I took my daughter to a party this weekend where she was the only baby/toddler (she’s on the cusp, at 18 months.) There’s an art and a skill to making sure that you both manage to have fun.
Here are some pointers:1. If your partner is there, take turns. That way, one of you is on duty to make sure the kid’s okay, and the other gets to be engrossed in the proceedings.
Initially, my husband and I were trying to engage in conversations with the same people at the same time, while both feeling like we were supposed to monitor our daughter. It meant that neither of us was fully present in the conversation, nor were we fully present with our daughter. Sort of the worst of both worlds.
2. If you’re there alone, be observant as to who seems to like hanging with your kid. That way, you can steal breaks without feeling like you’re intruding on others’ good times. But stay within earshot (or eyeshot, if that’s a word.)
3. If there’s food there, figure out what your toddler can try. Put a little plate together and let him/her go at it. Toddlers love having choices, and control.
I noticed that alternatively, my daughter was eyeing, groping, and/or whining in the direction of my food, which got old quick.
3. This one follows the last: Toddlers want some degree of control. So if your toddler is engaged in something that’s relatively safe, don’t suddenly pull him/her away. Respect that engagement, and let him or her wear it out.
Or be prepared to suffer the consequences (anything from whining in protest to yowling tantrums.)
4. Babies and toddlers have different degrees of extroversion, like adults. If yours is more shy, be patient; give him/her time to warm up; don’t force interaction with the other adults just because they seem eager for it, or because you worry their feelings will be hurt.
If your toddler is more outgoing and inclined to crawl or match right up to adults, you’ll have a different challenge. You’ll have to figure out which adults like that and which don’t. In the latter case, you’ll want to redirect your child. Don’t assume everyone has to like playing with the little ones.
5. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself (or on your child) to be perfect. Generally, people are tolerant of some whining and crying from kids. (Though a full-on tantrum–not so much. Be ready to take a walk around the block, or head for the car until it blows over.)
The most important ingredient, as in many things, is managing your expectations.
Child at a party image available from Shutterstock.