The little dude turns two in a few weeks. Wow.
The following month, we’ll welcome another bubba.
I’ve been going through the photos and making some albums, looking back at the little dude when he was a tiny one, and looking forward to having a new born again. Two years is kinda a long time. We look so young in those photos of the first few months – like newborns ourselves, all blinded by the light. That first year of parenthood, yeah, I’m glad it’s properly in the past now. It was … more transformational than I could have imagined. It was like five years condensed into one. It was recovering from birth, getting breastfeeding established, learning how to care for a newborn, it was teething, solids, crawling, sleeping, it was just getting the hang of something then feeling the world completely change again, it was like doing one of those crazy Japanese gameshow obstacle courses.
The second year was basically fine. It was finding a new normal somewhere in between the life I had before, and the life I had with a piripoho. I leant that word last week. Nursling, baby in arms; also meaning treasure; literally translates as “keeping close to the chest.” A baby held close to the heart. That’s what they are in the first year. They are close to the heart, they are sweaty heads in the crook of an arm while they nurse, they are strapped in a baby carrier, they are asleep in your arms. In the second year and towards the end of the first, they start to move away a bit – the mobility of crawling and walking isn’t just physical, it develops in pace with the desire to explore, to be left alone, to go out into the world. This feels like a loss as well as a reprieve.
Last night the little dude stayed with my parents, and this morning when we met up at the fruit market he didn’t immediately want a cuddle with me, he wanted to take the nectarine from my hand and climb the ladder to the slide. I wonder whether I’ll enjoy the baby phase more with number two, knowing that it will all be over soon? Hard to tell. I might just be so overwhelmed by the juggle of toddler needs plus baby needs that the year passes in a blur of sleeplessness.
The little due is well on the way to being an older toddler. He understands a lot. He talks a lot. He’s eager to help me and he always wants to do things by himself, like carry the watering can from the tap to the pot plants. He remembers things from several weeks ago. He is still talking about his cousins we saw when camping, which is a month ago now.
I don’t think we give small children enough credit for how complicated the world is and how tricky it must be for them to figure it all out. Until the past two hundred years or so, almost everyone saw the same people every day. The little dude is old enough to remember all the people we’ve seen from out of town during the past six weeks, but young enough that he might not still remember them next time.
That said, the older they get, the more they adjust to how things are done in the culture in which they live. In the first year, I felt so strongly that our post-industrial way of life makes everything much harder than it needs to be for babies and their caregivers. This is still true with a toddler, but less so. And because they are more independent and individuated, there is less pressure and expectation towards caregivers to do things A Specific Way, more acknowledgement that what works for one kid might not work for another kid. The most personal aspects of new motherhood – the pregnancy and birth and choices around breastfeeding – are over, and the hardest bits can be compartmentalised as having happened to a slightly different version of yourself. The past starts to shift into soft focus. Growing up, eh.