Saturday, September 26, 2015
Surviving a one-year-old
Sorry about the recent lack of blogging. I have a one-year-old. Need I say more?
Twelve to eighteen months is, for me, the most hair-tearing stage there is. Babies need a lot of holding, but I kind of like holding babies and so I don't mind so much. Plus, they normally (except of course for MY kids) nap a lot and can be left in a safe place for a minute if you want to pee alone. Eighteen-month-olds, meanwhile, are starting to communicate a little better and to understand concepts like "no." They'll throw a fit about it, sure, but they do begin to know what you mean.
But one-year-olds -- they don't understand much of anything. But, of course, they can walk and get into stuff. I'm sure this is made a bit more difficult by the fact that my kids are mobile early, but I imagine even crawling one-year-olds get into stuff all the time.
On the bright side, thought, I've done this a couple times before so I have learned a bit about what to do, and not do, to survive a one-year-old. I decided to share some of that wisdom here, before I again forget about the craziness that is one.
1. Part of what makes one-year-olds so hard is the big letdown from the expectation that things were starting to get easier. When a crawling baby starts to walk, that's all they want to do, so you get a month or so off of constantly holding the baby or pulling them off things they're climbing. You think, "Hooray, babyhood is over! Things will be easier from now on!"
But actually, that's a false expectation. Give them a month, they will either cut molars and stop sleeping at night, give up a nap, or discover some really dangerous thing that can't be moved out of their reach. Only now, they're harder to keep corralled, plus they get bored in your arms and just want to grab at everything. They're actually harder than before. I don't know what to advise other than "roll with it." And know that sleep is always two steps forward, one step back -- they will regain any progress they've made, eventually. Probably after those molars pop out.
2. One-year-olds need, as far as possible, an entirely childproofed environment. If they find something forbidden, they'll just keep going for it all day. All you will do is drag the child off the thing. No amount of attempts at "consequences" will work, because the baby has not developed long-term memory. What they have is habit, and they've now developed a habit of climbing for the thing, every time they see it. If you can childproof before they've made that habit, you'll be much better off. If it really cannot be childproofed, do yourself a favor and take baby with you into another room and shut the door. In five minutes, they'll have forgotten the thing and you might get some time to get them busy at something else before they notice it again.
3. They might be less interested in nursing for a bit. Do yourself a favor and don't try to wean at this point. They'll regress a bit in a month or so and get crabby and cranky, or cut a tooth, or get a cold, and nursing will be all that will cheer them up. Also, nursing is a break from the exhaustion of pulling them off of stuff. Though, be warned, they will stick their foot in your mouth or pinch your belly fat the whole time. And you'll put up with it because they're letting you sit down.
4. That said, food makes excellent bribery/distraction. Who knows how much actually ends up inside the baby, but it's fun for them anyway.
5. One-year-olds try to communicate! This is awesome. They don't have good control of their mouths, which is not so awesome. Baby sign can help a lot. Teach a couple signs and when you see they've picked them up, add more. Stick with signs they might actually have a need for, like milk and cracker. They can learn elephant and purple when they've mastered the essentials. The point is to give them something to do when they want something besides the Banshee Shriek. They might make up their own signs; roll with it.
6. One-year-olds like nothing in the world so much as playing directly with you. Piggies, tickles, peekaboo, patty-cake. Miriam's favorite (as well as one of her first words) is "row row." Name-the-body-parts is another good one, though she hasn't yet mastered it.
I can't play games all day with Miriam because I have other kids, and I didn't with Marko because I wanted him to learn to play independently. (And also because patty-cake got old for me long before it did for him.) But I sort of wish I'd done it a little more. There are so many hours in the day, there's plenty of time for independent play. If you get a quiet moment with your baby to play Baby Is Going Up and Down, you won't regret it.
7. Sleep is always a little fraught. No longer do you have a baby who can sleep in bits and bobs all day and still sleep at night. Now you have to carefully ration naptime and not let them fall asleep too close to bedtime. First they go from "naps whenever" to "sometimes one nap and sometimes two." Then it's "only one nap, never two," then "sometimes a nap, sometimes not," and eventually "you can't let them nap or you'll be sorry." My kids fly through these stages. You might get lucky and stick with one nap for years. Either way, as a child gets closer to giving up a nap, their bedtime starts inching backward. It takes longer and longer to get them to sleep and you're doing more and more outlandish things to make them do it. With Marko we walked him around the neighborhood in a stroller for hours. One day, with fall coming on, we walked him around till 11 pm. And that's when I realized it was time to drop a nap.
Here's my rule of thumb for bedtime: let it creep backward up to two hours past when they're used to. Say, aim for between 7 and 9, or 8 and 10. If they are not going to sleep within that window, you need to either drop a nap or put the baby to bed much earlier. (That is, they are staying up that late because they are overtired.) A baby has a new sleep cycle every two hours, so if baby almost falls asleep at seven, but not quite, play patty cake for two hours (I KNOW!) and try again at nine. A good clue to bedtime is the evening meltdown. Does the baby have a huge meltdown reliably at five every evening? Then bedtime should be seven. That meltdown means almost-but-not-quite ready to sleep.
Routine is your friend -- if baby ALWAYS naps at 11, stick to it like glue. Do not schedule anything then, because nap affects the whole day. However, if the baby isn't sticking to any routine, just try to roll with it. Right now I am putting a lot of effort into making Miriam nap before noon -- like, planning a drive right about 11 so that she will get at least a little sleep, because if she doesn't nap then she'll wait till one or even three, and three is quite disastrous for bedtime. Usually she goes to bed at seven, but sometimes
Your mileage may vary -- this is just how my kids are.
8. One-year-olds do not like to be still for diaper changes. If you always play the same game at changing time, or sing a song, it's likely to help. Miriam likes to clap her feet. Marko played peekaboo. You could also try the standing diaper change -- that's when you really level up at changing skills.
Or just potty train the kid. About 14-16 months is supposed to be a good window. You let the baby run around naked and when they start to pee, whisk them over to the potty. Or, keep them in diapers but sit them on the potty when they wake up in the morning and after nap. Clap for them when they go in it.
Michael was trained about this time. The others, not. So don't worry, there are other good windows.
9. One-year-olds have big feelings. When you watch a one-year-old flop down on the floor and howl dramatically, you may think, "My child is advanced! I thought tantrums didn't happen till 18 months!" Well, let me warn you. The drama level is fully developed, but the attention span is short. So baby's tantrums will get longer as they get older. Sorry.
This is a good reason to keep things thoroughly childproofed, and don't take them to places where you're going to spend all your time hauling them out of trouble. They're going to go limp, or flail, and scream like banshees. That's no way to spend your day.
10. One-year-olds are easily bored with toys, so it kind of helps to have a million of them. On the bright side, they think toilet paper tubes and old keyrings are toys. Favorites include gross motor stuff (push toys, mini slides, big bouncy balls), soft stuff (dolls, stuffed animals), and sensory stuff (rattles, playdough, mud). They especially like stuff that isn't meant for them, like pots and pans. They love to play outside, even if the weather is awful. They love magic tricks and goofy games and tickles. They enjoy helping you do chores, though they undo most of it so you might want to call that playtime instead of chore time. They're starting to get so you can say "put this toy in the cupboard" and they actually do. Then they clap for themselves. It's so cute. But when your back is turned they will take all the toys out so they can play again.
11. One-year-olds are freaking adorable. That is a survival tactic for how difficult they are. They're learning new skills all the time, babbling first words, and growing cute little curlies on the backs of their necks. They look like little angels even when they are spilling your coffee. It's great. Don't forget to enjoy your one-year-old. Take thousands of photos, snuggle them, kiss their little noses, make up games. They laugh maniacally about the dumbest joke. You're never going to have such a delighted audience for silly antics. Drop a block and laugh about it. Make silly faces and noises. Don't, whatever you do, pay attention to them only when they are trouble -- you'll miss the good parts. Even though it means you never get to drink your tea when it's hot and the laundry stays unfolded in the basket, play with your one-year-old. It seems to last forever, but it won't.
If you have a one-year-old, you're in for it -- lots of good, lots of bad. Just lots. Good luck and enjoy. Both the good and the bad won't last.
*This post has been interrupted 957 times so that I could drag Miriam off John's desk. Any incoherence can be blamed on her addiction to pushing the power button on his computer.