Hang in there, fellow mommies. Toddler bliss is coming your way!
Mommyhood did not come easy for me. The newborn days were complete trial by fire for both me and my husband. And to have a colicy baby on top of that, I look back on those days and wonder how we all made it out alive. To reminisce on the first six months of my son’s life, I mostly remember feeling terror, exhaustion and frustration. Yes, the joy that came with the first smile, first roll over and first laugh is indescribable, but those moments were fleeting divots in an otherwise steamroller of “what the f*ck am I doing” anxiety.
I wish I was one of those moms that make it look easy. They smile and dote on their newborn with that “I’ve got you all figured out” eye gaze. Instead, I spent the newborn stage shooting terrified glances at my baby wondering what curve ball he’d throw at me next, quickly followed by thoughts like “He’s still breathing, right? Is his head cocked up too funny? Is his belly suppose to be disproportionately bigger than the rest of his body?”
But I’m here to tell you there’s hope! If you’re struggling… I mean really struggling in those first few months (well, first year really. Longer still if you’re baby still isn’t sleeping through the night), I’m so happy to say things get better. So much better. In fact, I think we’ve reached the peak because I can’t imagine how it could possibly get any better than this.
What’s the secret to toddler bliss?
20 Months Old.
For my son, this is the magic number. When he’s in high school staying up too late, sass talking me and his dad, hanging with questionable friends and making precarious decisions, I will look back on these days and miss them dearly. Here’s why…
He find joy in the little things. Yes, he’s reveled in small things before, but now he can express his appreciation with more than wide eyes and gestures. He screams with delight and shouts “ball” or “leaf” or pretty much any object he recognizes. He looks
at what you’re doing like it’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen, and wants nothing more than to do it himself. This goes for dusting, sweeping, cooking, vacuuming, and any other thing you would otherwise find deliriously boring.
A thirst for knowledge. Word books are the new favorite. My son can’t get enough of learning the names of everything. He no longer wants to hear about llama llama’s red pajamas, he wants to point at all the body parts and repeat the words “nose” and “eyes.” On car rides, at the store, or just on neighborhood walks, you can see his eyes dart from one object to the next. He is fascinated by everything life has to offer and wants to see more.
He can communicate. Finally, I am beginning to understand exactly what he wants! Instead of fumbling around the kitchen trying to figure out what he wants to eat, he can tell me. Hallelujah! And hearing new words for the first time is absolute magic. You don’t know the meaning of the word cute until you hear a toddler say “thank you” and “please” for the first time.
He sleeps “like a baby.” This is how babies are suppose to sleep. You read them a book, tuck them in and say you love them. And you don’t see them again for 11 hours. I waited 20 months for my son to sleep like a baby, and now I finally remember how beautiful a full night’s sleep feels.
He can play by himself. It never lasts very long, maybe a few minutes. But this is major progress! Even a few minutes is enough for me to wipe down the counter or move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. It’s not much, but sometimes it feels like a little refresh button gets pushed and I can return renewed and ready to help him conquer that next block tower.
He loves his mama and dada. While he doesn’t say it yet, he shows so much love for my husband and me. He likes to switch off between me holding him and his dad. He looks to us to see our reaction when he’s doing an activity, and takes pride in seeing us pleased with something he’s done. He wears his adoration on his face, and after a long day away from him, his happiness upon your return is pure sunshine. I’ve never felt more important and appreciated than picking my son up after a day at daycare.
There’s a reason a lot of people start planning for second and third children after the first reaches a year and half. Now I know why. If I could take the beauty, spirit and passion that comes with this age and multiply it, I would… In fact, I already have!
Look, I’m going to be honest. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. My son has his moments. Lately, he’s been sticking his hands down his pants and smearing poop everywhere. Sometimes, I hand him a fork instead of the spoon he wanted, and he screams bloody murder and throws his dinner plate against the wall. Last night, he thought it would be funny to stick a corn kernel up his nose. It took my husband and me 30 minutes to hold him down and tweeze it out, while he went ballistic, bawling and squirming the entire time. Yes, we got it out in one piece, but I’ll never look at corn the same way again.
But these moments pass. Poop gets cleaned, corn gets dislodged, we can move on. It doesn’t take long before we are back to toddler bliss. A few distractions, a snack or two, and he’s returned to appreciating all that life has to offer, exploring the big and little around him.
I will embrace these moments and soak it all in. I know the terrible twos are coming, and who knows what else parenthood has in store for me. But these times are what mommy dreams are made of, and since I just spent more than a year without proper sleep… damn in, I’m not waking up now!