There’s no fear or all fear, and there’s not much in between.
This lack of gray area with my kid never ceases to amaze me. It presents itself often throughout the randomness that is life with a toddler, but nowhere is it more evident than on the beach.
My wife and I love days on the beach, although they are few and far between with the randomly changing weather, and some of my favorite moments are when Beckett and I head off on our own to explore. It’s basically just a walk, full of some playtime, resulting in exhaustion for both of us.
It starts out with us walking together, as I desperately try to keep his attention, and soon dwindles, of course, into me chasing him around for an hour or so, playing our own version of tag. It’s fun, although I am pretty sure he has no clue what’s he doing, except just running around in a haphazard fashion. That seems to make him happy.
Whenever we head toward the ocean for the first time, it’s been funny to see some similar reactions play out. He will run up close to it, stop in mid step and then turn away and run back just as fast. It scares him at first, but as he becomes more acclimated his courage soars to unreasonable levels. Within minutes, he goes from petrified of the crashing waves to wanting to sprint in with reckless abandon.
Recently, I found myself on Assateague actually wondering, for a split second, what would happen if I just let him run straight into the ocean. My fear of the consequences of that approach easily won over and I repeatedly manhandled him to keep him from sprinting headstrong into a crashing wave.
With Beckett, at least at this point, there’s no easing into anything. He goes full bore into something or not at all, and I think protecting him from the dangers he presents to himself is my wife and I’s primary responsibility when it comes to a child his age.
This all-or-nothing mentality is the same with so many other things in his life. He’s hesitant to start but anxious once he figures out what it’s all about.
For some time, he did not want to climb a step, but once he figured out how to do it, now it’s all-out excitement to go upstairs. Where the no-fear aspect comes into play here is coming down the stairs. Despite our best efforts to teach him to go down on his stomach, or ‘tummy’ in kid terminology, he’s just not getting it. He still just blindly steps down the stairs. If someone were not there, it would be an ugly scene.
The same goes for the road. He very much enjoys stepping off and back on the curb, but he has no understanding of the vehicles and the dangers associated with them. We are having some success with the word “stop”, but there are still moments when he’s oblivious and in a kid daze. There’s no fear of crashing headfirst into the pavement and no understanding at all that the vehicles, or the “vrooms, vrooms” in his world, can cause harm.
He also has no fear when it comes to a new trick he likes to show off. The best way to describe it is as a “running man” impersonation. He likes to run in place and bring his knees up high to his chest. It’s actually an impressive feat of dexterity for a chubby (not fat!) little guy. He does it just about everywhere – the beach, the living room, his crib, a restaurant, etc. It’s hilarious and surely a moment for the video camera.
However, it becomes a bit of an issue when he wants to bust out the “running man” in the bathtub. This is tricky because he gets laughs and applause when he does it everywhere else but the tub. So my job is to consistently remind him – every night – he can’t do it in the tub or he will hurt himself. When I try and drive home this point, I usually get a fake crying fit, a raspberry or simply that all too familiar tomato face.
With all this being said, I noticed a sign of some progress on this fear front the other day at the park. He was in a swing and was rocking back and forth like he does in his car seat and high chair. It seemed to me that he spooked himself because he immediately wanted out and was a little clingy, an adjective I would rarely use to describe my son.
Before I could make too much over this new development, he proved me wrong at home by trying to climb headfirst into the dishwasher to grab a sippie cup.
All parents need some support every now and again, and my wife and I are blessed on that front.
We have a ton of help available if we need it or want it. Beckett is fortunate that all his grandparents are local, and they can always be counted on if we get in a pinch. We are extremely grateful for that.
We also have some wonderful neighbors, one of whom (Gussie) spends two days a week with Beckett while my wife and I work.
Over the last few months, I think my son has developed a crush on his part-time nanny. A strong bond has definitely been formed, and it’s wonderful for his parents to know he’s happy, safe and actually learning things when we are not around. One day, months ago, I came home from work to discover Gussie had taught Beckett to stack blocks. Another day he was blowing kisses and the next day he was reading flash cards.
A unique aspect of having a nanny that my son adores so much is he sometimes calls his parents by the name he refers to her (“GaGa”), particularly after he’s been with her all day. There’s nothing quite like after she leaves for the day and he has a little crying fit at the door. I swept him up the other day to comfort him and he looked right at me and cried out for “GaGa”.
Fortunately, he suffers from short-term memory loss and, after some father-son rough housing, returned to the business of being a 17 month old in short order.