Do you remember this book from your childhood?
Specifically, she loves this page:
On a regular basis I find myself completely shocked by how quickly Bingo is growing and changing. As I try to shove her foot into a suddenly-too-small shoe, as she climbs down a short set of stairs, as she casually says “octopus” as if it’s no big deal, my breath catches and I find myself wondering, “When did that happen?”
And then the moment passes. We hand the too small shoes onto friends, she climbs down longer flights of stairs, octopus gets added to her daily vocabulary, and I forget when it was new.
All of this watching a person learn and grow is wonderful, and miraculous, and exactly how things are supposed to be. It also means that old things are forgotten and left behind: that silly way she would wiggle across the floor replaced by a proper crawl, that crawl replaced by the inelegant thudding of her steps. As the days of babyhood disappear and toddlerhood whirls through our house in a mess of strewn washcloths, spilled food, uncontained giggles, and full body hugs, I’m acutely aware of how quickly toddler quirks come and go. Right now the thing that’s changing the fastest is her language. It isn’t just “octopus”: new words are appearing every day. As those words come, they replace the babbles, gestures, and toddler vocabulary that came before them. I want to see what comes next, of course, but I don’t want to forget those old things either. For the sake of recordkeeping, here are some of the toddlerisms I want to remember the most:
There are more of these toddlerisms, I’m sure of it—ones that I’m already forgetting. These are just some of the ones that I want to hold on to, and this post is my way of tucking them away for the future. When Bingo speaks only in sentences full of clear words, I hope that I’ll be able to read this post and let her strange, perfect toddler language echo clearly in my mind.
For those of you who have/had small children, any favourite toddlerisms to share?
I think most parents would agree that toddlers are inherently free range creatures, who do best in the wide open spaces of parks or playgroups. (Though a church basement crowded with small plastic furniture, dolls with matted hair, and some rickety trains might not seem wide open to you, to a toddler it’s a vast expanse. Perspective.) I know that it takes Bingo, at least, all of three hours and a rainy afternoon to get distinctly squirrelly. Coop her up for a full day and you will suffer full out toddler wrath. Given this common knowledge, I think that we can accept an airplane as one of the worst places to bring a small child. A chinaware store would be better. Or a silent meditation retreat. Or a judgmental in-law’s living room. Really, anywhere.
Even knowing this, a few weeks ago we boarded a transatlantic flight. One week ago, we did it again. In total, we spent more than 16 hours on an airplane and another 8 + in transit. Our journey included trains, planes, buses and cars. Now that all of our jetlag has passed, I feel equipped to offer some notes and tips on travelling with toddler.
I don’t turn on my computer anymore.
Honestly, most of the time, I don’t even know where it is. Balanced on a high surface, maybe. Or buried under a pile of picture books. Or serving as a coaster for the glass of water that I poured and then forgot. Please don’t take this as a complaint: it isn’t. It’s just to say that I spend most of my time these days catering to the demands of a very short and demanding roommate (“Park! “ “Swing!” “Milk!” “Play!” “Monkey!” “Food!” “Sushi!”) Please don’t take this as a complaint either: her demands are accompanied by hugs, a sticky cheek squished into mine, giddiness when I walk through the door. No, I’m not here to complain. Just to tell you why I haven’t written a post in 11 months.
I’ve been too busy. Too tired. Too happy.
I’m not sorry.
I am sorry, though, that you know so much about Bingo’s conception, gestation, birth, infancy even, but so little about Bingo herself. Here’s what I want you to know:
Bingo is doing so well. She’s 19 months now, and undeniably a toddler. I called her a baby until the word felt ridiculous counterpoised against her undeniably larger self. She spoke (and signed) early, walked late. Her first word was “up”, said with arms reaching into the air. So many words have followed. Her first ‘sentence’ was “No, mommy, no!” Many of her joys and sorrows are the same as they were at eight months: she loves animals, books, and the park. She still loves food, though sushi, cheese, bread, pizza and pasta have replaced carrots and bananas as her favourites. Her favourite people are her mommies, followed closely by a host of baby friends, suitably entertaining adults, and a stuffed monkey. Her list of baby sorrows is still short: having her face wiped, the word “no” (uttered by anybody other than her), nutrients, sleep.
Though you saw photos of Bingo as a fetus on an ultrasound and as wrinkly newborn, I’m not going to share photos of her here and now. She is too much herself now, and the internet is too wide. So imagine light brown hair, caught in a haphazard ponytail or falling across large dark eyes. Imagine a small, wrinkled nose, and a dimple on a round cheek. Imagine feet tripping over themselves, outstretched arms, a small body propelling itself forward, powered by curiosity and delight. We are never still these days, and I don’t turn on my computer anymore.
Anybody who knows me can tell you that I am not very good at being still.
Before having a baby, I would head from one meeting, activity, or gathering with friends to the next, raising my hand to volunteer far more often than I should have. If I got sick, I would drag myself into work, sneezing and dripping as I went. My coworkers would cover their mouths and glare, rightfully annoyed at the person bringing in the germs.
It should come as no surprise then, that I have created a post-baby schedule almost as busy as the one that existed before. I have signed up for song groups and reading circles, playgroups and educational sessions. I make muffins to bring to gatherings in the houses of my new parent friends, and travel across the city to see my non-parent friends with Bingo strapped to a carrier on my chest.
Last night, we woke up at 2am to the sounds of Bingo sniffing and coughing pitifully in the cosleeper by our bed. By 6am, she was tossing fitfully and too congested to sleep. As Sea showered, I sat with the poor baby in the steamy bathroom and held her as she finally dozed off. As the sun rose, I lay with her in bed and watched her sleep, still coughing and sniffling. I thought about our plans for the day: a friend to meet, a playgroup to go to, a meeting to attend. I thought about how I could still go. How hard could it be to wipe the baby’s face, get us both dressed, and power through? That is, after all, how I operate. But then I asked myself who I would be doing that for. Not for the baby , certainly. Not even for the people I had planned to see. I would be doing it only for me.
So I stayed in bed. We’ve spent today reading, playing, and singing songs, but mainly just staying cozied into the warmest corners of our house. I’m not going to lie: I’m feeling a little twitchy. Next week, when the sniffles have hopefully subsided, we’ll resume normal activity. But for today, I’m choosing to be grateful for the slowed pace and quiet moments of our first sick day.
I began typing this entry with one hand while I fed Bingo, on her one week birthday. I’m trying to finish it today, a full week later. Bingo’s first week disappeared so quickly that it’s already becoming a blur of emotions and new experiences. An attempt to document:
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