Uvalde

Food Again

I have always heard (and witnessed) that feeding toddlers is a constant and frustrating battle, but I didn’t really understand why until I had one (a toddler, I mean. And a battle.).

It’s because toddlers never want to stop moving, and they are also always ravenous. This means that they always need to eat, but they can’t sit still for it. What meals here look like: I prep a full meal. Edith excitedly climbs into her high chair to eat it. She eats two bites of it and then tries to launch herself out of her high chair. She refuses to eat any more of it and instead dances frantically in her high chair while chattering at the top of her lungs and pointing all around the kitchen, clearly telling me all about her busy schedule and all the things I she needs to be doing that I am now keeping her from. I finally relent and let her down. She goes back to playing while I put all the food away.

Ten minutes later, she has a meltdown because she is starving. I give her a string cheese. Repeat one million times.

What Edith would really prefer is to have a snack in one hand at all times while she runs around at full tilt. Her nanny generally allows this, but I don’t prefer it for a couple of reasons: I find it hard to passively watch her coat the entire house in food, and also eating while literally on the run is not the safest idea for someone who has not fully mastered swallowing or perambulating at any speed, much less doing both together as fast as possible.

I guess like all things this will pass.

Water Toys

I’ve been wanting to set up Edith’s wading pool and little splash pad in the backyard on the weekend, but it always seems like so much work to get it going. I have to set the stuff up, get Edith into all her gear and sunscreen, prep the back porch with towels and water and snacks — every time I thought through the process, yet another step or detail would occur to me, and it just seemed like it might not be worth bothering with.

But on Saturday, we had four hours between her nap and dinner and it was blazing hot out, so I finally did it. It took a lot to get everything set up, especially as Edith insisted on coming out with me and being held under one arm like a 22 lb. sack of potatoes while I fought with various hose attachments, and there was an incident where I had to set her down for a second and disappear around the house, which she reacted to as if I had abandoned her on the side of the interstate and told her to find her own way home, but finally everything was set up and Edith was in her full rash guard and sun hat and water shoes and zinc oxide and mosquito repellent and I had brought out a towel and water and two little oranges for a snack, and it was time to play!

At first, Edith wasn’t into it, mostly because of the Earlier Incident and also because I was too invested — she smelled a rat. She toddled around the porch with an orange in each hand eyeing me suspiciously while I stood below her in the yard, sweating profusely and calling, “come on, Edith! This will be fun! You will love it! You love the water!”

I think I remember childhood more distinctly than many people, and I recall what it feels like to have various adults constantly looming over you with giant grins pasted on their faces and urging you to partake in some sort of heavily arranged “fun” with barely concealed desperation behind their frantic eyes. It was so apparent that the other half of “you will have fun” was “you had goddamned better or I am going to lose my whole entire mind” and that was never conducive to a relaxed good time.

So I tried to be genuinely ok with Edith never getting in. But eventually she did, and she had a really good time tossing the oranges from the wading pool to the splash pad and back and chasing after them.

And I had such a great time watching her have a good time! This is a big reason why I had a kid — I have never really been able to have fun, because first I was too self-conscious to enjoy myself, and then I was too anxious/depressed, and by the time I had gotten over all that, I was bored with everything and hard to impress. But I knew it would be really fun to watch a little kid have fun all the time, and it is. And it’s so easy to do! I mean, this whole thing was sort of a hassle, but it was so easy to turn the back yard into a marvelous, unexpected, summertime adventure for Edith.

And then after, we stood on the shady back porch resting and eating the oranges, and that was exactly what she needed to do after getting all hot and hungry and tired, which I had anticipated and prepped for, and it’s just really satisfying and nice to take care of someone and make sure they really enjoy themselves. It’s especially nice when that someone is a wide-eyed laughing adorable little cartoon character whose reactions to everything are unexpected and hilarious.

I really like living with a toddler. She is a 24/7 cyclone of destruction and chaos, but she’s very charming about it, and ultimately I guess it’s worth it.

TV

I wasn’t sure how long I was going to wait before I let Edith watch TV.

I don’t think TV is very good for us, but I want to teach Edith to self-manage all small vices from early on, so that she can learn moderation. I don’t know how I will teach her this, because I am a hopeless binger in all respects, but I’m going to try. I don’t know much about child-rearing, but I did grow up best friends with Mormons and my parents didn’t really keep sweets in the house regularly, so I definitely know that if you make something that is an everyday part of most people’s lives a rare treat or absolutely forbidden, then as soon as your kid gets out from under your thumb, they will swan-dive into that thing face-first, full scarcity mentality, and it will become their completely uncontrollable vice until they go to therapy or find some sort of meaning in their life or something.

So, I’m going to let Edith watch TV, but I wasn’t sure when I’d introduce her to it. I knew we’d wait at least a year, because they are pretty sure watching screens of any kind is detrimental to babies under one year. Then, I read some stuff that they think you should really wait till two, but I don’t think that evidence is as compelling. Still, I figured I’d wait till she was two.

But then this afternoon, I just felt like watching some TV with her, so I pulled her into my lap and we watched an episode of Adventure Time. I really like Adventure Time and I had planned on watching it with her when she was big enough. They are only 15 minute episodes, and Edith sat completely focused and still for the whole time, just riveted. Which is a little disturbing! But it was so nice to cuddle her and sit there for a bit, and when it was over, I shut it off and put the computer away and she didn’t get upset; she just went back to playing.

So I think maybe we’ll watch one every Sunday afternoon. It can be our little ritual.

Carrots

Today, I gave Edith a little toy that’s a box with holes in the top where you can push five little carrots through. She played with it a couple of times, and then she turned to me (obviously having already thought this through) and pushed one of the carrots directly into my cleavage.

That worked so well that she pushed the other four in there, too, and then she plucked them out one at a time and pushed them into the box. When I emptied the box, she put them all back into my cleavage again, and got them out one at a time. And that’s how the game went from then on.

Not sure how I feel about this, but given that another similar stage in many of her games is to put the toys in my mouth and have me spit them at her, I guess this is preferable.

Book

Edith officially has her first favorite book. It is My Friends by Taro Gomi. We have read it about 50 times over the past two days, at a conservative estimate. I’m not sure why Edith is suddenly so into it, but every time I turn around, she is handing me this book. It’s a fine book! Brief, cute. There could (and I’m sure will be) much more annoying books to have to read over and over.

It’s very interesting to watch her sudden interest in this book — she has previously been pretty interested in books in that she’ll sit and page through one over and over, looking at the pictures. And she doesn’t mind me reading to her; she won’t often fully pay attention the whole way through a book but sometimes she will.

But this is the first book that she has initiated wanting me to read to her, front to back, over and over. We always have three bedtime books and I proceed through them each night, with varying levels of interest from Edith, but this week, we are only reading this one multiple times because she’s so into it that she can’t pay any attention to other books and if I try to read her another one, she just picks this one up and looks through it herself while patiently waiting for me to finish.

Edith is behind on talking, which doesn’t really concern me, but it does make me impatient. I want to be able to talk to her and ask her questions. I want to know why she loves this book so much and what she’s thinking about it when she studies it so intently.

Park

It’s immensely hot in Texas right now; possibly the hottest May on record. This poses problems with a highly active one-year-old because I can’t take her anywhere after about 10:00 a.m. Fortunately, swimming is indoors, but I was still symptomatic yesterday and there are infants at swimming; plus, I wasn’t really up for it yet. So I took Edith to the nearby playground at nine. Even that early, it was almost too hot to go. I had to walk really slowly until we got to the other, shadier neighborhood.

The park was uncharacteristically crowded. First, a man came by playing jazz on a small speaker and walking with an ancient obese golden lab (Maggie) who stopped every four steps to sit by the path and pant and smile pleasantly at everyone. We talked for a bit (the man and I, not the dog) and he asked about Edith and talked about his grown sons.

Meanwhile a gang of preteens arrived — four boys and a girl. They were all getting to the age where the boys were ganging up on the girl, and after they had isolated her by taking the only four swings and then telling her to move so she didn’t get kicked in the head, she captured the oldest boy’s cellphone and attempted to reestablish her position in the group by needling him in the following way:

“OMG what is this, you have a girlfriend?”

“No, that’s that girl from Vegas.”

“OMG then what is this, you reply here, and it says ‘love you, too’!?!?!?!”

“Sure,” he said easily. “Is it illegal to say you love someone.”

The girl spluttered, having been utterly check-mated, and I felt for her.

Meanwhile one of the smaller boys was trying to tell some sort of joke, but no one was listening. He was sure it was going to be a real winner, though, so he started it five different times that I heard. Every time he said,

“How do you get a girlfriend? Step one, go to your local convenience store. Step two, buy an AK-47.”

He never got further than that, and although I think I really didn’t want to hear what the rest of the joke was, I sort of did?

Meanwhile, Maggie (the golden lab) at some point refused to go any further, and rather than continuing on their walk, her owner conceded the point to her gentle yet insistent passive resistance, and turned around to go home.

At the same time, Edith and I were having a battle — Edith’s nanny keeps snacks in the stroller for her and Edith has gotten used to helping herself to them whenever she wants one. Last time I took her to the park, I did not bring enough, resulting in tears and an early end of plans, so this time I had stocked up. Unfortunately it now became clear that Edith’s interest in having a continual incoming stream of snacks was not to eat them, but rather to have one gripped in her fist as she ran around and climbed on things and dug in the dirt. So, her cracker or whatever would get rubbed all over the ground, the sidewalks, and the play equipment and she’d periodically nibble on it. I was opposed to this, so I kept following along after her and taking it from her whenever she ground it into the dirt, at which point, she would scream bloody murder. When she began to scream, if we were on the same half of the playground as the gang of preteens, they would all hurriedly move to the other half of the playground, and I would also usually give her snack back.

So, of all the various factions wrestling for social dominance at the playground yesterday, the clear winners were my daughter (14 mo.) and Maggie the fat lab. I think that’s as it should be.

Co-Sleeping

Because I was sick, Edith chose last night for one of her rare 4:00am awakenings. As usual, I checked her forehead and her diaper and once I’d established she was just ready to get up, I told her it wasn’t morning yet, and went back to bed. Eventually she went back to sleep, and then she woke up again howling 20 minutes later.

Since I was sick and didn’t have the endurance to outlast her, I lugged her into bed with me, where we spent the next 90 minutes. I don’t know what happened in that 90 minutes. I know she did a lot of kick-flips over me, and then she spent some time curled up against me with her fuzzy little head under my chin sleeping, and then she began to pummel me and I handed her my phone, and eventually it was 6:30. I know I slept at least a little bit in there.

I am not sure what is normal and healthy when it comes to co-sleeping. In my house it was an absolute no-go. From as early as I can remember, I knew I was not allowed in my parents’ bed unless they were awake for the day and had invited me. I didn’t even try it. If I woke up scared in the night, I dealt with it myself using various mental techniques I’d honed over the years. Hell, if someone had broken in, I probably would have told them to keep it down lest they bother the adults.

Nowadays, going by my friends, it seems that most parents let their actual bodies serve as their child’s mattress. The bed has a 24/7 open sign on it, and if your child wants to get in it at 2am and kick you in the face all night, well, that’s their god-given right as your progeny, and declining to allow this is callous and will result in them being insecure attachers who only date jazz musicians.

I feel like there must be a happy middle ground between these two extremes, but if I have to pick between the two, I’ve got to go with my parents’ version because I simply cannot function at all, let alone parent, without sleep (neither can they; it’s a family curse).

Which all is to say, I quite enjoy having Edith in the bed when she’s sleepy-cuddling (for the full five minutes that happens), and I wouldn’t mind permitting it for, say, a couple hours every other week. But I fear that allowing it at all is going to just open the door to Edith demanding it as a permanent arrangement, and that’s not doable for me.

Anyway, I’m dreading how tonight will go, now that she thinks she has the upper hand.

Pain

Edith is growing at a real clip, and as a result, I am in a lot of pain. My lower back is obliterated, my thigh muscles are constantly sore, my shoulders and upper arms feel like someone tugged them out of their sockets.

Nobody talks about this? Or maybe they do, but I wasn’t listening. I mean, I am admittedly in terrible shape, the worst shape of my entire life. But so many people who are in even worse shape than I am have kids. How do they do it? Come to that, how do disabled people have toddlers? Gestating, birthing, and raising this baby has been and continues to be one of the most purely physical challenges I’ve ever had; I often think that this is one reason our fertility craps out when it does. I’m very obviously too old for this shit.

Anyway, the more Edith weighs, the bigger of a fight she puts up. She now forces me to chase her down the street, tackle her, pick her up, and haul her kicking and screaming back to the house, so I don’t anticipate this getting easier any time soon. She eats more and more. I eye her as she bulks up and does her reps on the furniture; she’s clearly in training to eventually defeat me altogether.

Tantrums

Before I had a child, I had a lot of opinions about how parents could make things easier on themselves, which (surprise!) all turned out to be based on total ignorance and do not work in actual practice. For example, “just don’t make the kid eat if they aren’t hungry” lacks insight into how a moment in time fits into the rest of a 24-hour period: children who do not go to sleep with full tummies do not sleep well, which means you do not sleep well.

But there was one thing I thought that has largely turned out to be correct: if a child is throwing a temper tantrum, just leave the room.

This works! (I mean, it works for now, for my particular child; I am certain that there are any number of children who it absolutely would not work for.) It only works when nobody else is home, because if you have a house full of people and you simply leave the room when your toddler is having a meltdown you are leaving other people to deal with a toddler having a meltdown. But now that Edith and I are on our own, I deploy this tactic with success often.

For example, this morning Edith was lying on her stomach in the kitchen playing with some toys and I noticed an unfamiliar clicking sound, so I hurried right over to see what she had.

She had two big broken pieces of glass.

I knew where they had come from — my mom broke a jar weeks ago, and cleaned up after it scrupulously, but these pieces of glass were from that same jar. I can only assume Edith somehow retrieved them from underneath the refrigerator. I took them away from her gingerly but swiftly and inspected her hands, which had not been cut, and then I sat at a little distance freaking out.

When I had calmed down, I noticed that Edith was throwing a full screaming crying tantrum because I had taken her pieces of broken glass away.

So I went into my room. She immediately stopped crying and a second later, I heard her little feet padding across the floor as she came to see what I was up to.

See? It’s easy, this parenting thing.