Seven-month update: Shepherding season

The best things in life come in small packages: Sophia meets Santa for the first time! Santa happened to be a fellow Darden alum from 2012.

As Sophia pushes the limits of exploration with learning how to stand and reach as well as crawling with more rapidity, we have ironically started to stay closer to home. We’ve decided to stay in town for the holidays as Michal doesn’t have time off for Christmas or New Year’s.

Tis the Season: Browsing at the annual Christmas decorations market at Express Bus Terminal with our friend Jin whose husband is a Darden alum.

For the first time since Sophia’s arrival seven months ago, we have no visitors who can accompany us on “tourist in our town” adventures and no travel plans. With winter, daylight grows shorter and temperatures are beginning to drop. In her recent developmental stage, morning and afternoon nap times are (stubbornly) established and, with that, sleep preferences relating to lighting, sound and crib are becoming habit.

How do we manage the big leap from peaceful, easy-going infant to active, opinionated toddler?

The past month has been harder for us in different ways than the first three months were with Sophia.

Pluses of the toddler stage:

  • More independence means I can give her a cracker (a dissolve-able one she can gum), a piece of apple (in a mesh holder), or even her bottle and she can feed herself
  • More curiosity means she focuses on details and learns how objects work, entertaining herself with anything from banging pots to climbing into a box
  • More interaction means she plays with other babies as well as listens to bedtime stories, holding hands with others and trying to flip pages in a book. By the way, Sophia now only sleeps well (both with naps during daytime and her longer sleep during nighttime) if she uses up all her energy by playing a lot and has multiple opportunities to practice whatever skill she has recently mastered. I try to schedule some sort of activity or play date for her every day along with an afternoon walk, so it helps to have friends who have babies of the same close age range.
Baby BFFs: Sophia greets a friend at a special baby exercise class. We met the parents in a childbirth class, and I have been in other groups with mom and baby (prenatal yoga, mommy and baby yoga, mommy and baby Bible study, community center play group).

Minuses of the toddler stage:

  • We can’t seem to keep up with baby-proofing as we started by padding corners and locking drawers, discovering how danger lurks literally around every corner with sharp edges and hard flooring. Therefore, we stopped putting padding on everything and have given her a helmet. (See below.)
  • We’ve stopped hyper-sanitizing and vigilantly re-washing items when in our house as everything (toys, pacifiers, spoons) seem to land on the floor, and she wants to put everything in her mouth. At least all our trash cans are locked away in a separate room. #newparenthack
  • When we’re low energy, such as when Michal and I both had colds earlier this month or when we just wanted to be lazy on a Sunday afternoon, we had no choice but to trade off who would chase around Sophia as she was on-the-go.

The status of our current household so closely mimics that of a recent devotional I read on the website She Reads Truth, which my mommy and baby Bible study group is currently reading and discussing. The devotional is part of a series relating to Advent Season and last week focused on the job of a priest, building up to Christ as our “perfect priest.”

Gift exchange: Exchanging gifts with her pal from our Mommy and Baby Bible Study.

“A priest cares for the spiritual lives of the people.

The job of a priest in the Old Testament was to read the spiritual posture of God’s people and attend to their fears and sorrows. Priests called the people to see themselves as they really were—needy but loved, frail but protected, prone to wander but kept.”

The blogger’s metaphor really hit home as she compared a mother watching her very active twin toddlers to that of a shepherd keeping his flock:

“The truth was I’d underestimated how difficult it would be to simply keep my boys near me—to keep them in the fold, so to speak […] I felt like a lifeguard, always on duty, always scanning the room or yard or park for those two little blonde heads […] God’s priests in the Old Testament knew well the work of keeping their sheep within the fold. Shepherding was part of their job—not sheep, of course, but hearts. “

In my recent exhaustion, frustration and anxiety of guiding and watching Sophia, I see what it is like for God to watch us, His children. Just like Sophia and the blogger’s twins, I see myself having often wandered off, distracted by what the world puts in my way as obstacles in my path. Sometimes this can be the case of a time-waster like the black hole of Facebook, or it could be impatience with my husband at the end of a frazzled day, or jealousy of peers with the ability to take advantage of a night out on the town on a whim.

Sophia stands! She learned how to stand after grabbing for a book on the couch.

As a mother, just like God our Father, I tend to let Sophia explore on her own and let her learn how to struggle a bit. (She started regularly pushing herself up to standing position on her own last week!) Similarly, the trials of life and tests of faith, whether small or big, make me a stronger person like our little Sophia has become.

This particular devotional blog post within the Bible study group I’ve recently joined, along with the preparation for and anticipation of Christmas with Advent Season, have been the reminders I’ve needed from God to “come back to the fold.” In this quiet self-reflection time paired with the scattered activity inherent of life as a new mom, I see how both Sophia and I are”needy but loved, frail but protected, prone to wander but kept.”

Wishing a happy Advent Season to all!