Helper girl

Doing the laundry with a helper toddler:

I sort laundry into piles in the hall way. Child starts grabbing random clothes and putting it in piles. I must then give her the right clothes and point her to just one pile. If I dare have her switch piles she will get upset or confused. I therefore must sneak laundry to other piles as quickly as I can.

I take laundry to washing machine while toddler grabs all the wrong clothes to take to the washing machine and I try to get her to take the correct ones.

She then sees the mop, grabs it, and drags it all over the house. I frantically run ahead to grab a glass as the very tall mop handle bumps it. I then try to show her how to mop, to which she gets angry and pulls it away because she wants to do it her own way.

I take laundry from washer to dryer. Toddler grabs dirty clothes and puts them in dryer. I stop toddler, so toddler grabs dirty clothes from another basket to put in dryer. I must then grab damp clothes as fast as I can from the washer to hand to her so she won’t grab any more dirty clothes, while also sneaking damp clothes in to get her the heck out of the laundry room as soon as possible.

 

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Toddlerhood

I can now say that Coraline is 100% toddler.

This weekend I saw that there were some major developments occurring, and now I see the results.

She walks beside me, she cries and gets frustrated when I don’t do as she wants (which is way too often, so I am followed around by a fussing child way more than I would like). I ask her yes-no questions and she nods yes (and might try to say it, barely, sort of). She wants to help EVERY time I cook, sweep, or mop. Her fine motor skills have hit new levels (she can now put the wooden rings on the post on her tower toy as of this weekend). She knows what is right and what is wrong. She knows when she is breaking a rule and when she is being good.

No longer are towels thrown throughout the house, but carefully placed in a box (or upside down stool). She helps put food where it belongs. she asks for someone to play the ukelele (by bringing case and instrument over) and carefully places the bag back where it belongs. She sets her water down carefully, mindful that it might spill.

I want to say I’ll miss the baby stage, but to be honest, I just miss the baby size and smiles.

Babyhood was a very challenging time for me. She was no easy baby, and I am not a baby sort of person. This thinking, strategizimg, mimicking child is far more my style. It is also exhausting.

Player 3 entered the game

One part of becoming a mom is hearing every other mother’s struggles. Challenges of parenting relate to self-identity and self-care, to the typical challenges of children and how best to raise them, but also the challenge of working as a team with your partner.

It reminds me of when I play video games with friends. I am horrible at video games. One friend is amazing at them, and others are pretty decent. In games such as Kirby or Donkey Kong, the one who is very good at video games ends up just carrying my character through the entire map. If Player 1 is left to carry Player 3 through the whole map it becomes even harder for Player 1 to then support Player 2, even though some components of the game are so much easier if two people can help each other.

Even the best relationships hit challenges of navigating this new world with a third player in the game. This third player is so demanding of love, time, and energy. What worked before with players 1 and 2 might not still work.

Often society tells men that their job is to provide safety and financial stability. Women’s job then is everything else. When women are taking on these typical “male” responsibilities instead, still it is common for men to not then take up quite as much of “everything else” because of various other reasons, both biological and societal.

If a man understands that shopping, vacuuming, dishes, cooking, changing diapers, and helping with food and bedtime is also his responsibility, it still is a challenge to know how two people best support each other and divide these tasks in such a way that both partners feel supported and work gets taken care of.

Add to that the individual characteristics of individuals: how do they respond to stress? How do they respond to interrupted sleep? Are they struggling with mental health? Are their relational and emotional needs being met, and how do they respond when those are not? When answers to these questions are negative, then it is natural for there to be low-energy, low-motivation, and further challenges with relationships. With less energy and less motivation comes less action. With less action comes more stress on Player 1.

Little toddler

I am amazed every day by my little experiment’s growth. It isn’t something I truly expected. Changes happen over night.

Yesterday I saw a huge leap in receptive language and she started very noticeably mimicking our speech.

We would mention an object or specific pet or person she was familiar with and she would look, point, and occasionally even repeat the word.

She knows to look for her water when we mention it, she knows now to go to the kitchen with me for breakfast and then to go over to the dining room just based on my words. She knows a friend’s cat named Skylar and even said “kylar” yesterday and looked at the cat of her own choosing after we said it.

This morning I was able to let her loose in our room (it is far from childproof), telling her “dirty” so she wouldn’t dig through laundry, “give me it” when she would throw something on the ground and she would respond.

These changes happen overnight. Before this I see her processing these concepts, but evidence of truly understanding is sporadic and scattered. It’s as if she is understanding but not in every situation, or as if she isn’t fully certain if she knows what we are saying. Then one day she wakes up and suddenly she does.

She repeated a few other words she didn’t understand, too. Bracelet became “basla,” and of course “yeah” when we adults were talking.

At the park yesterday a 3 year old was talking to her non stop, pointing at different places to play. Cora started babbling and pointing where she wanted to play with just the same commanding tone. She was energized, excited, and firm in her directions.

From baby to toddler

So often lately Coraline has said a word that we couldn’t quite guarantee was her truly understanding it. There was significant evidence, but room for doubt. She is just babbling.

This is common with Coraline who will only use any particular skill once for quite some time, observe and consider it some, repeat it once or twice to test the waters, and then try again when she feels she truly understands it (crawling, walking, any skill she has ever acquired has been tested, abandoned, and retried before actively using it like this).

As a person who has actively studied language acquisition in child development, watching this is so fascinating.

As a parent, it has a bit of sorrow. My baby is not a baby. She is a toddler. A child. A kid. My heart hurts just a bit to watch this happening. My child is growing so fast. In one year my baby has changed so drastically. babies crawl. Babies walk. Babies play. But kids talk.

 

Mama. She stopped using it. My suspicion is that it really was being used properly, but it is likely that she concluded it did not get her much of what she wanted and it might not have been a successful acquisition since we know her body language so well that her emotions and actions are more successful. I have always been so in tune with her sounds and emotions that I haven’t really given her space to have any need to use “mama” any more.

Dada seems to work and, for her, the use of it seems to be needed, but again, is it babbling? Yet she understands when we say dada to her now, like when I told her this morning that dada was awake, and she immediately looked at him and blew him a kiss.

Several times so far she has said things like, “Dada, all done” to get his attention to let her get down from her high chair, or just “all done” to me. Again, was it coincidence? And yet she truly was all done, and he was the only one watching her, and she chose that one time that he was reading something and not aware of her to get his attention.

Today though this “all done” was followed by a pause where she looked at me. I looked at her. When I did not respond (I was testing her intentionally), she started rubbing her hands all through her food, which knocked most of it down (a former sign of being done). As soon as I started moving to let her go she went still, waiting patiently.

No more doubt. This girl can talk.

Yesterday we tested her receptive vocabulary by asking her to hand us the _____ stuffed animal. Alligator she seems to be experimenting with (she can say it as “aligala,” but only says it when we are holding it and still was sort of slow to retrieve it when requested), Monkey and Dog though she actively hands to us when we ask for each. Seeing her understand names of animals to such an extent is just shocking.

She has been giving us kisses upon request for a long time, but very often it seemed to be followed with some hesitation. As if she is thinking, I think this action is typically accompanied with this word. Are there exceptions to this rule, ever? As well as confusion if it occurs out of its original context. Now she will blow kisses to her family in any context (when she is in the mood anyway), even upon hearing the word in our casual conversation.

 

Good Friends

Coraline is becoming more familiar with some specific friends of ours. Today 3 came over to visit. She recognized them all and felt comfortable with all of them. When one came first (with whom she is more familiar) while we were outside playing, she lifted her hand toward her, stood up, and toddled her way toward her. A similar behavior happened when Tia came home from work, except this time with a little extra enthusiasm and the demand to be picked up.

Then three more came and she seemed so overly excited. She would toddle between them all as if she didn’t know what to do to engage them, then eventually grabbed different stuffed animals and offered it to them with a cheery “oh!” and promptly would take it back from them (because not everyone knows you’re just supposed to give it a kiss and return it!). At times she seemed so over excited where she’d walk one direction and quickly turn, several times. Even once walking in actual circles where no one was, to which one friend actually started following her in circles and Coraline didn’t even seem to fully understand anything that was happening. It was very much as if she were thinking, “All these people I know and love, and they’re all at MY house this time! What am I even to do???”

Eventually she settled down and figured out how to interact with people and to be a part of the group by sitting with them, begging food off of them, being held, and playing with her toys alongside them. She was very sad when she caught on that I was having her say goodnight, but she fell asleep quite well.

Stubborn sleep

People say to savor the precious times when your child falls asleep in your arms.

I really do now. I won’t tell a newborn’s mom that when all she wants is a moment to not hold her child. But as they age you hold them less and those moments are beautiful.

It isn’t peace for my kiddo. I don’t think it ever has been. She always has forced her little body into just the specific position she wants it. Arms shooting out of swaddles when she was newborn, and now in just the right way snuggled up with a blanket or stuffed animal under her. Nothing soft and gentle about it. This girl never rests unless she is in a stroller watching trees pass by.

When she falls asleep in my arms I see my warrior princess. She is my Xena. At peace, but the peace of stubborness and determination. Her head tilts back, chin out, lips tight, but those dark lashes still resting on her cheeks.