Friday, November 18, 2011


A colleague of mine, with three school-age children, surprised me this week by saying she was considering  being a foster parent. She's motivated by the positive impact she could make in children's lives, a real difference to their childhood and beyond. I think of foster parenting as a half-way point to adoption, and wondered if that was really what she wanted to do. I'm open to adopting, but I think I'm not open to fostering. As I think about it, it's because I think of being a parent as all-or-nothing, and I would find it hard to invest time and cultivate love, and then have it be impermanent, to be taken away on a timeline and according to circumstances outside of my control. I'm not a selfless enough person to "fill in the gap," or be the interim measure of hope and stability but not be quite family. Foster parenting is a special calling - to do the best you can for the children that come to you, to be a safe haven for a time, a soft landing, until they move on.

Then and now

I remember there was a time when I would say to him, "what do you want to do now?" and then I would do whatever I thought best to fill the next 15-increment period of time, such as "reading" a book together, or putting him in the stroller for a walk, or setting up the mobile to move over his swing chair. That was infancy.

Toddlerhood is a grand adventure, in which I follow the lead of a purposeful, busy being, who is prioritizing playing with toys, checking in on various people in the house and what they are doing, accessing snacks, making clothing decisions (shoes and/or socks on/off?), and exploring the source of sounds or changes in the environment.

I am observing how he manages new environments and interacts with others. He and I had a play date today with five women, two older toddler boys, and a 2 month old baby girl. He's used to one-on-one time during the day with a family member, either my mother-in-law or myself, so usually takes a bit of time to warm up in a group. He remembered this house and what he liked to play with (the guitar on a stand, the computer mouse, the tall plant in the corner). As more people arrived, he stayed close to me. I carved out some space for us to be both with the group and apart - we ate near the table, but sitting on the stairs in the same room. I noticed as I would go to and fro that he was comfortable staying around the area, and as he was finishing eating he retrieved a heavy wooden toy, a videocassette he had been looking at, and even half-dragged/half-carried over a footstool to the area. It was becoming like a little fortress with his spoils - the occupied land in the corner that he was laying claim to.

He was both interested in and jostling for position at times with one of the other toddlers, both of them running for the door when someone arrived, like puppies, and each of them brushing past the other to get to someone or some thing or other. They both resolutely refused to share the wooden hammer toy, though each in turn forgot or were distracted from their interest in it, and by discarding it "let" the other have their time with it. Meanwhile, with the toddler he was more familiar with, he "visited" him a few times while he was perched on a chair, putting his face in close to his to see what he was up to.

I am thinking we should have him spend more time with a small baby, so he understands what they are like and how to behave. When the 2 month old was put in a swing chair, he moved the chair back and forth gently, fingered her hair, and at one point set his feet and reached for her with both arms as if to lift her out, the better to play with her. When her mom was nursing her, he and one of the other toddlers came to attend the occasion, and he made grabs at her kicking sock-clad feet poking out from the nursing cover.

We disperse in the early afternoon for older-child school pick-ups or to avoid traffic, but not before a little nap-needy crying. It's noted that he is playing it up a little for his audience, so I take him away to the adjoining room to allow him to regroup and reset.

He's still an "easy baby," is affectionate, and still enjoys cuddle time, but I see the spirit of toddlerhood in him, which will only grow stronger as he becomes more and more independent. I am cherishing all the one-on-one time, this toddling/babbling/verbalizing/climbing phase, the time between outgrowing those 12 month baby outfits and the time before he's really walking alongside, talking all the while.

Another mom and I are expecting within a week of each other - we can compare notes up to and after the births - this will be her third, so I can definitely benefit from having perspective - recognizing things could be even more hectic! I note that the three moms with toddlers don't need the "baby fix" that the two older women do, taking it in turn to rock and hold the 2 month old close. It's still fresh to us, or the time will come around again soon enough. I am looking forward to meeting this new one, whose gender we are waiting again for birth to find out, but I remember the sleep deprivation and long sometimes-lonely days...I am motivated to bring up my toddler to be good company during my maternity leave, during his year of going from 2 to 3 years old. I expect at least I will have someone who will talk to me all the time!

It's good to be part of a community of women & children - we by design this time met without the menfolk on a sunny weekday.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

18 month old & 18 weeks along

My sweet toddler's emotional life is becoming more complex by the day. He's woken up the last couple of mornings ready to go...usually he is content to cuddle up and sleep in. He's up for playing outdoors with the neighbor kids in leaf piles, and then to go down the slide by himself. But then, if you don't let him wave his spoon around trying to get his food out of his bowl on his own, he might just become inconsolable and refuse to eat at all.

He is very definitive in which sesame street YouTube clips he likes or doesn't like. He makes snap judgements on new videos we play. His attention span for these is under four minutes each but up to an hour total for quiet time in lieu of napping.

He took well to the ten year old girl (family of friends) today and let himself lead and be lead to play with new toys, and in separate rooms from where we were. If he doesn't have time to warm up, he's started wrapping his arms around a parent's or grandma's leg for security when in an uncertain situation.

I had made a rough guess that he had 30 spoken words at the 18 month check-up but then I hear others, like 'bubbles.'

I think that the very fact of hearing two languages keeps his mind busier and is stimulating in itself. He is adapting well to understand that two languages are spoken: that the routines and objects don't change, but different words and expressions are used. What could be confusing and frustrating is accepted as just how it is. Every object has at least two names.

Meanwhile, daddy felt kicking tonight for the first time of this new one due in April. We've begun the negotiation of the boy names again. (Our girl name was decided before we were married, and the boy name we decided on was the first one we both liked).

Talking to my friend who is having her first due a week after me in April, I have this odd sense of both being experienced but knowing I'll be sucked in again to that newborn 24/7 immersion, that haze of frequent feedings & restless sleep, that joint honeymoon/nightmare, postpartum recovery/postpartum euphoric state, to last up to six months.