I wish I’d written more about parenting over the last couple of years, just so I had a log of all the challenges and rewards I’ve experienced. Most of those observations and moments go undocumented, others get a quick mention on Facebook or Twitter. In any case, a lot has happened since I wrote this entry almost two years ago, and our squalling babe has turned into a toddling boy. He runs, climbs, speaks, plays with trains, steals my iPad, wants more juice, and fights bedtime with the resolve of a Spartan warrior. And he plays with trains. Does he ever play with trains! Byron has definitely read up on the expectations of young boys, and does not disappoint. He is all about trains, trucks, and heavy machinery. All of his favorite TV programs involve talking vehicles. When he steals the iPad it’s to play the train game or watch Bob the Builder.
When I wrote about babies, I noted some of the things I did not expect. There is very little to these toddler years I did not expect: the ups and downs, the cuddles and story time, the delight of hearing him say a new word, the wonder of seeing him learn and grow, the tantrums and mad energy, the messy mealtimes, the not-minding of us and the endless curiosity, are all textbook toddler.
And though the days are long, we rarely end the day without discussing what a great, fun, and relatively easy kid he is. He’s usually in a good mood. He’s healthy and happy. He is more rambunctious than other kids, but he is good-hearted; he is spirited but mostly manageable. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed anything more in my whole life than Byron’s smile and satisfied nod when he knows he’s acquired a new word or skill. The days are frustrating but fun, exhausting and inspiring.
Sometimes I have parenting questions and consult the experts. How much should we praise him? Should he know more words by now? Should we limit his iPad time? (Good luck with that!) I usually find that our instincts are right. I’ve made mistakes, but none I didn’t already know were mistakes, and none that were very damaging.
The only advice I’ve really got for anybody entering this phase — this probably applies to dads more than moms — is to spend time with your child. That might sound obvious, but it’s easy to get busy with work and chores and see the child as a distraction from what you “have to do right now.” This has been easy for me to do since I’m trying to meet writing deadlines around my day job.
The other day I was setting up for a day of writing when Byron brought me a trucks & trains book. That happens all the time and I’m afraid I usually say, “not now, Daddy’s working.” This time I set the computer aside and let him climb up next to me so we could go through the book and name all the machinery: diggers and excavators and steamrollers and pavers and backhoes and firetrucks and race cars and dump trucks. If I can’t do that much, what is any of this for?