She can open the door, terrifying milestone Blog

…Unless They Figure Out How To Open Doors

I’ve written about milestones before. Some make me cringe at the competitiveness with which parents approach them, some (non-official) milestones make me laugh, some milestones genuinely fill me with joy and excitement. But just this week, we have discovered a new type of milestone – the absolutely terrifying milestone.

 

It has been a week of explosive development. Hannah has come leaps and bounds with her comprehension and communication. She looks older, she walks more confidently, and she has suddenly decided to grow up. All of that is wonderful! Except that three specific incidents in the past week make it absolutely terrifying.

 

1 – Hannah can open doors

 

You know the scene in Jurassic Park, the one where the velociraptor figures out how to open doors? Well that was re-enacted in my house. And it was far more terrifying that in Jurassic Park, because instead of an oversized, animatronic raptor, it was an overly-curious, real-life toddler. She’s 17 months old! Surely she shouldn’t be able to reach the handle yet.

To be honest, she was as surprised by it as we were. At least she was the first time. By mid-afternoon she had her technique down, and all of a sudden she had unfettered access to the laundry and basement steps (aka the steps of doom). Up until that point, the laundry had been the ‘safe place’ to dump cleaning chemicals and anything else that needed to be out of reach. Now that needs to change, because the look in Hannah’s eyes told me that it is her new mission to explore every last cranny of this mysterious new room. What’s going to stop her? Certainly not a puny door.

 

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We’re doomed!

 

2 – Hannah wants to walk down the stairs

 

Hannah has always been interested in the stairs. From an early age we taught her how to safely ascend and descend, as it was obvious that she was going to figure it out, with or without our help.

This past week, however, Hannah has decided that being able to navigate the stairs safely is no longer good enough. She is a big girl and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t use the stairs like a big girl. Upright. Without holding on. Face first.

Hannah has taken to standing at the top of the stairs, right on the edge. She understands the basic mechanics of walking down the stairs like a big person, she just can’t yet get all of her bits to do what they are supposed to do. At one point she dangled one foot precariously over the edge, before fear took over and she retreated to the corner of the landing.

I don’t think she will actually try to do this by herself, but one can never be too sure. I really don’t want to be that parent, who didn’t pay attention that one time…

Then again, my parents tell me that my brother used to routinely tumble down the stairs, and he has turned out reasonably normal.

 

3 – Hannah knows how to work the child gate

 

We have a child safety gate which separates our kitchen from Hannah’s play area. Up until this point it has been quite effective. Hannah has been able to play with her toys while we prepare dinner, and when she gets the overwhelming urge to cling to our legs while we stir boiling hot liquids on the stove top, she is prohibited from doing so.

Except that she isn’t. It started a few days ago. I was working in the kitchen when I noticed that Hannah was intently studying the latch mechanism on the gate. That’s not unusual, she is a keen observer of her environment. I then watched as she stretched out her tiny little finger and somehow applied enough pressure to slide the latch. It made a satisfying ‘click’. The type of satisfying click that acts as an incentive to do it again. And again. And again.

Hannah quickly had the latch mastered. Thankfully, the gate still had a second line of defence. It has to be lifted up in order to open. I was still safe in my culinary sanctuary.

Except that I wasn’t. The next day I was checking on some salmon that was roasting in the oven. It was just at the crucial point, so I was having a close inspection to see if it needed another minute or two. All of a sudden, a little head popped up beside me. It peered intently at the fish.

“What do you think, Hannah?” I asked. “Is it done?”

A large, toothy grin smiled back.

A moment later the danger of the situation dawned on me. An inquisitive toddler was now mere centimetres away from a hot oven door, her favourite protein tantalisingly waiting on the other side.

“AAAAAHHH!” I exclaimed as my composure abandoned me. In one movement I pushed the salmon back in, shut the door and scooped up Hannah. She was mildly annoyed by our hasty retreat, but at least she was safe.

 

More to come?

 

I have the unnerving feeling that this is just the beginning of the absolutely terrifying milestone phase. After all, we still have knives, traffic, open water and wild animals still to learn about, just to name a few.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m glad that Hannah wants to push boundaries. I’m excited that she wants to explore and understand the world in which she lives. With these experiences, Hannah is making all kinds of neurological connections. She is learning about safety, confidence, risks and consequence.

I might gain a few more grey hairs as I make sure that the consequences are never too severe, but it’s worth it!

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Is My Toddler Ready for Childcare?

We are currently attempting to navigate our way through the dilemma that many modern parents face – should we send our toddler to childcare?

Next year she will turn two and we are aware that as she gets older, her need for social interaction with other children grows. While she gets some of this a the local park, a regular place in a childcare centre, in which she can begin to develop friendships with familiar people is becoming more attractive. Also, the exposure to trained early childhood educators can’t hurt.

But is Hannah ready? It’s a big change to spend time away from family and around people who are (at least to begin with) complete strangers. Hannah can, at times come across as shy. She sometimes hides her face when in new environments or when surrounded by unfamiliar people. At other times Hannah is playful and engaging. She has shown an interest in other kids.

To get a feel for what to expect, Emma and I organised to visit some of our local centres. While each one was vastly different (this is a topic for a whole different post) one thing was for sure – Hannah would be quite at home in any of them.

Some of the moments throughout the day that made us feel confident Hannah is ready for childcare…

 

Join the queue

We were standing in a brightly-lit hallway at the first childcare centre. As the director waxed lyrical about the difficulties that some two year-olds have with adjusting to the setting, she seemed completely oblivious to the actions of Hannah. She had watched a door open and a small army of toddlers file out into the hallway.

Hell-bent on joining them, Hannah had squirmed out of my arms and run the length of the hallway. She neatly joined the back of their line as they headed out the door leading to the outdoor play area. I left Emma and the director chatting away to rescue Hannah, moments before she had crossed the threshold and was part of the day’s activities for good. I returned to the conversation, holding a madly kicking little girl. Given half a chance, Hannah was ready to join in. She didn’t even think twice about glancing back to her parents to say goodbye.

 

Let me in

At the second childcare centre, Hannah was even more determined to join the fun. She wriggled her way out of my arms early on and made a beeline for the outdoor play area. She stood and looked longingly at the children playing on the other side of the fence, until a kind-hearted centre educator took pity on her and invited us to come on over and join in. I opened the gate and Hannah was off. Again, she didn’t think to look back. She suddenly had unfettered access to a yard full of kids, some younger, some older and some her age.

As is Hannah’s way, she soon found an older girl who took her under her wing and looked after her as she climbed the nearest balance beam. Hannah then abandoned her new friend and went to join a young boy who was sitting on the ground, spinning a contraption. He happily allowed her to join in, and together they spun the device around and around, until more kids came over and joined in.

Hannah eventually left that party and went to play by herself in the sandpit. She finally walked over to a seesaw, which she happily operated by herself for a few minutes. The whole time, she never once looked around to see where I was. I could have dropped her and run, and as long as someone fed, changed and played with her, she wouldn’t have cared one bit.

 

Must be getting hungry

By the time we visited the third childcare centre, we were feeling pretty good. Hannah had demonstrated enjoyment and a willingness to explore without direct parental supervision. We were surprised by how comfortable she had felt in both places. Nothing, however, had prepared us for her next demonstration of her willingness to attend childcare.

The director of the third centre was taking us on a tour and we entered the 0-2 room. Seated at a small table on little chairs, and on an assortment of high chairs was a gaggle of babies and toddlers. At first I was slightly disturbed. They were all sitting silently and looking directly at us. Obviously they were waiting for lunch and well-used to the drill.

Hannah, however, did not know what was going on. She looked at the other children then looked up at us. She grinned a big grin, then toddled over to the table, pulled the one remaining seat out and sat herself down with the rest of the kids. There she sat, a big grin on her face. She looked at the little girl next to her who shot back a similarly toothy smile. Hannah was in her element. She had no idea what was going on, yet she assessed the situation and summed it up perfectly. It was clear that her thought process was “if everyone else is sitting, I should too”.

I delicately removed Hannah from the table and we continued on our tour. She diligently waved goodbye to the other kids and the various staff, who had just begun bringing out food. I heard the now familiar “she’s sooo cute!” whispered from one educator to another as we headed out the door.

When we finally made it to the play area, the older kids were busy at play. Once again, Hannah toddled off without so much as a glance back in our direction. She played with the other children for a while, then they headed inside to eat their lunch. Hannah wasn’t bothered, she set about making her own fun while we finished our discussion with the director.

At some point I glanced over at Hannah. She had made her way to the kitchen play area. She was banging away in the sink, then she quickly lifted a spoon to her mouth. I wasn’t bothered, she often pretends to eat from her toy spoons at home. Then I looked a little closer. There was something white in her mouth. I excused myself and walked over to Hannah, who was now happily sitting on the floor. She was clearly munching away at something.

“What do you have in your mouth?” I asked. Hannah looked up and grinned at me. Specks of dirt surrounded her lips. I quickly stuck my fingers into her mouth and retrieved a sizeable pebble.

I hoped that the director hadn’t seen it. This was the best childcare centre that we had visited and the one to which I wanted to send Hannah. I couldn’t stand the thought of her already being labelled as “the rock eater”. Reputations can be hard to shake.

 

Conclusion

Hannah is more ready for childcare than we possibly could have imagined. In another six months-time she will be even more outgoing and adventurous. It is obvious she thrives on social interactions and imagination-based play. Whereas before I was still quite apprehensive about the idea of sending Hannah to childcare, now I’m almost excited about the prospect.

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The Book and The Staircase

Having a toddler is fun. Much more fun than a baby. They are interactive and mobile. They live to learn, to explore. They have just begun the great journey of understanding the world around them and it is a delight to observe.

 

With exploration comes experimentation, and in Hannah we undoubtedly have a budding scientist. She observes and she examines everything in her world. For the past few months her favourite toys have been the ones that involve stacking or nesting objects.

 

Sometimes, however, the inquisitive mind of a toddler drives them to conduct “experiments” that have less than desirable outcomes for us adults. Experiments with food, excrement, paints and crayons are well documented by frustrated an bemused parents across the globe. Thankfully, we have not had too many of those yet.

 

Hannah’s latest series of experiments are firmly planted within the field of physics. She is obsessed by the movement of objects and she appears to have a burning desire to push everything within reach to its breaking point. Her mechanical toy train, for example, was recently placed on top of the lounge and then sent on its merry journey. As it recited the ABC, it elegantly performed a front half-flip and landed upside-down on the hard tiles – song still blaring in the vaguely annoying American accent. Hannah’s reaction to this was, of course, to immediately pick it up and try to repeat the process.

 

Today, Hannah decided to take her physics experiments to the next level. She had been sitting on the floor next to me, happily pulling novels off of the bookshelf while I sat and typed. This activity has never bothered me too much, she is normally reasonably delicate with the books, often choosing to flick through the pages or admire the pictures on the front covers.

 

However, this time she suddenly stood up. In her hand was The Bourne Trilogy – a hefty book. Purposefully, she looked out of the door and towards the staircase. A plan had formed in her mind – an experiment to test the effect of gravity on the humble paperback. In an instant, Hannah was off. Trailing close behind her was me. I had seen the look in her eye and almost immediately I knew what she was up to.

 

A part of me – the responsible, adult part of me – knew that the experiment had to be stopped. After all, children cannot be lefty to throw objects down stairs according to their whims. Imagine the chaos! Another part of me – the perpetually juvenile – insisted that the experiment be allowed to continue. What harm could come from it?

 

The adult side won the battle this time and so I called out to Hannah “stop, don’t throw the book”. Despite my speedy reaction, Hannah had reached the top of the staircase first. The sound of my voice had interrupted her, mid wind-up. Hannah turned around and faced me. Despite her young age and inability to understand the specific words, Hannah knows an instruction when she hears one. Comprehension dawned as she looked at me, then down as the book in her hands. She turned back to look at the staircase, then she looked back up at me again.

 

An internal struggle was undoubtedly raging in her little mind. It was written all over her tiny face. In direct competition was the burning desire to complete her experiment – to add to her growing neurological catalogue of “things that happen when I throw stuff”, while at the same time she wished to please the “bringer of afternoon snacks” (me) by doing as I asked.

 

“Can I please have the book?” I asked, while inching closer to Hannah, who was still standing in her commanding position at the top of the stairs. Once again she looked at me, at my outstretched hand. Once again, she turned back to look at the stairs. It was now or never. Shortly I would be in a position to grasp the book and the opportunity to conduct the experiment would be lost.

 

Hannah wasted no more time, she heaved the book above her head and hurled it with all her might. It spun through the air in slow motion and gracefully cleared the first five stairs. On the sixth it landed with a thud. The spine-side corner hit the steps. The pages splayed open. The book tumbled down a further four steps, then stopped.

 

Hannah smiled and let out a pleased sound. Her experiment was complete and the results were very satisfying indeed. I looked at her and tried to hide my smile. Despite my best efforts at presenting as an adult to Hannah, I had undeniably enjoyed watching the spectacular journey of the book almost as much as she had. Despite the hard landing, no damage had been done to the book. I appreciated that Hannah had formulated, then conducted an interesting experiment.

 

Do I want Hannah to throw books down the stairs on a regular basis? No, of course not. But I don’t believe she will. If she does persist with doing it, it is then my job to teach her that it is not appropriate. Some may suggest that I have made this task harder for myself by failing to stop it the first time, but I’m not so sure. My observations of Hannah to this point lead me to believe that she gets great satisfaction from turning the unknown into the known. It is possible that had I stopped her the first time, her desire to throw books down the stairs may have grown.

 

I could be wrong. Maybe I’ve created a monster. Time will tell…

Twin Mummy and Daddy
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No Longer My Little Baby Girl

To my darling daughter,

I have come to realise something recently. It’s something that makes me feel slightly sad. Yet at the same time, it’s uplifting, exciting. I have come to realise that you are no longer my little baby girl.

I feel sadness because for the past 16 months, a tiny little helpless baby has been my whole world. I’ve adored you, I’ve soaked in your precious little features. I’ve watched and admired every little change, every development, every milestone. I’ve held you and talked to you, I’ve sung to you and played with you. All the while, you were my baby.

Now, quite clearly, you are not my baby. You are a toddler. A little girl who is very quickly growing. You have boundless energy, creativity, opinions and independence. You are in control and able to communicate your likes and your displeasure. This is all wonderful, it truly is! But a part of me will always hold dear the precious first few months of your life.

While I think back fondly to the incredible little baby you were, I also deeply love the toddler who you’ve become. You amaze me every day with something new. You freely share your smiles and laughter, and every time you do, it brightens up the world. You find pleasure in little things and you appear to enjoy the funny side of life! I hope that sticks with you as you grow. The world is already far too full of serious people doing serious things with serious looks on their faces. People who wouldn’t spot a joke if it fell on them like a grand piano – cartoon-style. But the world is a fun place and a funny place. It is yours to enjoy.

You are a great communicator. You make it clear what you want and when you want it. You are not afraid to ask for things or to put forward your opinion. Never be afraid to do these things. You express enjoyment, wonder and displeasure in the most clear ways. And you listen. I’ve never seen someone concentrate so intently on my face when I speak to them as you do. You want so much to understand every word that I say.

You love to move. The development of walking has opened up your little world and you take full advantage of it. You walk whenever you get the chance and you have no problem with covering large distances. You’ve even started moving very quickly. I feel that running is not far away.

One of your favourite things to do now that you are a toddler is read books. You climb up into my lap, on the chair in your room and you demand that I lift you up. Your eyes dart across the shelf until you find a book that takes your fancy. Your little hand shoots out and firmly grasps your prize. I lower you back into my lap and together we explore the book. Sometimes I read it to you from cover to cover. Other times you flick through the pages and we discuss the pictures. You know all sorts of animals and the sound that they make (although you still have trouble spotting the bees, even though you know what sound they make). Often, when one book is done, the request for a second is loud and immediate.

Sometimes you eat as much as I do! Your palate is fairly diverse, although you do have a tendency to favour carbs and dairy. You have excellent spoon control, although sometimes you try to fit far too much into your tiny mouth at once! I love sitting down with you and mum at meal time. I hope that as you grow, dinner will be a time to sit as a family and talk about all manner of things.

My darling girl, know that I loved the baby that you were, and the toddler that you are. Know that together we have created incredible memories, and that I appreciate every second that I have with you in the present. Little one, know that I look forward to the wide expanse of the future and all that it may hold for you. You may no longer be my little baby girl, but I will always be your dad.

Love

Dad

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My Sunday Photo – From Destruction to Construction

My Sunday Photo for this week is of Hannah’s first Mega Bloks construction

This photo represents the reaching of a significant milestone for Hannah. It is a record of the first time that she has successfully constructed something with blocks.

She has been playing with blocks for a long time, but that play has involved watching me build things, then knocking them down. She has had destruction mastered for many months now. But this week, she took herself over to the block container and started building.

Every block on the contraption was placed there by Hannah. I was particularly impressed with how tall she made her tower. She was also tenacious in building it, as on many occasions it fell down. Each time, Hannah examined the pieces and found a better way to put them together.

When Hannah completed her construction, she drove it around for a while making ‘brmm brmm’ noises. As if I wasn’t proud enough already…

 

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