My little dude recently turned one, a milestone I never imagined I’d get to back in my darkest days of January. And yet here we are. We made it. It sort of felt as if I had come to the finishing line of the longest, hardest marathon of my life. As if getting both of us across the line would somehow be it.
What was I thinking? It was only the start!
Clearly, I wasn’t thinking at all! I was so focused on him getting to his first year and putting those cruel days of anxiety and post-natal depression behind me that I didn’t really look beyond that. Indeed, when I was in the middle of the maelstrom earlier this year, I was very much of the mantra of taking things one day, one hour, or even one minute at a time. It was a philosophy that stood me in good stead and helped enormously.
So why is it that I now feel a little lost all over again?
I feel as if there is much more of an emphasis on those first few months when your child is truly a baby. There’s a barrage of advice, books, handouts, leaflets, classes, public health nurse visits and anecdotes from family and friends on what to do and what not to do. Everywhere you turn there’s information. Which I’ll admit can be a little full-on at times.
However, I now stand facing something of a vacuum and it’s a little overwhelming, because I’ve quickly realised I have no idea of what I should be doing in terms of looking after a toddler. It’s things such as brushing his teeth, which as it turns out is about as easy as getting a saddle on a bucking bronco!
Then in my state of worry, I made the monumental error of getting some well-meaning, but unwittingly judgey (and incidentally unsolicited!) advice… which went a bit like this -
‘You’d want to get him used to brushing his teeth now you know, otherwise the teeth will just fall out of his head!’
‘He’s only having one nap? No, no, no he shouldn’t be down to one nap yet! That is REALLY bad for his development!’
Shit? Really? But he has been having one nap for yonks at this stage and indeed if I can just get one solid nap out of him a day I’m over the moon!
What? You mean he is still having a formula bottle before bed? Well you’d want to cut that out as well!’
He’s not walking yet?
Does holding onto the furniture count?
Only babbling is he? No proper words yet?
Gagagaga no good?
Clapping? Okay that’s good! But what about waving?
FFS!!! Queue huge internal scream.
Needless to say I smiled and left as soon as humanly possible.
But I was left feeling more confused than ever, as if the game had changed irrevocably and I hadn’t even read the rules. It’s as if I just got used to one routine, one set of doing things and boom, my baby went and turned into a toddler and suddenly things have gone up about 12 levels overnight.
And scarily, what I’ve realised is that this is only the beginning of these seismic shifts. For this first year I was so focused on getting over my post-natal depression I just didn’t have a view beyond the baby stage. Yet things will turn upside again very soon when he is walking properly. And what about potty training? Pre-school and a million and one other momentous changes I haven’t even fathomed yet?!
It’s enough to bring me out in a cold sweat.
For now, I think I need to do two things.
First, take a deep breath and stop listening to the ‘ever so helpful’ advice with a side of silent judgement.
Secondly, I think I need to do some research on my own terms, in my own time and not to get too worried about what he should be doing, rather focussing on what works for us as a family.