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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: November 15, 2018

Toddler Trials in a Big People's World

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,




**********

Last week I got to spend a few days with my 18-month old granddaughter. I had not seen her since July, and the changes in those four months were astonishing. Her vocabulary has doubled and she is much more coordinated and mobile. It's also easier to see some personality traits coming out, and I had the privilege of experiencing a few of the "terrible twos" moments that little people of this age have. One memorable one was in a grocery store where she refused to walk, be carried, or ride in the grocery cart for no reason I could discern.

Time with toddlers is fun for almost anyone, but especially for grandparents, who recover memories of that toddler's Mom or Dad at a similar age. Even the occasional toddler meltdown is a source of sweet recollections.

But it is a wonder that toddlers aren't in a constant state of meltdown, given the challenges they face.

I was helping my granddaughter negotiate a set of stairs. The spacing between steps is about equal to the height of her knees, so the equivalent obstacle for me would be stairs spaced 18 inches apart. I think most of it would find it hard to go up and down steps a foot and a half high. I used to think her toddler lack of coordination was the barrier to getting up and down steps but it's not that at all. She can't reach the handrails, and the tall spacing of the steps is extremely difficult to negotiate with her short legs.

When I hand her a cup or glass to drink from (unless it is one of her special baby sipper cups,) it's like watching adults with those gigantic, oversized soft drink cups sold at convenience stores. Most people have to hold them with two hands they are so large"awkward at best.

Climbing onto the couch or a chair is a real challenge for her. One of the "tourist traps" we pass on our driving trips between Wisconsin and Oklahoma has an oversized rocking chair on their lawn, custom made for amusing photo opportunities. Even an adult needs a "boost" to get on the chair seat for the absurd picture. But that boost is needed every time a toddler wants up on the normal-sized furniture.

I was thinking about this when we went out to one of the Wisconsin bar and grills for burgers not long ago. A member of our party ordered a half-pound burger, and from the looks of it, the cook was feeling generous, because I bet it was bigger than a half pound. After a struggle to pick up and eat this huge burger up the diner asked for a fork. That's the equivalent challenge for a toddler getting a normal sized hamburger.

Potty training is underway. (My daughter-in-law created a little chart with spaces for stickers for successful achievements. The chart has one lone sticker so far, causing me great amusement.) In recognition of the physical challenges of making a toddler secure enough when seated to focus on the task at hand, most toddlers get a "potty chair" of reasonable height. But when you are out and about with a toddler, they must make use of an adult-sized fixture. There is real danger of the little one "falling in," and you must hover nearby to help them up, hold them steady and help them down, all the while maneuvering in a usually cramped environment. And, of course, trying to minimize contact with the fixtures, an obvious source of pathogens.

On the other hand sometimes our "over-sized" fixtures are a source of fun for toddlers. Most of them love taking a bath, since a bathtub is like a small swimming pool for them. They frolic and splash, with plenty of room for dozens of toys in their aquatic environment besides.

And little ones love being helped up on an adult-sized bed to romp. It's like a trampoline for them, and all the adults need to do is prevent the tyke from bouncing themselves off the bed completely, resulting in a crash to the floor.

Luckily there are lots of toddler-sized implements to make this time easier " booster seats, baby-sized plates, cups and silverware; little people sized tables and chairs, and other "right-sized" equipment. The parents (or grandparents) pack this stuff around and look forward to the day the little person can navigate this adult-sized world on their own.

But my nostalgia has caused me to keep some of the little people equipment from my own and my children's toddlerhood, and somewhere in my parent's "chicken coop" lurks the little wood-and rope "trundle bed" my father slept in some 90+ years ago. These sweet toddler times go by all too quickly and I intend to enjoy my granddaughter's toddlerhood, and its challenges, fully. I am sure she will roll her eyes someday as I say "I remember you sitting on the floor in a grocery store refusing to move""."

I offer a belated but still heartfelt thank you and salute to all the veterans of our armed forces and their families. Your service and your sacrifices are something I can't possibly pay back, but please know you are all in my prayers of appreciation. A special salute to my WWII combat veteran and former prisoner of war father, David A. Thibodeau, now in heaven. I won't call him a hero, as he always rejected the title.



You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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