“Self!” is Bea’s new favorite word. She uses it for everything, even when she can’t do it herself. She insists on clipping herself! into the car seat; She doesn’t need a stroller – she can walk all by herself! She only occasionally needs help cutting her food, and she now washes herself! We try to indulge her independence as much as possible. Coupled with self! she knows when to ask for help. Usually a cry of “Help!” is followed by a statement of “Self!” Even though it’s exhausting, it’s been a fun stage to enter. It’s amazing to let our baby be an independent toddler.
Yesterday, we went on a hike. Bea started out strapped in the pack, but soon wanted to walk by herself! We had already passed the halfway point, so decided to let her out to explore. She loved climbing on the red rocks and tried very hard to stay on the trail, even when explorations took a detour. She would call out to other hikers to “Pass!” as we stepped off to the side. A new favorite activity is walking Daisy by herself! Daisy weighs about 50 pounds to Bea’s 20-something, so we usually try to hold the end of the leash as Bea “walks” Daisy. On this hike, she was having none of that, and insisted that she was old enough to walk Daisy alone. Fortunately, we were at a deserted part of the trail, so few distractions were nearby. Daisy walked next to Bea as she held tightly to the leash, proud of her responsibility.
It’s so much quicker and easier when we do things for Bea. The car seat would take a fraction of the time if she didn’t have to fasten the clips herself! Meals would be much less messy if she let me help her. But, as I watch her become her own little person, as she models our behaviors and vocabulary, I realize that this is the most amazing thing about this stage: The mess and chaos of an 18-month-old doing things herself!
At 18-months, everything is brand new. Bea is doing everything herself! for the first time. But, at 18-months, 18 years, 58, we’re all still learning things for the first time. One of my favorite things about college was learning so many new and amazing things – both academically and as an independent adult, living away from home. One of the reasons a friend and I started a book club after grad school was that we missed learning new things. We wanted to continue to challenge our thinking. When I look at my own activities, most of what keeps me energized involves learning new things, hearing new ideas, and discussing differing opinions. One of my birthday goals last week was to learn something new this year. I meant it as more of a skill and I haven’t yet discovered what that will be. Watching Bea discover her world has reminded me of how important that act of discovery is and how it shapes who we are.
What is something new that you have learned recently? How do you keep energized in your daily routines?