A few years ago when Riley was still a very small baby we visited some friends who had an older child, maybe a year or eighteen months old, and I remember looking at what appeared to be a giant infant hefted in the mother’s arms and thinking, I hope Riley doesn’t look like THAT when he gets bigger. Like some kind of weird MONSTER BABY, all enormous and able to walk but still, like, slobbering and not talking and stuff. UNNATURAL.

Of course that’s exactly what happened to him and I didn’t think he looked weird at all, he was adorable. Aw, who’s a little man? WHO IS? YOU are! Etc.

Now Dylan’s in the Monster Baby stage and I happen to think he’s pretty cute too, but I’m leaning back toward my original stance that this age is completely unnatural. It’s just not right that a child can be so large and mobile but still practically a fetus. In my opinion, children should remain small mostly unmoving blobs until they reach a more stable state of cognitive development, because this business of being able to RUN AROUND with a brain primarily formed of suicidal Silly Putty is ridiculous.

For instance, I cannot keep Dylan from eating random pieces of filth off the floor. No matter how much I vacuum, he toddles around scanning the floor like the Terminator in order to locate the one solitary pine needle I missed and in the time it takes me to lunge at him yelling Nooooooooooooooo he gets it crammed in his mouth and begins the process of choking on it.

“Kaaaaack,” he says, his face awash in total dismay, “Kaaack! Kaaaaaack!” I sweep it off his tongue, we both take a breather, maybe weep a little bit—then he’s off to find . . . ANOTHER FUCKING PINE NEEDLE.

It’s also stupidly frustrating to me that I can’t talk with Dylan. I mean, it’s not like I think he should be capable of carrying out conversations at 14 months old, it’s just that it’s hard for me to switch gears all day long between one child who can explain he’s feeling sad because his blanket is in the laundry and another whose eardrum-shattering screams must be analyzed and a best guess hazarded. It’s not much different from dealing with a baby—”Are you hungry? Tired? Bored? WHAT OMG WHAT IS IT”—but, you know, it IS, if only because a toddler can make so much more noise when they’re pissed off. Plus, they can follow you around the house, howling like tiny wolves.

I feel like this is one of the hardest ages in terms of connecting with my own child. He’s unpredictable; he’s filled with fleeting, terrifying rages; he requires so much intervention it sometimes feels like all I do is make him upset as I pry him away from various unwanted activities. I often feel at a total loss for how to communicate with him, like I’m trying to talk to someone behind a thick wall of glass. Hello, hello? Am I getting through, here? No way to know. I get kisses one minute, wild kicks the next. He loves me, he loves me not.

Still, there is nothing like a young child experiencing everything for the first time. The sweet shock of smelling a richly-scented flower, the startled joy of seeing a bird at the feeder. To be with him right now is to have a chance to see the world through fresh eyes, and even Riley—hurtling through life at breakneck speed—often slows down to join his brother. We all stop for a moment to marvel at a soap bubble, point at a trundling beetle, smile at the descending bounces of a rubber ball on a wooden floor.

(Oh, and don’t forget the PINE NEEDLES. Those things are FASCINATING.)

The Monster Baby stage is difficult for sure, but for all the bad moments, the good ones are like sunshine. I will never stop being amazed at how parenthood swings on and on and on, highs and lows, a new view every day, everything balancing out in ways words can’t even explain.


46 Responses to “Monster babies”

  1. JudyU on April 8th, 2009 1:40 pm

    Just don’t let him get his fingers on a ladybug. They’re nasty. He will gag and hurl. Trust me on this.

  2. Eric's Mommy on April 8th, 2009 1:41 pm

    Speaking of putting weird things in their mouths. When my son was real little he put one of those holiday window decals in his mouth and started choking on it. It was a small snowflake, he was choking and I couldn’t see what he was choking on because it was clear and stuck to the roof of his mouth way in the back. Very scary.

  3. Katie on April 8th, 2009 1:41 pm

    Such truth to the Monster Baby stage! Love my 2 year old, yet he is still in that stage and still driving me insane, daily! I hate to see them grow up so fast, but I also love that he’s almost to the point of being totally responsive and vocal to his needs! Fun times!

  4. Jenna on April 8th, 2009 1:42 pm

    My daughter is a week younger than Dylan and I know EXACTLY. WHAT. YOU. MEAN. This stage is, by far, the most tiring, challenging and ridiculous. I either want my newborn back, or I want a full-blown toddler, none of this in-between crap. And I mean crap in the most loving way possible!

  5. Rebecca (Bearca) on April 8th, 2009 1:45 pm

    Parenting at this age is purely about keeping them from unwittingly killing themselves. Period.

    I have a daughter exactly Dylan’s age (only two days apart, I think!) and as much as I love and adore her, it is EXHAUSTING.

  6. warcrygirl on April 8th, 2009 1:55 pm

    I have two of the pickiest eaters on the planet. Sometimes I wish they would put weird stuff into their mouths if it had any nutritional value. A green bean? May as well be a pine needle.

  7. Hillary on April 8th, 2009 2:17 pm

    Yes! I have been struggling with this with The Boy, who’s just a couple weeks older than Dylan, and struggling to put the struggle into words, too.

  8. ritchiewoman on April 8th, 2009 2:22 pm

    I so agree with you – that in-between place where mobility clashes with lack of vocabulary is the worst. I talked to my friend’s mom about it and she was like, “It’s the loneliest time for a mom.” But then there are the wondrous moments that you point out that make that gap in communication bearable. Great post!

  9. Heather on April 8th, 2009 2:34 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes to everything you said (wrote).
    Only replace pine needles with jigsaw puzzle pieces. Where are they all coming from?!?

  10. Pete on April 8th, 2009 2:40 pm

    My son picked up a hard poop ball that fell out of his diaper (generic) and put it in his mouth. We quit boiling his nipples and pacifier after that.

  11. Heather on April 8th, 2009 2:43 pm

    Ha Ha Ha (gag) @ Pete.

  12. Meg on April 8th, 2009 2:46 pm

    I think this is one of my favorite entries of yours!

  13. Ophelie on April 8th, 2009 2:59 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever read such good accounts of parenthood — the bad and the good.
    For now, your posts are serving as excellent birth control.

  14. Kirsten on April 8th, 2009 3:53 pm

    I’ve been WONDERING what this age is called…Monster baby is a PERFECT description. I agree with everything you said – and damn, what IS it with putting every frickin thing in their mouths? When does THAT go away???

  15. Julie on April 8th, 2009 4:04 pm

    Oh my gosh, Linda. My daughter is 2 1/2 now, and we can finally *gasp* communicate. Before kids, all I ever heard about were the Terrible Twos, but no one ever told me how overjoyed I would be to reach them. Man, the Monster Baby stage was rough for me. You articulated it perfectly- thank you!

  16. Erin on April 8th, 2009 4:32 pm

    I know exactly what you mean. My son is 11 mo – but he’s MOBILE. He’s been walking for a month. Now he’s starting to pick up speed. This is so scary! And ditto on the running around the house zeroing in ONLY on dangerous things to jam down his throat. Meals apparently do not appeal to his adrenaline-junky personality and they are disdainfully tossed on the floor as he shrieks with rage (because I’m not feeding him a diet of lead-filled paint chips and nips from the sole of my shoe??). I’m amazed by his flashes of rage, the strength of his back-arch-flip. How annoyed I get as he grabs onto my pants legs and whiny-cries like it’s an Olympic sport. I envy my friends with the babies his age who sit. One has a baby who doesn’t even crawl! That’s the good life! But also, of course – the joy, yes. He’s so proud of himself when he can walk around waving a toy and he shrieks with laughter, giggling at almost everything I do. I never imagined a face could light up with so much pleasure over a pathetically off key rendition of the wheels on the bus.

  17. Erin on April 8th, 2009 5:06 pm

    ” I will never stop being amazed at how parenthood swings on and on and on, highs and lows, a new view every day, everything balancing out in ways words can’t even explain.”

    That’s, like, my favorite thing you’ve ever written.

  18. jonniker on April 8th, 2009 5:09 pm

    Ah, see, that’s perfect.

    Although I’m kind of secretly looking forward to Monster Baby stage. That’s crazy, right? I mean, my daughter is awesome, but she’s kind of … amoeba-like. An amoeba in a car seat.

  19. Jill on April 8th, 2009 5:23 pm

    Well said…as usual :).

  20. Stacy on April 8th, 2009 7:26 pm

    Awesome job on this one Linda, leave it to you to put actual words and thoughts on this stage of babyness (mine is 15 mos) that is largely defined by massive amounts of frustration physical capableness without the mental awareness of … OH! An edge, something sharp/chokeable/dangerous etc …

    I hate wishing away my kid’s life and stages but this isn’t one I’m enjoying too much. If he just had a few damn words, you know?

  21. js on April 8th, 2009 8:32 pm

    Pine needles are good. Well, compared to what my daughter put in her mouth when she was nearly 2. Ants, worms, a junebug (OMG!!! She CHEWED IT) and…goose poop. Parenting FAIL!

  22. She Likes Purple on April 8th, 2009 9:39 pm

    Man, I am IN for it. I still can’t believe my wee little newborn is already 10 pounds and is this close to holding his head up. Weren’t we just in the hospital? Who the hell pressed the fast forward button?

  23. Donna on April 9th, 2009 12:25 am

    LOL, you don’t get this kind of hilarity from a hamster….hang in, it’s only a few more years till they are teenagers, and you wish you’d let them choke on that pine needle.
    JK people, calm down.

  24. becky on April 9th, 2009 5:19 am

    Amen…Monster Baby and Toddler Deathstar are theperfect descriptions for this stage now. I wish the ocmmunication were easier because I know he will grow up fast enough…but jeeze enough of the tantrums because I won’t let you propel headfirst down the steps!

  25. karen on April 9th, 2009 6:18 am

    The ultimate eatting off the floor story..

    A good friend of mine noticed her son sitting quitely in the corner sucking on something – she presumed it was a pacifier. Afer a few minutes she went to check on him and discovered he had caught a mouse and was SUCKING ON THE MOUSE!!!!

    Pine needles …not so bad

  26. bessie.viola on April 9th, 2009 7:16 am

    The first comment made me laugh because ladybugs are Madeline’s pine needles. She seeks them out and… oh, it’s so gross.

    Linda, I love the way you write about this stage and I’m so grateful that I’m going through it with my girl simaltaneously. It’s awesome to hear that someone else giggles at the Screams of Woe Over Nothing.

  27. Frema on April 9th, 2009 8:39 am

    I’m actually loving the Monster Baby stage. In my case, the Monster Baby is my daughter Kara, age fifteen months, and her baby brother Nathan is nine weeks. (Yes, I’ve heard about birth control, thankyouverymuch.) I love that she’s off the bottle, can play independently for decent chunks of time throughout the day, can grunt, point, etc. to let me know what she needs, and overall she’s just a barrel of fun. Nathan’s activities, on the other hand, are limited to peeing, pooping, eating, and crying. He’s starting to smile and coo now, but still. Before I had kids, I thought the infant stage would be the end all be all for me, and now I realize how much more I enjoy them as toddlers.

  28. Frema on April 9th, 2009 8:54 am

    I just reread my comment and realized how negative I sound about babies, so to clarify, I love babies. Hooray babies!

  29. nonsoccermom on April 9th, 2009 9:03 am

    I know what you mean. My daughter is 15 months and I have to keep her in my line of sight at all times, lest she be trying to scale the kitchen cabinets or eat the cat food or give her baby doll a bath in the dog’s water dish. GAH.

  30. Amy on April 9th, 2009 9:40 am

    If you find a cure for the whole I’m-going-to-put-whatever-I-find-wherever-I-find-it-directly-into-my-mouth-24/7 stage, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let me know. MY 4YO STILL DOES THIS SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!! The other day he ate mud, TWICE! But it is still fun to watch his wonder and even his older bro’s (about to be 7!)

  31. Leah on April 9th, 2009 10:09 am

    For me it feels like the opposite. Wombat seems so conscious and communicative at four months old that I can’t wrap my head around how long it’s going to be before he actually speaks. He always seems on the verge of a grand declaration in full sentences and with correct grammar. Maybe it’s because his needs are so few and therefore easy for me to interpret? Or maybe I’m just spending waaaaay too much time with him and am putting words into his mouth like I do with the cats?

  32. Penny on April 9th, 2009 10:14 am

    It only just begins with the monster baby stage, next will come the little monster kid stage usually around 5 or 6 when they think that they are much older and start to correct you in the things you say and do. Then comes the monster pre-teen stage, oh that ones fun.. they think that they are entitled to everything they want to do and about this point they begin seeing you as unfair and stupid. The best of all is the monster teen stage when they are positive they know EVERYThing and well you just marvel at the complete stupidity of their choices and actions. You actually wonder who the hell raised them?? By the time they are adults you look completely forward to Grandchildren because that is your venue of revenge for all the years of monster stages, broken down communications, lack of listening skills, and finally they will know that they not only do not know everything but they have offspring who do!

  33. Karla on April 9th, 2009 11:52 am

    “I feel like this is one of the hardest ages in terms of connecting with my own child. He’s unpredictable; he’s filled with fleeting, terrifying rages; he requires so much intervention it sometimes feels like all I do is make him upset as I pry him away from various unwanted activities. I often feel at a total loss for how to communicate with him, like I’m trying to talk to someone behind a thick wall of glass. Hello, hello? Am I getting through, here?”

    …sounds like me dealing with my 16 year old.

  34. melissa on April 9th, 2009 3:34 pm

    and here i was thinking my preteens were monster babies. oh wait…maybe i was just thinking they were monsters.

  35. Sonia on April 9th, 2009 5:22 pm

    *shudder* You just forced me to re-live probably my most significant parenting FAIL. My boy was crawling around the living room, looking for detritus and dog hair to cram in his pie-hole. He got very quiet, so I abandoned the dishes in the sink to check on him. He was sitting on the wood entryway floor, looking rather…. *disturbed* Then I noticed HALF OF A CATERPILLAR, in his little pincher fingers. *gag* I don’t have to tell you where the other half was, do I? *hork* *gag* So to recap, he will gag his face off if he sees spaghetti on someone else’s plate, 6 tables away in a restaurant. But biting into a LIVE CATERPILLAR and spending several minutes deciding if it is in fact a delicacy? Just fine with him!

  36. Shangrila on April 9th, 2009 7:46 pm

    My youngest has just passed the Monster Baby stage, and it’s such a breath of fresh air-I feel like I just met him for the first time. “Hello! Really? You are such a darling little boy!” Your babes are so lucky to have a mother that can keep her sense of humor!

  37. Helen on April 10th, 2009 12:46 am

    I have 6 kids, 23, 21, 20, 8, 7 and 5. I have a grandbaby of 10 months and today, I am having the baby for 10 hours…is it ridiculous that I am terrified of having him for that long? What am I going to DO with him? What if he screams and I don’t know what to with him? This house is now a death trap for babies with the tiny toys parts and the sharp things and NO GATES…have to say though that they revert to idiot people in their teens and then it gets REALLY scary because they go out on their own with the barely functioning brains and the grunting instead of talking……I have learned to enjoy every second of toddlerhood because the teen years? Shudder.

  38. ERin on April 10th, 2009 5:18 am

    Here’s the thing though – can anyone explain to me why all the monster babies will put ANYTHING (animal, vegetable, mineral) in their mouths – seriously, I caught my son sucking on a *piece of raw garlic he had found of the floor* but they gag, spit, and VOMIT out the food mommy puts in front of them? DS acts like I’m poisoning him on a regular basis, but every rock, dead leaf, or bug is a delicacy. Can we someone make peas look like juenbugs? I guess maybe if we throw the food on the floor eventually he’ll come around to picking it up and eating it.

  39. April on April 10th, 2009 11:16 am

    My husband and I decided today that my 13 month old and his classmates look like a bunch of little zombies wandering around their classroom… all kind of staggering around with blank looks on their faces.

  40. veralynn on April 10th, 2009 11:58 am

    > feel like this is one of the hardest ages in terms of connecting with my own child. He’s unpredictable; he’s filled with fleeting, terrifying rages; he requires so much intervention it sometimes feels like all I do is make him upset as I pry him away from various unwanted activities. I often feel at a total loss for how to communicate with him, like I’m trying to talk to someone behind a thick wall of glass. Hello, hello? Am I getting through, here? No way to know. I get kisses one minute, wild kicks the next. He loves me, he loves me not.

    Ha! I just love how much of this paragraph resembles what I’ve heard from friends with teenagers about what they’re going through. :)

  41. MizzM on April 11th, 2009 7:28 pm

    Just think how BORED you will become when Riley and Dyland can not only tie their own shoes and buckle their own suitbelts, but also DO NOT require you to “help” with homework except for asking for a signature on a worksheet, here and there. (OMG–seriously AWESOME agegroup to have in the household!!!) I sit around all day long trying to think up ways to traumatize and humiliate them during their “Tweendom”…

    (I am also grateful, on a daily basis, that they can USE THEIR WORDS to explain themselves. Life is so much simpler–of course, I also realize this is probably the “Calm Before the Storm” that is Teenagerhood…

    Somehow I think I’m more prepared to wipe a poopy bottom or deal with a temper tantrum than I am prepared to deal with TEENAGERS!

  42. Ally on April 12th, 2009 7:31 pm

    I wonder if this is a boy thing, because I have a two year-old daughter and I haven’t experienced this with her. She is way too cautious to do daring things and therefore, thus far (THANK GOD) has not really engaged in behaviors that tend to hurt herself. But I am about to have a boy in a couple of months, and this is making me scared!!

  43. Jakki on April 13th, 2009 7:32 am

    LOL thanks for such wonderful memories and my first actual laugh of the day! the best part of it is seeing things through their eyes and seeing what you missed through your own…

  44. amber on April 13th, 2009 2:30 pm

    Suicidal silly putty…hehe. That is an AWESOME comparison. My niece’s brain must be made of the same stuff.

  45. Misty on April 13th, 2009 10:57 pm

    totally off subject, but… I went shopping at a maternity store over the weekend, and got a small gift bag. Inside was some coupons, and one was a booklet style from huggies. low and behold, there was a few pictures on the inside of pregnancy timeline. It looked familiar, and then I realized… it was Riley!! Well, and you too, of course. Just checking to make sure you know ’bout it?

  46. Chris on April 14th, 2009 1:36 pm

    Yes, Monster Babies have two directives: Eat or Destroy.

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