Watching My Toddler Gain Independence Brings Me Joy

One of the joys of parenthood is watching your child grow and learn, helping to teach and nurture them. Time seems to pass slowly, but suddenly I have a toddler who wants to do everything by herself, and I am wondering where that helpless baby went.

Along with her physical and mental developments, she has learned that she has choices and can affect her world.

Mealtime has become very interesting.

nuk learner cup

Mealtime: Before

Mealtime: Now

Mealtime: Now

We’ve gone through different phases since she started eating table food, but now she is in the pickiest of those phases. Some days it is difficult to figure out what she wants to eat. She will turn down food after food – yesterday’s favorite will be thrown on the floor today. She used to love any preparations of turkey, chicken, and cheese, but now her sources of protein are limited to yogurt, peanut butter, and the occasional serving of ground beef.

Also at mealtime, she now has to be solely in charge of her food, and how she eats it. She used to eat spoon-fed yogurt and applesauce. That’s not even worth attempting now – so yogurt and puree pouches have been immensely valuable. If we are dipping our chips or fries, she has to dip too. If we are using utensils, she has to use them too. (She will tell us this by screaming until we hand her one.)

Meal times are extremely frustrating, but simultaneously adorable as she gets so excited about eating her chosen food with her utensils. I’ll never forget the “evil laughter” the first time she successfully stabbed a piece of fruit with her fork.

Playtime has changed by leaps and bounds over the last few months.

With more independence comes more mobility!

Walking became running, and now I have a little monkey climbing and jumping on everything! The only place “no-no items” are safe in the living room is on top of the mantle; this has become the new home for the remote, since she always wants to be in charge of it (I’m pretty sure she’s looking for Elmo) but nearly always manages to change the TV’s screen resolution settings.

She now loves to “help” with everything she can. This is simultaneously good and bad. She helps put her toys away when we ask her to, and make it a game. She also loves to take clean laundry from me and put it into the basket before I’ve folded it, or take the items I’ve already folded back out and carry them around the room…

She also will now tell me what she wants; there is much less guessing on my part. When she wants something that’s not in the living room, she will fuss at the gate, and I let her through so she can tell me. She will race to the fridge for her milk, the pantry for a snack, or the stairs if she wants to play in her room instead. These new communication skills are so helpful!

Bedtime used to be frustrating.

We would spend anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours (on a bad night) trying to get her to go to sleep and stay asleep in her crib. Our big girl has mastered the routine, and we now look forward to the bedtime process.

She throws her clothes in the hamper after I help her undress, and then she pulls pajamas out of the drawer. She leads me to the bathroom and reaches for the counter, “asking” for her toothbrush. I used to brush her teeth, but now she has to do it herself (she does a surprisingly good job). When she’s finished, she hands me her toothbrush and runs off to pick out several bedtime stories. After stories and goodnight hugs and kisses, I set her in her crib, and she WAVES at me as I leave the room. Sometimes we blow kisses at each other. I love this sweet time together, and am so thankful to have graduated from the hours of crying before bedtime.

 

Sometimes I miss my “baby” – this toddler is so busy and really keeps me on my toes. But this little girl is amazing. I love watching her learn everything, and being a part of teaching her every day. In a year and a half, my infant turned into a laughing, clapping, waving, dancing, hugging, kissing, climbing toddler who loves to help her mama.

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