2 and a half years

Things I’m enjoying at 2 and a half years:

1. MY CHILD SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT.

2. This honestly feels so momentous that it should take up two points. It was probably around two years and three months when he started sleeping through the night more often than not, and suddenly he was only waking up very occasionally, once a fortnight or something like that. It is a rather glorious state of affairs, all this unbroken sleep.

3. The conversations we have with Edward are so immensely enjoyable. He is intensely inquisitive about everything, soaks in information, eavesdrops on our conversations (well, it probably doesn’t count as eavesdropping if we’re talking openly in front of him, but he often seems absorbed in what he’s doing and will then surprise us by chirpily repeating something that we’ve said).

4. Edward’s imaginative play is so very amusing to watch. At the moment, much of it revolves around cars – driving cars, getting in and out of cars, and discussing car aerials which are a particular intense interest of his for some mysterious reason. He narrates what he’s doing at a rapid speed, only about half of it clearly intelligible. Multiple times a day, he will dash up to us, shout something like, “I’m going shopping! Will buy milk and meat! And the aerial will go UP UP UP ALL THE WAY UP, bye-bye!”, and then open an imaginary door and brrrrm off loudly.

5. He has started a lot of dancing and singing recently, by which I mean he gallops around in tight circles, trying to cajole myself or the cats into dancing with him (he doesn’t have much success with the cats), and chanting in a monotone. I naturally think this is the most adorable thing I have ever seen.

Things I’m not enjoying at 2 and a half years:

1. Getting Edward to sit down and eat can be a bit challenging; eating is a very dull activity and there are many more interesting things for a toddler to be doing. Despite telling myself for the past year that I really would put my foot down about proper mealtimes, I still feed him some meals by following him around and shoving food at his mouth as he plays. I feel keenly the weight of my inadequacies as a parent while I’m trotting around after him though, so it all evens out.

2. My hair being his favourite soothing aid when he’s tired. This is a much, much more annoying habit now that he’s older and stronger, and I frequently fantasise about shaving my head. It’s probably the thing I snap at him about most, frequently hissing “will you let go of my hair for god’s sake” with much intensity in the supermarket.

3. The reason that happens is that I generally take him grocery shopping when he’s tired and ready for a nap, so he refuses to ride in the trolley, instead clinging to me and pulling on my hair. And the reason I do this is that I can usually only get him to have a nap if he falls asleep in the car, and I then shift him into his bed. Yes, this does strike me as a ridiculous thing to be doing with a two and a half year old. However, let us recall that he sleeps through the night now! This makes me feel so successful that I am willing to continue to do ridiculous things in order to get him to have a nap. (I also still lie down with him until he goes to sleep at night which can be quite a long drawn-out affair at times, but – HE SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT. On reflection perhaps sleeping through the night was a cunning stratagem on Edward’s part to get away with all sorts of other nonsense.)

4. Edward gets into these strange contradictory ruts when tired or just feeling particularly two-ish. He will whine that he wants to do something – close the door, for example – and then when I say yes, please go ahead and close the door, he will cry with chagrin that he does not want to close the door, why on earth would he want to close the door, am I quite mad? Alright, I will say peaceably, don’t close the door then. “WANT TO CLOSE THE DOOR”, he will howl, before selecting another topic. We will then enact this thrilling little play over and over again until one of us collapses screaming with frustration.

On the South Island

In preparation for our holiday in Wanaka, I ordered several sticker books from the Usborne sticker book range on such varied themes as dinosaurs, trucks and farm animals, and I recommend them heartily as plane entertainment aids for two year olds. “Where do you think this dinosaur should go, Ted?” Edward considered the matter with due seriousness. “Maaaaaaybe… in water!” he said every single time. Soon all the dinosaurs stickers allocated to that page were stacked on top of each other in a small pool of water. Watching this requires a certain amount of parental restraint in not rearranging the dinosaurs in a more aesthetically pleasing fashion, but the lengthy decision making process over each sticker makes it an enjoyably time-consuming exercise.

We stayed in a house next to Lake Hawea, and did various wintery holiday things. The area around Wanaka was a great place to holiday with children with plenty of interesting things to do within easy driving distance. Two year old Edward’s highlights were:
1. the dinosaur slide in the playground next to Lake Wanaka. It’s a slide shaped like a dinosaur. You slide down the dinosaur’s neck. From the perspective of a two year old, this is obviously the greatest thing of all time.
2. repeatedly sliding down on a tire with a parent down a snowy slope – “again! again!”.
3. making “snow balls” and a “snow man” ie. playing around with extremely icy snow which didn’t compact into balls at all.
4. staying “very very quuuuuuiet” in one of the dark kiwi houses at a bird park, and watching a kiwi scurry over a and take a drink from a little pool next to the glass.

Before this holiday, I had underestimated the vicarious enjoyment I get from watching Edward gleefully experience new things. I had wondered whether I would wistfully remember how holidays were pre-children, but instead I really loved watching his first tentative experience with snow and his wide-eyed gazing out of the back seat window as we drove through mountain ranges. (I also very much enjoyed my mother spending a day with Ted so that I could go skiing at Cardrona – vicariously enjoying your child’s wonder is always more fun when you’ve had a day off).

2 years

I made this date cake for Edward’s birthday, so that his little cousin who avoids wheat and sugar could partake as well (and I didn’t think the general heady excitement of having a birthday party really needed to be increased with a sugar high.) While a cake sweetened just with dates sounds a little austere, it actually had a lovely caramel flavour and beautiful soft texture.

Things I’m enjoying at 2 years:

1. I think at 18 months I was delighted at his first short sentences – at 2 years, we have weaving rambling conversations about whatever is on Edward’s mind. I am surprised by his recollections – he will often start telling me about something fabulous that that happened to him over a month ago (“Teddy go in train with Dada! People on train! Tunnel!”). He is anxious to identify everything, repeatedly interrogating me with “what dat?”. He can count to five, identify colours, knows the names of lots of things in his father’s toolkit and parts of the car. He is so very enamoured of vehicles of all varieties and gets irritated when I ignore his loud commands to follow concrete trucks when we’re driving somewhere together. “Truck! Concrete truck! Go dat way! MAMA GO DAT WAY.”

2. Not breastfeeding anymore. Edward finally weaned himself (with a bit of encouragement from me) at about 22 months or so, by which point I was very tired of breastfeeding and wanted my body to myself again.

3. Watching his imagination at work. This little cardboard box is a train, he will tell me, a tiny train, it has wheels, Teddy is driving the tiny train on a railroad, the tiny train is going up a mountain, a big mountain – and so on, as he waves a featureless cardboard box around and then chuffs it up my arm. He chats to himself as he plays, sometimes narrating what he’s doing, sometimes imagining things, and loves coming up with crazy “joke” scenarios (“Teddy is eatin’ a tractor!” followed by hearty laughter at his own joke, a trait he has obviously inherited from me.)

4. The great enthusiasm he takes in helping with chores – vacuuming, wiping up spills, tidying up his toys (well – occasionally). This evening I asked him to help me feed the cats, and he promptly barrelled out onto the front verandah, bellowing “hello cats!” before solemnly assisting pour water and food into the appropriate bowls. I’m sure chores won’t remain enthralling for all that long, so I’m making the most of this stage.

Things I’m not enjoying at 2 years:

1. I didn’t think I would have a two year old who doesn’t sleep through the night, and yet I do. So that’s a thing. He mostly only wakes up once and wants to drink a bottle of milk and be cuddled back to sleep. I can’t be bothered doing anything about this but I can’t say it particularly thrills me.

2. The advent of the sobbing toddler tantrum, generally about nothing in particular that I can discern, and usually accompanied by howls of “want! waaaaaaant!” which I can’t help but find a little amusing – the intense base demands of the toddler id.

Night rituals

Once a night, I am often awake giving Edward a bottle of milk and then lying next to him on a swag on the floor of his bedroom waiting for him to go back to sleep. Once he seems to be satisfactorily unconscious, I push myself up in order to sneak out of the room, at which point my shoulder invariably cracks loudly, and I wince, anticipating toddler stirrings. I expect it does this quite often, an inconsequential sound that escapes my notice, but it seems very noisy in the early hours of the morning.

If I happen to mention broken sleep, people occasionally enquire with varying degrees of solicitude why my child still wakes up at night when he is a great hulking 21-month-old. I suppose the reason I haven’t yet resorted to sleep training is that part of me quite likes cuddling with him until he goes back to sleep, when he presses his face against mine so I can breathe against his warm baby skin and enjoy his nice Edward smell. I lie there in the dark and think (when I am awake enough to think rather than my brain producing a “hrrrrrrr” sort of noise, which is my general mental state upon waking) how fleeting this time will be, how long it seems since the other stages of babyhood. Particularly that delightful period when I spent much of the night sleeping in Edward’s bedroom. At the time, I found that very wearying – now, I find it hard to remember exactly when that was, or how long it lasted. Waking briefly once a night is such a vast improvement from the various varieties of sleep disruption that he has exhibited throughout his life that I find it hard to consider it a particular hardship. Although having said that, unless he figures out how to sleep through in the next few months, I think I may resort to some sort of sleep training (a term I rather dislike, it makes me think of training sheep dogs, for some reason. Sleep -> sheep -> sheep dog training, I guess. I am not responsible for the random connections of my brain). It would be nice to be finished with regular night waking after two years.

Sunshine

Edward’s current favourite book is one of my childhood picture books, and after spending many years in humid conditions in Daintree the slightly musty smell of the pages make me sneeze. “Sunshine” by Jan Ormerod is a wordless book, a series of pictures of a little girl getting up for the day, and then waking up her parents (at 7.20! on a work day! I have long since driven off at such an hour), and so on through their morning routine. I describe what the little girl is doing and Edward focuses intently, fascinated by the little details of their morning.

“And then she has a wee on the toilet…”
“Wee!”
“And washes her hands…”
“Wee!”
“And then she brushes her teeth.”
“Wee!”
“She doesn’t brush her teeth with wee, that would be unhygienic.”
He looks at me scornfully, and indicates that I should turn the page. He has no time for my off-topic ramblings. I clearly do not understand the simple joy of chanting “wee!”. Adults, man. What can you do.

“Book! More!”. We read it again. The illustrations are lovely, and I can vaguely remember – although it is probably an invented memory – being very fond of the book myself. There is a companion book called “Moonshine” which is more suitable for a bedtime story, being about the end of the day. I have ordered a copy. Edward will no doubt continue to prefer “Sunshine”. 20 months is a contrarian age – at least, that is my impression of it. This is exacerbated by the fact that Edward hasn’t yet grasped the meaning of “yes”, and answers all enquiries and suggestions with a firm “no!”, regardless of his intentions. His other all-purpose response is an interested sort of rising “mmm”, which I enjoy immensely and start elaborate conversations with him in order to hear him “mmm” along in obliging tones. Perhaps it’s not such a contrarian age after all. “Oh, mother… that is yet to come,” Edward thinks merrily, “mmm”-ing along to keep me happy in the meantime.

Mornings

I slept in this morning, having scheduled my alarm for 5.40pm rather than am. Edward cried out and woke me up just after 6, and I walked down to his room, telling him to lie down and I would make him a bottle of milk. He understands this concept now and plugs his thumb into his mouth, waiting fairly patiently for me to return (as long as I don’t dawdle over the task too long for his liking). I gave him his milk and left him lying in his room while I hurriedly got dressed. He made whinging sounds of protest. I normally lie next to him while he has his morning milk, chatting to him about who he’s going to spend the day with and what we can see out the window. He in turn informs me of such things as the fan being on, and the fact that he can hear a cat outside. “Omn! Aaaa!”, being on and cat, respectively, those single sounds becoming more complex communication when accompanied by an energetically pointing or waving hand.

Edward trotted closely behind me on my way out to the kitchen, and then said “Mup! Mup!” in urgent tones, clinging to my pants. He wants to perch on my hip, watching me cut his sandwich and spoon some yoghurt into a container. Parenthood has made me very adept at preparing food with one hand. He likes to suck his thumb and grip painfully onto the back of my hair with his other hand. “Don’t pull my hair,” I say many times a day, and tap his hand. He lets go, but will absentmindedly grab onto it minutes later, particularly when he is still sleepy in the mornings and I’m rushing to get us out of the house. Sometimes I think his ideal comforting toy would be a revolting stuffed animal covered with hanks of my hair.

We drove to my brother’s house, listening to The Good Lovelies sing Backyard. Edward enjoys most of the music I play in the car, applauding with a grinning smile at the end of each track and saying “More? More?” until the next one starts. I drop him off, switch the music to a podcast, and start my trip into work. People, mostly those whom I don’t known well, often respond to my description of my four day working week with a frown. “Oooh, four days, that’s a lot,” they say. I enjoy the time away from parental responsibilities. It’s lovely being able to sink into my thoughts, and read books on the bus, without having to go and investigate suspiciously silent moments or deal with toddler meltdowns. But coming home at the end of the day never fails to be wonderful, even if I’m greeted with tears or ignored in favour of a particularly absorbing activity. At some point Edward’s voice squeaks “Mup! Mup!” at me and when I pick him up he leans his head against me, and twines his fingers securely through my hair. This habit is somehow less annoying at the end of the day; a sweet trait of babyhood rather than an irritation, something that I will probably miss in years to come.

18 months

When the husband and I are talking about parenting these days (something we do a lot of the time, because – parenting! It can be rather all consuming) we find ourselves saying “Oh, he’s so much fun at the moment!”. Around 18 months seems to be the stage for us where the really enjoyable part of having a baby has overtaken the tedious and difficult parts. Having the beginnings of broken conversations with your child is something I find particularly wondrous, and makes up for the downsides of this age (tantrums, hair pulling, and broken sleep – although this has been a feature of having Edward in general, not something limited to a particular age).

Things I’m enjoying at 18 months:

1. Conversations! Edward’s sentences generally begin with either “more” or “no”. “More? yoghurt? [lalo]”, “more? high?” [ie. push me higher on the swing, I’m not a baby], “more? book?”, and amusingly, “more? no?” [no more]. I’ve punctuated these in the way that he says them, two words with rising inflections. When I’m talking to him, or to someone in his presence, he busily parrots a word out of each sentence. I’ve taken to spelling some words in order to avoid sudden demands for those things – such as swing, park and yoghurt.

2. Edward’s daily increasing vocabulary. Recent acquisitions I have particularly enjoyed are “rain” [mame] accompanied by open palms raised to the sky if we happen to be outside, and “niiiiishe”, said with great satisfaction while drinking milk, or slightly less convincingly while sitting on one of the cats showering it with violent toddler affection. I guess all those “Ted! Be nice to the cats!” rubbed off, albeit not exactly as I intended.

3. Seeing his independence and focus increase. At the weekend I watched Edward buzz off by himself at a park and later at my brother’s house, unconcerned for large periods of time about his parents’ whereabouts, focussing on some particular absorbing thing – a water feature at the park, a zipper on a bag. He watches our faces with great intensity as we talk to him, sometimes silently moving his mouth along with us, frequently parroting words.

4. The way he listens intently to me while I sing to him (occasionally briskly saying “no!” if a song is not to his liking), and then applauds enthusiastically, grinning, when I’ve finished. I find it extremely endearing, and happily sing the same song multiple times in response to his “more! more!”. The morning I was shrieking at him in a mad falsetto (“Edward! Edward Bear! He is my Edwaaaaaard Beeeear!”. My invented songs tend to be fairly repetitious) which he found inexplicably delightful, and when I tried to switch to a more normal singing voice I was met with “no! more!”. I find I am happy to shriek endlessly in order to see that delighted grin spread across his face. There is no accounting for musical taste.

Things I’m not enjoying at 18 months:

1. Edward is a skinny toddler and a pretty erratic eater. I try not to pay too much attention to weight charts, but I was relieved when he almost scraped in to the 10th percentile the last time he was weighed. For some reason, I find the idea of being below the 10th percentile rather worrying. Well, more worrying. He’s not exactly a picky eater, but is disinterested in food a lot of the time. There are so many other things he would rather be doing, like emptying the kitchen cupboards of saucepans. I find this immensely frustrating, not only the process of cooking a meal that is rejected uneaten, but a nagging concern about his weight that, try as I might, is hard to dislodge. This issue is probably the one I spend the most time trying to relax about (given that everything I read about the subject blares in alarm “don’t make food into an issue, whatever you do!”).

2. Rough outbursts resulting from a mixture of excitement and frustration, which result in hair pulling and head butting, accompanied by mad cackling. We approach these by walking away from him for a bit, or putting him in his room for about 15 seconds or so, which usually serves to break the spell and allow him to calm down.

3. We’ve just finished a fortnight or so of fairly terrible sleeping (by that, I mean he wakes up about four to five times each night, breastfeeds each time to get back to sleep and sleeps very restlessly). He is now on day four of only-one-wake-up, I’m crossing my fingers that this is going to last for a while.

4. I wouldn’t say breastfeeding is something I’m not enjoying, exactly, but I’m rather tired of it. I go back and forth about weaning Edward, as I hope it will improve his sleeping. Initially I was hoping he would wean himself, but as that doesn’t seem to be happening, in a few months I will probably enlist the husband’s help in cutting out night feeds completely.

Sleep

On nights when Ted isn’t sleeping well, I sometimes sleep on a swag on the floor of his room with him snuggled up against me. This arrangement is not very comfortable, partly because it’s a single mattress and partly because Ted is a restless sleeper. This morning at around 4.30 he was thrashing around in an irritated manner, then rolled and draped himself over my head and relaxed, snoring sonorously into my ear. I used to worry about his weight as he’s not very high up in the percentile charts, but I can now definitively say that when he is lying across your head, he feels rather weighty.

The nights of broken sleep over the 15 months of his life have made me regularly frustrated, but sometimes, more often now, I can find enjoyment in sitting with him at night – watching him staring into the dimly lit room, or finally sleeping, his mouth slack, limbs relaxed floppily in strange positions. It reminds me of the first night after he was born when I couldn’t sleep, lying on my hospital bed just staring at the baby lying in the cot beside me, watching his chest rise and fall in tiny movements. My memory has mistily dispensed with the sounds of a woman vomiting and crying and a baby howling that were in fact keeping me awake. Now there’s just a single picture of me gazing at tiny Edward, thinking to myself that I should really sleep, but unable to look away.

15 months

We’ve moved into the world of toddler – Edward starting walking, suddenly, at around 14 months, and now a month later he walks and runs everywhere. Usually while shouting and smashing things.

Things I’m enjoying at 15 months:
1. Having a mobile toddler. I like walking around with him, hand in hand (although he generally prefers to charge around on his own), and watching him explore things on his own that were hard for him before he could walk. When we’re at the park, he runs towards the playground shouting “Eeeee! Eeeee!” with excitement (“Whee!”).
2. Hearing about the swimming lessons he goes to each week with his father – he can swim towards someone underwater now, and grips onto you carefully in the water without needing to be held. Watching him progress at things and learn new skills is so intensely enjoyable.
3. Watching him interact with his cousin, with whom he spends two days a week – he has a special name for her, and they press their faces tenderly together by way of greeting. Yesterday I watched her tow him off by the hand to show him something. I thought they would have to be older to have that kind of connection, and it’s lovely to see such affection between them already.
4. Finally, finally taking more pleasure and interest in eating. A few days ago he used a fork by himself for the first time, reasonably accurately, and stuffed himself with sardine and caper pasta. Perhaps I don’t have a picky child after all.

Things I’m not enjoying at 15 months:
1. Molars. Dear lord. For a while I was back to sleeping on the floor of his room for part of the night which I had very much hoped to be done with by the time he was this age.
2. Testing boundaries and the beginning of temper tantrums. Proto-tantrums. He delights in doing things that are forbidden – looking at me and laughing with excitement while grabbing for something he’s not allowed to touch. I weary of (mostly calmly) saying no. I imagine there is ever so much more of that in my future.

Stars

It was dark when I arrived home tonight, and unbuckled Ted from his carseat, hooking his bags over my arms. We paused in the garden before heading up the stairs towards the house, and I pointed up to the sky. “Look up there, Ted – can you see the stars?” His head tilted back, nestled in next to mine and he gazed upwards with his mouth open, his warm breath puffing on my cheek smelling of milk and the strawberries he’d just eaten. The faint light from the house was shining in his eyes and he had an expression of astounded wonder on his face which he gets several times a day (generally while looking at rather more prosaic things). Seeing that expression is one of my favourite things in the world. It makes my heart ache.

“Ahhh! Baaah!” he exclaimed, waving his arm excitedly upwards. “That’s the Milky Way. And that… I think that’s part of Orion. Aren’t they beautiful?” He repeated his “baaaaah” which I took as agreement, and then he turned away, distracted by the sound of the frogs calling from the dam, moment of wonder at an end. We walked up the stairs, unlocked the door, and went inside.