I always tell my ‘new mama’ friends that age one is the hardest. At least it has been for me.
But it got me again, and I should have been expecting it the third time around, eh?!
Let’s walk through these first few stages of human life according to Suzanne.
First up: Newborns. Newborns do need fed and changed a lot and sometimes they cry excessively, but usually they sleep a lot too. And just lay there in the bouncy seat and watch the world go by. Or watch Mama peel carrots. Or watch big brothers and sisters wallop on each other. Or watch tiny pastel elephants dangling inches from their face that wave in the breeze when one of the wallopers gets a bit too close. They lay in the carseat for hours on end as Mama buckles them in, then hauls them out of the car, into the cart of (insert store name here), shuffles around, back to the car *click*, drive a little aaaaand repeat. Content and easy-going my newborns have generally been. The middle one was more of a crier. But she was a sleeper too as most newborns are. So it balanced out.
Then: Bigger infants are a lot of the same things as newborns. They might sleep less and protest occasionally at the endless carseat game. But they aren’t (very) mobile yet and that’s a big deal. And they are interactive and cute and fun to boot. They coo and babble sit on the floor and play with toys cause they haven’t yet figured out how to use those funny things extending out from under their cutest baby bottoms. They can do some damage around the house, but not very much.
Baby turns one.
Lord help me.
Age One: The sleeping cuts down to one or maaaaaybe two naps a day. The little giggles and coos are replaced with screeches and screams and tantrums and (I’ll admit) some really cute belly laughs and pre-words too. The mediocre crawling is replaced with those little chubby legs holding up tiny baby body and pushing the boundaries of the balancing skills as baby careens all around the house. Using the word ‘busy’ to describe a child at this stage doesn’t begin to cut it.
Here are two things I have identified about age one and why it can make a sane person veer into crazy…
1. The Great Rearranging. When babies first learn that they can crawl into the bedroom, open drawers and pull socks out it’s kinda cute. They pull all the socks out and leave them in a pile on the floor before they move onto another drawer. At age one you add the mobility and extra hours of being awake into the equation and what you have in your home is the great rearranging. Something is snatched out of a drawer and toddled to an entirely different area of the house where a very clever place to stash it is found. Then they grab something from that area of the house that interests them and toddle somewhere else to deposit it. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat until your home has random items in random places everywhere you look! Remote control in the shoe cupboard. Story book in the trash can. Bath towel on the balcony. Buttered bread in the middle of the carpeted living room. Toy telephone in the hamper. Cheese slicer in the bathtub. Dishsoap bottle in the toilet. You get the point.
It’s maddening, let’s be honest.
And cute. But maddening.
The great debate that goes along with the great rearrangement is whether to
a. ignore the child and let them rearrange to their heart’s content so that you can actually peel that carrot and fold that basket of laundry
b. chase child grabbing things out of hands and off the floor and trying to keep things in their place as it’s happening and forego all other productivity
Pac-Mama is what happens when baby is suddenly not content rearranging the entire contents of your home and decides that she would instead like to experience life from the hip of her Mama. Endlessly.
The problem here is that Mama has a few things to pick up (see #1) and might have some carrots to peel or a blog post she’d like to write *gasp* or might actually have to pee or something?
So in order for Mama to complete a few tasks and feel as though she has some (faux) control over her life, she must briskly walk around the house picking up lost items and attempting to complete small chores being careful not to stop moving long enough for the little chasing screecher with out-stretched arms to catch up to her and commence death grip around her knees. Sometimes longer, less-convenient alternative routes must be made through the kitchen or around the dining table to ensure that paths are not crossed with the little one. Move quick Mama! Don’t slow down!
And if you picture this in your head, it’s exactly like pac-man running from the bad guys in the video game, taking weird routes and even picking things up as he goes! But please I am not implying that my sweetest Lil’ A is evil, but maybe just a little motivated and intense about making it to Pac-Mama to be picked up is all.
Of course, once you feel satisfied with the few things you accomplished while out-running Pac-baby, by all means pick her up and cuddle her, would ya?
And not to be totally unrealistic, there are a few other common parts to the age-one stage that makes up a toddler’s day…
3. Sleeping (Can I get an Halleluiah?!)
4. Restraint. Here I do not mean that baby has self-control!!! Are you crazy?! What I mean is that baby is sometimes happy to pass a few minutes in a device that restrains her. Such as in a stroller outside for a walk or maybe a few minutes strapped in a high chair while cubes of cheese are placed on the tray in front of her.
and of course there is the wonderful (and not quite as rare as I made it sound in #1 and #2)
5. Happily playing!! This often happens with big brother and sister are in the bedroom with her and she’s both entertained by them and content to stay in the room with them and maybe play herself because she isn’t feeling lonely. These are some of the times that really might make a Mama’s heart burst. AND the laundry gets folded without baby OR Mama shedding tears so it really is a beautiful moment. While it lasts.
So what I’m saying through all this is that life is at a whole different level for me now that I have a one-year-old again. My productivity (other than picking up random things up from random places and holding a child on my hip more than usual which I suppose should count as productivity) has plummeted. It feels nearly impossible to write a blog post (which is why all you’ve seen lately have been picture posts, I admit) or sometimes even a text message with my toddler around. It’s hard to cook a decent meal with a cute little leech attached to my knees in the kitchen. It’s hard to shop with a go-go-gadget-armed screecher strapped into the grocery cart. It’s hard to engage in a meeting with a little lady who likes to walk around and dig into everyone’s purses and drink everyone’s coffee as my companion. It’s hard to have a clear thought when shrill screams fill the house because little adventurer figured out how to climb up onto the top of the stool and stand up but hasn’t figured out how to get down. It’s hard to do laundry when girlie can toddle over to the top of the stairs in two seconds to experience gravity in all it’s glory. It’s hard to have a conversation with a friend when baby dive bombs herself head first out of the stroller onto the floor.
It’s hard. Oh buddy it’s hard. But hard is good, hear me! It’s messy aroud here these days, I’m messy… but it’s a glorious mess. A mess I’m thankful for, when I really stop and think about it.
My life literally feels like a repeat of three years ago, when Sweet N was this age and I wrote this and this while living in Africa. Except this time I’m in America (which makes some things easier) but I am also trying to run a preschool and take care of two other kiddos during this ‘Glorious Mess’ stage. It’s all so challenging. And such a gift at the same time.
I’ll end this post the same way that I ended that one:
The thing is... all the the disorder and chaos reminds me that life is happening. Busy, challenging, happy, glorious life is happening. And I am so thankful for that. So I embrace it. All of it.
Littlest busy, spunky, wonderful one (who carried the cheese slicer onto the balcony. Again.)…