Oh puppy!

I don’t know if this will be an unpopular opinion, but for me, having a one-year-old is a lot like having a puppy. Allow me to plead my case.

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Baby meets island dog Pippin.

First off, there is the energy level. My kid wakes up chatting (not that my husband or I can understand him, but he has a lot to say) and wanting to groggily toddle around the house bumping into furniture. Throughout the day, he dances, wiggles and is even starting to run a bit. His absolute favorite game is to alternate between being chased and chasing either his father or me – a game I vividly recall playing for hours in the park with a pit bull/golden lab mix I grew up with. He spins in circles. He claps his hands and stamps his little feet. It’s so much motion and activity that it sometimes tires me out to watch. Dog trainers advise frequent walks for puppies to give them exercise. I try to plan activities for my kid so that he can burn off some of his seemingly limitless energy.

Then there’s the food issue. Just like a puppy, my little boy will eat anything at the moment. Mostly, I’m gratefully feeding him a variety of wholesome foods every mealtime, but I also find myself stiff-arming him anytime I’m trying to eat. Just like a puppy, a one-year-old doesn’t understand that certain food is too spicy for him, or that because he doesn’t have molars, he’s not ready for raw spinach leaves. Also, as with an adorable puppy, I am too much of a sucker not to give in and let him have a bite or two of something from my plate, even if he’s already has his meal.

Of course, everyone knows it’s not just food that puppies want to chew on. Hair ties, kitchen utensils, and all kinds of other household things are at risk of being chomped by the one-year-old. (So far he hasn’t tackled any shoes, but I’m sure that’s because we usually leave those outside.) Everywhere we go we are on alert for choking hazards. He even gnaws on the railing of his playpen. No rookie like me, his day care teacher quickly devised a way to attach one of his baby burpie cloths to the rail of playpen he uses at day care so that he chews on a clean cloth instead of directly on her furniture.

My little one is also every bit as cuddly as a puppy. His favorite way to nap is nestled up against his dad. Especially in an unfamiliar setting, he loves to be carried around by one of his parents or a favorite auntie, uncle or play-cousin. Ever been tripped up by a puppy who just wants to be close to you, even when you are walking around trying to do something else? That’s me and my kid every day in the kitchen. He just wants to be close to other people.

I’ve come to the conclusion that for both 1-year-olds and for puppies, cuteness is no accident. If they weren’t so adorable, we wouldn’t let them get away with half of this stuff!

A version of this column first appeared in the Oct. 18, 2018 Limin Times.

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Nature Baby

The Wee Baby Abel at 8 months old. This was one of his first big beach days.

Before I had my little one, I had visions of how lovely it would be for him to grow up here on island, especially when it comes to having access to nature. I love to walk, hike, swim, or just float; and I pictured the little one tagging along on all these activities. I even hoped — ok still hope! — that as he grows up we’d even learn some new outdoorsy skills together.

I’m not sure if he managed to absorb these daydreams in utero, but this kid really loves to be outside. I’ve been loving the calm seas we’ve had for most of this summer in part because it’s meant plenty of time in the water for us both. For now, the baby normally sits in a floating seat, which keeps him entertained. He splashes us both for stretches far longer than I usually expect from a single activity given his miniature attention span.

He’s just as rapt by the outdoors on land. Let’s just say, for example, that I’m carrying him from a building to a vehicle. If there’s a tree or bush nearby, he must reach out a chubby little hand to try to touch it. If I then run into someone I know, he will squirm to be put down and out both hands go in search of leaves and rocks to inspect and feel. Maybe you’ve seen viral videos of kids who hate the feel of grass on their skin. When my kid gets near grass that’s even sort of green, he strokes it like it’s a favorite pet.

He also really likes animals. He will watch dogs, cats, and larger lizards as though they are putting on a show for him. Probably because they make noise, he especially loves birds. After a while, he will babble at the animals in a friendly way, like he is conversing with them. My favorite is when he extends a hand and holds it out toward the animal. Does he think he can Jedi Mind Trick animals into coming closer to him? I laugh every time.

His special favorite creatures at the moment, to my embarrassment, are chickens. He doesn’t understand that feral chickens are pests that only tourists find endearing. To him, they are exciting friends to shriek at and to follow around. I’m very curious what he plans to do if he should ever get close to one, but my guess is the chicken would get the classic baby pat-pat move that our cat at home has become very accustomed to.

This column first appeared in the Sept. 27 edition of the Limin Times.

Baby Beach Day

Being able to have an awesome beach day is one of the best parts of living here in the BVI, but, as I’ve recently realized, heading to your favorite beach for the day becomes a lot more complicated when you have to cart a little one with you. Over the last several months, I’ve been conducting serious field research on how best to enjoy a beach day with a little one. Here are my preliminary findings on the best way to include a baby in your beach day.

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Our baby containment unit is an inflatable pool.

  1. Contain The Baby. Maybe you have a mobile play yard or one of those zip-up cribs with the handles. There can be a lot to carry to the beach already, but trust me, bring that baby containment unit. My little one likes sitting in his inflatable pool, which we set up for him without any water inside. He likes to lean out of it to play with the sand, but I’m able to relax and enjoy myself somewhat knowing that he can’t crawl off into the bush or pick up any stray beach litter.
  2. Help Baby Entertain Him or Herself. For us grownups, it’s often enough to sit and stare at the water, but babies will insist on being wiggly, grabby little creatures, so now we bring toys (and things like plastic food containers that my son thinks are toys) which are great to keep him occupied so that the grownups can do stuff that requires two hands, like eating.
  3. Give The Sea A Few Tries. Our little guy loves bathing at home, so we figured some splish-splash fun in the ocean would be a cinch. Not so. As soon as a very mild wave touched his little toes, he cried. Hard. But after giving him a few minutes to get accustomed to the water (and making sure he felt comfortable snuggled up to his daddy), he got to really liking it.
  4. Put Things Away As You Go. It’s a bit of a hassle to keep track of all your various belongings on the beach, but when the little one has had enough and it’s time to go right-this-minute, you’ll be glad you didn’t leave everything you brought with you scattered in a 20-foot wide circle around you. If you can get a sweet spot on the sand right next to your vehicle, so much the better.
  5. Embrace Sand. It doesn’t matter how many rinses, how many brush-offs, how often you redirect a baby, a beach trip pretty much always means the kid is going to come away as the sandiest, messiest version of themself. So what if they eat a little sand? A day at the beach means the kid is also happy and exhausted, so as a mom, it’s a big win.

This column first appeared in the June 7 edition of the Limin Times.