February 7, 2012

Teaching your toddler to walk on his own

I totally have to credit my mother for this motivation.  It never occurred to me that we should stop carrying our toddler. He is still our baby! He is only 18 months old! If you count your kid's age in months is is still a baby and therefore needs to be cuddled and carried, right?

In all honesty, we didn't previously have all that many opportunities to carry him any great distance. On weekdays, we would walk a few steps out through our garage and strap him in his car seat. Drive him to school, carry him inside across the busy parking lot. We'd pick him up after school and do the reverse on the way home. In the evenings we'd play in the yard or take the wagon around the neighborhood. On weekends, we would stroll or put him in the backpack carrier for the Farmers' Market or mall, or he would play under his own power at the park.

However, now (at least temporarily) we are living in an apartment. Which means that to go anywhere we have to walk down the hall to the elevator, go down the elevator, and then walk across the parking deck to our car. It's not all that long of a walk unless you are carrying a 30 lb toddler. And also wanting to carry anything else, like say, two lunchboxes, a schoolbag packed with cloth diapers, and a work bag packed with a portfolio, purse, and coffee.

My mother came out to California with us to help us get through the airport, and get settled in our new space. She stayed a week, before we started at our new jobs, but astutely pointed out that surely we wouldn't be carrying M from our apartment to the car, would we? Hubby and I looked at each other like we'd never even thought about it. She took the lead by asking him to walk and offering her hand. This did not go over well with M. He wanted to be held. He pulled out his best terrible-two's tantrum in the hallways and planted himself on the floor, or on the ground in the parking garage and refused to walk with us toward the elevators. Hubby and I were not sure we liked this idea. Clearly he was upset about it, and our first reaction was to pick him up to shut him up and just figure it out later. Though the more we realized what was to come next week (see the note above about all the things to carry) not to mention that we would be doing this one-on-one with him as we took turns taking and picking up from school. And sometimes we would have to be walking a dog, too.

I won't lie: it was painful. And we were mortified that our apartment neighbors were going to evict us, with the volume of the protests. But it really didn't last long. By the time my mom went home, he was walking like a champ. Even offering to carry things himself, like his own lunchbox, or mine. He liked being in charge of pushing the elevator buttons, sometimes pushing both up and down. He got excited to think that one parent was already home ahead of him. Or even if just the dog was already home, he was excited to see her, too.

I know it seems obvious and simple. It was never a decision I anticipated, but it does feel like a milestone. This walking thing has really been a huge help. We are still working on holding hands. In the safety of the hallways, I am comfortable keeping him in sight, but in the parking garage, I would really like to hold his hand. He also gets distracted a lot. This can be frustrating if we are in a hurry, or all all loaded down carrying groceries. But on most days we are not in a hurry, and I try to keep in mind that his interest is part of being a child. I should be so lucky to be fascinated by the views of city lights two stories up. Or by the texture of paint or stucco. We do try to curb the interest in other doors that are not our own. His walking can even be its own adventure. If we get tired of being inside, we just go walk the hallways or explore the different amenities around the complex. Its a great tool to get some energy out!

When did you realize that you weren't going to carry your toddler anymore? How did that go over?

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  1. I love this post! We have been letting A walk by himself to the mailbox (down the road a small bit). I have had some issues with hand-holding, though. It's okay when he is on the sidewalk, but he is getting faster and faster and sometimes it feels like he is a bit too far in front of me. What if a car comes?! I have also been letting him walk from the car (in the garage) to the door and vice versa and that has gone over very well. He is definitely showing an independent/stubborn streak lately--all part of growing up and finding himself!

    1. at the moment, I'm just wondering *when* F will walk! To think about this...it all happens too fast!