Not long ago, Little C was on her play mat, reaching for the toys hanging over head, but missing like a dental patient on laughing gas. Now she’s this little person — a girl who makes goofy faces when she’s being scolded and who spontaneously laughs at herself, and others. She has favorites — toys, people and places. I’ll often find her in her hiding space (between the chair and side table in her room) reading.
I have … a toddler.
When she burst into the world I was terrified to take her anywhere. On our first trip to the mall, I brought my mom. My heart palpitated when she (C, not my mother) squealed (in delight, mind you) in Pottery Barn. I was convinced people were thinking “why is there a child in here and why is said child making noise?!”
When my husband and I took her to Manchester for shopping and dinner, I ordered before our coats were off — and requested the check be delivered with the meal. I was convinced it would be impossible to dine with a three-month-old at the table.
Now, C and I traverse the northeast, shopping and sightseeing and visiting friends and family. We cross state lines and venture out at all times (as long as it doesn’t totally mess with the oh-so-important ‘schedule’) and in (most) types of weather. I lug her in and out of the car several times a day to The Little Gym and reading group and take her places, like a local electrical supply center, where the staff exclaims “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby in here.”
But she’s there, and just about everywhere with me. Some things I’ve learned while out, and at home:
10: Restaurants are doable. Bring toys (preferably quite ones so the people at nearby tables don’t gripe about you on social media), snacks and a highchair cover. Those restaurant seats are coated with more sticky, greasy grime than the floor behind the bar during happy hour.
9: I don’t need 75 percent of what’s in my closet. Cashmere and leather (RIP) are out for at least the next couple of years and heels are impractical when you spend much of your time on the floor pretending to be some sort of animal. Which brings me to …
8: Animals are hard to copy. My dog, horse and elephant all sound the same — like a wounded animal, suffering on the side of the road (possibly after being hit by a parent who is near-comatose from lack of sleep).
7: Spending money on myself is not a priority. If I have a gift certificate, or rewards dollars, I’d much rather buy something — like a restaurant-appropriate toy or cute clothing — for C.
6: Sleep is awesome, and perhaps underrated. I’m a much kinder, happier person since C grew out of those middle-of-the-night feedings.
5: Speaking of sleep, you don’t stop worrying if they’re breathing at night even when they can stand up and/or climb out of their crib. Or, well, maybe you do, but I haven’t.
4: Schedules are oh-so-crucial. Before having a child, I couldn’t understand why my friends were ridiculously adamant about what time we’d meet. “12:22 works, but not 12:59 — that would be too late,” they’d say. They’d “need” (air quotes and eye rolls — from me, not them — included) to get their child home for a nap, or bedtime.
Why, I wondered, did our plans have to revolve around a person who’d been on this planet but a few months? Couldn’t these moms and dads just shift the shut eye for their little ones by an hour … or three.
Now I get it — and I’m the one irritating those who have the same “is that really necessary” attitude I used to sport.
3: You expect every telemarketer, solicitor and every everyone, really, to know you have a toddler and to know when that toddler is sleeping and to know that when that toddler is sleeping and you call the toddler is likely no longer sleeping which gets him or her off the schedule which makes life unpleasant for everyone in the house because sleep is so damn important for you, her and everyone, apparently, but the person on the other end of the line. You then wish your phone only dialed out, or that you didn’t have a phone at all. You want to yell “I hate people” and moan like a wounded animal.
2: You talk, and think, about poop — a lot.
1: You have a natural bond with other parents — even people you’ve never met, or those you don’t particularly like — because you’re all going through the same sleep, play, poop, laugh, eat, repeat glory that is being a mom or dad.