About two months ago, I noticed something. Whenever I would go into Target and head to the kiddie clothes section, I would automatically start on the left. At my Target, the “left” is the baby clothes section. I’d start there, looking for whatever it was I had convinced myself that Bubbalooshki Bear needed (because who doesn’t need a closet full of monster and dino-wear?). Inevitably, I’d quickly get annoyed and make my way over to the right side, where I’d usually find what I was looking for.
I did this for several weeks. Start on the baby side, end up on the toddler side. The partition between holds onesies and sweet little booties and snuggly baby caps on the infant side. The toddler side of the partition holds cool, hipster hats, socks that are called “socks” and not booties, and underwear stamped with Lightning McQueen, Thomas, Diego, and SpongeBob.
Meanwhile, I had realized that the weather would turn cool soon, and Will would be making the transition to the toddler room at daycare. It was time to get him some shoes. Real ones. Big boy shoes, I call them. So, I ordered a pair from Stride Rite, having forced Will’s foot still as he screamed and squirmed carefully measured B-Bear’s foot on the chart I’d printed from the website. I found a promo code and ordered the shoes. I couldn’t wait for them to arrive. One thing I’ve learned about having a child is that you cannot wait until he does X, Y, or Z…but when they do, it’s sad. Because it means that they have stopped doing A, B, and C.
The shoes came. Nick and I gushed over the adorable little Saucony shoe box that held them – his first big boy shoes. We put them on and….
Life has never been the same.
And I mean that in the XYZ, ABC way. The shoes have been bittersweet. They have propelled Will’s feet in a forward direction with such gusto that he hasn’t even thought of looking back.
Then came the day that I realized – when I told myself: Psssst. Chris – over there. He doesn’t wear these clothes anymore. Go. Over there. To the right side.
So I did. Now I go to Target and head to the appropriate section. That day was exhilarating and crushing all at once. It also occurred simultaneously with the arrival of the shoes.
Bubbalooshki Bear’s coronation as an official toddler (when I secured those little velcro straps for the first time) has meant many things.
It means my house is in the most unsightly, gut-wrenching, disarray most days. Why? Because a toddler, as I said, moves forward constantly. Oh, and they also move backward, up, down, in, out, over, under, and around all standard household items, including hazards. It is not uncommon to walk in the door and find my muffin tins haphazardly tossed asunder, perhaps a few bits of Chloe’s kibble dropped into the wells. My house is rarely completely clean. One day the bathroom will be clean. Then it gets trashed, and maybe the next day I can sweep the living room floor. No two rooms or areas are ever clean at the same time anymore. I struggled with this for a long time. Then one day, I shrugged my shoulders and decided it wasn’t worth it. As long as we wear clean undies and our house doesn’t smell offensive, I’m winning.
It means finding things that make you laugh, despite the extra work required to clean them up. Like when I reached into the trash liner box and found, among the trash liners, a full can of Diet Pepsi, a toy phone, and several scoops of dog food. Or the can of mandarin oranges perched simply on the stair landing. While I reserve full judgement, it is highly unlikely that Nick is the culprit here.
It means he has learned that actions have either consequences or, in some cases, really fun and gross results. Like offering a chubby, peanut-butter-covered finger to the dog from his perch in the highchair, letting her lick it sufficiently, then returning said finger to it’s proper task which, of course, involves the interspecies transfer of saliva. I don’t encourage this behavior – it happens when my back is turned, or so fast that it’s too late to stop so I usually just gasp in horror and move on.
It means hands that are perpetually sticky. The shoes move him here and there, and the hegemony of toddler culture dictates that everything be touched, patted, and squished satisfactorily. I hate sticky hands myself, so I cringe often at the dinner table and hover around him with a wipe constantly in my hand and a Kleenex in my pocket. I am officially my own mother. For my next trick, I will lick my thumb and scrub dried jelly from his chin.
It means he’s trying to become someone. Really trying. And that means frustration sometimes. It means separation anxiety at daycare, and tantrums that are so ridiculously dramatic that they can hardly be taken seriously. But it also means showing his gentleness and love. Like when he walks over to his daycare pal and starts patting him on the head, or when he affectionately tries to kiss your face over and over first thing in the morning, or give the dog “head-butt” kisses.
It means onesies, despite their sizing up to 24 months, look babyish on him. Pishaaaaw. Those are soooo 3-6 months.
It means first haircuts, and actually wanting to read books in your lap, and learning to say new words like “Uh-oh!”, and hands that clap and feet that stomp to favorite songs like “I’m a Little Tea Pot”, and finally spearing a green bean with a fork, and…..
The shoes mean he’s not a baby. He’s not a baby. He’s not. I spent so many months thinking it unimaginable that he’d ever crawl, walk, eat food, clap, or say words. Suddenly he is doing all of these things as if he’s always been doing them. Now it seems unimaginable that the kid I know today was ever that baby in all the pictures. Surely someone swapped out my old baby with a newer model.
I can’t wait until he can read. Because I love reading children’s books, and I can’t wait to share that with him. I can’t wait until we can have conversations – even simple ones. I can’t wait until pre-school, so I can smell that smell – you know, that heavenly scent of crayons, glue, milk cartons, and floor polish all mixed together – and to be excited with him.
But I don’t want any of this to happen. Because although I love reading, having him read himself means he doesn’t need me to read for him. Having conversations means that he’s moved on from his own inventive language that he blabbers into any object held up to his ear like a phone. Smelling crayons means he’s learned how to use them, which means I don’t have to show him.
Every step he takes with his new shoes carries him closer to the next pair, and the next pair, and the next…until one day, they’ll be size 12 and they’ll smell atrocious, and he won’t call me “Momma” or “Mommy” anymore. The shoes have made me sad. They’ve made me excited. They’ve made me go crazy when one is missing (until I find it arbitrarily thrown into the tupperware drawer).
They’ve been eye-opening. And wonderful.