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In Praise of Toddlerhood: From Cry Baby to Fun Baby

By Annie M. Carter
Little Falls NJ, USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 6, November-December 2000, p. 206-207

One day, when we were at the library, another mother watched with amusement as my curious son crawled around the library, pulling himself up to reach books on the shelves, and gleefully starting to pull them from their neat, organized rows into a messy heap on the floor. "How old is he?" she asked.

"Nine months," I replied.

"Just wait until he starts walking," she laughed. "Then your life's over!" And with that she left, whisking away her two young children who were bickering with each other.

I've heard such comments over and over from exhausted parents of energetic toddlers who suffer over their child's destructive antics and seem to only remember a perfect little baby. But those mothers like myself who never experienced the "perfect little baby" stage, might look forward to each stage of growth. Parenthood just seems more enjoyable to me as my little one emerges into being a toddler.

My son, Daniel, was a challenging baby to care for. In the early months, the swing seemed to work wonders with everyone's baby except for mine. It seemed as if my friends had little trouble breastfeeding their infants, but Daniel squirmed and fought with me at most feedings and spat up a million times a day. Other babies began sleeping more soundly at night after a few weeks, while mine seemed oblivious to his mother's need for more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep. Other babies slept in the car or at least could be amused. Mine would scream until I got him out. "Fussy" would have been an understatement.

During that time, it seemed as if people were always commenting on how fast the first year flies by, but those first four to six months seemed like an eternity to me, and I wondered if I'd ever be able to put my baby down in a seat without wails of protest. I discovered I could have peace if I carried Daniel constantly, so I learned to do multiple tasks while holding him in a sling or carrier.

If these experiences sound all too familiar to you, then I'm sure that as your little one approaches his first birthday, you may not regret that he's not a baby anymore. Although I'll miss that gorgeous tiny face and that toothless first smile, I wouldn't want to go through those early days again. Why? Because he's so much more fun now. I feel I've endured the test of an inconsolable infant. I managed to survive on a few hours nightly sleep for months on end. I did it. I came through, and things have seemed more manageable ever since.

Of course, I won't deny that there are always new challenges to face. Daniel has had his fair share of tantrums already. He's also succeeding in dismantling and overturning everything in sight, thereby quashing any semblance of tidiness and orderliness in our house. It's hard work. But at least I can see a purpose to it: he's learning new skills and being creative.

As Daniel reaches each new milestone and shows increasing maturity and independence, I observe with admiration how far he's come, and I enjoy spending time with this adventurous boy. I love to hear him express himself in new ways as he cries less and responds to a variety of situations and stimuli. It's simply great fun to laugh and play with him and to watch him interact with other children. I'm looking forward to all the games he'll play with my husband and me, all the other activities he'll engage in, as well as just observing how his unique personality keeps developing.

In all honesty, I can say that being a parent just keeps getting better. Next time someone warns me, "Just wait till he starts . . ." I'll reply with a smile. "Yeah, won't that be great? I can't wait either!"

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