My tiny baby turned one this week. The event in and of itself surprised me. It felt like a normal birthday; the passing of a regular day. I expected to get emotional or something. But like my own birthday, it was surprisingly easy: here and gone as fast as his actual birth. I didn’t even cry.
Two days after his birthday, I met The Toddler. I have, of course, heard of toddlers. I’ve even met a few of them. Occasionally, my little baby popped up with a mini-tantrum that faintly resembled what I’d heard of Toddlerdom.
The truth is, he was not yet a toddler. A very clumsy walking baby, perhaps; but not a toddler. And despite gently worded warnings from friends and family about toddlerhood, I was not prepared for the day I met The Toddler.
It happened in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, a solid hour after I had arrived with my very cute baby for his one-year checkup. It started well, but babies get bored after something like five minutes and by the time an hour was up, he was bored with the six toys, four crackers, one book, and my iPhone. So I put him on the ground, where he squealed and rushed around to a neighboring stroller holding an adorable 6-week infant.
For obvious reasons, I was quick to redirect him.
He squealed again, and began to charm the waiting room with tricks. He said a few mumbo-jumbo words, ran in circles, and continued to zip over to the adorable infant’s stroller at a speed just barely faster than me.
About the twentieth time that he aimed for the poor infant’s stroller, a lady with her Almost Toddler walked in, side-eying my son and I. Suddenly extremely insecure, I attempted to pick up my little banshee and calm him down. He promptly put together all the words he could muster in an amazing feat of accomplishment for his 12-month-and-two-day-old body. “No! Down, Mama!” (And yes, my one-year-old is a crazy talker. He gets it from me, apparently. No. It’s not normal. Yes. It took me entirely by surprise even though he uses all of those words on a daily basis. Just not in conjunction—until right then.)
I have to interject my feelings here: you see, up until this point I have been dealing with an Almost Toddler myself. AKA: A baby. A tiny, helpless human who only wanted me to pick him up and never outright demanded something in actual adult language. So when I, in complete shock (okay, and a solid dose of mixed horror and pride) placed him back on the floor to further terrorize the poor waiting room, I can only honestly admit this one thing: I did not, and do not know what the hell I’m doing.
The lady with the Almost-Toddler and Judgy Eyes gave me a very disapproving look. She put her very calm Almost Toddler in her lap and he gave a tiny struggle, as if he might want down. “No, no, Son,” she said, sternly, “we have to sit here because this room is dirty.” She then looked directly at me, pulled out a Cookie Monster cup with snacks in it, and fed her son while quietly staring me down.
Meanwhile, my Official Toddler made his routine b-line to the infant’s now-infantless stroller (I would like to think that the infant was removed because she was crying, not because my son kept rushing her stroller. But, you know…). I grabbed his pudgy hand a split second before he caused the whole thing topple on his head, and in that moment, the nurse gave me the break I’d desperately been praying for by calling, “Holt?”
The truth is, no one is prepared for the moment when they meet The Toddler. And toddlers give zero cares about when they want to emerge from Almost Toddler status. Emerging from the baby cocoon after an hour of waiting in the doctor’s office is as good a time as any! At least my son thinks so.
Also, Judgy Eyes had only been sitting in the waiting room for a solid three minutes. Maybe. I voted to give her a solid hour before checking the temperature of her composure.
Poor moms of toddlers everywhere. I stand with you.
I actually feel a bit sorry for Judgy Eyes, because she’ll meet The Toddler soon. And he’ll take her for a spin in I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Land. She’ll think back to that moment she stared at me, amazed that I would allow my toddler to annoy the heck out of the waiting room, and she’ll realize that frankly—she wouldn’t have known what to do, either.
And for the record, I would like to think that I’ll get better at this parenting a toddler thing. I parent with as much grace as I can muster, and am becoming a master at redirection. We all look like complete idiots occasionally, right?
I’m also slightly horrified and incredibly proud that The Toddler stuck around.
But really, I like The Toddler. He’s spunky! He invites me to laugh, teaches me to act like a nut, and makes sure my time is filled with love. So much love. So, so much love. So sweet. Okay. You can stop slathering me with… oh gross.