Does Your Toddler Freak Out When Their Hands Are Dirty?
What is normal behavior versus what is a result of the pandemic?
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Lately, I’ve noticed a peculiar behavior coming from my almost-two-year-old son.
Sometimes, he will look at his hands in the middle of eating and start freaking out because they are dirty or messy or full of crumbs. He’s still primarily eating with his hands instead of utensils, so having something on his hands isn’t anything new. What’s new is how his face contorts, and he starts screaming. He will point to his hands, clearly distressed, until I ask him if he wants mama to clean his hands. He says “yes,” and I oblige.
This is normal behavior… right?
I honestly don’t know. And that not knowing is precisely what is bothering me here. As someone who had their first and only child during the pandemic, I feel as if I can never honestly tell if a particular behavior or developmental milestone is off because we’re living in a pandemic or because that’s my baby.
Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to has said that the biggest frustrations of having a baby in the past couple of years are our inability to connect with other parents. Do you feel that way too?
I can count on one hand how many fellow pandemic mamas I have met in real life, and that number is… two.
Because we missed out on postpartum support meetings, childbirth/baby prep classes, and breastfeeding groups, the only people I know who are parents are the friends I had pre-pandemic who were already parents. Or the friends who had a baby since the pandemic began. But I have no new friends, and I know that I am not alone.
“I don’t even know how to be around new people anymore,” said one of the two moms I’ve met in the last 24 months.
Not having these relationships with fellow parents of babies going through the same age and life stage as your baby is at least part of why I am sitting here wondering if my kiddo has some pandemic-induced compulsive cleaning issue. Sure, he doesn’t do it all of the time, but the times he does, he seems legitimately distressed. So I am asking: What is normal behavior, and what is the result of the pandemic?
And even more, how do we know the difference?
Years from now, I imagine that there will be studies upon studies released about the impacts of the pandemic on babies, on toddlers, on children, on teens, and everyone else. But for now, we are left not knowing.
Even worse, if we didn’t already have a community of fellow parents to turn to, there is no easy way for us to find out. I can’t just turn to my neighbor who goes to the same toddler group or text my bestie that I met in breastfeeding class and ask, “does your 2-year-old freak out when his hands are dirty too?” because I do not have those people in my life. And I never will.
I’m not saying all of this as a pity party for myself. Instead, I want us all to acknowledge that this shit is hard. Unfortunately, not having a community makes even the little things more complicated for pandemic parents.
So if you’ve ever been there, asking yourself some ridiculous question about whether something is typical baby behavior or the result of the pandemic, know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there.