Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Year One, Month One Musings

Terminology. With Jackson’s first birthday behind us, the blog enters into tricky, confusing waters. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s easy to discuss a baby’s age in terms of months for the first year of their lives. But now it’s that weird stage where I don’t like any of the available ways to define his age. Thirteen months? One year and one month? Or is he enough of a grown up now that we can just call him “one” for the next year, at which point he’ll become “two”? After all, kids don’t claim to be “five years and one month old”, they’re just five. But Jackson’s not a kid, right? He’s just a baby.


Apparently, unbeknownst to me, once a baby hits one year of age, they stop being a baby. They become a “toddler”. In hindsight, someone should have explained the short shelf-life of my Blog title about a year and a half ago. But it’s too late to change it to “man-vs-toddler”… and even then, who knows how long that’s going to last before they suddenly start calling my son a “kid” or “child” or whatever fancy term is coming up next?

This brings us to the other problem with your child turning one year old – basically all baby books and iPhone apps stop after one year. Seriously, I think on Jackson’s birthday, my trusty BabyCenter app told me “congrats on making it to one year! Raising a child is all downhill from here, so you don’t need me anymore”, at which point it self-deleted itself. Wait, really? Maybe if you would have stuck around for more than 12 months, you could have warned me about this terminology change! Without an expert telling me what I should be expecting and doing every single month, how am I to determine how Jackson is measuring against the “average kid for his age”? When is he supposed to start talking, drinking out of a real cup, or cutting my grass? What’s going to keep me from doing something potentially dangerous? Is he now safe to start using grown-up scissors, drinking whiskey, or using a pillow? It’s all a crap shoot! Or do I no longer need to worry about all these so-called “rules” that accompany fragile babies now that I have an indestructible toddler?

Ironically, right around Jackson’s first birthday, I may have found the answer to these questions in the most unlikely of places – the Wall Street Journal. There was an article on the front page about babies and food allergies – which basically had experts concluding “once babies are eating food, you can feed them whatever you want… and it might even prevent them from being allergic to them someday”. What’s this? Experts telling me that I don’t need to worry about eggs, shellfish, or food made in a factory where they may have been exposed to tree nuts? Happy day! Needless to say, within a few days I was feeding him peanut butter, whole milk, and Wendy’s spicy chicken – and aside from the spicy chicken, which resulted in tears and a puzzled look in Jackson’s eyes of “why are you feeding me fire” – everything was fine. Nothing to worry about! Maybe these “toddlers” really don’t need to be babied! Maybe it will be smooth sailing here on out!

So for now, the blog remains “man-vs-baby”, even though it’s no longer officially an accurate title. As for the title of each month’s blog post? For consistency sake, I’ll go with Year One, Month One – but if you run into me on the street and ask me how old my son is, I’ll respond with “one” for the next year – or possibly “old enough to eat anything he wants!”

Creating a Monster. Free from the chains of all the “rules” of baby books, we’ve exposed Jackson to a number of new things over the past few months – but I’ve slowly come to realize a very important lesson: before you introduce your child to anything new, you better be ready to repeatedly do it every day for at least the next few months, because there’s a good chance it’s going to become his favorite thing in the world.

Some of these addictions make sense. When we first introduced Jackson to animal crackers, it was one of those nights where he wasn’t really in the mood to eat anything, and we were looking for something new and fun to feed him. Given that we have one of those jumbo jars of animal crackers in our pantry, it was an obvious choice of something new to try – and according to the jar, it’s a fat free food, which basically makes it a vegetable equivalent, right? Needless to say, it was love at first taste. Now that Jackson knows where the animal crackers live, anytime the pantry door is open, he’ll walk over to them, put his hand on top of the jar, and look up at us with these eyes that say “people, there are HUNDREDS of animal crackers in here. Why aren’t we eating them right now!?”

Other addictions seem like a good, healthy thing, but quickly backfire. For instance, with the turning of seasons to spring, we’ve begun taking Jackson outside to play. After being cooped up inside our house all winter, the big outside world seems like a place of infinite fun and possibility! Birds flying overhead, wind blowing through the trees, cars driving around – it’s all understandably pretty cool for a kid. But if we had our way, outside time would be reserved to days when the sun is out and it’s warmer than 45 degrees… and ideally only for an hour or so at a time. Unfortunately, after introducing him to the great outdoors, anytime Jackson sees the outside, or a door leading to the outside, he wants to go outside. Pointing at the door, Baby Segway-ing his way to the door knob, grunting instructions to us like “people, why are we hanging out in the living room? There are SQUIRRELS out there to watch!” Once outside, he wants to stay outside, regardless of temperature or dinner time. Strangely, he’s still deathly afraid of grass, so if he’s not being carried around the yard, he pretty much just walks out on the sidewalks and street pointing at random things and touching whatever looks the most dirty (thus far, he’s a big fan of the inside of hubcaps on cars). Parenting 101 Tip – if your child is afraid of the grass, just let him play in the street!

At this point, I’ve learned to accept the risk associated with doing anything new with my son, and have attempted to use it for my benefit. In preparation for March Madness, I’ve been applying this theory to college basketball, having Jackson watch it with me whenever possible in hopes that he’ll “force” me to sit and watch it nonstop for the next three weeks. We’ll see how this pans out.

Short and sweet this month! But hey, at least it’s better than all other baby reading materials that just stop at one year. Consider this all bonus blog!