Despite a limited vocabulary (maybe 20-25 words? I've stopped trying to count), my toddler is super communicative these days. Figuring out how kids communicate without words is a non-stop challenge, but it's a fun one. We're at the point that previously felt like it was never going to arrive, when nearly every day brings a new word, a new skill, or a new discovery. In fact, moments ago he started showing me his newly acquired typing abilities. Check it out:

ufg ff f o08wdbddd xc


I'm just so proud.

Now that he's well on his way to taking over the world, my child has no qualms about making his opinions (about everything) known to me and whoever else will listen. Gone are the days when I have to wonder if he's done with his sandwich (which is important information to know since I've got about a three-second window to react between when he decides he's done and the time it hits the floor). Gone are the days when I'm not sure if he understands just how cool it is that he is able to retrieve his shoes when it's time to go outside; the look of pride on his face confirms that he already knows. Gone are the days when I have to guess which book he wants me to read, since now he points, picks one up, and puts it in my hands. We're waving bye bye to my days of wondering, just like we're waving at every living (and often, non-living) thing that goes by our living room window.

That said, it should come as no surprise that he's not holding back when it comes to opinions about me and my parenting. I used to think I would have a hard time managing the influx of unsolicited advice from all the well-meaning (and self-righteous) adults in my life, but as it turns out, the most enthusiastic source of parenting feedback is my own kid. He has...a lot of feelings, and he's not hesitating to share them with me. They include:

"I Can Do It Myself, Mom. You Don't Need To Help Me."


I'm no psychic, but I would wager that what I'm seeing now is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my son flexing his independence muscles. And while it rarely seems to bother him when I jump in and help him do something challenging that I'm pretty sure he could do (turn a particularly sticky book page, for example), it doesn't exactly thrill him, either. It's a crucial reminder for me to not be so quick to take over, in addition to being an annoyingly stubborn hindrance to us getting out the door in a timely way.

"You Need To Help Me."


"I can do it myself! ... But help me, please."

Oh, look who's a grown-ass, opinionated guy until he needs me to lift him up! One of my son's favorite things to do is look out our aforementioned living room window, which happens to be three or so feet from the floor. Since we brought him home, pretty much every adult in his life has spent countless hours lifting him up to it, pointing out trees, cars, squirrels, the neighbor's cat, and the other neighbor's chickens that continually manage to break free from their urban coop and declare themselves free range (this is the main reason why he's really good at spotting chickens in our board books). No matter how tired my arms get, or how bored I am of seeing the same residential scene, his requests to be held up will never get old.

"Show No Fear."


OK, technically it was actually my own mom who was the first person who gave me this cheeky parenting advice. Really, it was her way of telling me to stay strong for my kiddo when the going gets tough. But my son says it everyday, too. He says it when he looks up with tears in his eyes and wants reassurance; He says it when he falls down and bumps his knee or his elbow or his head; He said it by not saying anything at all the night we rushed him to the doctor's office with a terrifyingly high fever. If my kid can be stone-faced and brave, then so can I.

"We Only Snuggle When *I* Want To Snuggle."


Oh hey, have you heard that toddlers can be squirmy? Unlike how babies often tolerate being held and passed around for hours on end, toddlers will make it clear when they want their feet on the ground. Thankfully, my son has his moments where he'll snuggle me so hard, I legitimately feel like some kind of mother bear, nuzzling to my heart's content. These moments, however, are very specific and fleeting. Trying to initiate an extra hug or cuddle when he's not feeling it is the quickest way to get him to squirm away. And no, the metaphor is not lost on me.

"Stop Trying To Make Catch Happen."


My little is into throwing and kicking balls just enough to make my partner and I fear for the safety of our TV. He will gleefully launch them in our general direction time and time again, but he has not yet mastered the concept of catching. I've seen enough (soft) balls bounce off his tummy to know that it's not a good idea to force it, and that he's going to learn it at his own pace.

"Watch Me!"


Sure, my toddler usually means "watch me do this thing that I'm sure you'll find impressive!" when he says this, but it's a very valuable reminder on its own: I really should never take my eyes off this kid. Everything people tell you about kids growing fast is true, and yes, parents don't want to miss a single milestone or special moment. But, I also mean it pretty literally — not watching him could have serious(ly messy) consequences. Just this morning, I walked from the laundry room into the kitchen thinking that he was following behind me. About eight steps in, I realized he wasn't so I went back to the laundry room to find him almost dunking his face in our dog's water bowl. So yeah, whenever he asks me to watch him, he's also giving me a not-so-subtle reminder to keep my eye on him. Thanks, bud. Message received.

Images: Taylor Wasikonis/Romper; Giphy(6)