At about eleven months old, Marko began walking. So technically he was a toddler. But for awhile he really seemed like more of a baby.
Now, at fifteen and a half months, he's suddenly made a huge leap and seems very much a toddler. This is good ... and bad.
The good: He's learning incredibly fast. He now knows something like a hundred words, including six colors and most of his body parts. In the past week, he's started occasionally putting pairs of words together: more milk, stroller walk, no nap. And he seems to understand a lot of what we say.
He's moved on from a fascination with things to a fascination with people. He'll play with his toys, sure, but he'd much rather interact with you. He likes to play clap games, sing songs, and read books. Rather than be read to, he prefers to tell you what's in the book. His favorite book lately is one with pictures of dozens of animals, and he'll point to them and tell you what they are.
He's learning to pretend. He's been pretending to eat things in books for awhile, but now his new thing is pretending he's got a bug in his cupped hands, and then opening them to show you there's no bug there. He likes to joke and tease: pretending to hand you something and then snatching it back, telling you a blue block is yellow (and watching your reaction), putting Daddy's shoes on. And he really seems to get that he's doing something funny -- he laughs hysterically every time.
But then there's the bad. He's become incredibly demanding lately ... which is standard with the onset of each new stage of development, but even more so with this one. He's so bored with his toys. He wants to be outside, and can't understand that it's a hundred and ten degrees out and we'll be staying in. Then when the weather cools and I take him out, he goes straight to the gate and begs to be allowed beyond. Then if we walk in the street, he quickly gets bored with his old game of pushing his stroller and wants to run into people's yards, grab their toys, touch their motorcycles and trucks. He wants to explore new things!
Or he'd like interaction with me ... but constantly. Gone are the days when he'd just putter around the house, doing his thing. (Really, most of his life he's preferred to do his own thing, just checking in with me to make sure I'm around.) Now I have to be right there with him, responding to him. I have to acknowledge what he says or he will repeat it forever. A friend told me the other day that toddlers demand attention, on average, three times a minute. I definitely believe that.
I'm getting wise to this, and learning how to interact with him without burning myself out on his intensity. Friday, I tried to keep up with him by singing to him, giving him piggy-back rides, playing clap games, and by the end of the day I was so burned out I could barely stand to put him to bed. I was operating under the misconception that if I just paid 100% attention to him for five minutes, he'd be content and go back to playing on his own. That's his old way. But the new way is that I have to pay attention to him all day ... but it doesn't have to be quite 100%. And even when it is, it doesn't have to be something intense and exhausting like piggy-back rides. It can also be simpler games. For instance, this morning he was giving me blocks. I'd ask him what color it was, he'd tell me, and I'd put it back in the box. It wasn't so exhausting, and I was even able to read a book on the side while he rooted around for new blocks.
The other issue is his toddler temper. I'd heard of this -- 18-24 months is supposed to be the "Knee-High Neanderthal" age, and some kids hit it earlier than that. But man, they weren't kidding. It used to be like this: he'd ask for my hedge clippers or something else he couldn't have. I'd say, "No, but here is my spade." And he'd take the spade and go dig a hole. If he spotted the clippers again, he'd go for them again, but meanwhile he was fine. Now, no distraction is possible. He must have those clippers. And if he can't have them, he'll throw himself on the floor in a dramatic fit. After a bit of screaming, he's sometimes fine; other times he works himself into a tizzy and has to be slowly comforted out of it.
Though his responsiveness is increasing, he's still not really able to "obey." Sure, if I say, "Go get me your book," he will get it. But if I say, "Don't climb the stove"? No dice. I'm beginning to get that he understands positive commands better than negative ones: sit down rather than don't climb, come here rather than don't pick the tomatoes. But even those he tends to see as a game ... he'll do what we ask and then go right back to the thing he isn't supposed to do. We've tried to discipline him a few different ways, but he just looks perplexed. Despite what people say about kids being "trainable" from a year old or younger, I just don't believe he is ready. Distraction and removing him from the scene of the crime work better than any other deterrent.
This is kind of unfortunate, because he gets into trouble so much and so fast. He can now pull the chairs out from the table to climb on them, climb up on the back of the couch (and fall off), and pull out the drawer of the oven and try to climb on it. We pretty much have to be watching him all the time. That's another reason it's exhausting to deal with him.
As long as he takes a good long nap, and goes to bed at a reasonable hour, I can cope. But sometimes he doesn't. He was cutting molars recently, and that was pretty bad. They're all mostly through now, and don't seem to be hurting him, so he's gone back to nice 2-3 hour naps. Still, he only sleeps through the night about half the time. I do love the way he wakes up in the morning or after naps -- scootching out of bed and running out into the living room as happy as can be. I have to rocket out of bed at the first soft sound in the morning, though: I'm terrified of sleeping through his wakeup and coming out to find the house trashed or him standing on the table.
So ... it's all toddler, all the time around here, and it's wearing me out. But I have to admit -- it's also pretty fun.