Dear baby, I don’t know all the answers. I’ve read some books, I’ve talked to some people, but I mostly care for you by instinct. Probably the way I was cared for at your age has something to do with it. Or maybe my own innate insistence on doing things my own way, on “going with my gut” now and throughout my life.
At 17 months, you are still very much a baby to me. Look at you, tiny hands, soft, taut skin. It still feels very natural and normal to nurse you on demand, to sleep next to you at night, to pick you up anytime you cry, to limit my time away from you.
When you scribble on your brother’s picture and he suggests that I reprimand you, I tell him that you are still a baby and don’t know much better. I tell you to please not draw on your brother’s picture, and gently take the pencil away from you. This is a time for learning, but there is only so much you can truly internalize right now. I don’t expect you to “get” sharing, or taking turns, or respecting another child’s personal space. All I can do is show you, tell you, and accept the stage you are in right now.
You are trying to figure out what power you have in the world. Shaking your head “no” until I put on the song that you want, or figure out what you want for breakfast. Or throwing a tantrum because you want to continue wearing your snow-covered boots in the house. You are my second child, so I have a little perspective on these things. I understand that sometimes children get very upset, and their little bodies can’t contain the upset. I understand that sometimes there is nothing I can do but be there, offer to hold you, stand calmly near you if you won’t let me hold you. I know it’s OK for you to be upset as you assert who are. It’s part of growing.
I also know that someday soon you will feel like less of a baby to me. I will try to redirect you if it’s the zillionth time you have asked me to nurse and I would like a break. Or I will expect you to understand better some of the rules in our home, and I will feel impatient with you when you don’t follow them. Sometime I will feel ready to go out past your bedtime and see if you will fall asleep with someone other than me. I will know when it’s time for all those things. It will happen gradually and very suddenly, all at the same time.
But for now, there is this. You and me. Still very much a unit. Still needing to be close. Still a baby.