Three years ago, Iris was freshly two.
It’s an age many people struggle with because you’ve got a kid who insists they will do things themselves while you spend a lot of time thinking, “But but. . . for the love of dexterity! You can not do what you think you can do.” You spend your day asking them to wash their hands and stop touching their crotches and to get their fingers out of their nose. But people, nose-picking is not a measure of ability. Maybe you know this. Maybe you let your kid do everything themselves and you’re an additional ten minutes late on top of the standard 20MINS x EACH CHILD standard rate for parental tardiness. If your toddler kid or niece or nephew or baby cousin is particularly independent regarding a specific subject, please share in the comments. I love hearing about skills new humans acquire.
Maybe you know you should give your new toddler some more freedom but don’t know where to begin. I wrote, “Five Ways to Help Your Tot Grow Up Already”. I didn’t do this because I’m an expert on kids, and you shouldn’t trust my advice at all or even read it, probably. I wrote it because I enjoy reading about how other people are screwing up their kids and I want to share my own variety of irresponsibility. Flavors of life, man.
If you don’t want to click on that and read it, here’s the gist of my child-rearing philosophy:
Your kid doesn’t need a DIFFERENT, baby-approved activity when you are working on something. Your kid wants to feel important, so let them help and let them learn. Short of letting a toddler on your roof or using a blowtorch, include that damn baby, why did you have them anyway if you don’t actually want them to do anything?
My then two-year-old is now a five-year-old, and I still follow all of my own advice. (Sidenote: I never related to that thing Alice says. . .”I’m very good at giving advice but I very seldom follow it.” I dole out what I do and I love reading other people’s self-help books because I’m curious to read what method they are using to screw themselves up.) I really, really like her. There are some wretched verbs she verbs, like she continues to slowly dribble spit down her face and let it drip off her onto her clothes while silently staring at me when she is angry. She also recently poured sand on a friend after he asked her not to and we are expanding our early conversations about what she can and cannot do to my body to include other people. I’ll write about teaching your kid consent without smacking them in frustration (and thus voiding your own lesson about respect) later.
In the meantime, babies.
You came here because you’re wondering what I’m doing to my three-month-old, right?
I mean, he’s not doing that much. He’s two feet long and blobby.
But, I never wrote down how Christina and I parented Iris, and I want to take some notes for posterity.
Let them hold up their head. We don’t carry him around in his carseat, and we don’t use a stroller. We carry him on our bodies, either by holding him with our own arms or wearing him. Christina loves a front carrier with structure, I love an unstructured piece of square fabric with arms (it’s called a mei tai). I don’t always love to carry him. I don’t always feel awesome about having to scoop his sleeping body out of the car to wear him into the store when I feel like I already give him all of my calories to feed him. It’s exhausting. But it also makes us both stronger. He gets the opportunity to hold his head up while he is being worn, and when he has done enough reps, he leans his head down and chews on my shoulder.
Play with other kids. The two of our kids get playtime, and not in an us-hovering-over-them sort of way. Iris is five, and she likes to roll Felix onto his belly. She likes to scoop him up. She likes to lie back on the pillow and read books to him. There are a couple of kids at jiu jitsu that run up and say hi to him every week, and I have him sit up in my lap or let him pull himself to standing so he can wobble and let them talk to him. It’s terrifying, letting your newborn interact with other kids you know are disgusting, especially with the hell of measles on the loose. But you’re a grownup and you get to set the boundaries. Don’t sequester them from the rest of people, especially kids. I have found that kids who love being around babies are kids who have been allowed to be around babies, to talk with them, to play with them. I don’t like to carry him around in a carseat with a blanket over the top because I want him to interact with other people. I want him to feel as empowered as a 3-month-old can feel. He doesn’t speak our language, and since being out of the womb it seems like he enjoys being around other people. I let him have that.
Snuggle. If your tiny person likes to be snuggled, snuggle them. It’s their job to form bonds with everyone they interact with. I found that Felix likes to have his head pet to sleep, and he likes my hand to touch him but he doesn’t want to snuggle on me. (Iris liked to nurse to sleep, and she liked to sleep in my armpit) I don’t believe there is any possible way to “spoil” a new human. I don’t believe they are manipulative. I believe your new baby will give you cues to what they like, and not forcing them to do something else is imperative. This doesn’t mean sacrificing your mental health. Some days, Felix just wants to be held and I don’t have it in me. I will grab my work and put him near me and he might cry even though I am near him and talking to him and occasionally touching him, but that’s the most I can give him sometimes. Once, while helping Iris with a particularly challenging math lesson, Felix wouldn’t stop crying in my lap because he wanted me to lie down with him so I put him on the bed and let him cry for the rest of the lesson because my other option was to yell back. I don’t feel great about it, but some days. Some days are harder to get through and we all know that. I run this business, I homeschool a first-grader, and I have a three-month-old—it always feels like there isn’t enough time in my day, but some days it feels like there isn’t enough patience in my body, or strength, or endurance. I snuggle Felix when he needs it because I need it too and I want him to know I will be there for him so he can feel safe to walk away from us when that time comes.
It’s a rough start for babies, no language and bright lights and freezing, dry skin and they don’t even know about all of the pressure from their parents and grandparents and people they don’t even know in grocery store aisles. But, like everyone else, they still have shit to get done: make their neck work, talk with strangers, and occasionally be the little spoon.
Not so different from us. Maybe I’m projecting my own needs onto him.