Well, another year gone, another blog ignored. If you could all just be here for the witty observations as they happen in real time, I wouldn’t have to write this. (Pretty inconsiderate of you, if you ask me.) But since you’re not here and I still have a head full of observations…
Our sweet Rigby is about to turn 2 whole years old. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did. Around his first birthday, I wrote that he was a full-fledged toddler. HAH! Kudos to all you parents out there who didn’t publicly shame me for thinking that’s as “toddler” as it gets. He no longer needs a destination to start running, and at a mere 23 months he has the reach of an NBA forward. He talks now, too. Well, sort of. His vocabulary is expanding every day (whose isn’t?) and his comprehension level is amazing. Sadly, that probably means he’ll be swearing soon. His gorgeous hair is still all most people can talk about when they see him for the first time…I try not to get offended when they ask where he got it. And he’s still wonderfully independent. His toys of choice are simple: give him a book or some legos and he’ll entertain himself for an hour. (However, give him a toothbrush, and he’ll fight to the death to keep his little fingers wrapped around it so he can do things without any help from his moms.)
As I’ve watched Rigby’s progress over the last year, I’ve made a mental list of a few helpful tips for parents of toddlers. I could give a disclaimer about how this advice is not from a professional, but the way I figure it, anyone who has parented a toddler for more than 10 consecutive minutes is a pro.
A boy is not a girl. Seems like an elementary reminder, but when it comes to toddlers, this has real meaning. Little girls like to sit and read, sit and color, sit and play with toys. From my experience, little boys barely sit down to eat. Rigby seriously doesn’t stop moving during the waking hours. Fortunately this means he’s usually tired when it’s time to sleep. So let your little boy run – take him on those slightly embarassing walks outside nice restaurants; ignore the common-sense-meter that goes off in your head when you see him headed the opposite direction on the beach; and just move your furniture around to create some more running space in the house. Chasing toddlers burns calories, and wears them out in the process. Win-win.
Your child will talk eventually. I know every expert has already told you this, and if you think you have a late-talker, you’re not buying it anyway. But it’s true. I thought we’d never hear him say more than “dog” or “dad” (grr), but Rigby’s first words have come flooding out in the past few weeks. He now counts to 10 – with particular attention to 2 and 8 – and says his abc’s (ok, 18 out of 26 isn’t bad). So what if your friend’s 9-month-old is reading Shakespeare out loud? Your kid will amaze you with his smarts just as soon as he’s ready. And since there is no sound cuter than toddlers having full conversations without actually saying words, bask in the adorableness as long as it lasts.
Treat every child like the youngest. I’ve heard parents of more than one child say that with each baby born, the rules get progressively more lax. The first-born is virtually cocooned in bubble-wrap until she reaches age 16, and the 3rd child gets to do relay races in a meadow of broken glass. I say treat them all like they’re the baby. This is a lesson I had to learn from MKL. I was all ready to start wrapping Rigby in plastic when I realized that she not only let him do things that made me gasp, but she encouraged it. Now, it’s not as though we’ve put his crib in the middle of the road for naptime, but if he wants to run up and down the hill in our backyard, why not? Jumping on the couch? You bet. If he falls, he falls. And because she lets him fall (and I do my best to follow suit), he handles each fall brilliantly. Just wipes his hands off, points to anything that might hurt, and moves on with very little fanfare. As it turns out, children are not made of tissue paper, and ours is fearless.
Ignore your child. There. I said it. Sometimes you just have to pretend they’re not there, both for your sanity and their development. Rigby is a well-adjusted, self-sufficient kid, and I think a lot of it has to do with how we react to him – or more to the point – how we don’t react to him. He’s reaching the age where he cries for any reason: I want to read a book, I don’t want to read a book, I want to go outside, I don’t want to put my shoes on, I don’t want to take a bath, my bath is over, etc. The key for us is to avoid giving in every time he makes a whiny noise. For as long as we can take it, we start a conversation with one another and try to pretend the ear-shattering screeching isn’t happening. And in a few minutes, he’s done. He has found something to distract him from whatever made him mad, and he’s back to his giggly self. That, or we find ourselves 6 verses into Old MacDonald and having built a lego tower while blowing bubbles in an effort to take his mind off things. (Note that this tip is not applicable in public. Just because your child’s every noise sounds like a choir of angels to you, doesn’t mean everyone else wants to hear the concert.)
Toddlers are hard. For serious. They don’t care what your priorities are, or what you expect them to be doing at any given moment. But at this age they’re also learning how to show unsolicited – and in Rigby’s case, unlimited – affection. The occasional whining, the constant running, and the lack of full sentences are a small price to pay in exchange for hugs and kisses from my boy.