Joys of toddler wearing

 

Once upon a time, the wee baby Abel really was wee! I could put him in a my kangaroo pouch and he’d happily sit there for ages. In fact, when he was little and very fussy, strapping him on was one of the few ways I could just about guarantee that soon he’d be snoozing, so it was kind of an ideal way to get chores or errands done, provided I could do them on foot.

These days, it’s a whole different ball game. For one thing, he weighs like 30 pounds now, so wearing him is a feat of strength. He’s way too heavy to wear comfortably in the smaller, less expensive carriers I used when he was an infant. I did some research on the mommy-grapevine and settled on a carrier with lumbar support that has armies of parents singing its praises. It wasn’t easy to figure out, but eventually, I got to a place where I can now get us both pretty comfy in about 30 seconds, provided I have an assistant. I imagine that with time my tot will get a little more patient with the process and I will get more competent with my carrier and be able to strap him on without help.
**Editing to add that the day after I posted this I finally got him in all by myself, YAY!**

Being able to wear him on my back has been a game-changer for us, because he likes the view, and I feel so much more comfortable and stable than I did toward the end of the kangaroo-pouch front carry days.

But he’s not just bigger. He’s on a whole other level of development now. As a toddler, he’s supposed to be exploring his world and he is! He’s very active and loves to interact, so if I strap him on and I’m doing something he doesn’t find interesting, he might start finding ways to amuse himself. I’m lucky in that it’s typically something cute like playing with my hair or wanting me to talk to him about what I’m doing. The best is when I can do something to let him feel included somehow — He can close the fridge, or handle one spoon while I stir the pot with another.

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Getting ready to go out on our first big back-carry walk

Other times, I’m not so lucky and he wants to arch his little back or smack me until things get interesting or I let him down. He doesn’t talk much, but he can definitely get loud and will cry if he’s displeased.

As you might imagine, all that closeness in this tropical climate has one major downside: it’s hot! We both get sweaty and I can count on needing to change us both out of some very sweaty clothes if I wear him for longer than about half an hour or so.

One thing has not changed as he’s grown: he generally loves to be worn as long as I am walking, particularly if I’m walking outdoors. Lately, we have been walking together on the weekends, often with a friend. It’s nice to see what catches his attention (usually animals, naturally). While I often encounter other moms who wear their infants in the grocery store or, say, at the laundry, I have yet to see another mama who wears a bigger kid. That might be why we attract a fair bit of attention from others on our walks… Or maybe it’s because my kid is just that cute?

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He’s pretty freakin’ cute!

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The Huntress

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The Huntress guarding the Wee Baby Abel during a nap

Sharing a home with any pet requires trade-offs. At our house, the cat – who adopted us when we moved into what she clearly thinks of as her apartment – provides many benefits. She is an excellent snuggle buddy whenever anyone is enjoying some quiet time with a book or a movie. She’s been very patient about her de facto role as big sister to the baby, waiting as he progressed from the stereotypical baby “pat-pat” through to understanding that animals should be touched gently. Where she used to tolerate the baby for a few moments and then dash off as kiddo got excited, she now seeks him out for attention and I think she might be trying to teach him to open doors for her. It’s been sweet to watch how much the baby loves this cat. He follows her around the house, sometimes babbling excitedly. “Gentle” is one of his first dozen words. “Meow” is another. I would even go so far as to guess that his positive experiences with our cat are the reason behind his love of the pets he meets when we are out in the world.

As the adult human in the partnership, my end of the bargain is usually pretty low-key: buy some cat food, fill her dish a couple of times a day, make sure her water doesn’t turn green. All in all, it’s a pretty good system, most of the time.

But then there are the times when I have to deal with the cat’s instinct to hunt. Or rather, her persistent attempts to bring her prey inside the house.

Once, the only clue I had that one of her prizes was in the house was a terrible smell. I searched high and low before I discovered the source: a decaying lizard under my bed. Another time, I caught her as she was coming inside with a mouse in her mouth. Who knows where she would have stashed it if I hadn’t sent her right back out once again.

Recently, she took it way too far, however, when I came home to find a ground lizard on its back. This is the biggest thing she’s ever brought inside. In my mind it looks like a small alligator, although the reality is that it was probably 12 inches long from snout to tail. Normally I find small lizards pretty cute. I’ve never willingly touched one, but neither do I find it necessary to chase them away if they want to hang out nearby, and, I don’t know, hunt flies. This one, however, was too big to be endearing, it just needed to get out. Attempting to removing it showed me the worst of the situation. The poor creature was still alive.

Is there a ground lizard intensive care unit? No, but even if there was, I doubt very much they could have saved this thing. It was just the latest victim of the huntress.

This first appeared in the Jan. 31 edition of the Limin’ Times.

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.

Code of the Baby

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The wee baby Abel’s smile lights up the room, but only when he can’t see the camera/phone, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

After spending some time observing my little one and those of my friends and relations, I’m convinced that somewhere in this world, there really is a Boss Baby, and that he or she has handed down the baby equivalent of a stone tablet filled with the code of the baby. Based on my investigation, here are some universal rules that all babies are required to follow:

  1. Thou shalt taste everything. Seriously, if it’s small enough to fit in your hand, put it right in your mouth. Too big? Just open wide and lick whatever portion of the object is closest to your face.
  2. Thou shalt always be on the lookout for sharp and pointy objects. Make your desire for the object known in classic baby fashion: urgent looks, followed by reaching for and grabbing the object and, if you can’t get it in hand after a moment, obnoxiously loud crying. Bonus Boss Baby points for painfully poking yourself in the face if you do manage to get a hold of it.
  3. Whenever placed on the floor, thou shalt always creep or crawl toward the dirtiest thing within reach. Pet food bowls are okay, but a low, open garbage bin is preferable, and a cat’s litter tray that hasn’t been cleaned out for a day or two is ideal.
  4. Thou shalt covet thy neighbor’s toy. Even if you are already contentedly playing with what is normally your favorite toy, and even if the neighboring child is playing with a toy you normally don’t care for, you should grab for that other toy anyway.
  5. Thou shalt squeeze face. The face squeeze is the universal baby greeting. Show interest in other humans and any pets within reach by grabbing a fistful of flesh, preferably in the facial area.
  6. If you have accomplished a new cute behavior and your parent or other caregiver pulls out a camera to document it, you must immediately stop doing the activity until the camera is put away. Similarly, when the caregiver calls a human witness to observe the new behavior, cease doing it until the second person leaves the room. When you start to talk, use this same strategy when you learn a new word or phrase.
  7. Humor they mother and thy father. Remember to keep a steady stream of cuteness going for your parents, lest they decide to call the stork and return you for following the other rules so closely.

Baby Traditions, part two

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The Wee Baby Abel having a swinging good time.

Back when I was expecting, I shared some of the traditions that people told me about pregnancy and newborns. Now that I’ve had my baby and he is big enough to meet people all over the island, I am again hearing a lot more traditions, superstitions and, of course, advice. That’s right, it’s time for another round of baby traditions.

Ever hear the phrase “sleep like a baby?” My son’s sleep isn’t as peaceful as the phrase suggests, but according the old folks, when he and other babies do settle in and sleep, they always dream of angels. I like to imagine some of the family members who passed away before the baby was born are his personal angels.

My son has a head full of curls, so a lot of the traditional wisdom we hear is about hair. For example, did you know you’re not supposed to cut a baby’s hair before they can talk? (An alternate version says to wait until the first birthday.) If you do, according to one legend, they might never wind up speaking. Similarly, some folks say the early haircut will cause the baby to develop a stutter.

I’ve also heard that you shouldn’t comb a child’s hair while they sleep or they could wind up “slow.” I didn’t have the sense to ask at the time if this was a reference to physical speed or just a euphemism for a dull wit, but now that I have a crawler on my hands, I sure wish I had. I’d have no problem combing the baby’s hair while he naps if it meant he couldn’t scoot away from me so swiftly!

Lately my little guy seems bigger every time I see him, so I shouldn’t be surprised that people have so much to say about what makes babies grow faster. One woman told me that the more you bathe a baby, the faster they grow. I can’t deny that once my little one started moving around more and eating enough to need daily baths, he did start to pack on the pounds.

Speaking of weight, it’s not a good idea to call a baby heavy. “Only the dead are heavy,” the saying goes. I especially like that one because it reminds me as a parent that my son might be a bit of a physical burden – he’s now big enough to give me backache if I carry him for too long – his life is a blessing.

This column appeared in the April 26, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.

Read part one here.