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“I’m a Punk!”: Toddler Time

Tonight, my no-longer-a-baby baby, clad only in a diaper, climbed on top of me and bellowed “I’m a punk!” the way a wolf would howl gleefully at a moon.

He’s 20 months old. In baby terms, he’s a teenager—funny, wise, inquisitive, who he wants to be bumping up his maturity and ability. He cries when he doesn’t get his way. He hears “no” a lot. He’ll climb something that’s just a little too high, a little too wobbly, and then look at me expectantly, like, “Eh?? Check me out.” When he wants me to come with him, he takes me by the hand, saying, “Us?” as he leads the way. He speaks in full sentences, asks questions—”Who dat?”—sings songs, makes car sounds when he drives his little toy vehicles over my body when we play together. He nurses in the morning and before bed, has favourite stories (right now it’s Thunder Boy by Sherman Alexie, which is beautiful), sleeps with a sippy cup, wants a “cozy banket” when he goes into his crib, and will eat his body weight in cheese every fourth day.

I never thought that having a toddler would be more fun than having a baby. Babies are sweet, inscrutable, and infinite. Toddlers get a bad reputation: the tantrums, the screaming, the whining, the utter unpredictability of mood and ability. “Stop acting like such a toddler” we say when we mean: God, get your shit together. But toddlers have an outline, a shape, a personality, a self. In the fog of baby time, especially as a first-time mother, I had no idea what was coming down the pipeline. I guess I just thought it would be baby-time for, like, five years, and then he would start school. I didn’t know about letting a 16 month old loose in a splash pad. I didn’t know about 18 month old kids and the sweet sadness of separation anxiety. I didn’t know that he would make me laugh so hard, would make me be so present.

I’m exhausted at the end of every day. I look forward to my every bathroom break because I can scroll through Facebook and Instagram for a few minutes. I use Sesame Street as a baby tranq—Elmo is a hypnotist, as far as I can tell—and he gets 45 minutes in the morning so I can respond to work emails. He objects to every diaper change, would roam naked if he could, and feels no remorse about pooping on the beanbag chair. He is a punk, that little punk.

We’re lucky: he’s far, far ahead of the curve when it comes to verbal skills. He’s stringing together four-word sentences and using words I have only a hazy memory of saying in his presence. Having that conversational ability is such a game-changer, and I’m grateful for his smarts and our sheer luck. But it’s not just the talking. He shines in a way I never expected him to shine. It’s so fun being with this person—even saying “no” nine thousand times a day, or being a human motorcycle, or trying to decipher which of the cups he absolutely must have (not that he’ll drink more than a sip anyway)—because it’s being in the presence of someone who is creating himself out of thin air. It’s such a special, liminal time.

I love the parts of him that are still baby: when he cries for me, when he runs his fingers through his hair when he nurses, when he leans on me during story time. The quiet moments, when we connect. And the parts that are becoming true kid erupt out: the Elmo superfan, the little guy who picks up a ball and throws it to another kid, crowing, “Ball! Sharing!” as he does. The moments back and forth: when he’s crying, and takes a deep breath before slowing his wail and relaxing in my arms. He’s such a lovely, lovely little punk.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Kochany
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More about Kaitlyn Kochany

Kaitlyn Kochany is a Toronto-area freelance writer and editor. She had her son, NS, in January 2016, and has been trying to sleep and write since then.

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