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A New Chapter Begins

We’ve made it: Cora turned one. All
around us, friends are reminding us she’s finally a toddler.
We are officially a baby-free household now, filled only with
toddlers and tired parents. Now I can say, “As a mommy of two
toddlers . . .” or maybe, “I’ve got two toddlers
at home, and let me tell you . . .”

Because isn’t parenthood all about bragging rights? Even if
it’s simply bragging about how exhausted you are?

On the other hand, I can no longer call
the roll of belly fat around my waist “post-partum baby
fat”. I think it’s more accurately described now as
“post-cookie-fest baby fat”. And that doesn’t
sound as cool. Plus, I can’t really get a lot of sympathy on
the whole sleep-deprivation thing anymore: in those early months,
you wear your haggardness like a badge, knowing no amount of
spackle – er, coverup – could erase those bags under
the eyes. You nod solemnly as people stare in admiration:
“She’s still getting up every two hours? You’re
holding up so well! You’re being such a great mother, feeding
her when she needs and not complaining!” Contrast that with
how such a conversation would go now, and the sympathy level drops
rapidly. “You’re still getting up every two hours with
your kid? Haven’t you heard of sleep training?” See? It
loses something.

My friend Abby, with her two-and-a-half year old and five-year-old
in tow, talks about seeing her life moving into a new phase: as
naps get dropped, you have more freedom to be out-and-about all
day, no longer tied to the tyrannical schedule of a tired toddler.
Isaiah starts kindergarten (!!!!!) in the fall, and soon Josh will
be hitting preschool as well, and with those milestones come more
opportunites to reclaim pieces of herself in that freed-up time.

And while I’m nowhere near what she’s experiencing, I
do see a bit more relaxing in my own mommy life. I haven’t
gotten up for Cora before five a.m. for a few weeks now, which
means I’m getting a solid five hours of sleep in a row
consistently now. Heaven! And Cora’s able to pretty much feed
herself snack-wise, so I can put her in her chair and dole out the
munchies during snack time, buying myself a few key minutes to get
groceries put away or dinner started or cards written or whatever.

But in spite of all these signs, for some reason I still think of
myself as stuck in the baby phase most of the time. A friend of
mine here is due next week and it wasn’t until I looked
through Cora’s closet at all her old clothes and outgrown
toys and nursing things that I realized how big she is, how far
we’ve come in this short year. Those little onesies look so
vulnerable, while those burp cloths looks so threatening. I
can’t remember the last time Cora spit up on me, and believe
me, I’m not complaining about that.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, anticipate a time
when other people will be able to put Cora down at night and I
might even get a (gasp) overnight vacation without the girls
somewhere. I look at my husband across the dinner table, the miles
of macaroni and cheese and cheerios between us, and think,
“Hey! I remember you! I used to spend all sorts of time with
you!” And I think, one day, I might do so again.

I realize we’re about to enter a new phase here: two toddlers
learning about discipline. I had an “energetic” time
with Maddie from right around 18 months, and I anticipate Cora will
be ahead of the Terrible Twos curve as she’s done on
everything else, so I know I’ll soon be in the midst of
negotiations and explanations and holding-firm-to-the-lines and
breaks on both fronts. Truthfully, I’m not much looking
forward to it.

But when I look in Cora’s closet and remember the alternative
– the endless sleepless nights, the days of being the walking
dead, the weeks of thinking I’d never sleep again –
I’m happy to move on.


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