We’ve entered the naked stage of toddlerdom around these parts. Given any opportunity to shed her clothes, the Doodle has them strewn on the ground in a flash.
There’s a drop of water on my tshirt! Let’s take it off! Oh, is that some yogurt on my pants? Take ‘em off! Shoes? Who liked those in the first place. Off, please!
“I’m naked!!!!” she runs around shouting with glee. Couple her love of running around sans clothing with her love of being outside, she’s found her perfect happy place.
If you were to think that this balloon is the Doodle’s, you’d be wrong. It’s my balloon. It was gifted to me by the Doodle.
Mother’s Day is usually only remarkable in our house in the way that it is difficult. For the big kids, Mother’s Day is a reminder of their birth mom. It conjures all of the conflicting emotions around early childhood and how they came to be adopted by us. For Bubaloo, in particular, it’s a dark time of the year. There will never be a good answer to the question, “Why could my mom not get a job like you and keep us? Didn’t she love us enough?”
Love and excelling at adulthood responsibilities cannot be equated. Sometimes all the love in the world can’t help a mother get it together. Sometimes there are just too many demons to battle. But there are not enough ways you can assure a child that their mom does indeed love them. She loves them very much. She loved them enough to realize that she couldn’t care for them and give them the life she wanted for them, so she sought out parents that could.
And in that backdrop, the celebration of our motherhood through adoption is often muted and cloudy. It’s a celebration that Otto and I may have privately, but it’s not one that we ask the big kids to participate in.
Then along came the Doodle.
She changed the relationship to Mother’s Day for us this year. Maybe mostly because this kid likes a party and now thinks that cake and balloons should be a part of everyday life. Maybe the toddler is on to something. Everyone should revel in a balloon.
Otto decided that Mother’s Day would be about me this year. I didn’t balk. It’s be a tough couple of weeks around here for both of us so I took a moment to graciously accept the offer to be self-absorbed.
The Doodle and Otto plotted to make the morning special for me. I was aware that it was supposed to involve sleeping in, a breakfast, and a surprise.
Only the beans got spilled on the surprise when Otto asked the Doodle the night before, “Do we have a surprise for Mommy for Mother’s Day?” The Doodle was supposed to shout out “YES!” only instead she shouted out “BALLOON!!!”
I woke up at 6:00 am on Mother’s Day and snuck some glorious time to by myself in. Then I crawled back into bed at 8:00 am to wait for the Doodle to wake up. I waited, waited and waited. Around 8:45am she was up, wished me a “Hello Mommy” and then a while later returned with my Mother’s Day balloon. It was a Dora balloon.
Upon seeing that I got a balloon decorated with a character that the Doodle loves, I laughed aloud. There’s something particularly funny in the self-centred way that kids pick gifts for others. The Doodle’s world is still really small at two years of age and she’s not particularly in tune with my preferences.
Otto reported that when the Doodle was asked to pick a balloon for me, she first selected an E.lmo balloon. But when asked if she really thought I’d enjoy an E.lmo balloon, the Doodle decided that wasn’t likely. So instead she declared that a D.ora balloon would make the perfect gift.
I think it’s perfect, too. It’s a reminder of all the different ways motherhood is marked in our house.
This morning we were cordially invited to the Doodle’s daycare for a celebration of mothers and grandmothers. The Doodle was very excited to have us come to her party.
Two cards, one for Mama and one for Mommy, with a lovely blue hand print. Two crafted butterflies made with love, lots of glue and adorned with stickers. Two little nasturtium seedlings nestled in a styrofoam cup. The best gifts a toddler could give her mommies. Although I’m secretly excited to one day receive a macaroni necklace.
The daycare staff had the toddlers serve their special guests some fruit salad and orange juice for breakfast.
The Doodle was delighted to be bringing us a cup of juice. Overjoyed, actually. As she bounded across the room to hand me the cup, the juice swished and sloshed over the side of the cup and on to the floor and her shirt. She was too proud of herself in the moment of being a big kid to notice the spillage. Normally any loss of juice is a travesty. The Doodle was just too delighted to have us at her party to notice anything else.
We talked with the other moms, grandparents, and their adorable new babies. Many of Doodle’s toddler friends have become big siblings in the past few months.
I was struck about how normal this was. Mundane, really.
It’s not that I ever anticipate, or even expect, our family structure to become an issue at our daycare. Our workers have been nothing short of amazing, and our interactions with the parents, have also been great. We talk about our kids and work together to get these stubborn toddlers into their boots and jackets and out the door at the end of the day. Maybe it’s because every mother in that room is so bedazzled by how awesome their respective toddlers are, they don’t really care much about who parents their kids’ friends.
One generation later, it’s just so different, or maybe we’re so different, than when the big kids were in grade school. It’s not that having two moms was ever a big issue for the big kids, it just was an undercurrent, and from time to time it bubbled up in some way that either we or the kids had to address.
Even though I’m the Mommy-Daddy, the Doodle is so proud of her mommies.
Over the breakfast table this morning, we were talking about the Doodle’s party and how it was a celebration of mommies everywhere. That’s when the Doodle piped up to exclaim with pure toddler joy, “I have two mommies…too!”
One of the Doodle’s favourite activities is to lead a marching band around our house or backyard.
Gramma sent her home last summer with a box full of musical instruments and the drum is the most coveted object of all children who step over the threshold into our house.
Bang, bang, bang. Clatter, clatter, clatter. And lots of cheering and clapping.
If you’re lucky, you won’t have to be in the parade. You will be delegated to the sidelines and be assigned spectator duties. Your job is solely to shout loudly and clap and bestow lots of whooping and hollering upon those creating the musical parade. The spectators form the Doodle’s own personal laugh track. It’s applause on demand. Pure cacophony.
A parade is joyous and exuberant. And not exactly the quietest activity around these parts.
This is so very uncharacteristic of the Doodle. She fell asleep in the wrap in my arms during a dinner party at 7:30 pm on a Friday night. If I wanted to collect any more evidence in support of my theory that this kid needs a little bit more sleep each day this was it. Since we stopped nursing to sleep, her routine has been entirely upended, which has only been further complicated by yet another shift in her natural biorhythms.
As we neared our weaning date, I was nervous about how we’d get the Doodle to sleep. While for most of her life she’s been a crappy sleeper, the sanity saver for us as parents is that getting her to sleep hasn’t been incredibly trying. Until now that is.
For the most part, she’d nurse in her bed while I read, and she’d be out in 5-20 minutes. In the month leading up to weaning, she would push out this pre-sleep nursing period longer and longer and longer each night. Sometimes upwards of an hour or so each night to fall asleep. She was intensely wriggly and fidgety during these particularly long bedtimes. It’s like she couldn’t get comfortable in her own skin.
On these evenings she’d actually stop nursing and curl in to me and eventually fall asleep in my arms. We knew that once she weaned we’d not only have to grapple with needing to up our game in sleep inducing techniques, but that we’d also be grappling with finding the new sweet spot for the optimum number of sleep hours in a 24 hour period.
Right now we start the Doodle’s bed time routine at 8:30 pm. We potty, brush our teeth, have a bath if needed (or really, if we can get this water loving kid to bathe willingly), and read 3 or so books in bed. Then it’s lights out, a non-stop song request, then the Doodle will more often than not want a drink of water and another snack like a plum or granola bar, then we try to lie still as we cuddle and go to sleep. Sometimes the toddler sleeps as soon as that plum is out of our hands, and sometimes it’s another hour.
The kiddo falls asleep somewhere between 9:30-10:20 pm every night.
I’d love to be in bed by 10pm every night, but I’d also like an hour or two to spend with the big kids, talk to my wife, or have some alone time for myself. You know, I’d like to at least have the opportunity to consider sitting on my ass for 30 minutes with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and do absolutely nothing.
This has been thankfully accompanied by a shift in wake up time. All winter long, the Doodle was up between 5:30 – 6:30 am and now we often to wake her up at 8:00 am to rush out of the house to get to daycare. That is, if she hasn’t woken up at 7:30 am or so on her own.
We’ve also been working with daycare to reduce her nap to 1.5 hours from 2 hours. On the weekends, sometimes she won’t nap at all.
I’d gather that in a good 24-hour period the Doodle’s getting roughly 11.5-12 hours sleep. On a bad day, around 10 hours. And if she wasn’t horribly cranky and difficult to deal with some days in the 4:30 – 7:00 pm witching hour, I’d say we’d just have to suck it up and deal with it. That she’s clearly established a new sleep and wake time. But this kid is newly 2, tired and we could all benefit from just a smidge more sleep.
So my dear blog friends, how do you get your littles to go to sleep?
I’m working towards some sort of utopia where we can read her stories and then leave her in her room all on her ownsome to fall asleep, but for now, I’d love your thoughts on how to a) reduce our bedtime routine to about 30-40 minutes of hands-on parenting, and b) bump up the time she actually conks out to about 8:30-9:00 pm.
Because we could all use more time looking at our kids when they’re as sweet at this. No?
I’m always on my iPhone snapping instagram photos, and I’ve managed to gather quite the collection of images documenting this burgeoning toddler style. The Doodle has developed some very clear ideas about what she should wear. It’s her own, unique, sense of fashion. More often than not, it’s heinously adorable.
This morning the Doodle insisted on wearing her tutu. She wanted a tutu like Megan, who is a worker at her daycare, but not in her room. I checked and Megan does not own nor has she ever worn a tutu. So we’re still in the dark about who is exactly the Doodle’s latest style icon inspiration.
I’m not entirely quite sure how we’ve become the mothers of a girly-girl tomboy.
This toddler loves her tights and skirts, but more often than not she shuns her party dresses. Diaper covers can be re-purposed as underwear either under or over the tights now that she’s diaper free.
This is a kid who also thinks that yoga pants and fleece pants are the bomb. If it has an owl on the front of it, she has to wear it. And, if you can roll out of bed and out the door in the same outfit, that’s a total score.
She must change her clothes 2 or 3 times a day. A new outfit is needed if a shirt gets wet, but dirt stains or food mashed on the front, never is a factor. In fact, the dirtier a piece of clothing is, the harder it is to get her out of it.
Pajamas are now shunned. The Doodle sleeps in her day clothes. Track pants or leggings.
She’s shoe obsessed and very specific about which shoes or boots she must wear at any given point in time. The practicality or activity suitability is never a consideration. Neither is having the right shoe on the right foot (or left shoe on the left foot for that matter).
The Doodle is developing a sense of self and that’s a pretty cool thing to bear witness to. Even if at times it is comically cringe worthy.
It started out inconspicuously enough.
When I picked the Doodle up from daycare at the end of the day, I was greeted by choruses of “Doodle’s mommy!” “Doodle’s mommy!” Or if we ran into one of her chums in the parking lot on our way in or out of daycare, the other toddler would look at me and shout excitedly, “Doodle’s mommy!!!”
The Doodle is about 3-6 months younger than most of the kids in her class, and didn’t initially say anything at all about her peers’ parents. Cognitively, she just wasn’t there yet.
A few months ago it clicked. Adults became ordered and matched with her friends. This is the ultimate game of concentration. “Fairouz’s daddy!” “Calvin’s mommy!” “Julia’s daddy!!!”
Otto and I have a long history of working with kids from LGBTQ families, and in our experience, it didn’t really seem to matter to kids that had two moms or two dads or some other family combination until the age of 10. Around that age, kids suddenly wanted to be like everyone else and it was key for many of them at that time to have their own network of kids who also had queer parents. They wanted to have friends with families like theirs who got it. They wanted friends who didn’t just have a heterosexual mommy and daddy headed household. Developmentally, that’s totally on par with where one would expect a 10-year-old to be.
Given that this is my first time around on the toddler circus, I never really gave much thought to how a toddler, preschooler or young child would make sense of their world when it came to parents. This was an apparent oversight on my behalf, because this is pretty big in the Doodle’s mind.
At first, she would look at her chums and ask, “Mommy mama?”
Since toddler syntax is limited, you only know it’s a question based upon the upswing at the end of the sentence.
This is when the Doodle became as cognitively developed as her peers and started to want to match adults and siblings to her friends. She quickly caught on whose mommy was whose mommy. And pretty soon daddies were in the equation, too. I was kind of blown away that she seemed to grasp a family unit.
But this new worldliness was somewhat limited. She understood Mommy-Mama, and Mama-Daddy or just one Mommy or just one Daddy, but she didn’t get Daddy-Daddy. She didn’t believe that it was possible to have two men as parents. She actually guffawed in disbelief and said, “No…!!!!” when I told her it was possible.
While our daycare is racially and culturally diverse, it’s pretty heterosexual. We’re the only two mom family in our room, and friends of ours have their daughter down the hall, but we never see them. Most of our two dad friends have older kids, so we don’t really hang out with them, but we hang out with lots of two mom families.
Over a couple of community events I intentionally introduced the Doodle to two dad headed families and she seemed to get it. Yes, it is possible for someone to have a Daddy AND a Papa. Parenting lesson complete.
I thought we mastered all of the very basic family configurations for toddler. I thought we were golden. Only then the Doodle began to ask about a daddy. A daddy! And not just any daddy, where was her daddy? She’d frequently ask “Doodle daddy?” with the now popular upswing inflection and a shoulder shrug.
The best answers for toddlers is usually the simplest answer. Our stock response is that she doesn’t have a daddy, she has a mommy and a mama. Only I really think our toddler is gangbusters smart.
Now she’s asking which one of us is the daddy. It’s phrased like this, “Gus-Mommy-Daddy?” or “Otto-Mama-Daddy?” (Yes, we taught her our first names and sometimes she randomly shouts those out, but usually in a really possessive way as if to affirm that yes indeed that’s my mommy).
Today she’s pretty insistent that she has a Mommy-Daddy, which has somehow become me. And she thinks it’s hilarious. Because now if you ask her if she has a daddy, she no longer shouts, “No!!! Mommy-Mama!” She grins and says, “Gus-Mommy-Daddy,” and then giggles as she seems to innately know it’s a loaded question that’s imbued with some comedy in our household.
Let’s just say I’m not the butchier of her two moms.