Ends and Beginnings

Out of nowhere, the three year old has abruptly started losing interest in nursing. I knew this would happen eventually – and he is right on track  – but he’s been so committed to it for so long that it was easy to forget that it would actually happen.

We night-weaned back in June. I went away for a few days, and when I came back, we decided that the night time nursing was done. It wasn’t hard. We were all ready. We get better sleep. It’s the best. Should we have done it earlier? Probably, but there were always excuses. I can’t regret what felt like a good choice, even if it wasn’t the best choice.

I’ve talked to lots of friends as their kids weaned. They talked about losing interest, getting distracted, nursing for short periods of time – or of just being done one day, with no warning. I knew materially what to expect, but I didn’t know what it would feel like, not really.

Three years and one month is a very long time. I feel extremely fortunate. So many friends have had a hard time of it, needed to stop before they wanted to, struggled with the realization that it just wasn’t going to work. It hasn’t always been easy, but compared to many, it has been effortless.

There have been windows of time when I felt like I was ready to be done, where the physical contact was just too much, where my nipples hurt, where I was just over being pawed at all the time. But there have never been windows of time when it felt like he was ready to be done – not until now, when there are as many nights that he doesn’t want milk as there are nights when he does, when I’ll ask and he’ll say “no, stories!” and snuggle up with his papa, leaving me to sit on the couch sort of blankly staring at my phone instead of holding my kid close.

He’s three. I knew this was coming. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a little wrecked by it.

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L at Three

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  1. I have to stop referring to him as “the toddler” since he clearly isn’t a toddler anymore. “The preschooler” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, especially since he’s not going to preschool. “The three year old” may just have to do.
  2. He loves dragons. And dinosaurs. And looking for Komodo dragons (“Komo drai”) in the forest. (Note that any arrangement of two or more trees constitutes a forest.) And peeking into holes in trees to look for a baby dragon’s nest. And reading books about dragons. And seeing dinosaurs and dragons at the zoo. And correcting us about dinosaur names. (There are soooooo many dinosaurs.)
  3. He is crazy good at jigsaw puzzles. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given his laser focus on his pattern blocks earlier in the year – he would literally spend the entire day precisely placing the blocks on the patterns or making patterns of his own – but at 3, he is doing puzzles that are supposed to be for kids aged 6+.
  4. He can consistently identify upper case letters and most lower case letters, though he gets turned around by the lowercase magnets for b/d, u/n, d/a, and h/n, all of which are pretty understandable. He likes to sing a version of the ABC song. He can also count to ten, thanks to a lot of practice with a homemade acorn game.
  5. He is absolutely spoiled with educational riches in our neighborhood and our city. They go to storytime at the Museum of Science and Industry (“robot museum”) and at the wonderful 57th Street Books (“bookstore”) every week. The staff at the Oriental Institute know him by name (and he knows about pharaohs, ankhs, and the lamassu). They regularly go to the Field (“dinosaur museum”) and the Shedd, and we like to make a weekend afternoon of a visit to the Nature Museum and North Pond, especially on Cold Blooded Weekends, when he can hold snakes and dragons on his lap thanks to the Chicago Herpetological Society.
  6. Our long national nightmare of broken sleep seems to finally have resolved itself, in part thanks to night weaning back in June. Naps remain a moving target – sometimes he naps, and sometimes he doesn’t, and sometimes that’s fine, and sometimes it’s terrible.
  7. His language and conversation skills have absolutely exploded. It’s wonderful and funny and also exhausting because now that he can actually communicate well, he never stops talking. When he notices us laughing at something he’s said, he will repeat it again (and again, and again) for even more laughs. He was absolutely delighted by us singing Happy Birthday to him, and has been singing it to himself at random moments for the last week.
  8. He has started to test boundaries and assert his will. Sometimes it’s funny:
    – I asked if he wanted to nurse before bed. He said “LISTEN! Numbers first.”
    – I was seasoning my food with soy sauce. He asked for “more sauce?” I pretended to season his food. He said “No! Lid off!” Busted!
    But a lot of times it isn’t:
    – He wants his independence while walking, but doesn’t always listen when approaching crosswalks. Or he will want to hold hands, but then go absolutely limp, making us stop multiple times in a block.
    – We took a little vacation for his birthday. He screamed and kicked in the car for an hour straight. We had multiple sidewalk conversations about how he needed to be quiet (or at least not screaming) and listen (because we were in a strange place) and not hurt people (no kicking, no hitting, no jerking on arms). And then he would do it all again, and then I would stop and talk to him again. “Do you remember what we talked about?” “Quiet, listen.” “What else?” “Don’t hurt Papa.” “OK, can we try again?” Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat until everyone is exhausted and in need of a pintje.
  9. He loves tofu and overnight oats and raisins and fruit and bread and tiny amounts of decaf coffee in a demitasse cup. He loves helping in the kitchen, and I’m learning to slow down and delegate tasks that are safe for small hands. We’ve done a little baking together recently – plum cake when plums appeared in our $1 bag from Open Produce, a banana cake for his birthday, topped with vegan dark chocolate ganache and rainbow sprinkles.
  10. He thrives in nature. He loves playgrounds, but he especially loves just playing outdoors – whether it’s walking his little wooden dog or collecting acorns for chipmunks (“make a little burrow” or foraging at the Garden of the Phoenix (“Japanese garden”, “See the waterfall?”). A summer full of outdoor play has made him healthy, adventurous, and strong.

So that’s three, or parts of it: delightful and exhausting, frustrating and hilarious. We’re constantly grateful and humbled by the work of parenting and the great gift of this little weirdo.

The First 12 Hours

Travel with a toddler is about 300% more complicated than travel without a toddler. Add to that equation half of the family on another continent, and you’ll start to approximate the logistics and stress of the last few weeks.

Our kabouter likes new experiences and adventures, but he doesn’t like being in the car for extended periods, so we were really not sure how an 8 hour flight padded on both ends by airports and transit and waiting would go.

The short version: way better than expected, even though he only got 3.5 hours of sleep (and we obviously got much less).

The long version, in bullet points:

  • Aborted attempt at a morning nap meant he fell asleep 5 minutes before we got to the airport, and slept until we had to take him out at security.
  • Preboarding with our stroller in a comically large bag, then sitting on the plane for almost an hour waiting to go.
  • 30 solid minutes of talking about trucks prior to take off.
  • Disney movies on 3 screens. Parent-selected media on 0 screens. A steady diet of freeze-dried mango.
  • After 3 hours of solid wiggling, including frequent requests to nurse, I was about ready to lose my mind. I got him ready for bed just in time for dinner service.
  • At least 4 times a flight attendant came by JUST as he was about to drift off. I have never been so angered by ice cream.
  • Sleep punctuated by awful turbulence. We got about 5 hours between the three of us.

But we survived, and without having to employ the majority of the bag of tricks, so we should have some surprises left for the longer daytime flight home.

November Around Here

Unseasonably beautiful weather makes for weekend days full of crunching leaves and golden light. I need to soak up as much warmth as my skin can handle in anticipation of the winter to come.

A sudden windfall in a month of austerity means getting out of debt within the year is now feasible. Being responsible sometimes feels very hard, but also very good.

And for the baby, now a toddler: first tentative steps and a confirmed first word: kitty, which is applied specifically to the cat (his one true love) and more generally to all beloved things. We took him to the zoo, where he correctly identified two kitties (the sand cat and the puma) and other kitty-like creatures (red pandas).

So much hurt and sadness and fear in the world. There are days when it’s all too much, and all I can do is crawl into bed and hold the sleeping baby – for then he is still a baby – to me and cry. But so much love and generosity as well.

Reading:
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantell, because the mini series was remarkable.
House of Light – Mary Oliver, because reading poetry to the toddler feels like a good use of our quiet mornings
Bedtime in the Meadow – Stephanie Shaw, because try as he might, the toddler hasn’t been able to destroy it, unlike all of his board books
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson, because she slays me, and her writing about pregnancy and gender and identity feels very relevant
A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates, because I have learned more about race and privilege in the last six months than the whole rest of my life to date

Watching:
Fringe

Eating:
Spontaneous Persian food
Pie for days
Pasta with fennel, kale, and lemon
All the pears and apples

Drinking:
A second cup of coffee, as the toddler was up before 6 for a second day in a row

Doing:
139 miles to go to hit 1,500 on the bike for the year
Not enough running, but with good reason
Catching up on all the postcards I didn’t send during this year’s 31 Postcards
Babyproofing all the things

Planning:
A Thanksgiving menu (hint: it contains pie and a Vegducken)
An intranet communication plan
New hats for everyone
Eliminating my debt

One.

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“When he looks back to the child, the eyes are open, staring up at him, unblinking, as dark as the hair on its head. The face is transformed; Ashoke has never seen a more perfect thing. He imagines himself as a dark, grainy, blurry presence. As a father to his son. Again he thinks of the night he was nearly killed, the memory of those hours that have forever marked him flickering and fading in his mind. Being rescued from that shattered train had been the first miracle of his life. But here, now, reposing in his arms, weighing next to nothing but changing everything, is the second.”The Namesake

Happy birthday, baby boy. Every day since then has been a gift