Toddlers always smell sticky sweet, like an old lollipop. Occasionally after a nice long bath and that baby-scented bedtime lotion, a flicker of baby giggles flits into my memory and we snuggle up close before bedtime. I loved having my babies, but I do not miss actually having young babies. I may be in the minority, but I sure do favor the sweet innocence and simultaneous, often challenging beginnings of independence that bubble up as little children grow into bigger ones. Don’t get me wrong. Toddlers are frustrating and beyond exhausting. They are also hilarious and excited by everything. Every single thing is brand new and so as a result, you get to experience the newness right alongside them. Holidays become more than just another day on the calendar. First times of each new experience are captured religiously with cameras as we try to sear these memories in our brains for the future. Shall I go on?
Potty training sucks of course, but truth be told, bigger kids sleep better than babies. They can tell you (and EMPHATICALLY do so) when they like or dislike something, or when something hurts. They need to make a decision about everything. While some find this exasperating, I find it adorable and oddly satisfying to help them make those choices and validate their feelings. I quite enjoy grabbing a pull up, water bottle, and bag of goldfish rather than a giant diaper bag stuffed with hundreds of things you won’t need unless you actually forget that one thing, and then of course you need this item. Picky always, I still prefer making the same chicken nuggets and applesauce every day on repeat rather than breastfeeding, pumping, buying formula or baby food. Even the mid-store tantrums with a full grocery cart just don’t throw me the way a small little helpless wail does. It is like my brain is wired to stress at a greater frequency when dealing with infants than with toddlers.
This is a special time. My little dude is about to start preschool in a month. We bought his big boy backpack today, Paw Patrol of course, and when he put it on we all laughed at how small it made him seem with this enormous sack on his back. He proudly beamed and strutted around the kitchen, showing no signs of the nervousness that will surely accompany his first day in a real classroom. I’m excited for what is to come, but I paused today and hugged this guy a little tighter. His big brother is a striking reminder of how quickly this time will pass.
Just as my oldest has started to veer away from primarily physical toys and into the gaming and friends world, my youngest is starting to enjoy big brother’s toys. Trains and dinosaurs and superheroes are once again taking over my house… and I freaking love it. Baby toys are so boring! I love imaginative play and teaching through play. He is just awful with sharing, but I suspect that will improve after an initial worsening period when preschool begins. I take such delight in watching him learn his numbers and letters, in hearing him sing songs and kick a soccer ball around with some actual innate skill (thanks, Dave). I love especially how he follows me around the house before work, doing nothing but wanting to be near me. It is probably one of my all time favorite moments when he throws his little arms around my neck before bed.
“Aw, I love you Bud, you are my sweet, sweet angel.”
Peanut voice response, “You my angel too, Mama”.
“You are my sweet boy and I love you. Sweet dreams tonight my love.”
“You my sweet boy too, Mama. I love you too.”
I will never be this unconditionally loved again, perhaps.
So while I am happy to bid adieu to those long but wondrous baby days, I am not quite ready to let this time go. At three years old, we have just a short time left now in this phase of life. As I am sure I have conveyed in previous posts, thankfully that day is not today. I am really trying to breathe it all in and live in the moment, as well as get back into the groove quickly when I fall off track. Despite my love for this age, I am human and I serve as a full-time working mom, a wife, a sibling, a daughter, a friend, and many other roles each day. Sometimes I don’t have it in me to read that second bedtime story. I yell instead of explain. I roll my eyes at the tantrum sprawled out in front of me. Occasionally I serve donuts for breakfast and ice cream for dinner. I fail at whatever I try to attempt that day.
All of these truths mean nothing to my toddler. He forgives me each day, and wraps his little arms around my neck and tells me I am his sweet boy, and toots on my lap, and yells out his orders. And he always smells like a sticky sweet, cherry lollipop. I am one blessed Mama.
For you new moms out there. You know those more experienced parents who tell you negatively to “Just wait!” for what is to come like toddlers are just the worst… yes, just wait. Enjoy those crazy baby days, better you than me, sister! While there are certainly challenges as our kids grow, don’t get thrown by those well-meaning naysayers. Everyone has their favorite periods of their children’s development, and that is A-ok. This toddler-stage-loving mom in the world wants you to know that there are sticky sweet lollipop hugs and the most amazing experiences together with your child, coming your way as well.