I don't remember the exact day I realized my baby boy was a toddler. I turned to him for one reason or another and no longer saw a baby who needed my hand to walk across the floor. Instead, I was staring at a little powerhouse ready to conquer the world. So when it came to the things I thought I had to do when my baby became a toddler, the majority ended up not being as relevant as I though they'd be. Which, as you can probably guess, is a good thing. I don't know about you, but I don't need another reason to feel any more mom guilt than I already do.
Watching my boy grow has been a bittersweet journey. Not only was he born after two significant pregnancy losses, but because of health problems I wasn't sure I'd ever meet him. Those early days of rocking him to sleep were exhausting, but they were also undeniably glorious. I remember holding him and wishing I could freeze time. I'm forever grateful for the journey he's taken me on (that both children have taken me on, actually), but sometimes I think back on those past baby snuggles and feel like every new milestone he's hitting is another step closer to the day I have to let him go.
When I realized my son was no longer that sweet baby I held so close, but an intelligent, curious toddler ready to explore his surroundings, I can easily say I felt pressure to feel a certain way or treat him differently. When it came down to it, though, I decided to tune it all out and just do me. So with that in mind, here are some things I thought I had to do when my baby became a toddler, that I really didn't need to and, in the end, decided not to.
Toss All The Baby Things
For some reason I thought once my son reached the milestone toddler stage he'd suddenly be too big for his clothes, would lose interest in those baby toys, and that everything he'd enjoyed during his first year of life would no longer be relevant. Thankfully, I was so completely wrong.
Even as he started eating solids and feeding himself, he still yearned for pumped breast milk. He was tall, but thin for his age, so a lot of his clothes still fit long after he should've been in 2T-3T, and up through his 5th birthday he still played with a lot of those old baby toys. Basically, age really is nothing but a number and this new phase of toddlerhood is nothing but a stepping stone.
Toddler-Proof The Entire House
While there were a few things my partner and I had to keep an eye on (the outlets and door knobs, for example), most of our house remained the same when my son starting walking. When our daughter was a toddler we learned that it really wasn't all that necessary to "baby/toddler-proof" everything, as long as we kept a good watch on our curious littles.
Yes, it was terrifying to know my son could go wherever he pleased, and sure there were a few times he got into the toilet paper or baby powder and had a ball. For the most part it wasn't something I had to do in order to keep him safe because I was never far, and my eyes rarely wandered away from him while he explored on his own.
Cut Out All The Baby Snuggles
I guess I figured once my baby hit those toddler years he wouldn't need me as much. Maybe to help him get something beyond his reach, or to prepare his meals, but not for things like cuddling, right? Wrong. Not only did my son require extra snuggles to reassure him everything would be OK as he moved through these stages, so did I.
Turns out, my baby will always be my baby.
Let My Toddler Figure Things Out On Their Own
I'd always heard conflicting schools of thought on whether or not to give my children more independence as toddlers versus keeping a closer eye on them. I thought I had to choose one or the other, but as my partner and I adjusted to my son taking his first steps, and later sprints, we realized there was a middle ground. I could help my son feed himself so he wasn't arbitrarily shoving food into his mouth, and I could help my son potty train so pee wasn't covering every corner of our bathroom. I could allow him to stumble and fall, sure, but I could also be there to help pick him up and get him back on his way.
I let him find his own way as much as I could, but I'd never be too far away in case he needed me.
Change Our Special Routines
I thought having a toddler meant creating new routines to compliment my son's new experiences. In fact, I tried to give him the space he needed while ensuring he had similar bedtime routines and such, but he fought me on it and insisted we do things the way we had been. Our whole bath, rock, read a book, and then go to bed night routine soothes him and he wasn't ready to let that go just because he was older.
In this case, it truly took paying attention to what he needed then making the best decision for my son, instead of just blindly following what others told me I should do (i.e. provide a routine suited for an older child instead).
Stop Being So Overprotective
I'm a helicopter mom and I always have been. I think it's a result of the nonexistence guidance I had when I as a child, as well as that lingering fear that I would never actually have the opportunity to have my son. In other words, my need to be overprotective isn't something I can just change or turn off.
Over the years I've lightened up, sure, but at the core I'm always hovering (at least nearby) to make sure my kids turn out well. Many people have told me to change my ways and to stop being overprotective of my son, especially when he became a toddler. They said it'd be bad for him, and that he'd be too reliant on me. I still hover and helicopter and honestly, those assumptions couldn't be farther from the truth. My son is still independent, capable, and able to be without me.
Stop Treating My Baby Like A Baby
The only person who gets to decide when I stop babying my baby, is me. I'm the one who looks after him all day, everyday. I'm the one who bathes him, reads to him, rocks him, and tucks him in as I sing a lullaby. I'm the one who kisses his boo-boos. The one who catches him as he falls. The one who explains the unexplainable, like life and death and everything in between. No one can tell me how to mother my baby, or when I should stop. Making sure my kids know I'd go to the ends of the earth for them isn't coddling.
By the way he looks at me with those long, thick lashes when he says "I love you, Mommy," I can easily say I have no regrets.