Toddlerparenthood

What a wonderful, terrifying, difficult, and beautiful thing it is to be a parent of a toddler. Most days it still feels unreal that I made this tiny human who follows us around, eats all my food, demands to be held, and copies everything we say. He looks at the world with such fascination, such intrigue and adventure. Every rock is worth collecting, every flower must be smelled – real or fake, and every motorcycle that passes is clearly Daddy. If he sees a tractor, bulldozer, bus or airplane it is the best thing ever and must be pointed out STAT.IMG_3166.JPG

Recently I find myself trying to quiet my mind and stay present as I parent, if only to see things a little more like he does, rediscover things with him, and share in life’s simple joys – all things that he is naturally great at. One of his first phrases was “Wowww” said with exaggeration and wide eyes. Now he says, “Let’s go!” with the same vigor. This kid doesn’t stop. When he’s awake, he rarely pauses – except for the occasional zone-out in front of CBeebies or nap time, thank goodness – instead it’s go go go, all day, all the time. When he’s awake, he’s awake.

He gets it honestly, really. I don’t rest well, though it’s something I’ve been working on. I’d rather be doing, because there’s always stuff to be done, right? I’ve been reading “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist this past week. If you’ve never read anything she’s written, she is a fellow Midwesterner with a heart for Jesus, food, hospitality, friends and family. Although it is cliche, there is nothing better to compare her writing to than a rich, filling meal shared with friends. Her writing is delicious, deep in flavor, with unexpected notes that linger in the best way.  Though you may want to devour it, something tells you to slow down and savor it, to not miss out on a bite. This book specifically felt like it could have been written about me. She, like me, is a doer – was, I should say – and this book is written all along her journey of coming out of the fog of accomplishment, of achieving, of always doing and going and instead reawakening to the small pleasures of life, relearning how to rest with family, be vulnerable, and soak up quiet times without filling the space.

I couldn’t have read this book at a better time. As the realization that I’m not working settles in, and as I look towards this summer (albeit a busy one) being home with my son, I don’t want to wish the days away, or fill them with meaningless tasks. (What? You want to play soccer again!? But this laundry isn’t gonna fold itself, kid!) I want to cherish the days, look forward to when my sweet boy begins his morning crib-chatter, gabbing away until I go to fetch him. I want to notice and remember his little chubby hands, how they so steadily and purposefully point out my nose, my chin, “eyeballs!”, over and over. I want to remember his weird little toes, the middle one always resting on top of the others, wriggled into the picnic blanket as we sit in the sun eating cheese and crackers. I want to memorize his clear blue eyes, just like his dad’s, always with a hint of a smile. When he looks at me I want to really notice, meet his eyes, stare until he giggles and flashes his bashful grin, shrugging one shoulder at me.

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Because – all parents, prepare to say “duh” – parenting a toddler is hard. HARD, I say. It’s sweet and special and wonderful, but that doesn’t make it less hard. Toddler tantrums are not to be downplayed. But even as I learn how to deal with a toddler very stereotypically pounding his fists on the floor because he couldn’t have my raspberries (he had his own), I’m trying to remember that this moment is just as important as picnic cuddles in the sun. That helping this little magical bundle of kid-energy handle his emotions, learn about sharing, learn the meaning of “no”, etc. is a good thing, and a beautiful thing in itself. Sure, it may be a different kind if beauty than bedtime stories, exploring outdoors together, or singing and dancing in the kitchen, but it’s no less important, no less developing – for both him and for me. I’ve heard a few times, from a few wise people, that the important things usually aren’t the easy ones. No one has ever said raising a toddler is easy (and if they have, they don’t have kids – I guarantee that), but it is a brilliant, stretching, soul-bursting, thing, and truly, it’s an honor.  Hopefully I will remind myself of that the next time my sweet boy dissolves into another almost-2-year-old-tantrum-puddle… because we all know that’s inevitable.

Sleepy Carl

I’d like you to meet a new member of our family. No, Dad, don’t worry – not another pet. And no,  Mom, I’m not with child. 🙂

I’d like you to meet Sleepy Carl.

I’d post a picture, but he looks a heck of a lot like Sam, so just use your imagination.

I only met Sleepy Carl a few weeks ago, but it seems like I’ve known him forever. One night a few weeks ago Sam and I returned home from our Connect Group. Sam was not happy about leaving the fun right away to go do the homework that waited for him. He trudged up to the study to read and do his forum post. By 10:30 he still hadn’t surfaced so I went up to check on him… His reading position looked a lot like that of students who fall asleep in the uni library drooling on their books, but he said he was reading so I left him alone to finish. Just about 10 minutes later, suspiciously quickly really, Sam tottered into the room, casually mentioning that he was going to bed. I asked if he had finished his homework.

“Yep.” He replied. Once again suspiciously quickly. 

My Teacher Senses were tingling, indicating that he had not in fact done his homework, but I didn’t say anything..

Remember when I said Sleepy Carl bears a striking resemblance to my husband? Well, it turns out that it was Sleepy Carl who told me that Sam finished his homework! Sam confessed the next day that Sleepy Carl had reared his lying head and Sam was ashamed of his actions.

We’ve learned Sleepy Carl surfaces in the groggy hours of homework procrastination and late night studying stress. It’s Sleepy Carl’s drowsy digits that repeatedly push the snooze button in the morning and convince Sam he doesn’t need to get up that early anyways.

In the days since meeting Sleepy Carl I’ve also become acquainted with his wife – Sleepy Carlotta. It seems she’s the one who thinks it’s a wonderful idea to have a bowl of ice cream at 10pm, or that I should definitely watch another episode or read another chapter when I should have been in bed an hour ago. Sleepy Carlotta decides that I really don’t need to wake up early to exercise or tidy the house. And Sleepy Carlotta just raves about my morning hair – “You can totally fix that cowlick without shampooing your hair; that’s what hair straighteners are for!” Sleepy Carlotta adores a warm, cozy bed in the morning and loathes having to trudge up the stairs at night to get from the couch to her bed.

Now that I think about it, I can really see why Sleepy Carl and Sleepy Carlotta hit it off so well. I think they’re on to something.

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(Full disclosure, Sleepy Carl hails from the brain of comedian Mike Berbigaboo Birbiglia).