I’ve always been a shy person. Usually when I tell people this, they don’t believe me and insist that no, you’re not. And it’s true that once I know someone, I’m pretty chatty. But put me in a room of people I don’t know, and I clam up. Or even if it’s just me and one other adult at a park, I find it hard to strike up a conversation. I’m very uncomfortable introducing myself to random people (which is funny, since I’m a journalist, and that’s what you have to do all the time…but it’s somehow different when it’s work).
My husband’s an introvert, too. Again, kind of amusing, since he’s running for city council, has done lots of public speaking, attended trade shows for The Konan Koalition.
It should come as no surprise then that our little boy hates crowds. A few weeks ago we tried to go to a wedding brunch. No dice. Instead of hanging out, he and I walked to a nearby park and then a friend who lived nearby. He didn’t even want to play in their yard.
The next weekend we went to a friend’s birthday party. Nope. Instead, he and his dad walked up and down the street looking at trucks.
One time we tried to go to a friend’s 40th birthday party. Kid-friendly, as there were other little ones there. It was raining outside, but Cub still insisted on staying outside and was totally happy to do so.
The weird thing is we will take him to Superstore or Costco, which should be his version of a nightmare (it’s kind of mine), and yet he chats away excitedly at people and points to all the different groceries.
Today we tried to go to a friend’s house. I’m all about accommodating as much as I can: I respect the fact my little man is shy. Frankly, he comes by it honestly, and I don’t like new situations all the time either. But sometimes, Mama just wants to have a coffee with another adult, and this friend is going back to work soon, which will make it hard to do so. Plus, she has a paddling pool across the street, a little boy a year older than mine, and a little girl a year younger. Perfect!
Nope! Cried, paused, cried some more, threw his head back, arched his back…ugh. We’ve even been to their house before. I try so hard to be patient because I get that it’s hard being a toddler. Eventually he calmed down, and he even started playing – which was of course right before we were going to head over to the park/pool area.
Once he’s at a park, it’s like he’s in his glory. He doesn’t care if there are tons of kids or no kids, he just does his own thing. The one thing I can always say is he happily plays by and entertains himself.
I convinced him to walk by the paddling pool but not go on the other side of the fence. He splashed up and down the sidewalk. Good times.
He just takes some time to warm up to things. He comes by that honestly, too, but that’s another story for another time.
Wake up a bit earlier than usual, just in case parents were getting too comfortable with the routine.
Alternate between playing with trucks, watching videos on trucks, and banging the gate, thereby signalling you want to go outside.
Crying when your mom answers the door to greet the visitors, again signalling that you’d rather be outside.
So your mom takes you and her friend outside. You point to the stroller, so your mom puts you in, only for you to insist she takes you out. You’d rather walk and guide her and her friend for four blocks in the neighbourhood. That’s pretty tiring, so then she must pick you up. You want her to carry you another two blocks to the park, but she carries you home instead, so you cry in disgust.
Not pictured: the cartoons allowing this photo to be taken.
Decide you’ve been social enough and instead of playing with the two other boys who love all your trucks, you watch videos about trucks. You do look up to wave bye-bye.
Fall asleep two hours earlier than usual for your nap – but that big walk was exhausting! This means you can go to your friend’s birthday party, so your mom is pretty excited about that!
Wake up and get into the car. Drive to birthday party. Walk into the backyard with all the people, immediately get upset, cry, and insist your dad takes you back out to the street, which you walk up and down, pointing at the trucks.
“It’s not my party but I’ll still cry if I want to!”
Dad tries to bring you back, but you repeat. Stay with Mom for a bit while dad uses the washroom. Cry. Go back to the street with Dad, point to your SUV, climb into your carseat and buckle yourself in. Time to go home.
Get home and play with neighourhood friends and then point again to stroller, so your mom and dad take you to the park. Play for a while, have fun, get back in, go home. Get near home and get upset that Mom won’t keep walking around the neighbourhood.
Continue being pretty upset inside. You’re likely hungry, but too upset to eat. Eventually you calm down.
You decide even though you got up earlier, napped earlier, and had a big day, to not go to bed earlier. Won’t fall asleep for Mom, who texts Dad in a pleading manner. He lies down beside you, takes you in his arms, says, “Cub, it’s time to go to bed,” and you promptly fall asleep sprawled out beside him….while Mom thinks both, Why the hell won’t you do that for me? and Thank God, now I can grab a snack and pee.
It’s hard work being a toddler.
Once upon a time, almost 10 years ago now, I met my husband.
I don’t remember when we started talking about marriage and kids (he tells me it was very early on that he knew exactly what I wanted…I’m scant on details as to when I said it but I’ll take his word for it).
When we had this conversation, he told me he always wanted to live on a quiet cul-de-sac like he’d grown up on. I think I said I eventually wanted a small town (or maybe I said his later…again, details fuzzy). However. I do recall not wanting suburbia (like vehemently not wanting to live in what I may have coined a cement city where huge, attached garages stick out too far) and instead really wanting a character home. At the time, I was also keen on buying in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood.
My husband thought this crazy but fast – forward about two years and we were buying a condo in Riversdale. A couple of years later, we bought what might be considered a character home in the same neighbourhood.
Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone who dreams of owning a character home, but I came to realize it was awesome renting that massive character apartment (it was so lovely and in an awesome neighbourhood) because I didn’t own it and didn’t have to pay for maintenance. Our little Riversdale house was great except when water started pouring through the ceiling right before we were going to list it for sale. Oh, and it was really hot. Deathly hot. Pregnant and deathly hot….
So where were we moving to? Frickin suburbia! My husband’s dream: new home on a quiet street (a court so only one way in and out). My dream of moving to a small(er) town came true, too.
While I like where I live, this salute to suburbia is to a Saskatoon neighbourhood I’ve likely swore I’d never live in, and yet the past two times I’ve visited a friend there, I’ve come away thinking, This is great! My, how times change.
It goes to show you should never say never. Would I have wanted to live there or here five years ago? No. Not at all. But when it came time to find a home for our growing family, one we could afford and ticked all the boxes (kids nearby, big backyard, quiet), well, here we are.
I’ve had friends say to me they’d never live in suburbia and I say, hey, that’s cool. We’ve each gotta do what works for ourselves. But we should probably not be so hasty in judgement because you just never know: next time you and your toddler might be touring the parks and construction zones of a suburb (or maybe it’s just my toddler who prefers construction to lush trees) and think, hey, this isn’t half bad. I could live here.
Or, like me, you might decide that that double, attached garage is THE BOMB and you’re never not having A/C again and while new homes have lots to do (driveway, deck, landscaping), I’d rather that than the ceiling water feature my character home had.
So here’s to you, suburbia! We’ve had a rocky relationship in the past, but I’ve warmed up to you. Just keep up the construction and you, my toddler, and I will continue getting along just fine.
A few weeks ago, when I was struggling and getting frustrated, I received this letter in the mail. I thought it was worth sharing.
If Cub could write his own letter….
Being a toddler is new to me…
Should I nap? Or try to be a big boy and go without a snooze?
Should I wake up for a snack? Or wait for breakfast?
I love all my books, toys, and pets.
Of course, I love Mommy and Daddy, too. They are how I became so cute (as I am told).
I am a lucky little boy that can sleep in if I choose or wake early to catch the neighbourhood construction.
If Mommy worked outside the home, I would have to rise early, grab a quick slurp, and go off to daycare. Sometimes I enjoy toddler company, but only when I want to.
That chariot behind Daddy’s bike is so awesome. I can be out there with all the kids, see all the trucks and cars. It is so cool. Sometimes I am tired but there is so much to see, I do not want to give in to a nap.
Fresh air – where was I all winter? There is a whole new world out there. Who can sleep?
Now that I have found my legs, I am so excited to explore. I am super lucky Mommy and Daddy keep me safe.
If I coudl master more words, I would tell Mommy and Daddy I LOVE, LOVE them. Thanks for guiding me on my journey to being a little person. I am sure you are proud of my accomplishments, however small.
Cub sure would have a lot to say.
May each day find you more at peace than the next.
Love, Mom and Dad
(written by Cub’s Grandma Debbie)
For more on understanding your toddler, check out this great article by author Rebecca Eanes.
As I drove through the rambling countryside today as my toddler napped, this thought popped into my mind. My husband will probably laugh, because I’ve been lamenting the past couple days how it’s no longer as nice out, and he keeps pointing out it’s still only April.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a small town, but I find driving grid roads and looking out at the countryside relaxing. It might also be because it’s a past-time we’ve done as a family for years, often looking for wildlife. Since my dad and I are both competitive, it was always a competition to see who would see the deer or coyote first.
I tried to time my day so that Cub would fall asleep when we left the city, and it worked out perfectly. Instead of taking the highway straight home, I took the “scenic route.” I drove past monster homes at Cathedral Bluffs and took in the amazing skies along with all the sloughs and fields peppered with geese and ducks.
It sounds cheesy, but I was so full of gratitude. We’d had such a lovely day, first having a play date with friends and then meeting another friend for lunch. It was wonderful to see both the women and little ones and eat cake on top of it. Cake!
And while driving, an article I’d recently read crossed my mind. A mom wrote how there are always two ways to see every situation, and pointed to a recent week of solo parenting and the exhaustion she felt when her toddler needed her in the middle of the night. She could either focus on her exhaustion and be frustrated, or she could look at it as a gift: it can be hard, but what a precious moment to cuddle your son in the middle of the night and feel him drift back to sleep. What a gift and how strong you feel being the one who is able to cuddle him back to slumber.
It seems so simple, but it’s how I was framing our country drive. I already love the drive anyway, but it made me realize I could look at it as a hassle, that my son fell asleep while I was driving, so that meant no nap for me or no time to do work while he napped.
Or I could look at it as a gift. It gave me time to sip and enjoy the rest of my London Fog and marvel in a beautiful Saskatchewan prairie. We took the ferry twice, the second time Cub was awake so he could enjoy it, too.
It’s no secret I’ve been struggling the last bit, but I feel like I’ve come out the other side, and I know that at least part of it is changing how I look at things. (The other part is recognizing that babies and toddlers are always changing, and you’ve gotta just go with the flow! Easier said than done, but once you can master this…you’re golden. I am still working on this.)
As I look back on some of the recent struggles, I realize I needed to be embracing the season rather than fighting it. So there were days my boy didn’t want to nap. So what? That means more time to go outside for a bike ride or have him sit in my lap as we read books. Nothing lasts forever. (And as hindsight is 20/20, he was just trying to communicate to me that he wasn’t ready for a nap, he wanted it later – I’m growing up, Mama!)
It dawned on me, too, that there will come a time where he won’t fall asleep on the way home from Saskatoon, so we may not be able to take the scenic route and I may not get this quiet time to myself to enjoy CBC Radio 2. Or maybe he’ll enjoy country drives like me, who knows. The point is, I need to embrace this time for what it is now, and I felt like today was a good step toward that. It doesn’t mean things aren’t or can’t be tough. They sometimes are. But there is always something beautiful about every season if you just look for it. Even when it’s a windy, rainy April day in Saskatchewan.