For me it first happened during a nursing session when my son was eight months old. Nursing had always been a lovely, quiet, cuddly time between us, and I hadn’t really decided yet just when I was going to wean him. But one day, instead of staying peacefully in my arms, he kept twisting his head around to see what was going on behind us. What? He thought there was something more interesting than staring at my chest? What was happening here?
What was happening was that my baby boy was growing up. It started happening more and more. He didn’t like being in his carrier facing in toward me anymore. He wanted to face out, and see the same world view I was seeing. He got fussy in rear-facing car seats. I could see that soon my infant son was going to turn into a—gulp—toddler!
Toddlerhood Comes Early. The baby development books will tell you that the toddler years begin at age one and last through age three. But just as parents of preteen girls will tell you that their daughters begin acting like teens for years before they actually turn 13, parents of babies are going to see signs that their infants are turning into toddlers before they reach their first birthday.
And They’re Off. The word “toddler” comes from the verb "toddle"—the halting, lurching gait that babies first use when they’re learning to walk. And once they start moving, whether it’s crawling or walking, they will often move toward you. . . but soon start toddling away, too. While some little ones have separation anxiety, mine seemed to want to hurl himself into the world. As soon as he started to walk he was headed out, usually with me in fast pursuit. He was no helpless baby any more. Now he was mobile and could communicate his needs.
Very Hands-On. Soon-to-be toddlers express themselves more with their hands, too. Besides waving bye-bye and pointing at things, babies start picking things up and manipulating them with increasing dexterity, starting to explore and open up things that sometimes you’d rather weren’t opened. My son became a little scientist, experimenting to see what would happen if he threw food on the floor, knocked something over, pulled the cat’s tail, tried to pile one thing on top of another.
Don’t be too sad that your sweet baby is growing into toddlerhood. The good news is that the toddler years are just as delightful in their own way as the first year of life is. Even more enthralling is watching a toddler explore his environment. From now on you and your baby won’t be in your own little private world as much... but you’ll have an incredibly wonderful time exploring the whole wide world together.
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.