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.

“Many Fathers Exhaled in Relief”

Dads, Who Are Parents, Do Not Deserve Praise for Parenting While Moms Marched – Slate

Shame on The New York Times for their “coverage” of the difficulties faced by men whose partners participated in the Marches last weekend.

I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have a stay-at-home partner who takes care of our child while I go to work (which, of course, makes it possible for him to be home). I am grateful that his willingness (and inclination) to stay home also makes it possible for me to do things like train for a marathon, travel for my own professional development, and participate in our democracy by attending events like Saturday’s March in Atlanta.

As much as I’ve always wanted children, once I had the opportunity to really have a career – not just a job- I knew that my one-time dream of staying at home didn’t align with my new reality, and not just for financial reasons. Being a stay-at-home parent, particularly of a demanding toddler, is a hard job, and it is not a job that I’m cut out for – another reason that I’m grateful, because my partner’s inclination to stay home meant that starting a family was possible for us.

Families like ours are becoming more common, but they’re still not the norm – as this article from the NYT demonstrates. I want my partner to be praised for his parenting, not because he is a man “stepping up” to take care of his child. I want my partner to be recognized for the hard, dirty work of childcare because it is hard and dirty, not because he dealt with the occasional nasty tantrum or diaper in public.  I want my partner to be respected for the things he uniquely contributes to our child’s life, not because he contributes.

I want this not just because I am grateful for my partner and the arrangements that make our family and our lives work – I want this because we are raising a son who may be a father some day, and who needs to understand that parity in the home goes hand-and-glove with equality in the workplace and in the world.

the hardest part

Very often now I read something about parenting or being a parent and find myself nodding in recognition. How hard it is. How wonderful it is. How fleeting it is. How you don’t really understand until you do it. All of these things are true, except when they’re not.

And then sometimes I read something and it feels so sharp and so true to where I am right now, in this specific moment of parenting that I find myself leaving the tab open, the page pulled up on my phone, the book laid face down with a breaking spine on the table.

I read this excerpt from this post today, and got tears in my eyes because that was me at 6am this morning, lying warm and cozy in bed between my sleeping baby son and his sleeping father, needing to get up and start my day, but with an equally urgent need to stay right there.

But then I lie beside my sleeping six month-old son and he instinctively rolls towards me. He holds my hand as he nurses. I stare at his face and think, “Please don’t grow up. Please. This moment needs to last for the rest of my life.” My heart wants two things at once and I suspect it always will.

Thanks to Coffee + Crumbs for this moment of recognition, of knowing I’m not alone in wanting everything all at once.

This is what is different.

Today is the end of my second week back to work. Now that the holidays are over and everyone is back in the office, I’m being asked regularly how it is to be back, how we’re managing, what life is like as a working mother.

I’ll tell you:

There’s all the normal day-to-day stuff from before: waking up with an alarm, making coffee, hunting for parking, endless meetings, trying to avoid ordering take out at the end of a long day, wanting to watch another episode of something but giving into sleep instead.

Add to that a layer of baby activities: nursing before getting out of bed, changing two diapers in the hour before work, keeping the baby entertained while trying to make coffee so that Nicolas and I are both a little more awake before I leave, rushing home to happy snuggles and more nursing, hoping the baby doesn’t fall asleep for the night an hour after I walk in the door.

Also add the angst of separation. And the weirdness and frustration of needing to fit 2-3 pumping sessions into an already busy work day. And half a dozen photos or video of the cuteness (and crying) happening at home. And the constant calculation of whether anything extra – a doctor’s appointment, stopping for groceries, a workout – is worth the extra time away from the baby.

It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change. I was told this would be the case, but I didn’t understand it until I experienced it.

We’re in an incredibly fortunate situation: I like my job, and my salary is enough that Nicolas can be home – full time and indefinitely. We don’t have to bundle the baby and all of his accouterments off to daycare in the morning. Nicolas is great with the baby and also isn’t subject to the sort of cabin fever that would be killing me right about now. Pumping is easy for me. My employer is supportive of families and has a very flexible leave policy. I get to work from home one day/week.

It’s hard to be back. But it’s also good to be back. And there’s not a damned thing that will get between me and the door at the end of the workday now that there’s a sweet little boy who needs his mama waiting at the other end of my commute.