Oh, for the love of toddlers! Surely they must take the cake for being at once the cutest and most exasperating creatures on the Earth. Our lives have been steeped in Maeve's toddlerness for the past year and a half which has brought so much sweetness, and put our patience to the test (often multiple times a day).
Although it feels like we've had a toddler for a long time (and honestly we've had a toddler almost continually for about nine years so no wonder) I know that suddenly this season will be behind us. Lately, I've felt myself looking forward to that time. Not necessarily for Maeve to get older or to wish away time but just for a measure of ease to come into our lives that is rarely possible with a toddler. As I was jokingly telling Chris recently, "I'm about to be 40. I'm getting too old for this!"
When Maeve is being challenging I'll find myself in the most ridiculous situations that are so illogical they're hard to remember or to describe to friends. But I want to remember this fleeting season as well as I can. Because life with a toddler is such a particular experience, both in the sweetness and the challenge. So I'm going to capture some recent toddler memories here as a little keepsake; so that when I wonder what life was like with toddler Maeve I can know.
+ Maeve is very particular about which parent she wants at different times of the day. Chris is the preferred morning parent. I'm the preferred evening parent (the shift always seems to happen around 5:30 p.m. during dinner). In the morning if Chris is at the gym and I go in to get Maeve from her crib it can often trigger a long episode of screaming and crying. Just because I said, "Good morning!" Thankfully this has been improving lately. At the other end of the day, Maeve will sense that bedtime is on the horizon and say in a panic, "Mama to put me down!" as if Chris is suddenly a stranger we might abandon her to.
+ When it comes to butter, Maeve wants all of it. If she's having anything that we would add butter to (toast, oatmeal, a bagel) she wants to butter it herself and no she will not use a reasonable amount. Nothing short of giving her the entire tub and a knife and then being left alone ("Go away!") will appease her. We've returned to the scene to find a bagel covered in half a cup of butter or for her snack of buttery rice to have the ratio of mostly butter with a few grains of rice. If Maeve sees us cooking with a stick of butter she asks for "a big piece" and really what she means is the entire stick, which she will hold and eat bite by bite (although never more than probably a tablespoon or two total). We've tried lots of ways to give her independence but not give her the whole butter tub or stick. We end up with screaming and crying and sometimes, like at 6:13 a.m., it's just worth it to give her the whole butter.
+ Speaking of "whole things," Maeve would also like the whole ketchup, the whole parmesan cheese, the whole box of crackers, etc. This girl does not want some she wants "whole thing." We've made some progress here and are working on taking a reasonable amount but along the way we've seen copious amounts of so many foods poured and wasted.
+ Maeve's body is perfection. She still has a round, soft belly that I can't resist placing my whole hand on, with fingers outstretched. She's very ticklish so her sweet laugh always follows. Her bottom is equally soft and squishable, and we often see it racing away from us when she's naked and silly before a bath. With her belly and her height, at three and a half Maeve is wearing size 5 clothes or XS girls clothes.
+ The earnestness with which toddlers tell you or ask you things melts you on the spot. When we started talking about Christmas wishes Maeve came over to me, and looked at me so earnestly with her big brown eyes and round soft cheeks and said, "Mama, for Christmas can I have a kitty?" and although I do not want at pet at all I wished so much to put a kitten into her arms right then.
+ Maeve seems to be well attuned to her emotions and those around her. She'll announce, "I'm having the best time!" or "I'm having a rough day." She might ask us, "Are you not feeling sad any more?" And two of my favorites: she'll announce, "Group hug!" and gather us all together. And recently when she was really happy Chris reports that she said, "That beats my heart!" which Chris and I now say to each other.
+ Our half mile trip from our house to school each morning can quickly turn into an epic journey to rival Odysseus and his odyssey. It often goes somewhat like this...when it's time to go Maeve does not want to go. So we spend some time negotiating about that, such as saying that we can stop by the park before school. That might get her into motion but suddenly she wants her gloves. The gloves that we saw last week but now for the life of us are nowhere to be found! She does not want any other gloves. Only the blue and white gloves! After pouting and whining we are about to get Maeve into the bike trailer but now she would like to ride her scooter. We concede but say that we have to get going to fit in the park because already we had been hoping to already be at the park by now. We set off and Maeve is on her scooter...going...so...slow. We gently encourage her to keep scooting. "Let's get to the park so we can play!" But now she is tired of riding her scooter and wants to ride in the bike trailer. We have traversed perhaps a third of the way down our street at this point. So we put the scooter in the bike trailer and are on our way. Other times she insists on scootering or riding her balance bike the entire way – and how cool that she can! But it's a constant start and stop to pick up her bike over every bump, every puddles from lawn sprinklers. When we finally have Maeve dropped off at preschool and are getting back on our bikes I can feel so emotionally drained from the morning. As I texted a friend one morning, "Our half mile journey this morning to school was like Odysseus on his freaking odyssey. Maeve traveled by bike, scooter, foot, and finally by bike trailer. There was drama and sirens beckoning her off the path at every corner. Whew!"
+ An alternative version of our morning school journey might include Maeve asking to go to the park before school and me saying I would love to. But then Maeve says that she wants to go to the park at the end of our street which is not on the way to school. So we enter a familiar stalemate where even though I said yes to the thing she wants somehow we still arrive at a meltdown.
+ An example of a ridiculous situation that I found myself in recently with Maeve was when she wanted a bagel for breakfast. We didn't have any in the fridge but we did have some in the freezer. So I offered to thaw and toast a bagel for her. She did not want a thawed bagel nor a toasted bagel. She wanted the bagel frozen and she wanted it right now. So I gave her the frozen bagel. But then she wanted it split and buttered. She did not care at all that the ice-block bagel could not be cut nor that I might cut myself if I were to try to cut it. We compromised on her having the butter tub to spread a giant amount of butter on top of her frozen bagel...which she then took a few nibbles of.
+ If you are racing Maeve she will call out, "I'm going to win you!"
+ Maeve's current bedtime routine consists of: holding her in my lap (or Chris's lap) in the glider where we read one book. Then, she drinks one more gulp of water, grabs her small flashlight (which we call "friendly flashlight" - a winning name I invented on the spot when her beloved red flashlight was lost and all we had was a blue one. Branding is everything!), and walks to her light switch to turn it off. Then, with flashlight shining, she walks to us and takes the offered lovey and small pink stuffed bunny. She snuggles back into our lap and we tell a story (I often tell about the adventures of Bunny and Goose, two characters I made up who are a bunny and a goldendoodle), and then we sing a song. When Chris does bedtime he sings the theme song from Cheers, which he's sang to all of our kids. I sing a song I first made up for Dash but added two extra verses for Maeve. I sing Maeve's name of course but in the song you could use any name...
All of the animals have already gone to bed
And now it's time for Maeve (but any name fits here!) to lay down her little head
Bird is in her nest, fox is in her den
Cat is on the chair, dog is by the door
All of the animals have already gone to bed
And now it's time for Maeve to lay down her little head
Then I pick up my big girl, so soft and so heavy, and lay her in her crib. She gets covered first with a fleece Minecraft blanket that used to be Cedric's, then with a baby blanket that used to my mine, and another thin blanket. She likes everything just so. Then I tuck in her "sweet feet" as I call them. I think she shines her flashlight around for a while, then switches it off, and goes to sleep.
+ At times Maeve has gone through phases where she fights bedtime and can't get settled. She says that blankets aren't right and I didn't tuck her feet right. Whew that is really hard! But thankfully we've been in a good bedtime routine for quite a while. After saying "love you!" we walk out and close the door and then Maeve calls out loudly, "Have a good sleep!" and we have to call back equally loudly. Sometimes she will call out for us of us in turn, "Have a good sleep, Daddy!" "Have a good sleep Dashiell!" and if you are named you have to loudly call back, "Have a good sleep!" Thankfully Maeve has been consistently sleeping through the night lately but we were in a patch there where she was waking a lot. At the end of settling her back down in the middle of the night she would call out, "Have a good sleep!" and if you did not shout it back then all your efforts were lost. And so without regard for who else we might wake up Chris or I would find ourselves shouting, "Have a good sleep!" at 2:38 a.m. and it made total sense.
+ Maeve loves to play baby and babysitter. Chris is such a good playmate and is often the baby who Maeve is putting down for a nap. On one occasion Chris was laying down for his nap and Maeve couldn't find a blanket to put on him so she told Chris to close his eyes and ran off to her room. She came back and put something on Chris's back which he could tell was her little backpack. She said sweetly, "Is it a blanket?" And Chris said, "Yes." And Maeve said, "No! It's a backpack!" and took the backpack and hurled it onto the floor.
+ Just this past weekend Maeve was watching the iPad and Chris left the room for a bit. When he came back, Maeve had helped herself to a huge chunk of cheese from the fridge which she was alternately taking nibbles of and then using like a crayon across the screen of the iPad. When Chris said, "Maeve, what are you doing?" She answered, "I just do that sometimes!"
And that's life with a toddler! I know I have so many more toddler vignettes to share but these are the ones I'm capturing today. Please share a toddler moment or two with me. They are so ridiculous when taken out of context and it helps to be reminded that our toddlers won't always be tiny tyrants. But I do wish the big bellies could stay for a while...