The life and times of a teeny toddler 

Toddlers are busy bees, flitting from one activity to the next within minutes.

* This story also appears on the author’s blog, Size Seven Shoes.

Life with a toddler is crazy! Not sure if this is the case for everyone, but Jamie hardly ever sits still. Whatever mess I clean up after him is almost immediately created again. It’s like his goal in life is to upset everything. 

His enthusiasm for life is refreshing though. For a 30 something year old me especially, who sometimes can fail to comprehend how intriguing it is to taste silly little things like dust bunnies (well, back in my day I ate tissue just to try out how it feels like on my tongue) or how satisfying it is to repeat a new word you’ve learned ten thousand times.

This toddler phase seems to have dawned upon us very suddenly. I knew, of course, that once Jamie turned a year old, lots of things about him would change. But I would not have been able to imagine beforehand just how vast the differences would be. It’s almost as if Jamie flipped an internal switch upon hitting his first birthday, and it immediately altered everything about him. 

But well, despite all the ups and downs and trying times (screams are at unbearably shrill pitches and we are also starting to see the beginnings of tantrums), there’s much to be savoured about this phase in Jamie’s life. I’m doing my best to make the most of it. Before long, he’ll be all grown up and not the clingy little tot who adores me so much. *sniff* 

Here are some things I’ve learned  about toddlerhood so far: 

Keep them in sight. As before, it’s inadvisable to leave the child unattended for too long. In fact, it might be even more important to keep this mind than it had been when they were still infants. Just avert your gaze from them for a few seconds and next thing you know, they’re popping something dangerous into their mouths or putting themselves in harm’s way somehow. *gasp*

Feed them adequately and vary meals. Appetites soar even more than before now. I realise the importance of tea times now. And snacks, wherever necessary. That means lots more food planning, preparation and cleaning up afterwards. It’s also been a priority of ours to make sure that we offer Jamie a variety of food in his meals. That has worked out really well as he seems to like most foods these days. 

Toddlers will eventually want to self feed if they aren’t already doing so. I loved the idea of baby led weaning, but never quite understood how to pull it off in the first year of Jamie’s life. You could say we more or less failed, although in the end, we at least managed to get him to eat with his hands. However, once he entered his second year, he showed keenness to learn how to feed himself with a spoon and to drink from a normal cup. So we decided to teach him and to let him continue to play with his food and attempt to feed himself. The results have been great. (It’s a lot of mess to clean up though, sometimes, but well, I’m home based and have a flexible schedule so it doesn’t matter as much). 

Irritating behaviour mostly occurs for a reason. Prior to having a child, I always found it annoying whenever someone else’s kid started to scream or cry or kick up some kind of a fuss. Now, with a child of my own, I understand such behaviour better. I’ve found that Jamie only screams for a few reasons: (1) He’s reached his energy limits and is tired and in dire need of sleep; (2) He’s frustrated about something and needs my help; or (3) He wants something that he was told he cannot have. So before reprimanding Jamie for screaming, what I do nowadays is to first observe what he is doing to determine whether he is just simply asking for my assistance or in need of my attention. 

Undivided attention matters. It isn’t enough for Jamie that I am in the same room as he is. He often walks all the way to where I am just to communicate with me. He wants me to be within arm’s length and to be looking him in the eyes. Even sitting next to him while being occupied with my smartphone is not acceptable. He wants me to be focussed on him. And perhaps, that’s as it should be. I need to constantly remind myself of that. 

Continually teach them new stuff because they are eager to learn. It amazed me just how fast Jamie picked up new words over the past few months. Back when he turned one year old, the only words he could say were “papa”, “mmm-meh” (in reference to me), “nen nen” (breastmilk) and “dog-dog”. Now, he can say at least a dozen or more words. It’s almost as if he is learning a new word every few days. I need to remind myself to keep introducing new words and concepts to him though. 

The imitation habit begins. Toddlers imitate what we do a lot. Which means I really have to be careful what I do or say around him. There was a brief period where my Mum and I observed that Jamie would utter something that sounded close to “stupid” and so, I had to re-evaluate whether I had been saying that word a lot around him. Thankfully that habit has seemed to pass. Or we could have just heard him wrongly. But either way, it’s something to be mindful of. What we do around our toddlers. 

Childproofing is troublesome, but worth it. I bet you most Malaysian families don’t think too much of childproofing their homes. For us, though, it would be hard to imagine NOT doing so as Jamie is really inquisitive and super active. We have two safety gates installed at home, limiting his freedom to roam to only the living room. We have also started installing drawer locks, sliding door stoppers and much more. For a parent like me who is often alone at home with a toddler, this really makes a difference as I can at least disappear for a few minutes here and there to get things done around the home without worrying that Jamie will put himself in grave danger (although there are still some hazards present, those are minimal; nevertheless it’s important to still monitor them constantly – see my first point above). 

Toddlers need assurance to move towards independence. This I read from somewhere. It may seem like your tot is clinging to you more than ever, and it may be surprising since you expect them to become more independent by now. Truth is, they ARE growing more independent, but it’s a back-and-forth process whereby they’ll still periodically come back to you for assurance. In my case, this comes in the form of Jamie constantly clinging to my leg,  leaning on my back (when I’m seated on the floor) or arbitrarily asking for “nen nen” though not being actually hungry. But as frustrating as this seems, I’ve discovered that this is normal for their development so it doesn’t bother me as much as it might be expected to. 

Self weaning can happen, as long as you are patient. I posted something about this on one of the breastfeeding Facebook groups that I am a member of. From the responses of other mothers, I realised that Jamie might already be on the path to self weaning. He still nurses in the middle of the night, but much less. And daytime feeds seem to be decreasing too, in terms of demand and also duration. I’ve less instances where my breasts feel full (of milk) and absolutely no more necessity to pump for relief. I read that nursing sessions that are first thing in the  morning and  last thing at night will be the final ones to go. Nowadays, Jamie also tends to ask for “nen nen” more for a chance to be close to me than to actually feed. It’s a little surprising and occasionally makes me feel sad because I think of how our nursing days may soon be numbered, but it’s a good sign that he’s graduating to other things in life. For which I am proud of him. 

There’s probably more to say than what I’ve listed here but I can’t seem to think of it at this hour of the night. Perhaps I’ll share it with you in other posts when I regain my memory (if that’s even possible). 

But well, if you don’t remember anything else from this post, just take note: Toddlerhood is challenging but so rewarding to be a part of. It’s just a season. With lots of help and encouragement, these kids of ours will get one step closer to one day facing life on their own without us. That’s the goal. We’re shaping future adults here. One wobbly step at a time. 

Back, and busy…

Hello! Sorry for the long absence. I have been away so long that it’s hard to know how to restart writing again. So many milestones that have happened in absentia, which I hope i’ll find time to recap on.

Ruby is now almost 15 months. She loves walking, watching black birds from her window, and going to the park. Her idea of fun recently is: listening to mummy sing nursery rhymes, flipping through books, transferring pom poms with a spoon, and for the past week – throwing things and screaming!

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Anyway, today I thought i’ll share a little activity I made for my little bookworm. (She still loves books, we even had a book-themed first birthday party for her.)

Taking a cue from her favorite book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, I made some felt cards to make an gobbling game that makes our story time more interactive.

First, I cut out shapes of the five types of fruits that the caterpillar eats. I used Daiso felt pieces with adhesive backing, so it was convenient to stick it on the cardboard pieces.

Then, for the caterpillar “gobbler”, I pasted the felt caterpillar on cardboard and attached it on to an envelope.

Ruby has a lot of fun trying to put the fruit shapes into the envelope when we are reading the book. Great for practising fine motor skills and learning the names of fruits.

Of course, her favorite part of this activity is when we arrange the cubes of the ten things that the caterpillar ate on Saturday! She will put her hand on her tummy to show that the caterpillar has a stomachache.

(I didn’t make the cubes, they came with the book set that I bought preloved.)

When we reach the end of the book, we turn the cubes to form a beautiful butterfly. She will smile and clap.

I’m enjoying this toddler stage when there’s more activities to do together.

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Best years

Family at Christmas time in 2015
Our family during Christmas 2015 – the very first one we’ve celebrated with Jamie.

“These are the best years, contrary to what some people say,” he told us, his face wearing a kindly smile. I almost thought I saw his eyes misted over for a second as he appeared to be reminiscing his own parental journey. 

“My son, he’s 15 now. They won’t be little forever. They’ll grow up, they want to go out, they have their girlfriends… Enjoy them at this stage. These are the dilemmas we face, time… But money you can always make more of when you’re older.” 

There was a glimpse of regret in his eyes as he said it. 

We stood to go, Jamie grinning at the doctor as we exited the clinic. 

“Jamie, say bye bye,” I prompted as we made our way to the door. 

I’d made the trip to our regular GP that morning due to a painful lump in my neck. The advice about parenthood was an unexpected extra, but it served to further affirm my current resolve: To be at home with Jamie and to be available to offer whatever he needed from me, even if it meant taking a step back in my career. 

There are all these worries that accompany the decision. Most days are tiring and long, and I wonder if I’ll emerge haggard, senile and cynical at the end of them all. 

But Jamie smiles every day, and extends his hands out towards me, asking for my embrace. He calls me a myriad of names, “Mmm-meh”, “Meee” and “Mum-mum-ma”. He grows taller every day. His legs and arms swing farther, hit harder each time. 

And I am privileged to be right there as these changes unfold. To notice every little nuance. To applaud each new milestone. 

These are the best years. And there will be better ones to come. 

I don’t know how many years we’ll have together, Jamie, but I hope that when we do reach the end of them, you’ll look back at them and smile at me and say, “Thank you, Mum, for all those glorious times.”

New year, new feat

Image source: Green Parent

Happy New Year, everyone, if it isn’t too late yet to say so yet 🙂 

It’s been awhile since either Hosanna or I have put up a post here. I guess you could say we were swept away with all the festivities and going-ons that typically take place at the end of the year. 

Well, it’s time to break the silence now. Let me kickstart things by sharing something my family and I did together recently. 

With 2015 having left us and 2016 at our doorstep, we decided to welcome in 2016 with a new first time experience: A trip to the cinema. 

While this may sound like nothing special to any of you readers out there who don’t have kids of your own, let me tell you that it means a lot to parents, especially relatively new ones like Deric and I. That’s because it’s one of those things older parents are always bringing up whenever they get started on the topic of Why Having Children Changes Your Life Eternally. 

Public nuisance

Going to the cinema to catch a movie is considered by many to be one of those luxuries that parents of an infant or toddler cannot afford to have. Unless you leave the child in the care of a babysitter or an (unfortunate) family member, that is. Which is hard to do when the child is so young and clingy… and even more so if they’re still breastfeeding. They just can’t be separated from you much, if at all. 

That leaves you with little option but to bring the baby along if you decide to go and watch a movie on the silver screen. That presents you with some challenges. 

One of the main ones would be that babies tend to cry or fuss pretty often. That in itself is something to be managed. Then there is also the fact that everyone else in the cinema would be rather displeased to have their enjoyment of the movie interrupted by your child’s untimely noises. 

In other words, if you intend to bring your little bundle of joy to the cinema, you’re more or less likely to end up becoming a public nuisance. 

But here’s a bit of good news though: TGV now has something they call Family Friendly movie sessions which take place at selected times and locations across the Klang Valley. 

These movie screenings are said to be specially tailored to cater for young families. Lights are merely dimmed and not completely turned off. The volume is lowered. Children are allowed to move about and make noise. Tickets are decently priced and there is a special rate for kids below 12. Or if you’re like us and have a child below 3, they can enter for FREE. 

 

Deric discovered this some time back, and we had always intended to give it a go once Jamie was a bit older and more well behaved on our trips out to the mall. So we finally got the chance to give it a go last week. 

And you know, it turned out to be not too bad an experience. 

Fitting right in

The movie we went for was the Snoopy movie so for starters, it was a pretty child friendly theme and storyline. So we had no worries there about negative influences or potentially traumatising scenes in the movie (eg: fight scenes, excessive drama, shouting/screaming, etc). 

The volume levels were not as soft as I’d hoped for, honestly, but sufficiently toned down to not be too big of a concern for me with regards to how it might affect Jamie. 

The hall layout and seating is the same as it is in all TGV cinemas; there’s nothing different about it from the usual. But since you are less likely to encounter a full house at such screenings, you can opt for seats that are more spaced out from other viewers. This is easier to plan for if you’re buying tickets on the spot at the counter just before the movie commences, of course, as opposed to pre-booking online. 

We chose seats towards the back of the hall, on the right side (the side rows have only 2 seats per row, so effectively we had a comfy corner to ourselves). Jamie the freeloader took turns sitting on our laps throughout the movie. 

He was generally in good spirits from start to finish, so the only minor kinks we faced was some tiny bits of fussing here and there. We handled this by picking him up and walking around the hall for a bit, but never had to exit it. 

In between, we also offered him a toy to hold and chew on. Whenever he was on my lap, I also frequently changed his position and checked on him to make sure he was never frightened or upset by something that was shown on the screen. 

Can’t really say he watched that much of the movie, but there were instances where he did gaze at the screen curiously. He was especially excited whenever there was music played during the movie and would break out into a huge grin. 

There were other kids that walked about or made noise during the movie, but being parents ourselves, it didn’t really bother us as much as it would have in the past. However, I think we were possibly the parents with the youngest kid in the hall. 

Apparently, there’s supposed to be a diaper changing room somewhere, but we didn’t seem to notice where it was exactly. For some reason, we had this notion that there would be changing tables provided in the hall itself, but that would probably present itself with some potentially hilarious outcomes. And lots of hidden “bombs” waiting to be uncovered. Hehe. 

Well, if ever we do go back for another Family Friendly session, I’ll need to make it a point to ask the TGV staff about where that elusive baby room is. 

Post outing review 

Thinking back on what we did, it’s kind of funny. Why did we take our 8 month old baby to the cinema? Jamie is too young to understand anything that played out on the screen. He doesn’t even understand much English. 

If it was meant to be a movie date, well, it wasn’t all that great a movie watching session because I still missed parts of the movie whenever Jamie fussed. And no matter how you look at it, there isn’t much that’s romantic about passing a baby back and forth throughout a movie, although we do love that baby very dearly. 

I guess we did this just out of curiousity so as to know what a Family Friendly movie screening would be like. And we also did it to prove to ourselves that becoming parents does not chance our ability to do normal things, despite the fact that it means it may require more effort on our part to achieve the same goal. 

But all in all, Deric and I felt extremely good that we were able to achieve this. And apparently, when he relayed this experience to his colleagues, many were encouraged and amazed that it was in fact a possibility. 

We’d do it again definitely, if the movie was appealing enough. 

Well, I hope our little tale also serves to cheer your spirits at the beginning of 2016 if you’re in a similar position as we are: Parents of a young infant. I think there are parents out there who have done even greater feats than this, so what we have achieved just pales in comparison. 

But whatever it is that people say you can’t do JUST BECAUSE you’re a new parent, make it your aim to not let it deter you. There’s always a workaround, if we are willing enough to look for it. 

Here’s to a great 2016, and to the many happy memories you’re about to make in it with your family in tow. Have fun out there 😉

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Jamie in his Snoopy romper, asleep in the car after our outing to the movies.

* Note: This is not a sponsored post and all comments and opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

Day by day

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Me and my little companion 🙂

 

So many of our friends are having babies lately. Some have just delivered, while others have one on the way. It’s a really exciting time.

I just spoke to one such couple who are that the 32nd week of pregnancy. During our conversation, some of their concerns surfaced:

“Is labour painful? Does it take long? How was yours?”

“We’ve bought some baby stuff already but I don’t feel prepared.”

“Does the baby get up often at night? How often does yours do this? How long does it go on for?”

It’s funny how things look like on the other side i.e. once you’ve transitioned from being a married person to becoming a parent.

Just 7 or 8 months ago, I was in the same position they were in.

Fretting about the delivery of the baby. About whether I’d be able to remain sane while having to work the required night shifts of feeding, changing and soothing a crying infant.

Well, looking back, I guess Deric and I haven’t done too badly. Our 7+ month old baby is doing well. He’s happy most of the time, and he tells us so through his frequent smiles and laughter (which occur even in his sleep!). He’s gained weight and stretched taller. He’s pooping and peeing all the time.

We have a pretty good understanding of what Jamie wants by now. We recognise what we call his Pangsai Face as well as his sleepy and feeding cues.

We have a rough bedtime routine that mostly works (though there are, of course, those nights where Jamie is wide eyed and nothing in the whole wide world can make him fall asleep until he’s ready).

We know now what our weekly routine looks like, feels like and what we need to do to get through a typical day as a family.

We are also able to take Jamie out for trips out on the town, mostly without incident. Yet we also remained unfazed to keep doing so even when we are faced with disastrous events like a diaper blowout or a complete meltdown crying episode.

Are we perfect parents? Not in the least. But we ARE parents, and we ARE making it through. And we’re finding out that while there are challenges to raising a baby, they aren’t always all that bad.

If any parents-to-be were to ask me about how they should prepare for parenthood, I’d tell them this: There is no way you can possibly be 100% prepared for what’s ahead of you.

That’s because you cannot really fathom what it involves until you’ve got yourself fully immersed in the experience of parenthood itself.

So while you do what you can to get ready, there should be a part of you that says, “I won’t worry too much about this big challenge called parenthood that’s in front of me. God has graciously blessed me with a child, and He will just as surely grant me the strength to raise him/her.”

As for the pains of labour or the possible complications that might eventuate during delivery, it’s pretty much the same deal.

You can read up about pain relief, and how to recognise contractions (something that nobody seems to be able to describe properly to a first time parent, much to my frustration back then).

You  can draw up a birth plan of ideals. Discuss concerns with your obstetrician/gynaecologist.

But it is only on the actual day itself, as things unfold, that you’ll learn what works best for you as you make those split second decisions while the baby descends and makes its journey out into the world.

There are some bits of advice that I could give regarding delivery and coping with the early days of parenthood, but I’ll save that for another post, another day.

For now, what I’d like to put out there is this:

If you have a child on the way, if this is your first time, if you’ve got a ton of worries clouding your head and heart… I just want you to know that you CAN do this.

You don’t have to be perfect to parent your child. In fact, you’ll soon realise that your baby is much more accepting and forgiving of you than you probably are towards yourself.

Arm yourself with information wherever necessary. But more than that, learn to rest in the assurance that you have what it takes. You’ve gotten this far into the pregnancy. You’ve put in the best of your efforts to lovingly prepare your home to welcome a new family member.

You’re all set. Really, you are.

Just determine to parent with all the love you can muster in your heart. The rest of it will come with ease.

See you soon on the other side.