A lot of dealing with parenthood–at least with parenting babies and toddlers–is gallows humor. The daily work of raising these little people is hard and there are no guaranteed breaks. So when parents face a crappy day (figuratively or literally), they seemingly have 2 choices: Cry in a corner or laugh about it. Consequently, there are lots of jokes about things like chronic sleep deprivation and toddler tantrums.
I have nothing against this humor. A fair share of my content here is laughing about the absurdity of motherhood. Frankly, humor is a good way to stave off despair and it would be difficult to learn how to give up my selfish desires without a chuckle here and there.
However, I’ve recently discovered a new joy in motherhood: Watching my toddler play. I’m not talking about stacking blocks or throwing balls. While it is fun to see those types of skills develop, it’s not going to hold my attention for long. But Babykins has recently begun imaginative play and creates her own worlds with Legos, dolls, or whatever else strikes her fancy. It’s enthralling to watch her little stories play out, oblivious to the reality around her.
For example, the other day we were eating sliced peppers with our lunch. After she had devoured a couple of slices, Babykins picked one up. Her pepper then walked across her placemat and hopped back across. Next, the pepper leaped off the side of the table but was able to fly back to the plate. It then walked across the placemat again, only to have its legs bitten of by Babykins. She then apologized to the pepper and gave it a hug.
This little play had nothing to do with me. I certainly didn’t suggest that she anthropomorphize the pepper slice; she’s learning to use her imagination without specific direction. I was amazed at the hilarity and sweetness (and slight creepiness due to the violent “leg” amputation) of the pepper’s story. What a joy it was to see Babykins play like this.
While there is still plenty of gallows humor in my daily life (after all, we haven’t even started potty training yet), I’m beginning to find more and more enjoyment in simply seeing my sweet Babykins grow. Every person has a childhood, but it’s a parents’ privilege to be able to witness their children’s childhood as well.
Ever since Sweet Pea arrived, Babykins has become firmly attached to her baby doll. Throughout the day, Dolly does many activities with us–diaper changes, playtime, walks in the stroller around the house. Whatever I do with Sweet Pea, Babykins will eventually do with Dolly. Sometimes Babykins even insists that I take care of Dolly.
One day, Babykins asked that I put Dolly in the Moby wrap after I had put Sweet Pea down for a nap. I had the time to play along, so into the wrap went Dolly. Babykins wandered off to do toddler things and I used the momentary peace to brush my teeth.
And that is how my husband found me when he came home for lunch: Standing in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, carrying a doll in a wrap.
Sometimes it is extremely difficult to explain what goes down here while he’s gone.
I’m back again to test another parenting hack. In one of those “Genius Ideas for Parents” lists that float around the internet, it was suggested to use a fitted sheet to help keep sand off your things when at the beach. Well, it’s currently March in Iowa–not exactly beach-going weather. However, I thought this hack might be useful for Babykins’s sensory playtime (a.k.a.–“Let’s distract the toddler so Mommy can get something done” time).
About once a week, I dig out a container of rice and let Babykins play in it. The first time I did this, I learned it’s a big pain to vacuum dry grains of rice off of carpet. The next time I laid out a tablecloth but rice was still strewn around the kitchen. Yesterday I decided to try the bed sheet hack.
-The majority of the rice stayed in the sheet during playtime.
-It was free (the sheet was my old XL twin sheet from my college days).
-The objects holding the corners have to be very heavy (the two books in the upper corner weren’t heavy enough).
-The sheet didn’t stay perfectly smooth, so bits of rice would get covered by the folds.
-I still got rice on the carpet when I tried to shake it out.
Overall, I will probably use this hack again since I didn’t have to vacuum after Babykins was done.
Babykins has recently become interested in looking at photographs. One of her favorite pastimes is pulling picture frames off our low bookshelves so she can inspect the photographs. She also loves looking at the Shutterfly photobook that sits on the end table in our living room.
Since I can’t let Babykins look at the photobook by herself since she has a tendency to rip paper, I wanted to make a toddler-friendly book that she could look at whenever she wanted. I decided to make a simple one myself since Shutterfly doesn’t have a board book option for its photobooks.
How to Make a Toddler-Friendly Photobook
1. Choose your photos. I decided to order 4×6 prints off of Shutterfly (yes, I really like Shutterfly. No, I am not getting paid to write this post. 😉 ). I order prints of Babykins’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and our cats. I had some leftover family photos from Christmas last year, so that print is for “Mommy” and “Daddy”.
2. Laminate your photos. You want your photos to be sturdy so they don’t get crushes in toddler hands. I have a personal laminator that I used, but you can also check with print shops to see if they laminate.
3. Punch a hole (or two) in your photos and attach together. I personally used a ribbon because that’s what I had on hand, but a snap ring would probably work better.
Viola! The end result is a sturdy little booklet of pictures that your toddler can carry around without destroying (or if they do manage to destroy it, you didn’t spend much money on the book).
Thus far Babykins isn’t as impressed by her photobook as I was hoping. But I suppose that one of the the laws of child rearing: The more excited you are to give them something, the less they care about it.
Now that Babykins is crawling (finally), she is enjoying exploring more of the world around her. I decided to start taking her to playgrounds after she mastered clambering over the couch.
Every time I take her to a playground, I have this ideal expectation in my head:
We’ll explore the playground equipment together, listen to leaves crunch beneath our feet, and watch squirrels scamper across the grass. I’ll take pictures of her adorably observing the new scenery. It will be educational and fun!
In reality, our trips to the playground mostly look like this:
At least I’m still exposing her to new stimuli, right? Even if she is just eating it. . .
My husband told me the other day that I’m into competitive parenting. What he meant is that I’m determined to find the best way to mother Babykins, as well as become intensely focused on finding the perfect solution for any problem she displays.
While the desire to do what is best for my child certainly isn’t bad, the obsessive tendencies I display in this quest can quickly consume me. That doesn’t help either Babykins or me.
Unfortunately, people like me have all too easy access to information to fuel this parenting obsession. Browse a bookshop and you’ll find shelves devoted to keeping your child happy and healthy. Likewise, Google anything child related and you’ll easily have a hundred websites and blogs to peruse. Most of these books and websites have conflicting information, making the search for the perfect parenting plan even more maddening. But it’s also an addiction that I can’t seem to quit.
I’m finally starting to realize that obsessively researching all things baby doesn’t give me any perfect answers. Rather, it just slowly drives me insane (yes, Mom, I know you told me this months ago). So to help me take a proverbial chill pill, I’ve started to take up this mantra:
What is “WWMIS?” It stands for “What Would Ma Ingalls Say?” Because nothing can help you take a parenting chill pill more than thinking about a pioneer mother.*
For example, sleep is often an issue that tortures parents of infants and toddlers. Do you let them cry-it-out or do you cuddle them throughout the night? Is it okay to feed your 3-month-old during the night? What about your 9-month-old? What if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night by 6 months, have you failed at parenthood? What if your baby only naps on you? Will you emotionally scar your baby if you sleep train? Will you kill your baby if you co-sleep? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say:
Food is another issue that causes great divides among parents. Is exclusively breastfeeding far superior to any other form of feeding? Is a little bit of formula okay? When should you offer a bottle? When should you start solids? Should you start with rice cereal? Purees? Finger foods? If you don’t give your baby organic produce and grass-fed meat, will they sprout a tail? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say**:
Play is another hot topic issue among parents. How much time do you spend focusing solely on your infant? Are you hindering their budding genius if you skip over Kindermusik and don’t bother with the “Mommy and Me” classes? How much “free play” do you schedule into your day? If you let your baby watch a Baby Einstein DVD, will their brains ooze out their ears? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say:
There are many more examples of things that parents get worked up about today that didn’t matter one whit on the frontier. Education decisions? You hoped there was a one-room school house within a couple of miles. How many children a your family should have? Well, contraceptive options were limited and you usually assumed a few of your children would die before adulthood. Parenting style? You went about your business during the day and hoped your children stayed close enough that they wouldn’t get eaten by a bear or a wolf.
So, if you’re a competitive parent like me and you find yourself becoming consumed by your quest to find the perfect solution for every problem, just ask yourself:
*Note: I realize pioneer life wasn’t perfect and that infant mortality was high. Likewise, I also realize that many pioneer families went back East because it was a hard life. I’m not saying I would do everything that pioneer family would do, I’m just trying to give myself some perspective on parenting options. Remember, I’m trying not to go insane here! 😉
**Another Note: I also realize that breastfeeding didn’t work 100% of the time even before the introduction of commercialized formula (even what is “natural” isn’t perfect because of a sinful world, blah, blah, blah) and sometimes babies were given something other than mother’s milk. Again, I’m not saying we should do everything a pioneer family would do, I’m just trying to give myself some perspective!
Today I bought a toddler slide for Babykins at a thrift shop. She obviously can’t use it at the moment, but I have a project in mind.
Our basement is spacious, but it won’t be a “living” area without some major renovations. Consequently, I’ve decided to create an indoor toddler playground to utilize the space. Buy a couple of used toddler playground toys (hence the toddler slide), throw down some cushy mats, and BAM! Our own personal fun zone for the winter months without the long drive and germs.
Truth be told, while I’m excited about the playground, I’m more excited to be planning for something longer than a year from now. A year ago, a plan like this wouldn’t have been possible. We didn’t know where we would be living! But now that we have no plans to move, we don’t have to cram our house projects into a year time-frame.
It makes me giddy just thinking about it.