Michelle Martin

Toddlers & teens

Sunday, February 27, 2011

As of this month, it’s official. We have both a teenager and a toddler in our house.

Teens occasionally indulge in the footstomping, eye-rolling tantrums that include such phrases as, “But Mom …” and “You don’t understand …” and “Why can’t I….” And toddlers sometimes end up screaming on the floor, any attempt at words impossible as she struggles to cope with the unfairness of a world that, despite appearances, does not — cannot, actually — revolve totally around her.

It seems to me that one of the biggest changes that happens in a baby’s first year is that they become aware that the way things are isn’t necessarily the way they have to be. They know there is food out there that tastes better than that bland baby food you are trying to give them, so the baby food becomes a lot less appealing. In Teresa’s case, she much prefers broccoli with soy sauce from a dish of Chinese beef and broccoli to anything out of a Gerber or Beech Nut jar. Bits of tortilla dipped in salsa (mild) are also a favorite. So was the chocolate cake she ate on her birthday.

At the same time, she knows now that when she goes to bed, everyone else is still up. No matter how immovable bedtime is for her, she knows that there’s an option: other people are up, and it would be more fun to join them. Way back in the newborn days, she had little to no awareness of anything going on beyond the tip of her nose.

Caroline also tests limits, albeit far more articulately. Sometimes I wonder why, when she was a small child, I ever told her to use her words. Now she has words aplenty, organized into ongoing campaigns complete with ambush attacks and long sieges designed to make me see things her way.

I usually can see things her way, as far as it goes. But I can also see beyond that, to see where there might be flaws in her perspective and hidden obstacles or risks that aren’t visible from her point of view. Sometimes I might be erring too far on the side of caution, seeing monsters where none exist, and sometimes she might be wearing blinders, keeping her eyes on her goal and not looking at the bigger picture.

Teresa will be there soon enough, I’m sure, and Frank is getting there even faster. After all, he has an older sibling whose example he can follow. For my part, I’ll try to walk with my daughters through the minefields of toddlerhood and the teen years with a sense of humor and the grace of God. I’m looking forward to seeing what they become when they make it to the other side.