over-sharing

A few days ago I saw a headline on people.com, “Kristen Bell’s 5 year-old is Still in Diapers”. Very quickly many thoughts went through my head.

First- judgement. I can admit it. 5 seems really old to be in diapers.

Then, secondly- solidarity. My 5 year old daughter is still in diapers overnight. Her pediatrician shook off any concern I had at her wellness appointment and told me not to worry at all.

Finally I was a bit horrified at the entire thing. I was mad at myself for clicking the link and also disgusted at myself for being part of the problem with celebrity gossip. I was also fairly sure Ms. Bell was probably going to have some explaining to do with her husband, Dax Shepard, about the whole thing anyway.

For those of you who don’t know about Ms. Bell and Mr. Shepard’s family, they have been extremely protective of their children while maintaining their own chosen celebrity lives. I really admire this. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert”, and many of his views on a child’s right to privacy have reshaped my own views with my own children and how I expose them online.

Like most women my age with children, I’ve shared most aspects of my kids lives with the extended “friends” and “followers” I have on social media. There’s really nothing better to do during those hazy days of newborn babyhood. I didn’t really give it much deep thought, I’d post a picture of my kid with a funny caption and that was it. Being a mother made my own identity feel “less than”, after all, I no longer do much beyond taking care of my kids, and my kids are infinitely more photogenic than I.

Around the time I created this blog I did have some trepidation about how exactly much I wanted to share- at least when it came to giving out their full names and posting pictures of them. I know if I go through the archives there’s a few photos of their faces, but I think I’ve avoided using more than their first initials to identify them. While I don’t have thousands of readers or anything on my blog, it does feel like a uniquely personal space that is really open to anyone to read, and I felt like my children deserved a bit of anonymity when it came to it.

It was a few years ago when my eldest started requesting I stop sharing every picture of him on Facebook. He was around seven at the time. He didn’t mind if I shared some, but he wanted to approve of them first. This request sort of blew my mind. He had the understanding of privacy and I had to honor his request.

As time has gone on, I’ve completely deleted my Facebook, but I still maintain an Instagram account. I’m souring on using it as much as I did, because, after all, it’s part of the big beast of FB anyway, but I’m still addicted to the photo-scroll. However, this year I heard a podcast (Armchair Expert) where it was discussed on social media companies and ‘big data’ may one day (or even are currently doing….) be able to make predictions and judgements on our children through just photos alone. Like, in the movie Minority Report. Like, my innocent children being pigeonholed from birth.

They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t ask for any of this.

So I’ve made a conscious effort of block as much of their faces as I can with my social media. My posts have gotten a lot less cute, but I’m okay with that. I haven’t resorted to using emojis to conceal their faces (like the Bell/Shepard family does), but this very subtle change makes me feel like I’m sharing my life but not exploiting them.

I’m probably being an alarmist. I’m paranoid and I love a good conspiracy theory. But at the most basic level, I’ve come to terms with the idea that my children do deserve some protection online and my own decision to share my life online extends only to my own self. Yes, my kids are a part of myself and my identity, but I respect them as individuals and once they are old enough they can put as much (or as little) of themselves out there as they chose.

This brings me back to the Diaper-gate headline with Kristen Bell.

The day after the first headline, People published a new one. “Kristen Bell’s Daughter Only in Diapers At Night”.

Hooray.

Why this was ever newsworthy is beyond me. She had made the statement on a podcast with a fellow mother and they pulled out a throwaway story and made a huge deal out of it. I feel bad for her.

But these are our times we live in. I’m writing in my little read, but deeply personal blog (I’m not writing for any other reason than for myself) but one day someone could take a line or post and make a story about it. I as a parent have a delicate line to balance. I love to share my life with people who know me, and I enjoy writing on this platform whenever the mood strikes me. I have a nagging bother at the back of my mind to erase the line at the beginning of this post disclosing my daughters overnight-diaper needs. It’s perfectly normal and not anything to worry about, yet, why share?

Ms. Bell only told the story as a way to explain how every child is different. Her first potty trained extremely easily at 21 months old, and her second is throwing her for the loop. I have similar results with my kids; all potty trained at different ages with varying degrees of success.

Sharing these stories is important so other mothers don’t judge themselves. How I wish I had read testaments from women on how difficult breastfeeding could be when I struggled with my first; I reached out to every person I knew for advice and mostly heard back, “It wasn’t hard for me!”. We are already so hard on ourselves as mothers and in the glossy picture perfect world of social media it is nice hear from other women that they don’t have it all figured out and no one is perfect. But it just goes to show how easy the story can twist from being a personal story of mothering to direct judgment on the child itself.

There is no easy answer. You can’t avoid online life and data tracking and even though I’ve deleted accounts and photos of my kids from social media, I know they aren’t really gone from the “cloud” and everything I put on the inter webs is out of my control once I push post. But I am going to make a conscious effort to continue to be mindful about how I share my children’s lives online and I think this whole diaper-headline is a perfect example of why it’s important.

the boredom curve

I’m going to admit something that is going to make me sound like an inattentive mother. I’ve gotten exceptionally talented at ignoring my kids. No, no, hear me out. Like millions across America right now, I am home with my children. Unlike before, there is no out-of-home activities to cart the littles to. In the past, a great distraction in the day was a trip to the local park or the library. These days are no more.

So now my days are predictable and routine. Life revolves around snack time and meal time, and I prioritize my workout time (thank you, Peloton). Beyond that, there isn’t rules. My fourth grader is excellent at keeping to his school schedule, but the littles have free reign on the house.

I have learned a secret trick to parenting them. When they say they are “bored” and have nothing to do, if I just sort of ignore their cries and leave them be…. they find something to do. Luckily they have each other as playmates. So, without fail, within a few minutes, they distract themselves and play.

It seems like a revelation to me. How many lists and schedules and ideas are we sending to each other at this time, trying to fill this void of sheltering in place? And, for the most part, all this planning is for naught. Sure, I give the kids some direction, but for the most part, I can be totally hands off. There might be whining and a few tears, but they are very good at entertaining themselves. I don’t have to fight them, I don’t have to say platitudes like “Only boring people are bored”. I just let their cries wash over me and then watch the miracle of free play and creativity come out.

***

My neighbor and I had a pseudo-play date yesterday. It was gorgeous here in suburban New Jersey, and after a family bike ride we saw them in their front yard playing with sidewalk chalk. The kids did an excellent job of staying 6-feet-apart from one another, and I had some much needed, in person, adult communication. (for reference, my husband is currently out of state for training, he worked last week quite a bit, and wont return home until this weekend)

I admitted to her that my kids don’t seem bothered by all this societal change. Because, they don’t. They haven’t begged to leave the house beyond a bike ride or a walk in the neighborhood, and to them going in the backyard is just as great as a field trip to the park. The other day I had to force my eldest into the van with his father to get take out food, I assumed he’d miss riding in the car since it’d been 3+ weeks since his last outing, but he didn’t care.

My neighbor said the same thing. It made me think about all the distractions and events we are always carting our offspring to don’t really matter. The kids, at least my kids, are just as happy at home with us around all the time. We have a way of over scheduling and over stimulating our kids, and it might not matter. Maybe we are over complicating everything and this return to just sticking it out at home is good for us, like a juice cleanse for ourselves.

My eldest is sad about not seeing his friends. He misses school. My littles say they miss preschool as well, but, they just accept than they can’t go right now. The kids are handling this social change much better than I am, and most adults I know. They are so amazing at just living in the moment, not looking into the past or future, and this life outlook is something I try to keep during these “troubled times” (as they say).

Life is slower right now, but we all have our health. We are happy in our self-appointed quarantine and have everything we need right now. Our boredom is a privilege and as my kids show me every single day, boredom isn’t something than needs fixing. If I’m feeling anxious or like acting out, if I just let the emotion ride and then dismiss it as quickly as it comes, I too am on to the next thing.

potty training blues

A few months ago my son stopped breastfeeding. I nursed him longer than any of my other kids, few months past 2 years old, and it was time. Around the same time we stopped giving him bottles as well. My last baby was a full fledged toddler and I was okay with that. Especially since I decided it was time to potty train him.

He’s incredibly smart. He’s also super stubborn, but he acts like such a big boy and wants to copy his brother and sister so I figured he was ready. I searched through my email for the nearly-decade old attachment someone had emailed me for my firstborn, the infamous “3 Day Potty Training Method”. I decided the next day was his day. We were stopping diapers and converting to underwear fully.

We used this method with our other two kids and they had great success. My oldest was just over 3 years old when I trained him, and my daughter was probably 2 years, 7 or 8 months old. So, I knew H was a little young at 2 years 5 months old. But, he seemed ready. Or so I thought.

The first few days were a major struggle, as expected. He just didn’t seem to get it. He’d pee and not even notice. Poop was the same. But, as with the other kids, by day three he seemed to understand. He’d hold himself, at least, and would pee whenever we’d put him on the toilet. We went back to our normal daily routine, which consists of trips to the gym or parks or shopping.

After a few accidents on the road, I bought pull-ups. And now, here’s where it gets bad. I started putting him in pull-ups even just around the house. Because, my highly verbal son seems to be unable to express the words “I have to go potty”. No amount of bribery seems to work, no candy, or prizes. He just won’t tell us.

If we catch him grabbing his crotch and rush to the toilet, he will go and there’s no “accident”. But, if it were up to him, he’d never tell us and just piss everywhere. It’s so frustrating. I can’t believe we are relying on pull-ups in this way, and I curse myself for not sticking to a plan. I know consistency is key and my own laziness is getting in the way.

I probably should have waited a few months before forcing this upon him. But we are 2 months in and I can’t very well fully give up, yet. I was just ready for the diaper days to end, you know? A he just doesn’t care. I think he’s told me “I gotta potty” only three times since we “trained” him. Like I said, he can hold it and tries to hide if he has to go…. but my husband and I are at a lost on how to make that final cog just click and have him WANT to go potty in the toilet, not his pants.

Having two other kids is great for the grand perspective of things. I know he won’t still have these bathroom issues in a year or so. But this is a perfect example of the day to day drag of raising a toddler. These little missteps and accidents add up throughout the day and the frustration I feel about it builds too. You’d think by child number three I’d be a pro by now…but it just goes to show that every child is different and things don’t always end up how you intend.

Online Debates & Social Media

What’s the point, right? Who in their right mind engages with internet trolls to prove a point, when you know on the other side the person you are typing against will never change their own heavily one-sided-and-bias minds? Why do we do this?

Since I’ve deactivated my Facebook account I’ve not had to worry about these comment wars folks get into. A voyeur within me does love to stand on the sidelines and watch drama happen (this is human nature I think) but when it’s my dear old Auntie Doris verses a Stay-at-home-mommy Karen verses that chick I used to know from Psych 101 class it becomes far more personal and nauseating. Plus, many of these arguments serve zero purpose. We’ve all boxed in our own beliefs and prefer the comfort of the echo chambers attached to the point of view we’ve assigned to ourselves.

This morning my darling husband “went at it” with a relative anti-vaxxer. I adore the woman; she is a dear friend to me and I’ll never not love her. That said, I also refuse to bring vaccinations up with her, so while I was sipping my morning coffee and the hubs read aloud each point and counterpoint, I started asserting my view to him, which he then in turn wrote. It was a FB debate by proxy, I suppose.

This is the thing about anti-vaxxers- I totally understand how one can be lured to their point of view. When I had my first baby, the fears of taking care of him and doing things right were always there. So, on FB or whatever, when I saw posts decrying vaccinations and “evidence” against it, I wondered if I was a bad mother for allowing him to get stuck by needles so often. My ignorance about medical science and my unconfidence in my own parenting led to me feeling guilty for not having a strong stand. I also had a nagging voice in me which knew anti-vaxxers were using junk science and personal anecdotes as evidence, but it’s really hard not to believe a story written by grieving mothers about how one vaccine essentially ruined their child’s life. Stories are more compelling than statistics and evidence and critical thinking.

I did vaccinate my child, of course, but with the first kid I did it on a “delayed schedule” (look I’m NOT mainstream because I don’t follow a schedule!) but by the time I had my second and third kids a lack of time and energy sucked out any desire to go into the pediatricians office more than needed so they followed the standard schedule. And guess what, they are fine. Of course.

My point is, as I turned away from reading social media I really don’t think about anti-vaxxers. Or vaxxers. Basically, it’s just as common to me as when the doctor looks in the kids’ ears or mouth during an exam. If they are due for a vaccine I just nod my head, try to comfort the kid, and then move onto other more interesting thoughts like what’s for dinner or what show to watch once the kids are in bed. You know, important things. I’m not passionately for vaccinations, but the majority of parents probably aren’t.

Until a preventable disease is spread because of anti-vaxxers, of course.

Even still, I just shake my head and pat my own back because I know my kids are as protected as they can be because they had their MMR shots.

But in the massive steaming cesspool of social media, the debates are ever present and start to leak into my peaceful morning coffee time and I get empassioned.

Once you engage with a troll, though, there is no winner. Nothing is gained or lost from it (except time and energy). The anti-vaxxer from this morning actually told my husband the link she shared wasn’t meant for him to read at all; it was for other anti-vaxxers. Why did she say that? Because he had cornered her with actual facts and it was the only argument she had left. It also just proved my view; she didn’t want a debate. She didn’t want her beliefs challenged. She just wanted the echo chamber of outrage to continue as she sees fit.

The problem with mixing personal beliefs with medical science is, well, they are totally different things. I think it’s all fine and good to have personal beliefs about god, how to live a healthy life, the best way to style your hair for your face shape, whatever… but unless you are a medical doctor, researcher or scientist who really understands the way the body works and the immune system at a molecular level, your belief means absolutely nothing. This seems like common sense but, as we all know, the majority of anti-vaxxers cite their “hours and hours” spent researching as just as important those who have committed time and money towards a medical degree. These things are not equal.

My husband claims he enjoys debates. I mean, I do too. But, these sort of debates are just never going to be won or lost. I am 100% confident I’ve made the right choices for my kids regarding vaccinations, and the anti-vaxxers are too. I believe they will regret not vaccinating their children one day… but as far as I’m concerned with my kids now aged 2, 4, and 8, I’m past any “danger” point for them and I know in my bones they are perfectly safe and protected against any disease or ill effect from inoculations.

And with this outpouring of a blog post, I’ve said my peace into the oblivion of the internet without offending anyone I personally know in real life, which is great. (unless of course they are reading this now, and to that I say hi! I love you! Peace!)

Diagnosis: Princess Power

It’s happened.

I swore to myself it wouldn’t; the day she was born someone put a silly pink bow hat on my daughter’s head, and it was then I vowed; I’m going to keep her away from the girly stuff. All the frilly, lacy, pink stuff that is having a little little girl just isn’t my style and I wanted to raise my daughter to think independently and not conform to the standard stereotypical gender role of “little princess”.

It worked, for a bit. I mean, prior to age 2 and prior to her having the ability to form an opinion and express it clearly, it was pretty easy avoiding Disney princesses and crowns.

But slowly, the princess culture seeped in to her life.

She’s the only girl out of eight cousins on her father’s side of the family, so for every birthday and Christmas, our generous extended family has fun buying her girly toys. I get it it. Superhero’s and Star Wars for seven nephews/sons/grandsons is tiresome and any break from the routine is welcome. So she can get a poofy dress up skirt and parade around in it with joy, no big deal … as long as we don’t highlight the word princess, it’ll be ok, or so I thought.

And last year she went through a serious butterfly phase. Around the time she started wanting to choose her clothes everyday, she started demanding only butterfly shirts. That was a fun indulgence. Before we moved she wanted her new room to be a butterfly room, which gave me a lot of fun options to decorate with. In my mind, while butterflies are girly, they aren’t as “bad” as a princesses.

But sometime this summer my little girl dropped the obsession with butterflies and moved straight onto the princess train.

Sigh.

What do you want to be when you grow up, Lu?

A princess.

What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?

A princess!

What do you want to play when we are at the playground, sweetie?

Princess Luella!

She’s obsessed. Any paraphernalia we purchase with a cheap Disney synergy tie-in gives her glee. She’ll just sit and look at books with the darn princesses for hours. And nothing, nothing, lights up her face more than when we call her “Princess”.

And that’s my struggle. I want her to be a strong, independent, kind person in the world, and want her to follow her passions but also be a hard worker and someone who values inner strength and beauty more than outer, yet …. the pleasure on her face when I indulge her and call her Princess while tucking her in at night, man, that’s hard to fight. She was absolutely adorable dressed up as Ariel over Halloween, and if I can give her a sticker book with the princesses in it and it entertains her for hours, what’s the harm, really? What am I fighting, exactly?

She’s three. This phase should pass, eventually, right? Shouldn’t I just let her have this phase while it’s still pure and just because they’re pretty, now, while she’s little? Why and I trying to force my own distaste of it all on her? Her being into princesses doesn’t mean I, the mom, am raising her to literally think she’s an actual entitled princess… she will still work hard and be empathetic and know her smarts are far more important than her looks because those are the values we are instilling in her.

So, I’m okay with it. I’m going to smooth her hair, call her princess because it makes her smile, let her pretend and dress up and let her enjoy all the stupid plastic Disney crap because she’s a child and this is just a phase. And trying to control what she likes isn’t the type of mom I aim to be.

Playground Politics

*This goes out to the parents out there* …. Think back, to your days before “parent” was a label applied to you. What were your thoughts on children, moms and dads, and discipline? What sorts of behavior would you witness with rolled eyes and scoffing?

*This goes out to the parents of multiple children out there* …. Hey! Remember when you had one child and they consumed your world? Every moment you had eyes on them, you knew their quirks and had no doubt of their brilliance and uniqueness? Remember going to the playground and following their every step, every triumph of a ladder rung climbed, every round on the slide? Did you ever see some random, disheveled child pushing your precious out of the way and wonder aloud: “Whose kid is this??”

My personal answers to the questions above are probably pretty obvious.

Before I had E, I didn’t think about parenting at all. I had very little interaction with children beyond the ones I encountered at work, and I usually observed every scream or whimper or booger-streaked face with disgust.

That is, until I had a baby, and my entire life revolved around just E. I thought I had it figured out. I brought him to the playground every single day, rain or shine or wind or snow…. I hovered and hemmed and hawed over him at all hours of the day. I’d see sloppy looking moms parading their multiple offspring off and watch in horror as they pushed, shoved, and ran amok. And, I judged. Oh, how I judged.

But then I had two babies in a little under two years. Suddenly, the playground as a destination because a “trip”, a big “deal”. Beyond that, I started to see the play areas as a place for “them” and the benches along the side of the structures as “my” place. The luxury of sitting back and watching them do whatever it is they wanted seemed like a no brainer.

And my eyes were opened to the phenomenon of “parents of one”. I don’t judge them, because I was them for four and a half years, but looking through the playground scene with my new lenses of a “mom of three”, I started to realize how different I was from them. Usually its Mom and Dad following every step of little Jr and their adventures in the structures, with lots of “Be Careful!” And “Oh look at you!” Meanwhile, I’d be in a corner, trying to appear forgotten. I want my kids to play, but I don’t feel the need to follow them everywhere.

This brings me to today; another playground trip on a warm November afternoon. The sun was bright. I have a quiz to study for and three kids under my watch (as the hubby is flying for a few days) so I foolishly thought I’d have time to look over notes at the local playground. I forgot it’s a weekend. I should have realized every other parent in our suburb had the same idea as me: enjoy the sun while we can. And I should have realized that while I’m perfectly okay with watching the 2-year-old climb up a slide the wrong way, the vast majority of parents out there (especially the ones with only one kid) frown upon such behavior.

So, what should have been a relaxing escape from our house, became an internal struggle of my own. I don’t want to be “that mom” whose children are causing issues, I don’t want someone to see my little L and H seemingly alone and assume their parents aren’t mindful of the abduction risk of unsupervised children, but I also know that particular playground, being fully fenced, is pretty safe. I know that kids want to climb up slides backwards and I know that they don’t need me there “just in case”. So it becomes a show, and I have to act. Because I care too much about what everyone else thinks. Their frantic anxiety becomes my frantic anxiety.

After an hour or so I was sick of chasing H so I told the kiddos it was time to go home. To play in our own backyard. And guess what? In the privacy of my own home, confined in the fully fenced back yard, I can sit and study over the pulmonary system and even read a novel without worrying about H and L taking turns going upside down, down the slide. I guess it’s true: there’s no place like home.

Creeping of Christmas

I just stood in line 20 minutes for a cheap red plastic cup. It was free. It has a major corporate logo on the side, and if I use it after 2pm between now and January 7, 2019, I will receive fifty cents off every $5 “Holiday” drink.

If you are in the know, you know I’m talking about Starbucks.

In my defense, I needed coffee this late morning anyway, as I am currently sitting in the college library prepping for my third exam of the year. I have the expensive habit/routine of needing my ‘bucks fix prior to studying. I get the drink, I find the quiet corner of the library with the great view of a large oak tree out the window, I put on my beats and I get to it.

Because Starbucks has my email address and knows how Basic I can be, they sent me the reminder last night of their latest marketing ploy and it stayed in my mind. Honestly I’m not a big latte or mocha drinker, I tend to take my coffee iced, cold brewed, with just a splash of sweet cream. But learning the holiday drinks are back and I could get something free out of it, I braved the line and ignored the mobile ordering option.

I was one of the last to get the free cup before the store ran out; according to the Starbucks Subreddit, other stores were out by 6am. I felt that consumerism smugness come out, mwhaa ha ha I got something you didn’t! – but now I just feel like a corporate cog.

Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, today is November 2nd. We still have a freshly carved pumpkin on our front porch and the leaves in New Jersey are just starting to turn into spectacular shades of yellow, orange and red. Can we all enjoy fall for a few weeks before the whitewash of red and merry take over?

On one hand, I’m excited for this time of year. The anticipation build up, seeing my kids enjoy the holiday season, listening to Christmas music and decorating our home is so much fun. I do love it. But our culture is creeping these darn holidays out sooner and sooner. School started in September and the store loaded themselves up with Halloween decor. Christmas crap was on shelves before Halloween even started.

Yesterday I used a free hour without kids to check out Marshall’s and Home Goods, I had the idea of purchasing Thanksgiving swag since we are hosting this year, but the stores were all Santaed out. Really? Really? I can’t buy some fake leaves or a stuffed Turkey to display on November 1st?

Beyond this frustration, I also hate how we are supposed to spend an insane amount of money every year to show how much we love one another. It’s nearly an American Patriot Act, this obligation, and each year the pressure is more and more. My kids don’t need anything. They still play with the wooden train set my oldest has had for seven years. They putter around with crappy old toys all the time and they are happy.

So it’s with excitement, resentment, cynicism and optimism that I end this post with a “Happy Holidays!” This one phrase is loaded and you can take from it what you wish. I’m going to focus my next few weeks on FALL and cover my ears if I hear a Christmas Carol until the day after Thanksgiving – expect, of course, I’m in line to get my .50 discount on a holiday cup of cheer.

real estate games

It’s becoming another mad spring. We’ve decided to put our home up on the market, and once it sells we are moving to New Jersey. I now spend all the time I used to devote to scrolling social media to scrolling Zillow. Who knew Zillow was so addicting? Seeing homes go on the market, drop their prices, add open houses, and then go to the very elusive and secretive “pending” status consumes much of my time now.

We (my husband and I) are in the very lucky in that we should find a home pretty easily that meets all of our “must haves”. Dealing with real estate agents (the buying agents) is annoying, but luckily we’ve found a selling agent locally who I trust to look out for our best interest.

The idea of starting all over again in a new location used to make me excited. I have wanted to move off of Long Island basically since we moved here; it’s so crowded and expensive and people seem impatient and I hate traffic and the last Christopher Nolan Batman movie scared the crap out of me because while “Gotham City” (Manhattan) was cut off by the exploding bridges, it also meant ALL of Long Island (Gotham Island?) was cut off too and the reality of living on an island didn’t appeal to me anymore.

But having to meet new mom friends, new circles, new social groups seems hard. It was hard here and I was younger and thirstier back then, now I’m older and less interesting. I’ve really settled into my schooling here and I could have seen a future in the local community college nursing program, I’m now moving to an area with a totally different program I’ll have to re-navigate around. Even my gym, my precious “me time” space will no longer be the same; the reverence and admiration I have for all the gym instructors will go away and the routine I’ve set up will be gone too.

But the time is now. My commuting pilot husband has been driving 3+ hours to Atlantic City for work for over a year. We can’t expect him to continue this for the rest of his career. Even though I’ve never fully embraced Long Island as my “home”, hopefully, we can settle into a real neighborhood in New Jersey and it will become my family’s permanent place.

Spring time is always a rush of change and new beginnings and we shall see what this upcoming one brings.

 

the joys of a little boy

Holden is my baby, the youngest of three, and my second son. But in so many ways he’s my first “boy”. My eldest, Eli, was a shy, studious toddler with a fixation on doors and trains and books and was quiet until he was 3. Literally. He didn’t really start talking until then, and this was after 18 months of speech-language therapy. Compared with our second child, Luella, Eli was easy as a toddler. Luella has her moments of drama and misbehavior, but she is also capable of focused play and is a pretty good listener.

But Holden. Man, Holden.

He’s that toddler who climbs. Climbs up high and dances at the top and dares you to stop him from repeating it once you drag him back down. He really enjoys pushing stools up to the kitchen counter and grabbing whatever he can reach, which is quite a lot. It’s terrifying to admit, but I’ve turned my back to him for seconds only to come back and see him brandishing a knife that I thought was out of reach. His grin as he waves it at me is mischief defined.

As I’m typing this out I’m realizing I just should ban him from the kitchen forever.

It’s just so obvious to me that he delights in naughtiness. When I tell him “no” his face lights up and he looks absolutely pleased with himself. He’s the first kid of mine to actually want to play in the toilet and the dog bowl and with the cleaners we store under the sink (which is child proof but he grabs for them whenever he can slide his quick hands past us when we open the cabinet doors).

He also enjoys carrying toys around and hitting me in the face with them, or his sister or brother if I’m not around. “Holden, are you going to hit me with that?” I’ll ask and he’ll wind up his arm and say, “Noooo” right before taking aim.

Okay, now I’m making it sound like he’s just this terror of a child who likes violence and danger and obviously there’s way more to him than that; it’s just funny to me how much of a boy I’ve got on my hands here. He needs limitations and constant supervision and this Mom has had two older kids who didn’t need a hawk-eye kept of them all day long, so the adjustment for me is hard.

Plus, for all his trouble-making, he’s insanely sweet and cute and those moments seem more tender because of his other stinky side. For example, today at the library program, whenever there was a toy prop for a song (like bells or bean bags) he’d bring me one first, before getting himself one. The kid’s not even 18 months old yet but he’s spoiling his mom. He hands me the toy and I swear winks before turning back around for one for himself.

And he’s just as likely to plant spontaneous kisses on my face, randomly, as he his to try and beat me with a metal toy truck. The kisses far outnumber the hitting and there’s nothing quite like having my rascal toddler bring me a book to snuggle up on my lap with. He melts my heart faster than butter on a frying pan with these moments.

They say every child is different, and this is true. My kids are all individuals but I never really thought my sweet baby would turn out so much more “boy” than his older brother, and even this, my third-time go-round with a young toddler, it’s a different ride and trip daily. My Holden is exasperating and funny and thrill-seeking and sweet and I finally have an understanding of what those moms who use the hashtag “boy mom” are all talking about.

Oh Holden. Stay my little sweet menance forever, sweet boy.