Monday, May 30, 2011

Toddler Mania

We accomplished the baby year with charm and poise. Well, we survived it at least. Our successes gave us confidence to try our luck for a second baby. The resulting pregnancy was almost immediate. This gave us one year of school for Jeep, one more year of the single carseat, and one year of toddler mania. Life would never be the same.

I recall the toddler year with some fondness. Jeep slept in a crib. We trucked him around on a family adventure or two. As parents we easily swapped time with the boy for something more self-indulgent like yoga class or drinking beer with friends. It was comparatively easy to having two.

I had a close friend who took part of that year off to stay at home with his new daughter. It definitely helps to have some compatriots in the stay-at-home brotherhood.

One of my sweetest memories of that year of our lives came in February. We traveled to Mexico with Linden's family on a beach vacation. Linden's belly was beginning to show, and we spent our days playing around the sand, the pool, and the ping pong table. Jeep was portable enough to make the trip, but not powerful enough to make any real complaints. We stayed in a little cabana room near the beach, complete with hammock and bathroom. It was fun. One morning I asked Jeep if he was ready to go to the beach. I turned my back for a moment, and when I turned again he was GONE. The actual water was about 60 yards away, and Jeep made about half the distance before I caught him.

I remember being wracked with anxiety over this kind of travel and this kind of trip. Was our child too young? Were we being negligent parents? Of course he won't remember climbing Mayan pyramids, so why did we bother? Wouldn't he be happier at home? I remember weighing the risks and not knowing how things would turn out. I see now that this was not Jeep's happiest time. He shed some tears, made a few complaints, and really missed the continuity of a schedule. But I wouldn't trade it. We'll never have another trip quite like Mexico.

Let me say this again. Sometimes we take risks with our children. These are not risks with safety, or car seat straps, or food allergies. I am talking about risking the child's good graces. We work very hard as parents to get the child sleeping, eating, and pooping with predictability. Parents and child all reach a sense of calm and equilibrium. And then sometimes we ask too much of them and it all goes to hell. Looking back, I think the rewards outweighed the risks for many of our toddler year ambitions.

One last word about Jeep's first year of school. He began as a baby. He had just taken his first steps, and charmed everyone with smiles and exuberance. He was also the smallest and youngest kid in his little classroom for one- and two-year-olds. Occasionally this made him a victim. Even in the tiny confines of the young toddler room, the children ordered themselves like a pack of wild puppies. Jeep entered as the beta dog. By the end of the year, he had sprouted to the tallest boy in class. Somewhere in the middle of that year he became more surly, more willful, and more prone to the tantrum. By two years old he was verbal, precocious, demanding, and obsessive in his desires. He was also joyful, thoughtful, loving, and full of life. I do not believe we taught him any of these things. Nature versus Nurture? It seems very obvious to me that the Nature in Jeep's nature was trying to come out.

Next up: Hello, Baby!

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