A mother recently told me how easy-going and quiet her baby had been all during his first year. He slept well, cooed gently, and loved to be cuddled. She knew she was lucky to have such a calm baby as she worked full-time, her husband had started a new job, and her mother was on the scene during her work hours. They were also reconstructing an old house that they bought on a shoe string, so her father was playing contractor and architect. Actually, the baby was the only one who was calm!
Then lightening struck. Her baby turned one and started walking. Suddenly one day she heard a blood curdling scream come out of her placid baby. He wanted OUT of the playpen right then. This was the first time she ever raised HER voice and grimaced at her now perplexed toddler. The transformation from babyhood to toddlerhood came like a shot.
“Should I take him out of the play pen?” she asked. Of course, the answer was a definite yes. Then she asked, “Isn’t he still a baby?” Well, that’s a matter of opinion or semantics because this baby and this mother had just experienced a major milestone. He started going from room to room in her small apartment that she finally was glad was small. He wanted to get into cabinets and put his little fingers on any surface he could reach. She thought she wasn’t going to be a mother who baby proofed her home, but now this resolve was rapidly becoming an open question: “If I say, no, shouldn’t he just learn not to touch my nice things?”
For most mothers, a baby slowly transforms into a toddler. He isn’t restricted to a play pen most of the time because he isn’t so placid that he’ll accept that. He cruises along the sides of furniture and makes noises, even some words. But this mother’s particular spectacular experience highlights the bold changes a toddler undertakes.
A toddler’s new ability to move readily and quickly in toddle mode makes him very curious about his surroundings. He is interested in feeling the physical and emotional separation from his mother. Things he barely noticed are now in full view for the taking (or smashing!) Feeling independent and making decisions is a new occupation.
Mothers like this one are astounded and eventually delighted by the changes in their life as their baby shows his capacity for discovery, new sensory stimulation, evolving coordination, and language.