Toddler Tracks: Baby AB and the Power of Toddling

Dear Baby AB,

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written of your exploits here, even though – or perhaps because – you’re continually astonishing. There is so much to catch up on!

At the end of this month, you will be a year-and-a-half old. Eighteen months. That’s big.

The first thing I guess I have to concede is: you’re not really a baby anymore. We call you Baby or Bébé a lot, because you’re still the baby of the family (I called E “Bébé” until you came along), but you are now officially a toddler. You toddle like the dickens.

You took your first independent steps on November 12th – toward your Papa – but you didn’t make a habit of it. You practiced by tromping around with your stabilizing doll stroller until you were ready to muckle onto walking, over the Christmas holidays.

That stroller was your best friend when you were ALMOST walking.

As you careened around in your wobbly, intrepid way, Uncle D observed that whoever coined the term “toddler” was right on the money – it’s almost onomatopoeic, visually speaking.

In these physical ways, you are the opposite of your brother at the same age. You are adventurous; caution is not a priority for you. You started pushing against boundaries practically the moment you were born, and you push more strongly every day. Incidentally, I would not call you “mellow” like your brother was either – you know what you want and don’t want, and you will do what (you think) it takes to have your way, no matter how loud or rough you have to be.

Here are some things you’re into, now that you’re a toddler.

  • You love high fives. If someone nearby is getting one, YOU MUST HAVE ONE too.
  • You like patty cake. Hearing you say “patty cake” is awesome (though it sounds more like “pie-cake”).
  • You feel entitled to get right into cupboards and make yourself at home.
Ugh, trash cupboard.
Yeah, we should probably child-proof some things. #parentsoftheyear

  • You are a dancer in your soul. The aforementioned stroller has a button that plays a few bars of music, and you love to push the button and dance. We (and now you) call it “dance break!”
  • Just in the last few weeks, you have learned to “tiptoe.” You mince about in your little slippers and it’s ridiculously cute.
  • You aren’t nervous about being out of our sight. Recently we spent an afternoon celebrating a friend’s 8th birthday at a church gym, and you wandered around freely, trying on other kids’ boots, gregarious and curious and not at all worried. Luckily, there were some small maternal types around who were happy to keep an eye on you.
  • You are pretty swashbuckling on the bouncy horse. Sometimes I think you even post-trot.

  • You are snuggly and very affectionate. I mean, you have your limits – if you aren’t in the mood for snuggles, you make no bones about it – but when you decide it’s time for kisses, everyone present gets kisses. Same with hugs. You hug your brother and then turn to each person in turn and say “Hug too.” It’s incredibly charming. No one has ever declined yet.
  • In fact, you love to love your peeps, in general. You learn names in a flash, and nobody can resist hearing you say their name. The other kids at day care vie for your attention.
  • Speaking of affection, we recently bought something you are more passionate about than any other toy: a doll like your brother’s. You like cars and dinosaurs and books, but you latched onto that baby as soon as you were mobile; whenever you saw her, you would grab her and lick her face and say “baby” a lot. Of course E gets suddenly possessive about any toy you show an interest in (even if it’s been on its face in the corner for a week). One night there was a heartbreaking scene in which both of you cried bitterly about that doll, right at bedtime. When I tried to interest you in your Cabbage Patch Kid (usually a favourite), you cried harder. You didn’t want the “doll”, you wanted the baby. The next day I brought you your own new baby, feeling like a pushover… but I think it was the right decision. You caught sight of it the second I walked in the door, and you knew it was for you. You said, “Baby, baby, open baby!” until I got it out of the package for you and you hugged it fiercely. You needed it at bedtime, and the first thing you said when you awoke in the morning was “Baby.” You LOVE that baby.
  • Right now, admittedly, the baby fever is not quite as all-consuming as it was. Now it’s spring fever. The thing you are most obsessed with is “go outside, walk around!” We’ve been outside to walk around a few times lately, but it’s hard with the current weather. Giant frigid puddles are problematic, especially because you love them and seem not to notice the cold. Even worse is the sheer ice they turn into (the day after the puddles, you wanted to find them again but they were frozen solid and you kept wiping out). When we bring you inside, you thrash and cry tragically, “No no no, walk around!!!” I think we’ll be outside a lot this summer. I can hardly wait to walk around with you sans snow gear.

You know, I think we have so much to talk about, we’re gonna need several chapters to cover all your news. And… probably a video montage at some point.

Please tune in again for the next installment, coming soon to a blog near you!



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Buying a Baby for the Birthday Boy

As you know, my son E turned four this month. As usual, he had at least four different celebrations, and so many amazing presents, it’s mind-boggling.

SO MUCH LEGO. He was totally stoked, and he’s getting much better at working with it – not long ago, his motor skills were not ready for the little pieces. Here’s something cute he decided to make, all on his own (some of these torsos are from Daddy’s voluminous Star Wars Lego collection). He called them “ponies”, but then Daddy taught him the word “centaur”, which is pretty cool.

My Li’l Lego Centaurs. The next big thing.

He’s also been thrilled at other gifts, from cars to books to puzzles to stickers to a handmade huggable parrot to a set of three Angry Birds toothbrushes that he’s now obsessed with.

This year, I was really excited about our present for him. Prior to the big day, Sean told me that E had mentioned he would like a “baby” with clothes he could change. I was ALL OVER THAT. I’ll be honest: I like the vehicles and other so-called “boy stuff” more than I expected, but this was a present I could really relate to. I remember my heartfelt attachment to my doll Jules, and my deep yearning for a Cabbage Patch Kid (which I got for Christmas – Gilbertina Jill, born October 1st), and a similar passion for a newborn-style baby doll a few years later. My dolls were very important to me.

So I happily went shopping for a doll for my son. I wanted it to be a good one, and one generic enough that he could decide whether it was a boy or girl baby.

I went to the local Toys R Us Express and was severely disappointed. I got a doll stroller, because I knew he’d want that. But the doll itself was another matter.

First of all, there was ONE kind of doll in the boys’ section, a Vanellope doll (from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph). That hardly counts. This was already a shame, in my mind. In the 80s, it was okay for boys to have Cabbage Patch Kids. Some of us had listened carefully (a jillion times) to “William Wants a Doll.” Have we actually regressed since then, in terms of sex role stereotypes?

And in the girls’ section, there was not a lot of choice of babyish babies either. (Probably because little girls are known for playing with their dolls’ hair, so the dolls must be “old” enough to have luscious locks.) And there was nothing unisex about these dolls: they were all girls, categorically. And for girls.

From the Toys R Us website: “Young girls will love taking care of their precious bundles while pretending to be a mommy or a caring friend.” Sooo… boys will not love that. I guess.

On a package for a You&Me doll that makes happy sounds when you’re nice to it, I read something like, “Made to encourage young girls to express love and affection.” Maybe I was just grumpy, but does that not seem effed-up to you?

  1. Most young girls are already oozing with love and affection, thank you very much. Like, they just wanna hug you, allthetime.
  2. If they’re having trouble in the love-and-affection department, is a doll with recorded baby sounds really going to help? I’m thinking they’ll need some actual hugs. From actual people.
  3. What about the boys??? Well folks, it turns out love and affection are for girls only. Get your boy a soccer ball to encourage kicking and running.

(Don’t get me wrong. I think soccer and kicking and running are awesome. But you know.)

And I swear, every baby in there DOES SOMETHING. Giggles when you touch it. Burps when you pat it. Drinks from a bottle and wets its diaper. Magically gets a messy face that magically comes clean when you wipe it. (No actual mess involved.) I mean, is it so much to ask for a simple baby doll??

Yes, apparently. Yes.

So I went to our local non-chain toy store, having visited their website and read this: “With their personality and charm, dolls captivate little girls’ and boys’ attentions and hearts. Superior quality and design provide a lifetime of love.”


And it was still really tough shopping, because there were so many, and it was still hard to find one that wasn’t obviously supposed to be a boy or a girl. But I ended up (falling in love) with this one.

My mom says it looks like one of my babies, so no wonder.
Look at its teeny hands!

On the birthday morning, after our requested birthday breakfast of croissants, I brought it out in the stroller, with a blanket over the whole thing.

As we unveiled it, all excited, he smiled tentatively. I think we were making such a big deal that he expected it to be something a little crazier. (“Like a car with tracks or something,” he said.) Maybe he was a little confused, at first. After all, he doesn’t fully get the wider context of gender roles and how great we think it is that he wants to love a baby doll.

But evidence since then indicates that this baby is special to him. Some presents he loves fanatically for a bit and then forgets about, but I have hopes that this baby-love will endure.

And interestingly, he automatically made his baby a girl. He named her after his real baby sister.

At the mall with baby. And a little bear and Carrot Head purple guy.

People smile when they see him strolling along with his baby. I wish this could be true forever. I wish the world and all the little boys in it could see my boy and his baby as the most natural thing in the world – the precursor to loving and affectionate fatherhood – for as long as he wants to bring his baby with him. But I fear it will be more complicated than that, and soon.

E also mentioned, just prior to his birthday, that his favourite colour was purple. Of course, his favourite colour changes often, but I was excited about the purple because there have been times when he told me in no uncertain terms that it was a “girl colour”. I told my parents about it, and they got him a purple shirt that was clearly not a girl shirt. He loves it, although he does insist it’s blue (he eventually conceded to indigo).

Then there’s the gymnastics ribbon. He adored the one he played with at Auntie A and Uncle R’s house at Easter, and miraculously, my mom knew where my old ribbon was, so now it’s his. He calls it his dagger: “Mommy, can I go outside so I can swing my dagger?”

IMG_4213 IMG_4215 IMG_4221 IMG_4217 IMG_4225 IMG_4223

Ah, my love, my sweet birthday boy. I don’t know how long all these things will be socially acceptable to you and your peers. Lately, you have started saying that certain things are “too pretty” for you. Things I know you are attracted to, things you might want to wear or use but somehow, in your developing social mind, you think they’re not appropriate. For instance, you love the fairy window craft Auntie Em gave you, but you think it might be too pretty.

The other day, you visited the dentist in your Spiderman shirt, Spiderman sunglasses, and Spiderman hat – and your golden beads. After your appointment, you started to choose a flamey mini-skateboard from the prize basket, but shyly changed your mind to select a set of red beads that matched your gold beads AND brought out the ruby tones in Spiderman’s outfit. (The administrative assistant got a kick out of that.)

E, in our home, you will always be safe to enjoy whatever YOU love. You can be as pretty or not-pretty as you want. I’m happy that for now, you get to delight in whatever toys and colours and themes you like, but when you get older and it gets complicated, just know this: I LOVE ALL YOUR AFFINITIES. I love that you dig cars and beads and dinosaurs and babies and and shovels and teasets and red and green and pink and brown and orange and purple all at once. And Daddy feels the same – he’s with you all the way. All of us are.

Stay you, wonderful boy. We love you forever and ever. Happy Being Four.



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