences their choices of playmates. I thought it interesting. The research setting sounded like something Ted might actually enjoy as well - actors, toys, and enough task variation to keep him focused.
It worked. He watched intently as a couple of different researches divided toys among their friends. I was asked to close my eyes at crucial moments so I wouldn’t know who was being fair and who wasn’t, in case Ted could read my cues later. Then, he was offered toys and a chance to play with those researchers. Afterwards, I found out he was happy to take toys away from the unfair one, but preferred playing with the other.
There were a few moments he could have joined in, but didn’t, and it seemed to surprise the lead researcher, but it made me a little proud instead, because Ted was obviously waiting for the person to finish playing with the toy before going for it himself. All those times in playgroups and at toddler gyms, patiently reminding children to wait their turn, have actually paid off!
We weren’t able to snap any pics, so instead here’s one taken by an assistant during our last attempt at taking part in a language development study:
I was wearing a hat in solidarity with Ted, and it did help keep him happy long enough to run the test, but that was when we decided anything that called for technicians getting him into any form of restraint was out of the question. Ten minutes in a cap having his head mapped by a stranger didn’t get him into a friendly frame of mind, and it took all of my clowning skills and then some to get him back up to giggles.
As Ted gets more aware and more mobile, there are fewer and fewer things I find essential. He’s better at making do. I’m happier letting him play with whatever. Why shell out on a toy cookware set, when he’s just as happy with an old milk pan, some tupperware and a few wooden spoons?
I’m also increasingly conscious of the fact that Ted is his own person, and our relationship is highly idiosyncratic. If you’re into similar stuff or have similar issues (e.g. the play-with-me-or-else “horror hour” right before dinner), by all means use the list below for some ideas. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and know we love you just the way you are, you formula/breastmilk-fed, cloth/disposables-diapered, sleep-trained or not, wonderful you.
I still haven’t found the perfect animal alphabet (can I please have narwhal for N and no mythical creatures for U, and, seriously, does only ibex start with I?!), but this comes close. The letters are large, the animal drawings attractive, the colors pleasantly cheerful but subdued. The stickers themselves hold well even on difficult walls (we have popcorn, yuck), and can be repositioned quite a few times before the adhesive starts losing strength. Most importantly, Ted loves these.
If you’ve got the time and inclination, these are great. Even if you don’t get the kit, do check out the Baby Sign Language website. No idea why, but the videos are Ted’s favorite thing to watch.
(I’m putting these here because, although we’ve been doing Sign Language with Ted for months, it’s only in the last three that he’s taken too it in earnest, and we’ve had to check the website daily for yet another thing he’s excited about).
Beautiful, unpretentious, and Ted’s favorite book at the moment.
I bought this one because I wanted something more boyish for Ted, but ended up with a book that’s all about friendship, kindness, and body-building toads. It’s a pleasure to read out loud, and Ted has been asking for it at least once a day ever since we got it. My personal favorite.
This is not how I’ve learned English, so I’ve picked those up to get the hang of phonics before Ted needs my help. I showed him the cards when they arrived, and he went instantly crazy for them. Since we’ve been reading them, he’s taken to saying the short /a/ sound whenever he sees an apple, and the long /oo/ when he sees the moon.
Plum organics pouches were adding up, so we got those instead. Washable, freezable, and work for yogurt, too. Now if I could only replicate Plum’s awesome recipes…
No idea how I’ve lived without one. This is the difference it’s made in our lives:
I’ve been quiet of late because I’ve been spending more time reading up on HighScope class plans, making upstairs as child-friendly as possible, entertaining a succession of toddlers, and cleaning up afterwards.
In other words, I’ve joined UrbanSitter, and, apparently, found my niche: emergency babysitting. (Stay-at-home mom with no regular nanny? Need to get to a doctor’s appointment, run some errands, or finally have a date night? Do call!)
My first booking!
A couple of jobs a week seems to work just great. Ted gets the company, and I get some “me” income (that I don’t feel guilty spending on pedicures or a restaurant lunch after the trip to the tot gym). It also helps me think of the day along the plan-do-review lines, and (hopefully) ups my game as a mom.
Ted seems to enjoy the company, though we’ve only had very nice, easy-going children over. Nothing broken, nobody bitten, all lunches finished.
Clean-up time. (Ted’s randomness on the left, a 3.5yo girl’s neat color samples on the right. Mind-bogglingly, walls intact.)
Since we started having other children over, Ted’s become happier about circle time, too. His inability to sit down and pay attention for more than 5 seconds used to be my main worry, so it’s a win-win-win.