help, she’s a toddler

Since Annie was a month or so old, her life and ours have been getting nothing but better. She has a regular schedule and manageable routine, and she’s become consistently more capable and fun. There could be rose-colored glasses here, but it’s really seemed like every development has been a good one. Oh, now she dances! Now she puts books back ON the shelf! Now she’s kissing things!

Until a few weeks ago. Now, she’s lost her emotional equilibrium. Her mood swings from joy to rage in a moment. One minute she is happily marching around, holding our fingers, the next she has collapsed in despair, folded herself in half and pressed her face to the floor, wailing. We laughed at her in the car last weekend, when—prevented from her usual collapse by the 5-point carseat harness—she executed her despair-fold by pulling her feet up to her face.

Things are going downhill.

Things are going downhill.

We have explained this new behavior variously as:

  • She’s growing molars.
  • She’s getting sick.
  • She’s in a new place with unfamiliar people.
  • She’s hungry/tired/having a bad day.

And all those things might be true. But a few weeks in, I’m afraid the real explanation is that she’s just becoming a toddler. Her development has reached a point where she is excited by her new capabilities but aware of her limitations. She knows enough about her surroundings to recognize when they displease her. She feels her feelings intensely but doesn’t know what to do about them. Or as Bryan put it,¬†”She is dealing with some heavy shit. Her whole world is coming online. She doesn’t always like what she sees.”

Toddlers tend to live on an emotional seesaw with anxiety and tears on one end and frustration and tantrums on the other. Their feelings, positive and negative, are as powerful at this age as they will ever be, and they often seem even stronger because they are so very new. — Penelope Leach, Your Baby and Child

The big question for us, of course, is what to do about this. How should we react when our previously-peaceful baby, who would while away a happy hour in her high chair, carefully pinchering tiny nubs of feta cheese and kale from her tray, humming with delight, suddenly has a grand mal meltdown the moment you sit her down for dinner? Do we:

  1. Grit our teeth and force her to endure the high chair for some arbitrary length of time?
  2. Employ radical empathy, honoring her concerns and trying to address them?
  3. Tell her to grow up and stop whining?
  4. Try to distract her with a parade of new options and things she likes?
  5. Chuckle ruefully and chill out until it passes?

I know that other parents have made every one of these choices, and everyone has survived and turned out fine in the end. But “in the end” is feeling awfully far away. We need more immediate feedback. We want to make the choice that helps her be the calmest, happiest 2-year-old she can be. So we’re feeling our way. In our best moments, we do stay calm and casual, but acknowledge her feelings and frustration and try to articulate them for her, so that one day she’ll be able to articulate them for herself. We’ve tried to set reasonable requirements we know she’s capable of meeting, like, you must eat dinner with us for at least 10 minutes (so we have a decent shot at our food, too), but you don’t need to stay there for 30 if you’re hating life. I don’t know if this is right, if we’re striking the proper balance between rules and responsiveness, but it’s the best we’ve got at the moment. What we’re trying not to do is draw worrisome conclusions about her personality and future. She’s fragile! She has trouble coping with new things! She’s not resilient! She has no GRIT! Because, again, TODDLER.

By the second year of baby-word, moms and dads are evolving, too. They have begun switching from cooing caregivers and glorified playmates to rule-breathing, hair-pulling, count-to-10-before-you-yell parents. — John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby

I think we’re there. And thank goodness for friends and family and others who have gone before us¬†down this crazy path, and can show us the way.

 

Video

Annie learns to walk

So last night we watched as Annie figured out how to go from a couple of lurching steps to marching across the room. Perhaps even more amazing, Bryan got it on camera. I present to you: our daughter walking, in two acts.

milestones

Yesterday we watched Annie do a lot of:

  1. Standing up, unaided, and holding the pose triumphantly.
  2. Taking a lurching step or two.
  3. Sitting in the sink, turning on the water, rubbing her hands on the soap bar, and then rinsing them off.
  4. Kissing the dog. (My favorite instance was as they passed each other, Annie crawling one way and Sous trotting in the other. In unison, Sous gave her a swipe on the cheek with her tongue, and Annie turned her head toward Sous and made her “mmmeh” kissing noise. Very French.)

The beginning of walking and talking is a much hazier zone than the terms “first step” and “first word” suggest—and let’s be honest: odds are Charly was the one to witness the very first of each, if anyone did. But I think we’re there. Girl is stepping, and saying “DAW-guh” when she sees Sous. As Bryan put it, “Walking and talking at one year. That’s all we have to remember.” That, and that she and Sous are BFF.

Image

#2

Oh yeah, have I mentioned here that I’m pregnant again? Flipper, so called due to his active nature, is expected sometime around the first of August. Or, given how long Annie made us wait, September. A routine check-up this morning confirmed that all is well, and he’s growing just like he’s supposed to.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 1 year old.

You wake up at 7:30, just in time to eat the banana and blueberry pancakes I’ve made in honor of your birthday, and as consolation prize since today’s the first you’re not starting with a bottle. (We read somewhere that you’re supposed to be done with bottles by a year, and since we’re slaves to rules and milestones, done you are.) You spend a happy half hour eating pancakes and yogurt with us at the dining room table.

mom birthday breakfast

I set you in the bathroom sink to wash the sticky mess off your hands, face, chest, and out of your hair, while you have fun splashing water around. You and your dad go and have some quality time reading books and playing in your room while I tidy up the house for your birthday party. We all reunite for assisted walking, stair climbs, and explorations of the upstairs drawers and cabinets.

dad on birthday

At 10, you are tired and ready for your first nap. Your dad and I do party prep while you sleep, at at 11:40, you’re up and things are ready. We do more strolling and messing with things while guests begin to arrive.

cooler baby

I suppose next year you’re likely to have a party with your own friends, but for now it’s still mostly about grown-ups, so we enjoy chatting while you crawl and walk and snack on pinto beans and pulled pork that your dad smoked. Then we hand you a cupcake, and a dozen adults + one dog circle around you and wait for the action.

birthday cupcake

You follow up your cake with the better part of a lemon wedge out of my iced tea, rind and all. It’s a flexible palete you’ve got.

By 2:30, you’re exhausted with new people and experiences and possibly a blood sugar crash. Guests go home, and you go to bed.

At 4, you’re up again. We hang out in your room for a bit, and for the first time you figure out that the chalk is for drawing rather than eating, and execute a ragged line on the wall. We thrill with pride, then buckle you in your stroller and head to the park. Dad throws the ball for Sous so she can burn off some of her scavenged calories, and you grab my fingers and insist on tromping after her, barefoot through the field. It’s cool, cloudy, and humid, sort of a foggy lid pulled over the day, making it peaceful.

We head back for more assisted walking around the house, and some playing in the cooler ice with Dad. You’re honing your tantrum skills and practice a few when Dad instead of Mom tries to make the 75th lap of the house with you. Your strategy is to collapse on the floor, in a seated position but bent at the waist, arms over your head, so your whole torso and face are pressed against the ground in despair. There’s no consoling you, so in our better moments we just sort of laugh ruefully and try to distract you.

A piggy back ride is NOT what you want.

A piggy back ride is NOT what you want.

You cheer up for a minute, so we try to measure your 1-year height against the wall. This displeases you, so you launch another meltdown. We figure you’re hungry and feed you. It works.

After dinner, more walking practice! At 6:45 we head upstairs, sponge you off and read some new books from kind friends and family. You take great delight in one called Doggies, complete with 10 kinds of barks. It’s a little hard on the vocal cords, but your joy makes it worth it.

Dad wraps up the day with a fresh diaper, Goodnight Moon, and goodnight to you, our one-year-old girl!

giant annie

Annie has tripled in weight since she was born. A little circle-matching exercise makes the ramifications terrifyingly clear.

 

"My, what big teeth you have!" said Little Annie to Big Annie.

“My, what big teeth you have!” said Little Annie to Big Annie.

Yeah, I’m flexing all my nostalgia muscles this weekend.

words

We’re pretty sure she said “fetid” the other day, so let’s go ahead and count that as her first word. “Doe” for dog and “Ba” for ball and/or book are currently neck-and-neck for number 2. We’ll see which ending consonant she manages first. She’s also taken to narrating her actions with something along the lines of “gogledolgedolgologle,” so we can only assume she’s trying to say “google.” “Dad” is still a work in progress.