Toddler Cute Digest

A random collection of recent cute.

* The Toddler is dragging a box of duplo across the landing. “Ooof. Hard work,” he says.

* We are drawing together. I add a sun to his picture. This reminds him of his Maisy book in which Maisy and Eddie drink lemonade. “Mummy, sunshine Maisy? Maisy, Eddie? Drinken?” Obligingly, I draw a crude elephant and mouse with bottles of lemonade in the sunshine. He grabs the paper looking pleased. “Lovely picture, mama. Good drawing, mama!”

* My hair is constantly getting in the way, so I have put it up with a hair clip. The Toddler is not impressed. He stands up on the sofa behind me and starts fiddling with it. “Clip. Haar [hair]. Mummy, not clip haar anymore.”

* He is walking around with my bright red handbag, which he loves. He gets his Maisie Mouse puzzle out and carefully stacks up all the pieces. “Come on, bag. Roumbabout!” he says, and proceeds to run around the pile of puzzle pieces in a circle.

* Whenever the Toddler finds something that can act as a suitcase, he becomes Doctor S. He holds the case in one hand, draws himself up to his full height and assumes an air of authority. “Buik [tummy], Mummy.” Doctor S lifts up my jumper and prods my tummy, which is obviously in need of attention.

“I’ve got a headache, Doctor S. Can you help me?” I ask. The Doctor gives me a slightly nervous smile, then he runs off to the other side of the room where he picks up something invisible, runs back and carefully places the imaginary medicine against my head. He smiles broadly – I am now to announce that I am All Better.

* He walks into the kitchen where I have been busy cooking. He puts on his baby-S-crying face. “S huilen [crying].”
“Oh dear,” I say, “Why are you crying?”
“S anana hug.” [anana=made up word for ‘would like’]
I sweep him into a hug. Into my shoulder he says: “S happy.”

Sleep – and lack of it

Parents of newborns are boring. All they talk about is sleep: when the baby sleeps, for how long, how often, how little sleep they are getting, who they would kill to get some sleep. I remember a friend warning me before I had our son that me and my husband would inevitably get into bitter arguments over who had had the least sleep. She wasn’t wrong.

When people meet our baby, they will often ask: “Is she good?” Bizarrely, that turns out to mean: “does she sleep at night?” – as if this were a behaviour the baby had much control over. Well, our baby is pretty good, but she likes to surprise us. First, she surprised us by sleeping through for three nights in a row when she was only six weeks old. Then she surprised us by waking up in the night again after that, and sleeping through again every third or fourth night, just to keep us on our toes. After settling into a nice sleeping-through pattern around Christmas, she has most recently surprised us by waking up every two hours or so from her last feed at 11pm. This is not a popular trend, as I am sure you can imagine.

In situations like this, when you are sleep deprived and a little bit desperate, and also foolishly trying to stay off the cake and chocolate, you start to look for magic solutions. I see parents searching for answers everywhere I go: on baby forums, in toddler groups, in the Netherlands, in the UK – why is my baby doing this and more importantly, how do I make it stop?

Gina Ford enthusiasts debate the wisdom of pushing the morning nap (MN, on the forums) later in order to combat early morning waking (EMW). Gina herself warns you not to feed your baby when she wakes up in the night if she has previously not needed milk at that time – you will just be making a rod for your own back as she will start waking up at that time expecting milk. Her dire warnings echo through my head as I breastfeed my daughter at 2.30AM to get her back off to sleep quickly.

Then there are those in the opposite camp who prefer to combat the waking by sharing their bed with the baby (co-sleeping, this is called), so that the baby can feed on demand in the night while you drift in and out of sleep yourself. Personally, I prefer to keep the bed for grown ups, plus my baby seems to like sleeping in a darkened room on her own. This of course also causes fear and guilt, as the more evangelical proponents of this method will tell you that it is unnatural and even cruel for little babies to be separated from their mother in this way.

What really scares me – possibly because it goes against my own fervently held opinions – is when parents decide to start weaning their babies early to make them sleep through the night, say at 12 weeks old. How far will we go to get some sleep? Surely this is compromising their baby’s health? Their tiny stomachs are just not ready for solid food at that age. When I hear these kind of stories my blood boils and I want to shake people. Then again, advice on weaning has varied widely over the ages and even over the past few years. Before there was formula, mothers unable to breastfeed their children would make pastes a little like baby rice now and feed them to infants barely a few days old – and still the human race has survived. There may well be people reading this who feel very strongly about either Gina Ford or co-sleeping who are quite ready to give me a good shake based on the previous few paragraphs and tell me that I myself am compromising my baby’s health. In fact, you may already be on the case, finding me links to articles online that will prove conclusively that I am Wrong.

When the Toddler was a baby, I spent hours reading parenting books trying to work out what I was doing wrong and how I could make him sleep through again when he stopped being “good”. With our daughter, I plan to just ride it out and do whatever seems best at the time. As it is unethical and entirely impractical to do scientific research into which baby-care method is most effective, we all just find our way through the conflicting opinions and do what seems to suit us and our babies best, and as long as they are happy and growing well, we can pat ourselves on the back and say Good Job Well Done.

 

I’m not messing about on the early weaning though. Stop it. Wait till they’re about six months, sitting up and can bring food to their mouths themselves.

Memory

When the Baby was still just a topic for discussion, I was visiting a friend who had just had a second baby. She seemed quite harrassed and overwhelmed – her toddler was going through the usual “you are trying to replace me and I will have my revenge”-phase, the baby was needy and her husband had just gone back to work. As I watched and reconsidered our own second-child-plans, she imparted a piece of advice a friend had given her that she had found helpful: when they are both crying and you have to choose who to go to first, choose the toddler. The baby will not remember this time, but he will.

When a year or so later I found myself in the same situation – attention seeking first child, crying baby, husband back at work – I often repeated this to myself to help me prioritise. Things are easier now, but I was thinking about the memory aspect of it again recently: when my son is older, he will remember parts of what happens to him now. The very happy bits and the very sad bits. My own earliest memories are from when I was about his age, and they are as follows:

1. My mother was heavily pregnant with my brother. We were standing in the doorway to my grandmother’s hospital room. She was in bed knitting a pink jumper. That was the last time I saw her, she died before my brother was born.

2. I was sitting in my cot, merrily cutting up a little book with a pair of scissors I had snuck into bed with me. My dad came into the room and got very angry.

A little sad to see that both these memories are negative. One is sad – although I wouldn’t have realised it at the time. Perhaps it was more scary, seeing my grandmother like that. The other is one where joy turns to fear and guilt, as the cool new thing you have discovered turns out to make your favourite people mad at you.

I have noticed recently that the Toddler’s memory is improving. He can recite exactly how many giraffes, peacocks, birds, rabbits etc. go in Maisie Mouse’s train in one of his favourite episodes and he talks along to his favourite books. I was prepared for that, as the endless repetition must be etching these stories into his brain. When we were in the supermarket in the Netherlands, however, he startled me by casually ace-ing a pairs game on a touch screen computer provided by the store (I know! How amazing is that!). I had demonstrated a few turns, then I said to him: so where is the other umbrella/tree/house? He gave me a bit of a “what is wrong with you?”-look, like I was obviously a bit thick for needing to ask, and touched the right card every time.

For Christmas, the Toddler got quite a few puzzles, his favourite being a Maise Mouse floor puzzle with 24 pieces. He had some help the first time, but from his second attempt he has been doing the puzzle all by himself, with increasing speed. At first I thought it must be excellent spatial awareness. This might be the case, but it was something else as well. I listen to him chat to himself while doing the puzzle. He puts the two halves of Pirate Maisie together and then mutters: “mumber three… Ah, anotis [there it is]!” and connects it up to the piece with the number 3 on it. Then: “Treasure….” The treasure chest is joined up. “Flower…” And so it continues. And I realise he has learned the puzzle by heart and is reconstructing it from memory.

Most touching is his new memory of recent past events. It was snowing yesterday, and the Toddler had spent a happy half hour outside with Daddy and Mummy throwing snowballs and making snowcastle with his bucket and spade. That evening at bedtime Daddy gave him a bath, then said goodnight and I took over for the bedtime story. He shouted one last goodnight to Daddy, then turned to me and said: “Papa! Sneeuw! Mummy! Throw it. Haha. S happy.”

I really hope these are the memories that last into adulthood, and not the fear or the sadness: Daddy, Mummy, snow and happiness.

Personality prediction at 15 weeks

Now that my daughter is awake and alert for longer stretches in the day, I am increasingly curious about what we can already see of her personality. So I thought it would be fun to write down what I think she is like at the moment and read it back in, say, four months time to see whether the description still seems to fit.

Sociable – The Baby loves staring and smiling at people and gets cranky if she is left to her own devices/with inanimate dangly toys for too long. Often a grumpy moment can be turned to giggles by lots of attention: flying through the air, “this little piggy”, silly songs or just a little chat. Whereas at home she will get cross and tired quite quickly, when we’re out among people she is happy to look around at all the friendly faces for much longer.

Like her brother, I think she might be an observer, who looks before she leaps. I think this will become clearer in four months time, but she seems quite a gentle soul and when all around her is frenzied activity, she will look and take everything in before she decides to kick and coo with excitement or cry in distress.

Self-sufficient – again, quite a thing to deduce from a fifteen week old baby, so we will have to see later on, but she seems to be quite happy to regulate her own sleeping and waking. She doesn’t want interference from us – in fact, it makes her quite cross. She just wants to be put in bed with the light out and she can take it from there. And if you get her out of bed before she is ready she will let you know about it.

Joyful. I love watching her smile and kick her legs in excitement. I love listening to her cheerful conversational noises. This little baby just seems to have a great capacity for joy.

Let’s see if I was right – what will she be like in four months’ time? And perhaps a more philosophical question: do you think that we will be subconsciously encouraging the above traits in her now that I have put them into writing?

Let’s talk about feelings

This is the second instalment of my observations of the Toddler’s emotional development through his speech. He has started using more adjectives of late, such as ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘high’, ‘heavy’, ‘lovely’, ‘nice’ and various colours. Most recently, this has extended to adjectives that describe feelings.

He knows “happy”. At least, most of the time. “Baby happy, Mummy,” he will say, when she is screaming at the top of her lungs. I am not sure if this shows a lack of understanding of the word, or whether he is sketching the situation we need to arrive at. At other times he uses happy in the right context so this one always baffles me.

“Grumpy” is very amusing. When his will is thwarted, occasionally the offending parent will be rewarded by the Toddler theatrically stomping off into the next room, folding his arms – Teddy still clutched under one of them -, pulling a textbook cross-face and saying: “Grumpy!”

He can do angry as well, but in Dutch: ‘boos’, pronounced like ‘boast’ but without the ‘t’. On his Maisy Mouse floor puzzle there are many images of his favourite mouse, all of them smiling apart from one. In one corner, Maisy is wearing a pirate costume and a scowl (perhaps we should imagine her saying “Arrrrr matey”?). The Toddler points at this picture every time he makes the puzzle and explains: “Maisy boos”.

He also knows that Mummy gets cross. It is a little confronting to see how this defines for him when you should get angry and what that looks like. He has clearly been studying me, as any outbursts of anger from me at his misdemeanours are observed with keen but detached interest at the time and greeted with: “Mama boos.” Clearly, he does not feel this has anything much to do with him, nor does he see it as a reason to change his behaviour. More about that some other time… The other day I witnessed the outcome of his observations when he knocked over his little shopping basket with toy food. In a voice full of exasperation he said: “Mantit lond. Boos! Lond! Boos!” [Basket floor. Cross! Floor! Cross!]

Clearly, I get cross a lot about him throwing/dropping things on the floor.

I thought that was it for his current range of emotions, but this morning there was one more. The Toddler was making his sister’s toy giraffe (or “waf” as he calls it) dance rather vigorously on Mummy’s laptop.

“Gently, giraffe,” I said, “Careful with the laptop.”

The giraffe drooped. “Waf sad,” the Toddler said softly.

Come back!

I have been logging my son’s language development and studying it with great interest ever since he started speaking. However, it occurred to me recently that his speech is more than just an amusing reflection of how we, his parents and grandparents, talk: what he chooses to talk about reflects his social and emotional development as well. This is the first of two posts in which I study his language to find out what is occupying the Toddler’s brain at the moment.

One of his current preoccupations is with the location of people and things. He spends half the day trying to establish where things are. In the morning I am greeted with: “Ahhh Mummy! Back!” I was gone, but I have returned, and he is pleased. Once out of bed he starts suggesting toys that might come with us (“mee”, in Dutch).

“Mama, Teddy mee? Mickey mee? Cars mee?”

As I am usually half asleep still, I agree to whatever he suggests, and he heads for the stairs with his arms full of cuddly toys. The cars go in the pockets of my dressing gown. On the landing, he will start to establish where everyone else is: is Daddy downstairs? Is the baby awake? Is the baby coming downstairs with us?

These questions are obviously based on what he considers to be reasonable expectations, as they are slightly different after his nap. When he exits his room after his lunch time sleep, he will want to know whether Gran is downstairs, and perhaps Opa and Oma. When I explain that they are all in their own houses, he hopefully suggests that maybe Teddy can come to Gran’s with him and Daddy. Again, I have to burst his bubble: he is not going to Gran’s with Daddy, but to the supermarket with me and the baby.

“Teddy mee supermarket?” Yes, okay, Teddy can come to the supermarket.

While he plays, location is also all important. “Oh no! Where grapes gone? Ah, anotis [=there it is].” Or: “Ofant [elephant] hiding! Hide-n-seek!”

The location of his favourite people is also a matter of constant concern. If one of us leaves the room for even just a few moments, to go to the toilet for instance, the Toddler will say a formal goodbye. When you return, you are greeted with a joyful “hello [insert name]! Back!” If he does not agree to you leaving the room, he will follow you and say: “Come back here!” Today he was getting fed up with me trying to leave the Duplo to go and wash up, so he grabbed my legs and said very decidedly: “Mummy not zis way anymore.”

So what do I think I can tell from this about his emotional development? He seems to be coming to terms with the fact that the people and toys he loves are not always with him. I get the feeling that he disapproves of this situation in general, but that he is willing to put up with it for short periods of time, as long as you come back.

Baby S

Our actual baby’s name starts with A. Just in case the post title confused you. Before she arrived, we had started a little game with our Toddler at bath time, where we wrapped him in his little towel afterwards, scooped him up in our arms and carried him to his room saying: “Aaaa, Baby S”. Why? Well, we had read somewhere that although first children like being “big” and helping out with the baby, they have just as much of a desire to still be little and be your baby. So we thought we’d start early and give him these occasional opportunities to be babied.

He liked it back then, but just recently it has become a Very Good Game. I think it is because he knows a bit more about babies now, and so he can properly join in – with mixed consequences for his parents.

He steps out of the shower eagerly, heading straight for the hooded towel, and announces “Baby S!” We wrap him up and lie him down on the bathroom floor to put on his nappy. He starts blowing spit bubbles. “Baby S spugen melk!” [Baby S spit up milk!]. Then he dabs away the spit with a corner of the towel. “Goo goo gaga,” he adds joyfully. I bundle him up in my arms and tell him it is bedtime for Baby S and to say night night to Daddy.

“Baby S huilen!” he announces, pulling his face into a grimace. Then he starts doing a thin, wailing, fake cry.

We laughed the first time, because it was quite cute. But not anymore. Baby S now does crying everytime something is not to his liking, night or day. Nappy needs changing? Baby S huilen! Not allowed to watch TV? Baby S huilen! Toy doesn’t work? Baby S huilen!

“Noooo,” I say, “I think Baby S doesn’t want to cry. I think he’s a very happy baby. Baby S laughing!”

It hasn’t worked yet. Let’s just hope the novelty will wear off soon.

Breastfeeding update: success!

Having posted about the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding my daughter over the past few months, I feel I must not neglect to update you on Рwell, perhaps not the happy ending as such, but the happy middle. Or perhaps just the happy. So brace yourself for some more nipple-talk.

As my daughter refused to feed from the right breast in the first few weeks of her life, I was feeding from the left breast only and expressing from the right to try and keep the milk supply up in the hope she would go back to it eventually. Inevitably, this meant my left breast was getting incredibly overworked, and it wasn’t all that comfortable to begin with, so I ended up with a very sore, bleeding nipple.

A few weeks later thankfully the baby decided the right side was worth another try and she went back to feeding from both breasts. Sadly, the damage was done and I was still in agony on the left side. Besides the pain from the open wound, I developed shooting pains in my breast that continued even if I wasn’t feeding. I was backwards and forwards to the doctor’s about this: to get repeat prescriptions for a gel wound dressing that I wore under my normal breast pad to help the wound heal and to stop it sticking to the pad; then for antibiotics in case it was mastitis; then for thrush cream in case it was thrush; then for the right thrush cream that was suitable for breastfeeding etc.

Finally, I made a big effort to get to our local Mum2Mum breastfeeding support group one Monday. The breastfeeding consultant had a look at my nipple. She thought it looked like contact dermatitis – perhaps something was irritating the sensitive skin? Then all eyes turned to my saviour: the gel pad. It was peeling away from its backing, its consistency compromised by regularly being drenched with milk. “It does that,” I said, defending it weakly.

I chucked it in the bin. I used massive amounts of lanolin on the nipple to stop the wound sticking to my breast pads. Within a week, the wound had closed up, the shooting pains in the breast were mostly gone and the angry red rash around the areola was gone.

Two weeks after I abandoned those wound dressings breastfeeding became, on the whole, comfortable, enjoyable and easy. As it should be. Now, about a month later, I am having a hard time remembering the agony I was in. To anyone who is struggling with feeding their baby, I can recommend finding professional help. Breastfeeding counsellors know more than your GP. Even my doctor defers to them as the experts on the subject. So get help and get comfortable! If it can happen for me, it can happen for you.

I feel on top of the world. I can even do ninja breastfeeding again: like feeding my daughter while walking to the gate for our flight to Nininand, to the slight dismay of my poor mother.