My son Bryce will be turning three in a few months. As a first-time mom, it has been fascinating for me to watch him grow and change as he learns new skills each day. I have also been keenly aware of his age, celebrating each time he becomes one month older. For fun, I decided to calculate the number of days that Bryce has been on the planet and discovered that it has been more than 1,000 days since I first became a mother. This realization caused me to reflect on everything that my husband and I have experienced over the past two years and nine months. Becoming parents has required us to reach out to the community for support, restructure our home to suit the needs of a toddler, and overcome unexpected obstacles. Our lives have changed so much!
When my husband and I were first married, we were quite happy to lead relatively introverted lives. We focused on our careers and hobbies but did not socialize very much. After having a child, we found that we depended on other people a lot more. We needed help with babysitting and appreciated opportunities for Bryce to interact with other children, such as play dates at the park or story time at the local library. I’ve found that video chatting with friends or family members helps me get through the long days of caring for a toddler. We regularly walk down to the river to practice throwing rocks and like to visit the public pool. Sometimes we make trips to the grocery store just to get out of the house! Needless to say, the connection we have with our community has expanded.
Our physical home has changed as well. The living room has been transformed into a playroom. We got rid of the old armchair in the corner and replaced it with a large trampoline. The center of the room features a colorful plastic slide that we brought in from the backyard for Bryce to use during the winter months. It turns out that our hallway makes a great race track. Throughout the day we frequently hear fast-moving feet pounding on the floor as our son runs laps from one end of the house to the other. Crates full of books, puzzles, miniature construction equipment, and tiny race cars are strategically located around the house. We also make sure to keep an ample supply of toy trucks and plastic animals on the ledges of the bathtub at all times.
The biggest challenge that we have dealt with as parents so far has been getting Bryce to sleep at a reasonable hour at night. Once he started walking, he would nap for a few hours in the afternoon but would not fall asleep at night until 10 pm or later. I tried limiting his naps to an hour and a half, but that did not seem to make a difference. By the end of the day, my husband and I would be too exhausted to chase our toddler around anymore. Our only recourse was to buckle him into his car seat and drive until he fell asleep. Sometimes it took ten minutes; most nights it took forty. This was our family’s nightly routine for well over a year. Eventually, a friend of mine suggested that Bryce might be ready to push through his afternoon nap even though he was only two years old. We gave it a try, and it worked. We stopped putting him down for naps. If he falls asleep on his own, we wake him up after twenty minutes. Our son is finally going to bed by 8:30 pm each night. And we don’t have to drive him around anymore!
The past three years have been a lot of work. I have changed thousands of diapers, endured countless hours of crying, and given up a lot of my freedom. I have built lego towers, assembled miles of wooden train tracks, and pretended to search for my son under a blue blanket that he calls his “hiding machine.” The last time we ate dinner at a restaurant, Bryce insisted on bringing along a giant toy bulldozer. But despite the inconveniences and the tremendous amount of effort, I delight in knowing that I have a healthy, happy son. He is joyful, affectionate, curious, and kind. I can’t imagine my life without him. Now that I’ve made it through my first thousand days as a mom, I understand why they say that there are no days off for parents. All you can do is try your best each and every day.