This column was originally written for Bedford magazine in the summer of 2011.
I was sitting on the airplane, a few years back, puzzling over the woman walking slowly up and down the aisle. She had a toddler in front of her, and the little girl was taking teeny-tiny steps from one end of the plane to the other end. The mother was following closely behind, sort of stooped over, and looked embarrassed.
I just sipped my Diet Coke and went back to reading my book — ahhh, my pre-baby life was luxurious — wondering why the hell she didn’t just pick up the baby and sit down? Couldn’t she entertain her at their seat somehow? Why was she walking her around?
That woman on the airplane wasn’t embarrassed. The look on her face was a combination of exhaustion and acceptance over what she had to do. I know this now because I was blessed — or is that cursed? — with an early walker. A NINE-MONTH-OLD WALKER.
He runs up and down the halls. He climbs into the bathtub. He tries to climb the walls of the tub. He climbs out. He takes off down the hall and runs in a circle around a chair. I’m sweating and exhausted every day before 7 a.m.
The especially tricky thing with a walking baby is that suddenly they do not want to sit in their stroller. They do not want you to carry them. They want to WALK — on their own, all the time, until their chubby little legs simply can’t go another step. Forget mules — just start saying someone is “as stubborn as a toddler.”
Growing up, we had a harness for my baby sister so she didn’t go careening off the cliffs in PEI. When my son started walking, I immediately went out to purchase one so he would be safe in public. He’d trot along next to me, easy peasy, right?
Um, no. We chose a quiet weekday evening to start our leash-training at Bedford Place Mall. Once the baby was carefully strapped into the harness, we set him down in front of Zellers and let him explore. He took off with a satisfied little grin on his face. There was so much to see! Fake plants and silky ties and displays of shiny new bicycles!
It turns out, leash-training a baby is way harder than leash-training a dog, because dogs usually understand basics like “No” and “Stop.” Dogs have some common sense, and learn to stop when you stop. They learn that plastic plants are for eating. Dogs certainly don’t drop dramatically to the tiled floor of a mall and wail because you didn’t let them walk over the edge of a balcony.
We still get stares, as he toddles along in his harness and I trail behind. I have taken some flak from parents who do not believe in “restraining” toddlers. I ignore it, as I suspect they are the same parents who don’t believe in Happy Meals. (Hey, if they make special toys for kids under three, who am I to deny my child chicken nuggets?)
Yes, my “restrained toddler” is technically tied up like a prized mare, but at least he has (somewhat) learned how to walk safely next to me in a shopping mall. Your “free-range toddler” is probably running wild and overturning the display of bicycles. Better go catch them!
My friends and I were talking recently and, as usual, the conversation was 70 per cent about our children, 15 per cent about our husbands, 10 per cent about our careers and five per cent about the freezing cold weather.
We were talking about whether or not parenting gets easier as our kids get older and everyone had a different perspective.
Some felt it was getting harder, as their children had more activities (which means lots of ferrying for us, the parents) and more difficult social situations.
We’ve all heard the phrase “bigger kids, bigger problems.” I think that’s true, especially during the teen years. Yikes!
Others felt it was about the same level of difficulty. They’d just swapped breastfeeding challenges for school lunch frustrations and naptime crankiness for after-school freak-outs.
I feel like our kids have been in a sweet spot for a while now, at eight and six years old. Argh, I hate to even say it because I don’t want to jinx it! But it’s true …