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We’re inches away from Madeleine’s first birthday: it’ll be here before I know it and I’m digging in my heels, being dragged kicking and screaming towards that invisible line where my baby becomes a toddler and toddles off away from me.

I’m finding that most companies make an arbitrary delineation for kids: under one year and you’re an infant, over one year and you’re a toddler. I have to tell you, I’m not ready for her to be a toddler. I’m still getting used to the fact that she does more than sleep and poop, that she has opinions and preferences, favorite toys and sleeping positions.

This automatic reclassification of my child feels so abrupt for me; one day, she’s a cuddly newborn, next day she’s pondering pre-school choices and having playdates. For some reason, though I know that it’s been in the works and I’ve seen the date circled in red on the calendar, this has sneaked up on me. I need an easing into it, a gradual transition if you will. 

I notice that much of my life as a mommy is about transitions; perhaps that’s why I’m so uncomfortable not having one here. I’m always casting an eye towards some future goal or developmental step and working backwards to figure out what she needs from me to help get her there. Small things, like getting ready for a nap: knowing what time she’ll crash, how many books she’ll need before that, and arriving at the appropriate time to give her the first nudge by asking, “Where’s Silky?”

And big things are all about transition, too. I was petrified as we moved her to solid foods. The future, the next step, feels so foreign, so unknowable, and you think there’s no way you’ll make it across that bridge. You can’t imagine yourself as a mom who breezes around town, whipping out little jars for lunch and little baggies for snacks, knowing what to give when and how much. Then suddenly you are that mom. You just take that leap, I guess. But it’s prefaced with so much prep work: reading up on allergies, figuring out when to introduce new foods, what time of day to offer solids, and so on.

I look back on the past year and all the transitions we’ve survived and am amazed at how much we’ve actually accomplished. Moving her to a crib from the bassinet; sleeping through the night (for the most part); solid foods; dependable nap times; babyproofing as she became a mobile human being; the list is pretty impressive. And we’re already looking forward and planning for future events. We won’t let her stand on the couch or a chair, for example, so she won’t grow up thinking it’s ok to stand on furniture. And I don’t let her walk around with a snack or sippy cup in her hand; she’s learning that food and drink are consumed sitting down, and in a special place. I've started giving her a spoon to hold while she eats, and just today fed herself a few bites on her own.

I see Madeleine moving towards ever more independence in her daily living and know those transitions must be scary for her as well. She’s been standing and cruising for over three months now, and for the past couple of weeks she’ll stand unassisted without holding on to anything for up to a minute at a time. Maddie’s also become impatient cruising around furniture, and will occasionally cut a corner and walk a couple steps unaided without realizing it. When she thinks about it, and sees the distance in front of her, you see the hesitation: she strains to reach her hand across the gap, and when it doesn’t work she gives in and sinks to her knees, preferring to crawl there rather than step out into uncertainty. She’s thinking about it less and less, though, and I know the time’s just around the corner when she’ll be walking everywhere on her own.

Come to think about it, that describes me, as well. Toddlerhood scares the crap out of me. How old should a child be before it’s ok to eat crayons? What’s the deal with finger paint? Am I supposed to make my own playdough? How do you get soap out of your baby’s eyes in the shower? And don’t get me started on potty training. When I see the future – her new label as a toddler – I want to sink to my knees and crawl slowly and safely there. But when I’m busy looking in another direction, I suddenly look up and realize I’m there.

And you know what? Every new place I find myself in with her is even better than the last one.

So here’s to letting go and not looking. 


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