Photo by Shayda Rohani - Hodgdon for General Merriment
How hilarious and kinda sad is that title? These days, when I sit down to write, I get pretty giddy. My heart inflates a little and lets out a small sigh as my fingers hit that keyboard and remember where to go. To do. To create. Or, as Bastian would say, to make.
From where I sit, the living room window is open about a foot, so I can hear the first rain in a long while – what felt like forever – smacking the pavement of our courtyard. I can smell chocolate malt cupcakes cooling in the kitchen. And the apartment… is quiet.
Bastian is visiting meemaw today, which can almost always account for why I am visiting you. I felt a little off handing him over on this first rainy day, but after walking the thirteen or so blocks to library story time in the pouring rain, with a toddler who was mucho peeved to be staring out his stroller through a rain guard, and walking back under the very same circumstances, I was ready to clean, bake and maybe even write – all by my lonesome. The best thing about this is that I can always count on the fact that Bastian and my mother will have a beautiful, precious day together. And that, my friends, is the truest gift a parent could ask for.
Which brings me to what’s been on my mind. As we tumble into the latter months of the year, so very very close to Bastian’s second on this planet, the times, they are a’changin.’
To be real honest, Bastian has never been a sensitive boy. He knows just what he wants, when he wants it, and he knows just when he wants to go go go and when he wants to love love love. He kisses and hugs and says “olive you” before bed. On that rare night, when he lies down with his eyes open, he gives constant hugs and face strokes and kisses as he drifts off. He hugs meemaw a lot when he first sees her.
Other than that, the kid prefers to party. He pinches with great purpose, like he has all the power in the world at that moment – you can see the thrill of calculated experimentation in his eyes. He bites daddy’s shoulder like he did when he was first sprouting teeth. He swipes at me sometimes when I’m too close for him at that very moment. I’m sure this all sounds totally crazy to some of you, or maybe you know just what I’m talking about, but either way, it’s Bastian – through and through.
He’s yet to attach to a favorite blanket or stuffed toy, and he never had a pacifier, so he doesn’t really nurture anything, nor does he know what that feels like yet. The other night, I was pretending to cover his Incan doll, Cocha, with a blanket and soothe him to sleep. All Bastian wanted to do was yank him from the covers and throw him across the room. Everyone always seems to talk about their gentle, sensitive toddlers. Well, not this toddler, no way.
The funny side of this is that I can guarantee you I was the very same way as a tot, which has had me thinking a lot about nature vs. nurture. I’ve thought about this, to some degree, since Bastian was born, but now that he’s sprouting into his own little person so rapidly – now that words and sentences and thoughts and feelings may as well be written all over his body and are definitely coming out of his mouth – I think a lot about how much of Bastian we, his parents, have control over. Because right now, it’s feeling like very little.
Our Bastian is wild – not hyper, per se – just constantly curious and experimental. He’s incredibly verbal, speaking in small sentences now, and loves being read to. His current favorites are Madeline and Eloise Takes a Bawth, which is handy because they’re mama’s favorites too (funny how that works out.) He spends more time in my lap than ever during story time at the library – when he’s feeling vulnerable – when we read his something he’s interested in, and when he gets his hour of TV (Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, or Curious George.) So, when he’s caught off guard, essentially. Nothing scares him. He trucks it up ladders and flings down slides on his tummy, walks right into a group of big kids at the park and just stands there, checking them all out. I’m so proud of him, it takes my breath away on a daily basis, yet life with a toddler is hard. Some days, it grates on my nerves until the tiniest of things lifts my feet off the ground in panic. When you live day in and day out attached to a dynamic baby human who explodes at you at a moment’s notice, for whom you have to always be at the ready with distractions, activities, food, water, a clean diaper, etc., the world shrinks a little. Unless, of course, you yourself are a dynamic adult human who goes with her gut.
So, my most recent philosophy looks a little like the following…
If Bastian has spilled an entire carton of expensive hemp milk on the kitchen floor and made it to “time out” over three times in a day, we leave the house. No matter what. Boredom usually equates to trouble and if I don’t feel like I have the energy to bring the fun to our house, we find it elsewhere. This is why we’re most definitely investing in annual passes to OMSI and the Portland Children’s Museum, ASAP. Story time at the library is such a wonderful little blessing for us at the end of the week, but I’m really feeling like we need more structured activities all week long that do not also cost nearly $200 for just 10 weeks – like a lot of things I’ve researched.
Also, no matter how early he wakes up or how exhausted I feel, we must get dressed before 9am. The amount of newfound energy I feel just by getting Bastian out of his pajamas and into his clothes for the day is invaluable.
Lastly, I’m not a crafter, but I am a baker. I feel that Bastian should make something on most days, and since I can’t yet seem to muster the inspiration for crafts at this stage in our lives, we make healthy(ish) scones and muffins!
This is an obscenely long post that should probably be about two or three, but I guess I needed a receptacle to toss all of my “raising a toddler” thoughts into, for my own good and maybe someone else’s. This may very well be the most rewarding, electric time of my life, which also makes it the most difficult. I had a thought the other day that in not too long, Bastian will go to school and I’ll have some days back from him, and not too long after that, he’ll have more days at school and before I know it, my time will often be my own again. This was such a sad yet somehow comforting thought. I’ve been nagging at myself, picking away at the things I need to do and haven’t, the excuses that I continue to make on a daily basis to avoid all things that aren’t Bastian – and I’m finally coming to peace with the fact that what I do now is all I want or need to be doing. I will be present for other aspects of my life – eventually. But maybe not now, not yet. The here and now, for me, is baby raising.
I will say, however, that a night out with Adam where we can discuss anything and everything – the ins and outs of our time together and apart – is indispensable and such a revitalizing force. Right now this happens about once every couple months, but I’m looking to make it more often, duh. We’re both working our butts off right now in very different ways, and if we can’t tell each other about that, and validate one another in that, then we’re bound to run out of steam somewhere down the line. Marriage, I’m learning, is about soothing the imperfections and demanding, gently, the best of one another. It’s about kindness in the purest form – understanding – and it’s about unification. For some of us, ahem, these things don’t exactly come naturally. So practice makes perfect, I say.
Let me leave you with this: make those cupcakes. Holy malted paradise – they’re perfect.