The tiny people days

There’s a song on the radio at the moment called ‘The Days’ by Avicii. It’s one of those upbeat summer anthem types, yet I can’t listen to it without getting choked up. Because while the carefree lyrics are, I think, aimed at those in their halcyon university years, somehow they have come to carry a much more substantial meaning to me. While I have found various lines that are applicable to me for weird, personal reasons, it’s really the chorus that gets me:

These are the days we’ve been waiting for
And days like these who couldn’t ask for more
Keep them coming
Cause we’re not done yet
These are the days we won’t regret
These are the days we won’t forget

On good days, these words feed into my joy. On bad days, they become a bit of a mantra, helping me regain a bit of perspective and reminding me of the value of the time I’m investing in my tiny people.

Colin and I often talk about the paradox of the toddler years. They are so fundamental to who we become, yet we don’t remember them. As children we don’t remember how cute we were, or all the games and outings we had. But as parents, once the trauma of sleep deprivation has passed, I think they become golden years. Already I know we are going to miss these days and look back on them with nostalgic fondness. And isn’t that the strange thing about time? Because right now, the average day is pretty hard!

The exhausting days
At two months old, Aiden is now such a part of our family that it’s hard to imagine a time without him. But wow, it is exhausting! Cameron is an absolute whirlwind, always on the go and perpetually bursting with energy. When that force (and believe me, it is a force) is combined with the energy depleting nature of breastfeeding and broken nights, it’s a deadly cocktail. And so the exhausting days have a number of spin offs including the ‘forgetful’ days, the ‘impatient’ days and the ‘what were we thinking having another kiddie so soon’ days.

One of my challenges at the moment is that my reserves have been depleted by a long and tough year. So I reach that tired, emotional breakdown point, where everything feels overwhelming, much more frequently that I did when Cam was a newborn. As Col is also suffering from burnout we are having to regularly call in the grandmother reinforcements. We are just so grateful to have both our moms near by and available.

The ‘just say no’ days
I am finding that if I keep my social and personal engagements to a bare minimum, and focus my energy on Cameron and Aiden, then life can be really pleasant. But the problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t leave any time for Colin or myself, and after a while I start to crave something other than finger painting, playing dinos, reading stories and rocking Aiden to sleep. But the moment I let my expectations include something not toddler or baby friendly, tension immediately arises because Cam wants to be involved or Aiden refuses to sleep and I quickly find myself frustrated and impatient.

So right now I am just trying to say no. It’s especially hard at this time of year when there is so much going on socially, and there are so many little traditions that I love but need to shelve (like making fudge – a truly risky undertaking when one is at the mercy of temperamental nap times).

The rapidly changing days
The equilibrium of peace and merriment in our house can change in an instant. We go from playing happily outside, with Aiden gurgling away under a tree, to Cameron hurting himself and throwing all his resources into fighting off my Savlon wielding hands. By the time Cam is sorted, Aiden in inevitably crying and my half drunk tea is stone cold. Next thing I know I am utterly drained and wondering bemusedly how twenty minutes ago I was feeling so energetic.

The thankful days
One of my coping strategies at the moment is my Happier app. I try to end off each day by sharing three things I am grateful for. Even on tough days there are usually far more than three. Because Cameron is just so delightful, coming up with the cutest statements and antics. Because our house and garden is a blessing and is full of unexpected wonders if you have the time to look for them. (For example, two days ago we saw a pair of hoopoes mating!) Because Aiden is growing before our very eyes and is starting to give us glimpses of his personality. So back to Avicii:

These are the days we’ve been waiting for
Neither of us knows what’s in store
You just roll your window down and place your bets
These are the days we won’t regret
These are the days we’ll never forget

017b.jpg

Mac and cheese with a side order of guilt please

Over the last few weeks (okay, okay – the last few months) I’ve gotten into the bad habit of letting Cameron eat lunch in front of the TV. For some reason I decided today was the day to revert back to eating lunch at the table. What a disaster!

I was totally unprepared for the resistance I was faced with. I ended up eating alone while Cameron lay on the couch in floods of tears, alternatively asking for ‘Beebees’ (TV) and Bunny (the only thing in the world who understands him). The situation escalated far more quickly than I anticipated and I found myself in an unplanned battle of wills, having to stick to my point even though I wasn’t sure why I’d decided to make it in the first place. I’d told him he could watch TV after lunch so in the end I got him to eat three forkfuls at the table and then let him watch one show.

I’m still not sure who won.

I find these battles utterly draining, especially when they sneak up on me like this one did. Cameron moves on from them before the tear stains have even faded but I find the fallout much longer lasting. I know how important it is to stand my ground, but I often find myself having treacherous thoughts like, ‘I should have given him some warning that the routine was going to change.’ And today as I sit here devouring his uneaten mac and cheese (assuaging my guilt with carbs), I have to wonder if he’s fallen asleep hungry.

I find disciplining a toddler hard, hard, hard work. The frequency of ‘boundary battles’ is just discouraging at times. A perfectly happy morning can disintegrate into a war zone in seconds, and then swing back to a peace and tranquillity shortly after. (If I had to experience the level of emotion that Cameron does in the average day I would be an utterly exhausted wreck! I don’t know where kids get their stamina from.)

But I think the biggest problem is that these situations often leave me with a gnawing feeling of guilt over how I handled them. (Having the maid hovering at the doorway with accusing eyes while Cameron flings himself dramatically on the couch probably doesn’t help.) Mom-guilt is an insidious, evil beast, and as there’s never a right answer when it comes to parenting, it has ample opportunity to attack.

The worst part of it is that now I’ve started this process so for the next few days I will have to continue with my quest to have lunch at the table. Not a thought that encourages me. I think I’ll go find some chocolate now …

King Cameron the Cutest

My mom has this book of funny things my brother and I said and did when we were little. It’s always a source of amusement and I’ve read it countless times over the years. Cameron often has us laughing out loud these days and I’ve decided to record some of his antics on the blog. (FYI I’ll be using the category ‘Cuteness from Cam.)

Our little parrot

Cam’s vocabulary is exploding at the moment and he’s always trying to repeat words we say. A lot of the time he gets it right but his ‘toddler language’ is emerging and I’m having to play the role of interpreter more often. Inevitably this has led to a few potentially embarrassing moments, like when he suddenly started saying ‘Kak’ (Afrikaans for s**t) and it took us a few days to work out that he was trying to say ‘truck’.

He is also using his words very deliberately. The other day my parents were swinging him in a blanket and when they stopped he simply said, ‘More. Plees (please). Now.’ (We’re into the realms of trying to explain that just because one asks for something doesn’t mean one is going to get it!)

The gratitude game

Some months back Col and I started saying grace with Cameron before meals. He didn’t pay much attention at first, but suddenly about three weeks ago the concept caught on. He holds out his little hands and looks expectantly at Col or I until grace has been said. All very sweet – but the routine is repeated after every mouthful! (We’re capping grace at three or four repeats, and are far more aware of all we have to thank Jesus for these days.)

The paradox of parenting

At the moment parenting is a bit of a rollercoaster for me. Cameron is at a challenging age – pushing boundaries, throwing tantrums and displaying an astounding resistance to the word ‘No’! But at the same time he is just unbelievably cute and we are having such fun with him. The frequent fluctuations between frustration and fulfilment leave me emotionally exhausted but most of the time I fall asleep giggling as I think back on another day with King Cam.

Not much room for pride in parenting

I find parenting to be a hugely humbling experience. Firstly there is the miracle of conception, pregnancy and birth. Then there are those terrifying moments when you feel utterly unequipped to raise a child. There’s the wonder of watching a little person grow and develop, which makes your heart swells with pride. And then there are those times when that little person brings your ego down a peg or two…

One Saturday a few weeks ago, Colin and Cameron were having a jam session. While VH1 blasted 80’s hits into our lounge, they danced madly and generally had a great time. Sinead o’Connor’s Nothing compares to you, provided a breather, and as they sat on the couch, Colin enthusiastically belted out the words to his adoring son. As he hit the chorus and his voice quavered over that classic high note, Cameron leaned over and placed his little hand deliberately over his dad’s mouth. Colin hasn’t been heard singing since!

Some days later, it was my turn. Cam has been learning new words every day and we were running through the names of family members. In his confident little voice, he churned out, ‘GG’, ‘Pop’, Nannan’ and ‘Daddy’. But when asked to say Mommy, he replied ‘Dum Dum’. I only wish I could say it was a one-time thing!

Bye-bye baby

Over the last few months Cameron has transformed into a real little toddler. While I do have moments when I miss my baby, I am enjoying this phase so much. It’s just cuteness at every turn!

I am constantly floored by how much Cam understands. It’s so rewarding to watch him following simple instructions like, ‘Go sit at the table’ or ‘Choose a book to read.’ It has made me realize how much I rely on others talking to feel that I’m understood, but Cam clearly understands without being old enough to articulate it verbally.
20140223-171947.jpg
Until recently Cameron didn’t show an affinity for any particular type of toy. He’s always loved birds, but blocks, cars or dinosaurs didn’t elicit a strong reaction. This changed suddenly over December and now cars, trucks, planes and helicopters are the fad of the moment. ‘Brmmm brmmm’ reverberates around our house all day and one is in constant danger of tripping over wooden cars and trucks which lie strewn on every floor. He also loves helping Col reverse his car every morning. He climbs into Col’s lap and waves happily at me as he ‘turns’ the steering wheel and honks the hooter.

20140223-073051.jpg
Col has started some other cute traditions with Cam too. Every day when he gets home from work Cam follows him to bedroom when he goes to change. Cam then takes Col’s shirt and socks and deposits them in the laundry basket after which he gives himself a hearty round of applause.

Imitation seems to be the primary medium of learning right now and our little copycat is trying to emulate us at every turn. When I put cream on in the mornings his little hand joins in the smearing. If the gardener is raking leaves Cam rushes out to join in. When Col does his stretches Cam limbers up too. He’s feeding himself really well at meals and often rejects his fork in favour of a ‘grown-up’ one.
20140223-170743.jpg
One of the things I’m enjoying most about this phase is how apparent the thought process is. You can just see the wheels turning as Cam tries to figure things out and his delight when he gets things right is contagious.

Watching Cam learn has led me to another conclusion – parents are really very simple creatures to please. The tiniest accomplishment on Cam’s part results in totally disproportionate levels of pride on ours. But as our expectations for Cam are within reason, and as he thrives on our praise I say bring on the parental pride!
20140223-171955.jpg

Our walking, talking toddler

The last few months have been ridiculously busy for us as we first renovated, and then moved into our new house. In the chaos, I just couldn’t find the time to blog about two major milestones that Cam has achieved – walking and talking!

Look
In his case the talking came first. We were in Tzaneen at the end of September and Cam suddenly started saying ‘Look!’ Unlike the ‘mamas’ and ‘dadas’ this was his first really distinct word, which he clearly knows the meaning of as he always points to whatever it is we must all look at. Initially he always whispered when he said it. Clearly he was copying us, as mostly we’d say ‘Look’ when we were carrying him, and therefore spoke much more softly.

20131110-112809.jpg
In recent weeks Cam has added ‘banana’ (nanana), ‘hello’ (huh-loooo) and ‘Maria’ (Ria) to his vocab. (Maria is our domestic helper.) He’s also become a lot more intentional with his ‘Mamama’ and ‘Dada’ and is copying sounds we make (such as ‘uh-oh’). I am beginning to understand Cam-language more easily and mostly get the gist of what his grunts are communicating.

Wobbly steps, spectacular falls
Cam was 13 months old when he took his first unassisted steps on a Tuesday night in our kitchen. He tried three steps and then fell into his daddy’s arms. He then took six steps, but obviously decided he wasn’t sure about this walking business because he didn’t attempt it again for two weeks. Then on Saturday 27 October, at 14 months old, Cam suddenly started tottering about and hasn’t stopped since.

20131117-090557.jpg
Since moving to the new house which is all one level (as opposed to three as our old place was), Cameron has gained confidence and speed. That said however, this phase has been accompanied by some spectacular falls, especially when the ground isn’t level. Only yesterday he somehow contrived to simultaneously put both feet on a rubber ducky that was lying on the floor, and went over backwards with much flailing of arms and legs.

Ah cute!
It’s incredible how much Cameron has grown, changed and developed in the last while. Watching him explore his world, learning all the time, and having huge amounts of fun is such a rewarding experience. Yesterday afternoon, after a game of last touch (which involves waddling up and down the passage giggling madly) Colin and I had to conclude that so far, the older Cam becomes, the more fun we have!

20131117-093002.jpg