[ Much like puppies, these creatures require extensive periods of being let outdoors to run around or the house will be completely destroyed. ]
New motherhood is exhausting and the first year is a very draining, very sleepless time. We all know this. But there’s a certain kind of introspection to the exhaustion. Women write memoirs about the first year of their child’s life and the experience of adjusting to motherhood. You never sleep or get enough time with both hands to cook a meal, but there are moments where you’re feeding your babe that are some approximation of peaceful.
There are fewer (if any – I certainly can’t think of any off the top of my head) memoirs of mothers experiencing their children’s toddlerhood. Because they’d all be the same. Just one sentence:
Somehow, at the end of the day, we were all still alive.
I’ve often compared having a toddler to having a puppy. This was brought up by other moms at our playgroup who also have dogs, so I’m not alone in this assessment. (My ex-husband also used this comparison, though he meant it disparagingly when he said babies were dogs in diapers to which I replied “What’s wrong with that? I LIKE DOGS.”) Here’s a basic run down:
- You spend a lot of time uttering the phrases “Come here. Come here. COME HERE. Come here. COME. HERE.” and “Do you want a cookie? Cookie. OVER HERE. Cookie.” and “Sit down. Sit down in your spot. SIT DOWN. Sit down. Sit down here. RIGHT HERE. SIT. DOWN.” And, if you’re having a good day, “Good boy. What a good boy you are. Such a good boy.”
- You call out the name of a mammal who will only occasionally dignify you with a response, in public, over and over again. (Tip for naming your child and/or puppy: Thinking about shouting this name at the park. A lot. I found that it really helps to have named my son an uncommon name as it at least prevents the phenomenon of the wrong kid turning around, even if my own child is ignoring me.)
- Poop. And how it’s not yours, but you’re cleaning it up anyway.
- With my own child, much like a dog, he carries his favorite toy around in his mouth. Also, like a dog, he objects strenuously if you ever dare to wash it.
- Table scraps, both the sharing of them and the begging for them. P can have his own bowl of EXACTLY what I am eating and still he begs for whatever is on my plate.
- There is quite a lot of ball throwing and chasing that goes on. “Go get it! Get the ball! Ball! The ball, get the ball!”
- Knowing that if you turn your back, there just might be a mountain of overturned trash or shredded toilet paper and a very jubilant creature proud of himself for creating such a masterpiece.
- The constant taking things that are distinctly NOT FOOD out of mouths that have no qualms about biting your fingers.
- Let’s face it, biting.
A good friend of mine who has a son a little younger than Paulo has compared having a toddler to “ having a drunk friend you cannot sober up live with you. You laugh a lot of the time, you’re constantly worried they’re going to break your stuff or hurt themselves, and when they go to bed you’re just relieved.”
Which is to say, I haven’t really had all that much to write about now that we’re back from vacation and our lives have settled into their normal chaos. I’ve noticed this with all mama/family blogs – infancy has so many entries about milestones and accomplishments and toddlerhood hits and BAM. The entries dwindle. The stories become fewer and more dramatic because it takes a hell of a lot to beat the daily “STOP THAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING I DON’T EVEN.”
And somehow, at the end of the day, everyone is still alive.
[ I hope it's clear that I write this as someone who is not only a huge fan of my own toddler, but of toddlers in general. And of dogs. I love these people. And dogs. ]