This past month has marked some of the most drastic changes thus far with little Cubbalicious. Firstly, he has developed shyness. He was never shy. I mean it. He'd toddle to anyone, arms open wide, grin on his face, happily waving and cooing and bringing all sorts of sunshine and rainbows to the recipient of his glowing adoration. Very nice. Then, suddenly, one day, someone reached for him, and he tucked his chin into his chest and toddled behind me and hid behind my leg, letting out a disgruntled fuss.
I found my surprised self getting frustrated. What's this? Or, more than that, who is this? Where did my outgoing, friendly, charming little guy go? He's repeated this behavior several times, developing a bit of a "Momma" and "Dadda" complex, preferring us over others. This is also new. He used to toddle into the church nursery like it was his second home, and now he fusses a bit when we leave him behind. And, of course, we feel like horrible parents, because we drop him off quickly and make a run for it, for the sake of the nursery workers. But, still! Who's this crying kid??
Second change! FUSSINESS IN HIGH CHAIRS. Okay. Let me just say. Cub used to love eating in restaurants. Well, maybe that isn't exactly a fair assessment, given that he will never have any recollection of this time in his life and for me to assume that just because he did well in restaurants then he automatically LOVED them could be a bit inflammatory. Nonetheless, he's always done well in restaurants. We even ate at Ruth's Chris one night, when Cub was one year old, and he was fantastic. And that isn't exactly an eat-and-run kind of restaurant! But he sat there contently, gnawing on bread and earning the props of the wait staff who may or may not have been a little nervous when they first saw us carting a baby into the restaurant. He sampled the filet, he cooed at fellow patrons, it was great. He was just as content as could be.
Then. Then last month happened.
He became discontent in high chairs. He'd fidget, he'd fuss, he'd plead that he was "all done!!" after only a few bites, but then wanting food again once he was down. Again, I found myself a bit frustrated. What in the world? You used to love high chairs, little Buster! What's up with this? Needless to say, these transitions have been a tad disarming for me.
Recently, I've been having several discussions with veteran moms about "reasonable expectations". My own Mom and I ate at a restaurant the other day and, sure enough, Cub got restless and red-faced in the high chair. I looked at my Mom with a flabbergasted face and she simply shrugged and said, "Well, he's actually aware of his surroundings now, and he knows he's in a room packed with strangers. That might be a tad scary." Oh. Good point.
She's right--he IS more aware of his surroundings. After observing his behavior more and thinking about these recent changes, I've discovered that Cub has developed preferences. Now he suddenly has an opinion about how he feels things should be. If he doesn't want to be in the high chair, he'll fuss about it. If he doesn't want to meet a stranger, he'll hide. Whereas before, he simply mimicked our behavior and all was well. Now, well, he's growing up a bit.
And you know, it's really great. I'm glad he's showing an opinion and standing up for himself. I think that's important.
I also think obedience is just as important. I'm learning the value of assessing each situation and saying, "Okay, is this behavior really making God angry, or is it just making ME angry??" I try to encourage him to use his words so he can articulate to me how he is feeling. It's still a work in progress, but we're both learning. I think we're going to practice sitting still a little more at our house, to see if that will help in restaurants. He's still too young to do the "If you don't calm down, I'm going to take you to the car!" That would mean nothing to him. We don't have to eat at sit-down restaurants, so if we have to forfeit that for the sake of the other guests there, we'll do it! Nothing sours the appetite like a fussy toddler.
I kind of feel like I'm rolling up my sleeves with this new phase. Okay. Here we go. We can do it, Cub!
And, as with every phase, this one has its share of rewards, too. And every morning I pray that I won't overlook the small victories. It's can be so easy to focus on a few rough spots during the day, rather than remember the really good things that happened, too. Today was like that. Cub was fidget-y and fussy during lunch (in a high chair, in a restaurant) and by the time we left, I was a bit frustrated ... and exhausted! But, after we both took naps, we had the best time playing together this afternoon. We giggled and laughed and tickled and read books and played cars and sang songs. He picked up his toys without missing a beat. He brought me his shoes when he wanted to play outside. We saw some friends tonight and he went to them willingly, offering hugs and kisses, rather than hiding. We still had some challenges, but we had some really amazing moments, too. So, despite the speed bumps, today really was a great day.
Toddlerhood. It's definitely keeping this Mama on her toes!