You know you’re the mother of a toddler when you begin finding stale Cheerios in between the car seats, when your husband’s slippers are hiding somewhere new every evening, when “baby proofing” reaches a literal new level (doorknobs, for example) and when Goldfish crackers are about as important to life as water.
You also know you’re the mother of a toddler when your child starts walking. Genevieve took her very first steps in June, but waited until mid-July to see what 10 or 11 consecutive steps were like. She practiced and practiced for weeks, and finally, in mid-August, she decided it was time for the real thing. We were relieved she was officially walking at 15 months, which is when our pediatrician said the goal was, and I must admit I was relieved as it meant less picking up and carrying of our (albeit small for her age) 20-pound girl while I was 9 months pregnant. But, in the midst of that relief and pride for her development and accomplishment of such a huge “milestone”, there is also a bit of heartache. While watching my daughter totter toward me with her toothy grin is about the cutest thing I know, it’s also a clear sign that things are not what they used to be, and never will be again. In a sense, my baby is gone now, replaced by a child. No more crawling, much less holding…there is no turning back.
I love the way she sticks her elbows out for balance, and I love the still somewhat stiff strides she takes, or as the receptionist at our clinic aptly labeled it, the “monster walk”. I love her little leg muscles that are developing, and I love the inertia that takes over as she plunges toward me, her feet not quite able to keep up with the rest of her as she barrels into my open arms. But I also loved her baby-ness, and that disappears a bit more each day. I suppose this is just one of those “c’est la vie” moments when you have to throw your hands up and admit to the cliche, “They grow up so fast.” I suppose it is particularly appropriate given that Genevieve will have a younger sister, a true baby, very soon. Nevertheless, there is a fragment of mourning that pricks the heart as the first born debuts into bittersweet toddlerhood.