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My baby is no longer a baby

When my son finally stopped using his pacifier I knew I was saying goodbye to his last bits of babyhood.

Mary Meyer

The signs are all there that my baby is no longer a baby.

He is starting to look big in his crib. The once tiny little pea that looked so cozy wrapped in his burrito-like swaddle is now this hulking toddler, with his foot sticking out of his sleep sack. I don't know how my 2-year-old always manages to do it, but he gets the zipper up just a little bit to make room for one tiny foot to slip out. He fills the space in his crib almost from top to bottom, and every time I look down on him as he sleeps, I realize that we're going to have to transition him to a toddler bed—whether I'm ready or not.

He has food preferences and is loudly telling me what they are. Gone are the days where my sweet little baby would eat whatever I gave him. He's now replaced with a toddler who does not like peas thankyouverymuch and prefers blackberries over blueberries. As much as it makes me laugh and delight that he can now communicate with me so clearly, there is something I miss about the ease of our old meals. And please let's not even talk about what happens when I choose the wrong colored cup to go with his meal.

He keeps outgrowing all his clothes. I just put away the last of the clothes I received at my baby shower. Everyone had given me clothes all the way up to 24 months and I thought for sure it would take us forever to get there, but now here we are, diving into the "T" sizes and I can't even believe it. Where did my newborn go?

But the one thing I held onto was that my son still loved his pacifier.

We had been gifted all kinds when he was first born, but the one he latched onto (sorry, pun), the one he loved absolutely the most over all the others was his beloved Wubbanub. The tiny gray elephant attached to the end of the blue-green pacifier had been his companion since he was a month old.

Once we realized that this was the only paci he would ever want to use, we stocked up on about a half a dozen of them (we were worried the elephant would sell out—we tried the lion once and he absolutely wasn't having it). So even though the one he carries around with him now is not the same one he had when he was a newborn (that one ended up getting lost in LAX when we were running to catch our flight), it's still this constant symbol of babyhood.

It reminds me of that first day home with my newborn. How he looked so fragile and small and how the pacifier looked huge in his mouth. I remember thinking, "I'm a mama now. You are mine and I am yours. Sorry, kid, you're stuck with me."

It reminds me of when we used to take long ambling walks together around the park in a desperate attempt to get him to nap. He was tucked into his stroller with his paci and I would push hoping that he was getting drowsy. Every time I thought he was actually asleep, I'd see him pull his paci out of his mouth to wave and smile at the people walking by.

It reminds me of when I left him with my sister-in-law for the first time so I could go back to work from maternity leave. I stuck the Wubbanub in his mouth, showed her where the (two!) backups were in his diaper bag in case she needed them, and then sobbed as I held him goodbye before I made my way to the office.

It reminds me of the day he took his first steps. My son needed motivation to walk all the way across the room to me, so I held up his little elephant with the paci attached. I wiggled it back and forth and asked him if he wanted it, and he was so concerned with getting it that he had no idea he was propelling slowly towards me using his own two legs.

And so, I think I wanted him to hold onto his pacifier more than he wanted to. Because it is that last vestige of babyhood. It is memories and milestones and this symbol of littleness and growth that is sitting right there. I can see how much he has grown just in relation to how big or small the pacifier looks in his mouth. I can see the moments we'd had together in the scruffiness of the Elephant and how he looks so worn and so loved.

So imagine how it felt when I was putting my son to bed and I gave him his beloved elephant, and he stood up and threw it out of his crib.

"Oh no! Poor elephant," I said. And walked over to retrieve it.

"Want nope," my son said.

I tried to give it back to him.

"WANT NOPE," he said again louder.

And then he rolled over and started doing the butt wiggle he does that signals that it's time for sleep.

That's when I knew the rejection—and the full transition to toddlerhood— was complete.

I took his little elephant with me to my room that night. It sat on my nightstand as I fell asleep. He had let go of it so easily, but I wasn't ready to. Not yet.

Note: WubbaNub pacifiers can be used under observed napping and awake sucking. We're advocates for safe sleep as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For extended overnight sleep, use a pacifier without the plush.

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These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Do you need a family emergency kit? (Hint: Yes, you totally do)

It only takes a few minutes to be better prepared for emergencies.

Right now is understandably a time for concern, but the same message applies: Prepare, don't panic. We parents have a responsibility to care and provide for our children, ensuring their well-being before and after any disruptive event, whether it's a natural disaster or an outbreak that forces temporary shutdowns and closures in our community. When it comes to emergency preparation, I always tell parents one thing: You want to have a plan just in case the worst really does happen.

As a mom of three young kids with a firefighter husband, I'm constantly anticipating potential problems—and thinking ahead about how to cope. Thinking ahead and planning has saved me many nights of pacing the floor, and has made me feel more confident as a parent.

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