2 Infinity & Beyond!

Posted by savannahkase on January 24, 2015 in Lessons From Little Ones, Parenting, Personal |
Happy 2nd Birthday!

Happy 2nd Birthday!

My baby boy turned two years old this week.  It’s the ultimate cliche to say that time flies, but with kids, the passage of time is all the more noticeable.  Over the past year, my son has transformed from a teetering baby to a confident little boy, eager to explore the world around him and get to know everyone in it.  My husband and I have tried to lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning by introducing new words, concepts like shapes and numbers, and basic manners and social conventions.  The most valuable life lessons, however, have been the things our son has taught us.  In honor of his second birthday, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back on some of these lessons from my little one.

    1. Having a child makes you truly appreciate your parents.  My mom and dad are among my favorite people in the world – friends, suppoIMG_1939rters, and role models both as parents and as people.  I have always valued the time, experiences, nurturing, and unconditional love they lavished upon me growing up, but until I had my own child, I did not fully understand what they had sacrificed in order to be there for me and my sister.  My parents never made us feel like a burden, they just gave and gave and gave of themselves and their material and intangible resources.  They have remained generous towards their children and now grandchildren.  Even with less energy and strength, my mom and dad do not hesitate to swing my son in the air or chase him around the park.  I know I will be even more grateful for their support once our second child is born.
    2. IMG_2188Everything in moderation.  This is a mantra I have tried to adhere to throughout my life – never driving too fast, running too far, drinking too much, shopping too often, working too hard, etc. while allowing myself lots of little indulgences.  But when preparing for parenthood, moderation seemed to take on the stigma of doing things “halfway.”  I did not want my son to watch a “moderate” amount of TV or consume a “moderate” amount of junk food – I was determined to avoid all screen time and give him only healthy, organic, homemade food.  Over the past year, however, my son and circumstances (like the challenges of being pregnant with a toddler and of sending him to a play group where he’s given goldfish crackers and lollypops) have nudged me back towards embracing moderation.  I cannot control everything he sees, eats, plays with, or is exposed to, and I do not want to constantly deny him things that make him happy (like the “choo choo” You Tube video he requests whenever he’s ill).  As long as my husband and I stay true to our parenting intentions and don’t let moderation morph into complacency (for example, turning on Sesame Street just because we’re sleep-deprived and need a break), I believe a little bit of “bad” things can be good for us all.
    3. Science is messy.  Toddlers make a mess.  They are notorious for turning pristine homes into sticky play pens.  Such behavior is not toiletnecessarily the result of lax parenting or an inherently naughty child, however, as I once believed.  Rather, it is essential that young kids be able to explore their environment, push boundaries, and be creative.  I’m not saying parents should let them draw on the walls (unless you have one of those awesome chalkboard wall decals) or dig in the litter box, but scolding a toddler for making a mess can squelch the curiosity and love of learning that all of us want to instill in our kids.  That’s why, when my 18-month-old climbed into the toilet and tried to flush himself, instead of getting upset I grabbed my camera.
    4. Some things cannot be rushed.  One of these is a toddler out for a walk (even going just three blocks usually involves at least a dozen diversions to pet dogs, pick up rocks, jump in a puddle, point out birds, or run in the opposite direction just because).  More importantly, it is impossible (or at least, difficult, frustrating, and inadvisable) to push a child towards a developmental milestone before he or she is ready.  Many have asked me how we got our son to walk at nine months, and I tell them that my husband and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  We were proud when he learned to crawl, but we were not ready for a walking (and soon thereafter, running) child.  Through no active encouragement by us, our little boy has been strong, coordinated, and agile from birth, so he was motivated to learn physical skills.  On the other hand, no amount of reading aloud seemed to enhance our son’s verbal skills, which lagged behind others his age over the past year.  Although he is slowly catching up, I still struggle not to feel jealous when my friends’ kids speak in articulate full sentences while my little cave man uses just key words and emphatic gestures to get his points across.  I can only support my son and take comfort in knowing he will get there in his own time.
    5. IMG_2297The best friends love you and your kids, not in spite of them.  I was the first of my ambitious and accomplished friends to start a family, and I was worried about how becoming a mom (and all of the responsibilities that brings) would affect my friendships.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, that most of my friends embraced my son as part of our relationship, not just a nuisance that had come between us.  As he has grown older, I have become more wiling to leave him behind for a brunch date or girls’ night out, but often my friends are just as happy to come to our place to hang out with my son and then catch up with me once he has gone to sleep.  Even for my friends with toddlers of their own, I never get the impression that a play date is just a chance for us to visit; rather, they seem to truly care about my son and enjoy his company (sometimes even more than mine!).  I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful and supportive friends!
    6. You can buy happiness for a child.  My husband and I pride ourselves in our frugality – by limiting luxuries and shopping for bargains, we are able to live a comfortable lifestyle on just my government salary.  So when everyone warned us about how expensive kids can be, we thought, no problem, we’ll just buy diapers in bulk, make our own baby food, and get most of his toys and clothes second-hand.  What we did not consider, however, was how irresistible the temptation would be to buy things just to make our son smile.  As IMG_2470a new mom, I remember taking offense to an article in The Economist that said Amazon Mom had tapped into a highly profitable market because moms are big consumers.  That was before my son broke into an excited dance, clapped his hands, and exclaimed “happy!” whenever we got him something new.  Nothing brings me more joy than watching my son learn to use a new toy (complete with “oohs,” “ahhs,” and “wows”) or try on new clothes (he admires himself in the mirror from all angles and then poses for pictures).  I can only imagine how much I’ll spend once he can start asking for things …. I hope I can stay strong (at least most of the time).
    7. IMG_2507Don’t knock it ’til they’ve tried it.  My son is not a picky eater, but I was still reluctant about taking him out to eat at an Indian restaurant known for their authentic (read, spicy) flavors.  I needn’t have worried – my son dug right in to the samosas and couldn’t get enough fish curry.  Similarly, I feared a pro basketball game might be too loud and over-stimulating for my toddler, but he absolutely loved all the lights, sounds, smells, people, and excitement.  I have learned not to immediately dismiss something as “not kid-friendly.”  It turns out, toddlers are very adaptable and benefit from new experiences, even when those are experiences aren’t designed for them.
    8. Toddler affection is the sweetest, purest love on Earth.  Nothing can melt a person’s heart more than an unexpected kiss or “I love you” from a small child.  They are too young to use affection for manipulation or to understand social conventions, so you can be sure that a spontaneous hug is genuine.  Similarly, while parents control who their kids play with, we cannot force them to like our friends’ tots.  So when my son takes the hand of a playmate, or greets him with a bear hug, or kisses her picture, it reminds me that even small gestures can be meaningful when they come straight from the heart.Halloween
    9. Learning from your child requires a lot of focused attention.  In our busy lives, it is all too easy to multitask while interacting with our kids.  I am often guilty of making my own breakfast while my son is eating his, missing chances to discuss the colors of the various berries in his bowl or count with him how many he’s eaten.  If I had, I might have known sooner that he now knows the color purple and can count to five.  One advantage of working outside the home, though, is that when I get home, I know I only have a couple of hours with my son before he goes to bed, so I am determined to make the most of them.  We use this time to engage on a deeper level as I strive to give him my complete attention.  I am usually rewarded with a cheerful child who is eager to share with me what he sees, hears, wants, and knows.  Though it means I don’t start making my own supper until my son has gone to bed, those few quality hours are always time well spent.
    10. IMG_2177Nothing I do can guarantee my child’s health and safety.  Since my son emerged from my womb, I have struggled with how best to protect him.  I have tried to keep him away from lead-based paint, high fructose corn syrup, germs, television, steep ledges, busy streets, and anything else that could cause him harm.  As he has become more independent this year, however, I have had to let go a little in order to let him explore.  Whether it’s letting him pet a stranger’s dog or watching him fly head-first down a big slide, I know my son benefits from taking risks.  Of course, even if I did everything right, something terrible could still befall my child (God forbid), so he may as well have some fun.


Happy 2nd Birthday!

Happy 2nd Birthday!

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