It seems that suddenly my baby has become a toddler overnight. He isn’t even walking yet, but he feels so much bigger in my arms. He moves more freely, and goes after what he wants. He also demands, quite suddenly, not only to be seen and heard, but for things to be done his way, on his schedule (aka right freaking now).
Did I make this up? Did society sell me this idea so strongly that now I suddenly see him in this new light? Or, is this moment so documented, so celebrated and so revered because it really is a big step and right of passage, and really does produce a big change in my no-longer-really-a-baby?
I find the demands most challenging. I am working to tease out which buttons of mine are being pushed now, and just how much of my weariness is due to anticipation of what’s to come, assuming that this is only the beginning. I’m taking deep breaths, in the hopes of noticing how much is connected to patterns that were instilled in me many, many years ago, about how emotions work, what is right and wrong, what is expected and necessary in similar situations, that perhaps doesn’t work after all.
It is easy to say: I’d like a child who is resilient, who speaks his mind and goes after what he wants, and who is in touch with his feelings. In reality, the grooming of that, the instilling through consistent, repetitive actions on my part, the patience required and the wisdom necessary to know what is needed in each situation to draw out those characteristics in balance and harmony with one another… that’s another story.
So far, this week, my attempts look like me being told over and over by a one year old that I am doing it wrong. All wrong. Categorically and catastrophically wrong. All without words. All while I try not to cry. All without him knowing, perhaps, what he even wants instead. This food, not that food. More milk. No sleep. Yes sleep. More milk. Now! This toy, hit this way, but only twice, then it’s my turn once, then it’s your turn but this time you have to hit it three times, no more and no less. No milk! I said no! Milk please.
I know this ‘change’ may not last. And not just because nothing lasts, but because he is an evolving being, and this week his evolution and mine are struggling a bit to find resonance, and that’s ok sometimes. I also know that this really is only the beginning. I deeply want to support him through this very important time in his life. I want him to find his voice, to explore his power, to put himself first for a while, before the world tries to teach him otherwise. I need to give him this strong base, this foundation of a safe place to yell, to refuse, to do it his way, without my feelings getting in the way.
And I knew it was going to be hard.
But, like every other part of parenting so far, it’s impossible to really get it until you’re in up to your eyeballs. And then, it’s always much harder than you imagined.
And if I’m being really honest, what I’m finding so hard about this all changing again is feeling, again, like I have no freaking clue what I am doing.
I keep trying to put a hungry baby down for a nap. I keep trying to go out, in the hopes of reclaiming some sanity, only to have him fall asleep in the car on the way back and then refuse to nap. I keep making plans I have to break because he fell asleep without warning. Last night, I left the diapers sitting, wet, in the machine, for 24 hours, like a rookie.
But that’s what it’s like, isn’t it?
I am a rookie. Over and over again. What a painful thing to admit, when we are responsible for someone else’s well-being, that we have no idea what we are doing. But after struggling and trying and being told ‘you suck’ (ok I’m sure that’s not exactly what he is saying, but it sure feels that way) again and again, I guess I have no choice other than to admit that I really don’t know.
And if I stop pretending, and trying to convince you along with myself, then maybe not having a clue what I am doing won’t feel so painful anymore.