Please Make Spot Stop Going to the Beach

DSCN5316Toddlers love repetition. When faced with new and potentially overwhelming environments on a daily basis, nothing is more comforting and predictable than reading the same book for the 100th time.

Unless you are that toddler’s mom.

Then it’s skin-crawling, blood-pressure raising, I want to rip out my hair I can’t stand it anymore tedious. Seriously, will someone please make Spot stop going to the beach? How many more times can I tolerate watching him build that sandcastle? Or what about that binge-eating caterpillar? I get it, you’re hungry. Do you seriously need to recount every single item you have ingested?

And then there’s Sam. That Sam-I-am. That conversation about green eggs and ham should have gone something like this:

– Do you like green eggs and ham?

– I do not like them Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

– Okay. No problem. You do not like them I can see. I’ll walk away and let you be. I will not pester, coerce or bug. I will not act like I’m a thug. Yes I’m respectful, yes I am Sam. You do not have to try green eggs and ham.

The end.

Seriously what lesson is this book teaching my kid? Bug, pester, and harass mom enough and I’ll get my way? I’m with the tall, yellow top-hat wearing character on this one. I do not like that Sam-I-am.

Beyond books my son has a lot of other ways to torture mom repetitive activities he likes. For example, the peek-a-boo from his baby days has morphed into a game I like to call “where’s Oliver.” In this game Oliver hides behind the SHEER curtain and giggles while I walk around the room shouting “Where’s Oliver?” (If I say this line like I’m Jack Nicholson in The Shining creepily yelling “where’s Johnny” the tedium can be delayed for a couple rounds).

DSCN5311“Hey Wiz (the dog) do you see Oliver?” I ask. Wiz looks at me like I’m a sucker. “Hey Mickey Mouse,” I direct my question to the stuffed animal sprawled on the floor, “do you see Oliver?” Pretending Mickey might actually answer my question is as ridiculous as pretending I can’t see a 30 pound toddler through a piece of see-through fabric. But I persist. Finally Oliver will pop out from behind the curtain, which is my cue to run over yelling “I found you!” and tickle his belly until he can’t stand it anymore.

And then there are the toys. The rings that he stacks on the post only to dump them off and stack again. The ball that he inserts shapes into only to hand it to me upon completion to dump them back out. That one song on his singing remote control that he insists on playing over and over and over again.

“I’ve got a remote and I’m ready to roll. Making things happen cause I’m in control.”

Yes Oliver, if I’ve learned one thing thus far it’s that you are in fact the one in control.

As much as I cringe at reading the same books repeatedly or playing the same games day in and day out, there is one thing I will never find tedious. There is one thing that makes all the repetition worth it: Oliver’s reactions.

Watching Oliver watch Spot go to the beach for the 100th time is like seeing it unfold for the first time myself. The way he gleefully points out the sandcastles and the birds and the ocean waves. They way he squeals with delight when Spot jumps out of the boat to take a swim in the water. “Puppy overboard,” I say. Oliver claps his hands like I’ve just read a passage from a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of literature. I may get bored with Spot, but that look of delight on his face, that never gets old.

Walking around the room shouting “Where’s Oliver?” is monotonous and mind-number at best. But then I hear Oliver laughing from behind the curtain. I watch him reveal his hiding spot. He has a grin spreading from ear to ear. His cheeks are flush with excitement. He happily runs toward me and I imagine if he could talk he would say something like, “Mom you’re so fun. This is the best game ever.” As he crumples up on the floor in a fit of giggles I think to myself, this game may get boring, but the smile on his face and the sound of his laughter, that never gets old.

Same goes for the rings and the shapes and the singing remote control. As boring as they may be, watching Oliver discover and play with them never gets old. When I shift my attention from my experience of the object to Oliver’s experience, I start to see everything in a new light. I may not yet enjoy the repetition, but through my son’s eyes, I’m learning to appreciate it. 

Advertisements

Vacation From Mommmyland

1231550_10200687154807964_1108291042_n

Best part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

Worst part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

My mom and I recently had the opportunity to visit my sister in Florida for a long weekend. We left on a Friday afternoon and were back home in time for lunch on Monday. Total time away from the baby: a glorious 72 hours. Or was it a heartbreaking 72 hours? How am I supposed to feel about this again?

Thankfully Oliver was left in the very capable hands of my husband and dad. Surely the two of them together could equal one of me in sheer parenting awesomeness. No? Brad, who often only sees Oliver for a couple hours a day during the week was looking forward to his father/son bonding time. I, who sees Oliver for almost every hour of every day during the week, was looking forward to spending some babyless time with my sister and mom. The fact that my sister lives in Miami is an added bonus.

Before having a baby I viewed traveling as a means to an end, an annoying but necessary step to get me where I wanted to go. After baby, I’m beginning to see it in a different light. What’s that? You want me to spend half the day sitting on my butt, relaxing, reading magazines and snacking on peanuts…without any interruptions? Woo hoo! You might as well be sending me to a spa with how rejuvenating that sounds.

It took a whole five hours before “I’m away from the baby bliss” gave way to “I’m away from the baby sadness.” When the plane landed and I turned my phone back on, a picture text of Oliver popped up on the screen. He was standing in the kitchen, sippy cup in hand, surrounded by every single pot and pan we own. Normally this “game” has me sighing in resignation once I remember it is much easier to clean up than lunch toss, another of his favorite games. But this time it brought a smile to my face. How cute, I thought. I wonder what other sorts of mischief he’s getting into.

IMG_0444

Over the next day, by request, the picture texts kept coming. I’d be lounging poolside with my mom and receive an image of Oliver riding on the back of Brad’s bike. Or I’d be walking along the beach gossiping with my sister and see a picture of Oliver playing with an empty milk carton he’d fished out of the recycle bin. While eating brunch, it was a picture of Oliver sleeping in the car seat after a morning at the zoo.

Two days into the trip I called Brad for our daily check-in and he said something that simultaneously melted and broke my heart.

“Oliver said mama today.”

“He said what?” I asked, unsure if I heard him correctly.

“He said mama. In fact, he’s been saying it all day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the days over the past 14 months he could have chosen to say “mama” he picked one of the few days I wasn’t there to hear it. I looked out over the ocean. I listened to the sound of the waves lapping against the sand and the wind whipping through the palm trees. It was a beautiful sight and an equally beautiful symphony of sounds. But what I wouldn’t have given to hear Oliver say “mama” for the first time instead.

Brad must have sensed my disappointment. “He’ll say it again when you get home. Don’t worry.” I knew he was right. I’d get to hear him soon enough. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still disappointing.

“Enjoy your mini vacation while you can,” he added. “Because in a weeks time you’re going to want to trade in his endless refrain of mamas for the sound of the ocean.” I knew his was right about that one too. Sometimes my husband is too smart for his own good.

That’s the bittersweet part about time away from your baby. Leaving behind all the unpleasant parts of parenthood also means leaving behind all of the joys. Trading in screaming and crying for adult conversation also means missing out on baby giggles and coos. Trading in sticky fingers and pureed carrots for dinner out on the town means no laughing at spaghetti covered smiles.

And if you’re like me, experiencing the first uninterrupted night of sleep in months means not experiencing the first time your baby says “mama.”

The day we got home I was worried Oliver wouldn’t say “mama,” but from the time I walked in the door until the time he went to bed at night he said it on repeat. And then he kept saying it the next day. And the next day. And the next. And you know what? Hearing it for the first time wasn’t any less amazing because it wasn’t him saying it for the first time. In fact, I think I found it more amazing because my time away gave me an invaluable perspective.

Instead of getting caught up in the up-close, day-to-day struggles of motherhood, from a distance all I saw was the inherent joy and beauty in it all. And when I got home, my experience of motherhood might have gotten a little messier, a little louder, and a whole lot crazier, but with my refreshed perspective, it was all still beautiful.

Yes, even moments like this…

DSC_3272

Taking a Walk on the Toddler Side

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” –Steven Wright

DSCN5198

Normally when I take Oliver to the park, he spends the majority of the trip cruising in the stroller or hanging out on my back in the Ergo carrier.  He gets to sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery while I get to spend some time unplugged from vigilant mommy mode. It’s a win-win.

On our most recent park trip I decided to leave behind the comforts of the stroller and (gasp) let Oliver walk. You know, that thing he’s been doing with his feet for over two months now. A few logistical problems quickly made themselves present.

1) Where do I stick those extra diapers, wipes, sippy cups, cheerios, and other baby paraphernalia I normally cram in the stroller?  How will we ever survive without our gear? Can I bring cargo pants back into fashion for the occasion?

2) What do I do if Oliver gets tired and refuses to walk another step? Am I really expected to carry him?…with my arms? I haven’t been trained in long-distance baby transport. That’s a 20 week training plan minimum, and I’m at least a couple weeks from starting it.

3) Oliver likes to touch, well, everything. He gleefully picks up rocks, sticks, and leaves, grunting with excitement. He also picks up dog poop, garbage, and dead things with the same gusto. How do we make it more than a couple feet down the trail without me uttering a constant string of “Nos?”

4) Since walking often doubles as exercise time, can I still count my 0.1 mph stroll as a work out? If I end up walking in circles for 30 minutes can I call it circuit training? If not, does this mean I have to actually go to the gym?

5) How do I check facebook and twitter on my phone if I have to actually WATCH my kid. (Okay I’m kidding about that one… Really I am… Kind of… Maybe only a little.)

Despite the insurmountable odds (cough…no facebook…cough) we were off and running. Make that off and toddling. Oliver didn’t waste anytime unleashing my concerns.

“Oliver, not in your mouth. Rocks are yucky.” I snatched the rock from him and scrunched my face up into a look of disgust. “Yuck, yuck, yuck. Hold it in your hand like this.”

Oliver completely ignored the rock in my extended hand and went for another one on the ground. He held it between his fingers, inspecting it the way a jeweler might look at a fine diamond.

DSCN5203

“Good job! In your hand.” I say too enthusiastically. A frantic hope creeping into my voice because maybe, just maybe he gets it.

And the new rock goes into his mouth.

I remove it and usher him down the trail, trying to focus his attention on something larger. Something that isn’t a choking hazard.

Oliver takes a couple steps and plops down on the ground. The lure of the rocks is too great. Well, at least we are only 10 feet from the car, I think. I can handle a 10 second carry. If only I had the cheerios or puffs to bribe him with. I learned long ago that bribery is the foundation of any good parent/child relationship.

DSCN5210

Just when I’m about to pick him up he is on the move, sprinting down the trail at a 0.2 mph pace. Maybe this will be a work out after all! I saunter after him watching as he gleefully points at every flower he passes.

“Yes, flower. Isn’t it pretty Oliver?” I ask him. I watch him looking at the flower, a sense of wonder spreading across his face. My gaze shifts between him and the flower. It really is a pretty flower. I had never noticed it before.

I get caught up looking at the flower only to realize Oliver is a good 10 feet down the trail and getting dangerously close to taking a bath in a small stream. I chase after him and pull him onto a overlooking deck. He shrieks as the water gurgles past. I sit down next to him and listen to the quiet babble. There is a feeling of tranquility and calm sitting by that water that I never experience during my stroller sprint. In fact, I had rarely taken notice of the water until then.

DSCN5214

Oliver’s attention is short-lived and we are once again heading down the trail. I let him walk ahead of me. I watch him taking in the world around him: the sun glinting through the tree tops, the sound of the birds skittering among the branches, and the smell of summer coming to an end. For a moment, I forget about the stroller. I forget about the cheerios, the sippy cups, and the diapers. I forget about my exercise agenda. I forget about facebook, about digitally connecting with people that aren’t with me right now, in this moment.

I am living in the present.

That’s the beauty of walking with a toddler. It forces you to slow down, to linger for awhile. It forces you to open your eyes, to touch, to smell, to notice things that normally go unseen. On toddler time, all that matters is the here and now. All that matters is the joy that can be found in the moment. And there is so much joy to be found. If only you slow down and open your eyes.

Time is flying by; the world is changing at a rapid pace, but when you look at things through the eyes of a toddler everything momentarily stands still. There is no yesterday, nor a tomorrow. There is right here, right now. The sound of the stream, the beauty of a flower, and the delicious taste of a rock in your mouth.

DSCN5231

Note rock in hand

When we got back to the car (some carrying required), Oliver was exhausted. He fell asleep on the way home, and remarkably, slept through the dreaded car seat to crib transfer. Tucked in his tiny fist, was a rock that somehow made it from the park, to the car, and back to the apartment without me noticing. I gently took it from his hand and placed it on the dresser for when he wakes up.

I might have to “accidentally” lose the rock if he once again decides to eat it for dessert. But the good news for Oliver is that there are many more where that came from. And without the stroller to hold him back, he can have as many rocks as his little hands can carry.

DSCN5202

“But the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations.” – Gwyn Thomas

Where do you like to take your little one for walks?

 

Handprint of a 1-Year-Old

In my childhood bedroom there is a framed picture of my handprints from when I was little. Growing up, they hung ceremoniously above my bed, the clear focal point among the gaggle of teddy bears, troll dolls and Lisa Frank unicorns. While I don’t remember making the red-inked imprint, I do remember the daily game I’d play with them. Each night I would lean against the wall, reach up, press my hands against the smooth glass, and make note of how much larger, how much more “grown-up,” my hands were compared to the tiny girl that had made them.

IMG_0319

I loved those handprints. As a kid who was seldom aware of anything beyond the present moment, it was nice having that connection to the past. When a single bad day seemed to drag on forever, or I feared I would be stuck in the world of adolescent angst for eternity, I could hold my hands up to the glass and be reassured that time does pass, people do grow up.

As an adult, and especially as a mother, I have become acutely aware of how fleeting all things in life are. Time can’t slow down enough, and I often find myself wishing I had a pause button for life. Like my handprints that have remained eternally young, I wish I could take my son’s babyhood and frame it for safe keeping. His baby-tooth smile, his high-pitched laughter, his blonde ringlets, his chubby thighs and pigeon-toed walk. I want to preserve them all so that years from now I can look back and not only remember them but have something tangible to see, to touch. Something to press my hand against and compare.

When Oliver was born we received a gift that lets you make a yearly handprint of your child through the age of five.

DSCN5284

When Oliver’s first Birthday rolled around I eagerly pulled out the kit and got to work making the pasty concoction. According to the directions I mix the water and plaster, poor it into the provided tin, firmly press my child’s hand into the mixture, and then let it dry. Easy peasy. Right?

Wrong!

Nowhere in the directions does it say what to do if your child won’t straighten his hand in the plaster. What to do if he tries to scoop up a handful and squish it between his fingers. What to do if he tries to eat it. Or what to do if, upon finding it tastes awful, he flings it across the kitchen.

After several attempts, this is the best we could do.

DSCN5290

At first I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have the perfect imprint to remind me of his 1 year old hands. I was disappointed a year from now I wouldn’t be able to hold up his two year old hand in comparison. But sitting here now looking at this “handprint,” I’m starting to see all the things it will remind me of, all the secrets it will hold, that a normal, standard handprint never could.

It says, this is the handprint of an active boy. A boy who loves to touch, to explore, and to dig into his surroundings. One who isn’t happy sitting still waiting for life to come to him. It is the handprint of a curious boy. Of one who is always questioning, always learning, always dreaming, and discovering. It is the handprint of a boy who is tenacious and strong-willed. A boy who knows what he wants and won’t easily back down. It is the handprint of a playful, free-spirited, silly boy, who doesn’t need directions to tell him how to have fun.

So while you may just see a mess of plaster sitting in a tin, a tenuous outline of a hand at best, when I look at it, I see so much more.

IMG_0320

Have you tried making a handprint of your child? How did it turn out?