Here’s something dumb. I, of course, had always known that no two persons are alike, but during those stupid moments in the course of pre-motherhood, meaning all of my 34 years, I assumed that babies and toddlers were made from the same cookie cutter – all blank slates (I’m sure there’s a profound meaning to it but I’m blaming John Locke’s tabula rasa. My Social Science professor didn’t explain it well… or maybe I just wasn’t listening then). The little ones just acquire their own personalities when they’re much older, through “nurture” and experience. Like I said, dumb. I only figured out that babies and toddlers have personalities and are different from each other when I had my own baby — which meant that advice from even the experts should be taken with a grain of salt — which then left me a little confused sometimes when dealing with the Little Creature #1. How come Subject Matter Expert Doctor Blah Blah said so and so and yadda-yadda but the little critter merely gives us the brushoff, especially now that he has developed some, errr, toddler preferences? No, he’s no problem toddler. Thankfully, he hasn’t discovered the power he could wield (especially over his doting dada!) if he resorts to tantrums yet (note to dada: please don’t let him crush you!). Hopefully, he will never do. But well, he likes what he likes and dislikes his dislikes. We usually end up taking things in stride, or more appropriately, being “reactive” instead of being “proactive” parents. We take action (or no action) depending on his reactions.
“Shoes! Shoes!” The Little Creature #1 would exclaim immediately, once inside the house, meaning he wants us to take off his shoes or slippers. So we let him go barefoot. It’s probably not advisable especially since houses in Manila are like dust collectors no matter how many times they are being cleaned. My excuse: I read somewhere that going barefoot develops the muscles and ligaments of the feet and improves posture. He should be able to frolic around freely, without footwear to restrict his movement (although maybe a rigid pair of shoes could make him sit and rest for a while!). It doesn’t seem fair to stop the Little C#1 from collecting dust with his feet since we, his grimy-footed parents, go barefoot as well. Anyway, feet are washable. And we only go barefoot once inside the house. When a colleague of mine got excited over buying adult-looking shoes for her baby who hasn’t even learned to walk yet, my thought was, “but isn’t he too young?” Of course, I didn’t say it out loud. I seldom heed unsolicited advice from other moms so I don’t think she’d appreciate my challenging her ideas as well. She probably couldn’t resist wanting a pair of those tiny little trainers (or brogues! I might end up buying as well if I see a pair of teeny brogues!) because of the cuteness factor.
“Icee! Icee!” He does love ice cream. My dad indulges him. Since the little one is with his grandparents every weekday while we are at work, meaning, I’m not around to give the disapproving dirty looks, I bet he gets to eat ice cream all the time. I used to be against ice cream and sweets but, well (here it comes, one of the many excuses. I don’t think I will run out of them) from experience, this also seems to be the only way to make him take his meds without a tussle. We cover the powdered anti-asthma meds with cookie butter or ice cream. The result: Success! A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down, just like what Mary Poppins said.
“HWOOOW!” He would exclaim in delight whenever he sees his toys all scattered about. He likes to toss and fling and chuck all his toys everywhere. He does like to line up his cars and even his toy dinosaurs and animals now. But he likes to see the mess even more. I have not figured out yet how to make him clean up after playtime. We used to step on his toys with our dirty feet, but now we’ve gotten used to the “obstacle course”. My excuse: I made a livelihood, although it was on a short term, out of my clutter years ago. All those colorful beads and clothes and all that mess around me inspired me to be creative. Maybe he sees some sort of order out of the chaos that is his toys.
“Mama! Mama! Hug!!!” When it’s bedtime, after watching some of his favorite shows and the lights are off, he’d feel around and ask (demand seems more like it) for a hug, and we would end up sleeping locked in an embrace. There are times when I would wake up in the middle of the night with a butt on my face or toes shoved into my nostrils, but how can one resist snuggling against a warm and chunky little bedfellow? Co-sleeping was so convenient when I was still breastfeeding him and now we had gotten used to him sleeping beside (or on top of ) us so we keep putting off trying to make him sleep in a separate bed. Anyway, the Little Creature #2 is about to arrive and we really shouldn’t introduce a major change in #1’s routine lest he ends up blaming #2 for his being “bumped-off” from our bed.
Maybe our takes on such commonly debated parenthood matters (including TV) are what they call shortcut parenting. We prefer to take and find easier ways to bring up a toddler. The things some people say that are bad for the baby or child? Maybe they’re not all that bad, as long as the parents are able to provide close supervision to the little ones and can draw the line somewhere. Heck, if his sugar level is way elevated, we’d steer the Little Creature #1 away from chocolates and I’d be the first to tell him off if he goes barefoot out in the streets.
Oh well, the thought that our “style” will be part of the Parenting 101 curriculum someday is dubious but hey, it’s tailor-made for our toddler and it seems to work for us all.