Moments

So often, I open this blog up, and think about writing a post. Often I start a paragraph or two, and then delete it all because it just isn’t coming together. I think I know why this is: it’s because I like to write stories, and life with a toddler is not lived in stories.  Life with a toddler is lived in moments.  I know that with some time and space, those moments will come together into stories. But life with a toddler is also not lived with a lot of time and space. So today, rather than give up before I even begin, I’m going to embrace the randomness of toddler life, and talk about some of those moments.

Like the moment this afternoon when The Engineer’s Toddler tried to copy me saying hippopotamus. She ended up with popom and a big grin, and we moved on.

Or the moment yesterday when she figured out how to get the roundabout at the playground moving and then stepped on for a (very slow) ride.

Or the moment this morning when she sat on the big blue mat at our swimming class, crawled towards me, and pushed herself into the pool for the first time since we joined the group several months ago.

Or the many many moments that she spends saying Ehss (her version of her name) and pointing to her chest proudly.

Or the moment, while on holiday in Mulu, where she put on her adorable little lifejacket, and held my hand with a huge grin while we waited for our boa’ (that’s boat, with a glottal stop instead of the t. Trust me, it’s cute.)

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Even the moment yesterday when she woke up early from her nap and wouldn’t go back to sleep and screamed and signed all done madly and shouted Moose and noi until I turned off the white noise and opened the curtains.

There’s also that moment when she got nearly to her bedroom before running back to me for one last kiss.

And the moment today when she asked me to put a dress on her, then on all her toys, and then her dolls, and wouldn’t take no for an answer when I told her that my big ol’ body wouldn’t fit into her size 1 dresses.

And the moment a couple of weeks ago when we had a big proper tropical downpour and I let her run in the rain at the playground after our toddler tumble session. She definitely liked that moment.

She also liked the moment a couple of days before that when she found a big pile of dry leaves to jump in at the park.

And the moment when I gave her her first ice block. That was a surprisingly short moment, because the afternoon sun is relentless some days, and an iceblock is no match for that heat.

So many of these moments are fleeting, unrepeatable. And that’s part of the wonder of the individual moments and part of the wonder of life with a toddler.  They’re changing, growing, learning at a crazy pace, and it’s amazing to see. Even when it’s sometimes not that much fun.

But among the weird and wonderful flyaway moments, there are those moments I’m so glad to get to repeat over and over.

Like the moment each night when she lies down next to me, requests Baby (that’s Hush, the Kiwi version of Hush Little Baby by Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan, for those unfamiliar with The-Engineer’s-Toddler-speak), and cuddles in as I sing.

I know that moment won’t be a part of our routine forever, but sometimes I certainly wish it would be.

 

 

 

 

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For the days that just suck

When you’re raising a tiny human, there are days that suck. If anyone says otherwise, they either have the perfect unicorn child of which we all occasionally dream, are ridiculously well adjusted, or they’re flat out lying; most likely the latter.

If you don’t watch out, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the relentless day to day hard stuff that is a big part of parenthood. The more you allow that to happen, the more you forget about the magical joyous stuff that is the other big part of parenthood. And before you know it, days that suck can turn into weeks that suck.

I had a patch of days/weeks that sucked at around the six to seven month mark. And I’m just now at the veeery edge, about to tip into another patch of them if I don’t watch out.

Unfortunately, I’m not very good at watching out. The coping strategy that comes most naturally to me is to withdraw, and to basically quit adulthood as much as I possibly can. I spend way too much time on Facebook, avoid all possible chores, pick fights rather than being open about what I need, and generally become pretty difficult to be around. As you can see, it’s not really a coping strategy at all; if it weren’t for the amazing Engineer, this strategy would be a complete and utter flop (I am ridiculously fortunate that he is willing and able to pick up the slack).

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So, today I’m going to attempt to break this not-so-fun cycle and to avoid the pot hole that is right in front of me by creating a new strategy. This strategy is pretty tailored to me. Your mileage may vary!

1. Put down the phone.
No really, put it down. Don’t look at it. Don’t get sucked into it. It’s too easy, too available. If there’s anything you really need to do, there’s always the computer.

2. Set boundaries for yourself.
This is a good idea every day, but particularly important when you’re struggling. It doesn’t matter exactly what these boundaries are, whether it’s finding 20 minutes to do some yoga, 5 minutes to meditate, or simply enough time to go to the toilet alone. You know what you and your small person can manage.

3. Take a minute to breathe.
It’s so easy for your breath to get shallow and uneasy. A minute of slow deep belly breaths several times a day does wonders for your mindset.

4. Do at least one thing each nap time and each awake time.
This one depends a little on your schedule, but for us (two naps/three awake times) it strikes a nice balance. Getting five things done in a day isn’t overwhelming, but can still feel productive. They don’t need to be big deal, important items off the to do list, they just need to be something. 

5. Watch and find joy.
It’s easy on the hard days to feel like every moment was difficult. Some days I feel like The Engineer’s Baby has whined literally all day, when in reality it’s probably only been an hour total over the day. There is almost always something good or funny that happens, even on these sucky days. Make an effort to watch and appreciate that thing. Aim for five good things. Write them down if necessary.

To be honest, that fifth point is the kicker. All the others are mainly there to facilitate that happening. On the good days, joy is easy to find. On the hard ones, it’s buried a little deeper, and you (I) need a bit more support to dig it out.

To be even more honest, this list is mainly for me. If it helps someone else, that is wonderful. But I’m putting it here primarily to have a reference for myself. A reference I might need for the next few days… Wish me luck!

Moment by moment

Parenting a small child is a pretty constant cycle of sameness. For us the cycle involves two (or three) naps a day, an activity out of the house each morning, chores and chilling out in the afternoon, dinner and bedtime. That cycle can seem fairly relentless some days. But when I stop, notice, and enjoy the moments within the cycle, it is so easy to find the joy.

Some recent moments in the life of The Engineer’s Baby:

– Big giggles for me saying “cricket” when New Zealand won the World Cup semifinal.

– Babies sitting in a circle and grabbing toys off each other at playgroup.

– A very serious conversation with a stick of capsicum at dinner time (made more hilarious by the globs of hummus on her face).

– Lots of long sleepy feeds as we get used to a new nap routine.

– Grabbing a wrench and “helping” her Papa install the new gate for her bedroom door.

– A giggly nudie run after we came in from the paddling pool.

– Discovering that her voice sounds funny when she talks into a cup.

– Finding the baby in the mirror all by herself.

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I don’t suppose these things are as hilarious or amazing to someone who is not this baby’s parent. But all of them made me smile the first time, and made me smile again when writing them down. So I hope that even if the specific moments don’t translate well, the joy in this list is evident. Because there really is so much joy.

Eight months of parenting

1-DSC_0410Every month we take a picture of The Engineer’s Baby lying on her sheepskin alongside her moose.  As the months go by, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her on the mat, and there are more and more outtakes (like the one above).  This month, the eighth, I had to rope in The Engineer if we wanted any hope of a good picture.

Taking the picture was an exercise in baby wrangling, which is appropriate, because this eighth month has involved a lot of baby wrangling.  She is getting more and more mobile and capable.  She crawls quick as a flash when the door to a “forbidden room” is opened.  She stands anywhere and everywhere (although just the one time without pulling up on something first).  She cruises around furniture and can easily transfer between objects. Most of these things she did a little at 7 months, but the change in her speed and coordination is clear.

As well as getting more mobile, she is getting cleverer by the day.  Hiding something away will no longer convince her that it is gone.  She is starting to understand words and gestures.  She makes more sounds (a recent favourite is tssssssss).

And as she moves closer to toddlerhood (eek!), the parenting experience is changing. Gone are the days when play group was Mums drinking coffees while the babies snoozed or lay on floor mats. Gone are the days when I could leave things on tables and not have her find them.  Gone are the days when she could just play with a few plastic things in the kitchen while I cooked.

But with those days leaving, I can see other days arriving.  Days where she starts to talk. Where she can really enjoy a playground.  Days where her amazing little personality starts to shine through even more.  And at least as much as I miss the days that are passing, I am excited about the days that are to come.

This balance between past and future is a pivotal part of parenthood for me.  But the more we get into it, the more I see that the solution (insomuch as a solution is required) is not finding the right balance between past and future.  The solution is finding space in the present moment.  The solution is enjoying the baby wrangling, the serious face she gets as she eats, the back-and-forth grabbing of babies playing “together”.  To be honest, it’s probably even enjoying the middle of the night waking and sleep struggles.  But let’s not get too crazy here – that part sucks!