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on parenting 1 child at 22 months

I've been wanting to write a few words about parenting Harvey before the new baby shows up and throws a wrench into everything. I want to be able to look back in a years time at my own words and say "Ha ha ha! She thought she knew what she was doing! One child was soooooo easy!!!!!"

It's been almost 9 months now since I left my corporate job and became a full-time mom. Both qualitatively and quantitatively there is a very big difference between being a full-time mom and a morning, evening, and weekend mom. Without at doubt, working a paying gig during the day and then working your home and kids in your free time is much more logistically challenging, and therefore more stressful. But full-time moming is harder by far. Being solely responsible for a toddler 8 hours a day (and 50% responsible during the remaining hours) is much more draining physically and emotionally speaking then pushing around files and running stats on your computer while sitting in a comfortable desk chair, your day punctuated only by peaceful trips to the bathroom and meetings fueled by free coffee. Not to sugar coat mind-numbing office work by any means; I hated my last job so much I fantasized about suicide every morning driving in to work. Still, a mom's job is much much harder. At least when you're child is 1-2 and you're also pregnant.

That said, there is nothing in the universe I'd rather be doing right now than raising my child minute by minute. I love getting excited about the things he gets excited about. I love presenting new things for him to get excited about. I love watching the little wheels in his head spin and expand as he gets older. Like today when he held up a lego green floor piece next to a duplo green floor piece and said, "Big big one? tiny tiny one?" Woah! Or also this morning when he helped to unload the dishwasher by putting all the silverware in the drawer, and then tried to open the other drawer when he came up with a measuring spoon, and I was floored by how he knows where everything's supposed to go. Or how he walked by himself into the garden, picked up dada's watering can, and walked around trying to water all the seeds while saying "ehn ehn ehn" because the can was so heavy. He walked between the beds and carefully kept his feet off the seedlings. I should have taken a video.

I love that Harvey makes jokes now. That he sings to himself. That if he wants me to sit down and stop bossing him around he says "mama knitting." I love that he mimics my tone of voice to say, "in a second" and "one more" and "Rascal no digging." I love the smell of his hair.

We've gone through pockets of time this year where I've despaired at having no idea what I was doing. Every few weeks I seem to feel that I've reached my stride, only to be thrown back by a new situation or behavior that blindsides me. Which, I guess, pretty much describes parenting. I've been helped by Dan's sound advice (thanks to years of internet reading he knows everything about all subjects at all times, especially child rearing) and also by two books in particular on raising toddlers. The Rosemond book contained a real revelation for me: that parenting a baby is substantially different from parenting a toddler. Babies need to be loved and coddled and taken cared of no matter what, so they learn to trust their parents and by extension the world around them. Kids need to learn they are not actually the center of the universe, and therefore build up their own self-concept and independence. Toddlerhood is the shaky bridge between the two, corresponding to genuine shifts in a child's brain and understanding. Thus, the revelation for me was that sometime between 18 months and 2 years my own actions also need to reflect a shift from babying to parenting. And firmly, otherwise I'll muck everything up. So I've been trying. And I gotta tell you... discipline is awesome! Getting your child to actually do something for you? Much more fun than training a dog!

For example, here are some things we're currently working on in our house. Sand stays in the sandbox, or the sandbox closes. If you hit the dog, you get a 1-second time-out. If you hit mama she will ignore you until you give her a kiss. If you can't stop whining it means you need to go back to bed.

Also, I'm not going to fight you to put your jacket on. I'm going to sit here and read until you come over and say you're ready. It's you who wants to go outside, not me.

Don't I just sound like a mother? Yeah, it surprises me too, sometimes.

Harvey is a good kid and he's taken very rapidly to saying please, to knowing that it's time to shut of the whining machine, and to recovering on his own from a screaming crying tantrum. At the same time, we have challenges. I haven't yet taught Harvey to go to sleep on his own, so we're still doing nursing put-downs, which I have grown to hate. Dan thinks I coddle him too much by going into his room in the night when he calls. I reply that nighttime is scary and turns big boys into babies. Dan replies that I am TEACHING him that nighttime is scary. I say, well, nighttime IS scary, and no amount of pedagogical reading, self-reflection, or grace is going to fundamentally transform me into a person who isn't afraid of the dark. The kind of mother I can be is limited to the kind of person I am, and I'm working hard man, but some things just don't change all that much.

Challenges aside, the days are mostly so good around here that I fell I've finally hit my stride at parenting a toddler. Of course now we're going to go bring a banshee screaming infant into the mix. And then everything will change again.

And then just when I've started to hit my stride with 2, I plan on getting a brood of chickens.

Still, there's a lot down the road to look forward to.

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