The most shocking part of parenting so far is looking up and realizing I’m the parent of a kid. Some time in the last month or so my daughter has gone from babyhood to childhood. She’s a toddler – a small child – with a full-blown personality and mind and manners and opinions and conscious desires of her own (often realized in contradiction of my own). She’s no longer a baby-baby. Yes, of course she still cries when she’s frustrated (she had a few minor melt-downs this morning), but she’s becoming conscious of herself. She acts, and then reacts: she pops the top off a jar and then laughs and holds out the top to us, showing us what she’s accomplished; she pulls the garlic chives and arugula out of the grocery bag I have unwisely left next to her in the backseat and then pushes a fistful of greens towards me when I open the door; she struggles to open the zippers on my purse and then shakes it and yelps her frustration. When she does THINGS NOT ALLOWED (like throwing her spoon on the ground) she favors us with a rapturous grin and nods her head up and down like a bobble-head doll, delight and mischief sparkling in her eyes. We find it hard not to laugh, which is of course what she intends.
Suddenly, she’s a person (not a baby); a person not just with emotions and desires, but conscious of those emotions and desires, and aware of her own knowledge. This seems to be developing along with her mobility – the more able she is to move at will, the more conscious she becomes of the possibilities around her, and the possibility of doing something different than her parents are offering at the moment. Oftentimes this consciousness of desire seems to arise when her will is in opposition to mine, in realizing that there are other possible actions, in watching my reaction. Sometimes she’s exhausted by bedtime (we’re also struggling through the transition from two naps to one), and she slings her pajamas over her shoulders and crawls onto her toilet (backwards). Other times, as soon as we strip her down and unfold a diaper for night she hustles into her fort and sprawls, naked, against her stuffed animals, then flashes us a wide gummy grin. And somehow, suddenly, I’m no longer mother to a baby.