The newest (and most stressful) addition to his repertoire of toddlerdom is climbing. He’s really, really good at getting up, but he kind of sucks at getting down. He likes to try and climb out of his crib. He’s a shortstack, though, so all he manages to do is get one chubby little leg caught, which results in panicked screaming and Mommy coming at a dead-run to disengage said chubby leg. I even contacted a “parenting expert” about it, and they assured me that since the railing of the crib is still only at chin-level, it doesn’t pose a danger. He won’t fall out, they told me. And he’ll learn that getting his leg caught isn’t fun.
Have you met my son?
The other day, as I was switching out laundry, he scared the crap out of me. (Some of you may have noticed that a lot of my stories began, “As I was switching out laundry.” That’s because my son isn’t allowed in our laundry room, due to the fact that it’s crammed with fishing poles and power tools as well as a washer and drier. And I’ve learned to be fast about it…but, well, nothing is as fast as an unobserved toddler.)
So, anyhow, yesterday, as I was switching out laundry, my son managed to climb on top of the kitchen table. As I shut my drier and turned back to the kitchen, my son stood triumphantly on the tabletop, lit candle a mere inches away from his knee…I immediately grabbed him up and set him on the floor and began the whole, “That could make an owie!” speech, which has about as much effect on my son as a speech on metaphysics and the meaning of God. No sooner had I finished then he was pulling out a kitchen chair and pulling himself onto it in an effort to make it to the tabletop again. (By the way, he also had his first bloody nose yesterday, and yes, it’s directly related, and he was squirming to get back up on a chair before Daddy even got the blood flow stopped.)
See, my son can fall off of something 9 times in a row, and still climb up for round number 10. It’s the same when he gets told “no-no.“ When I’m frustrated, it’s easy for me to attribute this kind of behavior to stubbornness. When I’m in a good mood, I attribute this behavior to optimism, because I know, in his heart, my son fully believes that this will be the time it will work, that this will be the time Mama will say yes.
But the truth is, I think we’re in an incredibly awkward / difficult stage where his physical abilities are more advanced than his cognitive. And although I’m proud of all of his achievements, there are times when I think it would be much easier if things were flipped. I mean, the kid can actually do the hokey pokey (thanks to his obsession with the Hokey Pokey Elmo), complete with spins and all…but he doesn’t understand why it’s a bad idea to do it on the coffee table.
It makes me think back to my pregnancy, because see, even then, my son was active. And not just by my standards, but by my doctor’s and the ultrasound technologists, as well. We had to have lots of sonograms, because my son was so rowdy while in the womb that they were lucky to get 3 or 4 major measurements before the tech would give up and schedule another. My doctor didn’t even have me do kick-counts, because Junior met his quota within the first 45 minutes of the day. And she warned me then that there was a direct correlation between active fetuses and active babies. (Of course, I understood that by “active” she meant “genius” and “perfect.”)
But this says to me that this is who he is, and who he always has been. I don’t have to look any further than his own father to figure out why. The proud mom part of me loves the fact that he’s so fearless and energetic. The protective mom part of me wonders how many odd looks I would get if I encased him in padding and topped him off with a helmet. The mom-part of me that wants to be reasonable, though, knows that I need to help us both find a halfway ground between letting him scale the fridge and duct-taping him to his mattress. I want him to be fearless…with boundaries.
|No, Mom, YOU sit down.|
And so, I let him climb…within reason. Once he’s reached the top, he knows he has to sit on his bottom, and he usually does. I don’t let him ascend the kitchen table, but I do pull the kitchen chairs into the living room (carpet) and let him clamber around on them out there. I’ve decided that he’s going to do it anyhow…I might as well let him get good at it. And yes, he tumbles, and yes, he sometimes cries, and yes, I question this decision right along with every other major and minor parenting decision I’ve ever made and yes, I have eyed the feet on his pajamas and contemplated tying them together.
So, it‘s official. We have entered the realm of toddlerhood. It’s a maddening, enchanting age, a sweet and horrible pause between babydom and childhood. His cheeks are still round but I catch glimpses of what he’s going to look like - and ladies, he’s going to be a heartbreaker. He’s too cool to hold my hand, but he hugs me tight around my neck and presses his cheek to mine all the time…and I store those moments up, collect them, hoard them like a miser. His face is gaining permanence and character and definition…but oh, when he falls asleep on my chest, open-mouthed and blowing bubbles, eyelashes an inch-long, smelling and feeling and looking just the way a baby ought to…I think, “You’re still so little,” and have to resist the urge to swaddle him.
Tonight, I sat on the couch and read Things Fall Apart (a fitting title) while my son sat on a kitchen chair about 6 inches away from me and perused Good Night, Moon while drinking his milk. And I kept looking at him - the way he was sitting so that his legs dangled like a big kid, book held in his lap, bath-damp hair combed back from his eyes - and he would look back at me and grin, this big, pleased, 11 ½-toothed grin, like, “Hey, Mom, ain’t this great?” We were just hanging out, you see, just two people enjoying some good literature...
…Until he stood up on the chair, threw the book down, and pooped his pants while squealing, “Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaah.”