Baby Steps

Baby StepsI always knew the day would probably come when Michael would cease to be the easygoing, always-happy little boy he’s always been. But that didn’t make it any easier when it happened.

For a fleeting period of time, I had a handle on all my kids–on how to handle their personality quirks. Not perfectly, but adequately. I didn’t recognize this interval until Michael woke up one day and decided to cease all forms of cooperation. He’s been polishing his scowl-and-pretend-you’re-not-talking stance the last couple of weeks, and instead of being eager to help when I tell him to go put the book upstairs on the shelf, he tests to see how many time he can a) ignore its presence or b) move it somewhere other than where I told him to put it before he gets in trouble.

Nothing I haven’t been through before. I just kind of thought I was done with it.

Baby steps. Just a few weeks ago I took stock of parenthood, how it was changing, and I never realized that having time for such self-indulgent navel-gazing was a sign that I was in the eye of the storm, so to speak.

All that progress is real. We’re just about diaper-free; we are completely sippy-cup free; Michael is flexible with his naps, and the older kids have the endurance to do all-day trips and walk long distances. They’re more independent in play and in self-care, and bedtime can be accomplished, in a pinch, in less than fifteen minutes with only one parent on duty.

But Michael’s entry into the upper-twos-and-stretching-through-three-or-four stage is a reality check, reminding me that the progression of stages is accomplished organically–one tiny, unnoticeable step at a time. Baby steps. A slow weaning from a familiar set of routines into one that is not.

Which is the best way, of course. The one that eases both parent and child into a new way of relating to each other, allowing them to stretch and adjust instead of being thrown in, sink-or-swim. The one that allows you to grow into the next stage of life, so you don’t feel cheated by being forced to move on before you were ready.