Things I Never Thought I Would Be Obsessed With As A Mom: Cups And Balls

I am a stay-at-home-wife and mother. I have two master’s degrees. For the past few months or so, I've been obsessed with cups and balls.
Publish date:
February 4, 2013
parenting, babies, balls, cups

I am a stay-at-home-wife and mother. I have two master’s degrees. For the past few months or so, I've been obsessed with cups and balls. Hear me out.

I was the first of my close friends to start a family and I never really spent much time around babies, so to figure out what I should be doing (or worrying about), I look at parenting books a lot.

My son's first birthday is coming up and we will have a big appointment at the pediatrician's office. I'm already pretty neurotic about baby's development and the first birthday check-up seems like kind of a big deal. The books give you lists of developmental milestones and age-ranges for "normal." The books give you the list of questions the doctor will ask to make sure baby is meeting milestones.

Like any good student (two master’s degrees! two!), I like to be prepared, so I've read up on what to look out for at all of his big doctor's appointments. And I like our pediatrician (not in an inappropriate way or anything), but he's a nice guy and I want to do well and not have to go back for an extra visit to make sure everything is OK.

Baby is doing just about everything on the list except for a few things, namely drinking independently from a cup and playing back and forth with a ball. (He also isn't putting objects in a small container -- another skill on the list -- but that one is really hard to "work on." Every time I try to get him to put stuff in the container he just takes stuff out of it. He won't let go! So it's back to the cups and balls.)

The cup thing is actually kind of important, although he has some time before I really need to worry. Experts say it's best to wean your kids from a bottle the earlier the better and to and avoid sippy cups because they promote tooth decay. They say to use a cup with a straw or a regular cup.

The straw is supposed to help build muscles in the lips and tongue that will help baby's speech, plus it shoots the liquid (sorry, ew!), further into baby's mouth than a spout from a sippy cup, thus avoiding that tooth-decay-causing pool of milk behind baby's teeth.

Baby will be 12 months old in February and I've been working on getting him to drink from a cup for about 3 months. We've only recently started to make some progress.

Somehow I spent 35 years of life blissfully unaware that this was even a thing. But it's really hard! If you Google "how to transition baby to a cup," you get lots of message boards. Either the ladies who comment on these boards are all executives at baby cup manufacturing companies or they are smug assholes, because all they say is either "try different cups until you find the right one," or "I just showed her how to do it and my baby took to the cup right away."

I started with the straw cup. I had one that got the best reviews on Amazon. I put a little water in it and made sure baby was watching, then elaborately held it by both handles, pursed my lips, and dramatically sucked some water out. I handed him the cup. He took it, smiling, and chewed on the straw.

I pursed my lips again and made dramatic sucking noises. Baby laughed hysterically and chewed on the handles, then the bottom of the cup.

This happened EVERY DAY. At EVERY MEAL.

I decided I needed a break from the straw and tried a sippy cup with a soft spout. Again, I modeled holding the cup with two hands and tilting it back so I could get at the liquid. He chewed on the spout and decided the bottom of the cup was fascinating.


The books said to use a cup that had appealing designs on it, so I got some cute baby cups that weren't too obnoxious-looking. I put an ounce of liquid in and modeled drinking. Then I held it up to his mouth and tilted it so he could get a few drops. Then I let him try.

He happily lifted the cup and tilted it up to his lips...and all the way upside down. The other side of the cup was more interesting and the bottom of the cup was absolutely riveting.

I tried a few more training cups (you're welcome, cup executives): same game. Turns out cups are super-fun to chew on and there are few things funnier to 11 month-olds than imitating loud sucking noises.

WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY WARN ME ABOUT THIS? Suburban motherhood is all about scaring moms of babies younger than yours and bragging about how much you suffer.

"Oh, he's sleeping through the night already? WAIT UNTIL HE STARTS TEETHING! I was up every hour on the hour with little Isaac here."

"He's not walking yet? You're lucky, because my Emma started at 9 months and it was HELL, HELL I tell you!"

This cup thing is fucking killing me and nobody warned me! I'm starting to worry my son will be reading chapter books while swigging from a bottle of milk. My current strategy is to keep trying, but take every other day off.

And then there's the balls.

Playing ball isn't a huge deal. It's a social and intellectual milestone, but baby is doing fine with the other milestones in that category. (You should see his "pat-a-cake." And the high-fiving is completely out of control!)

I'm mostly fixated on it because he seems SO CLOSE to doing it. He'll be holding the ball and smiling and I'll hold my arms out and say "Give Mama the ball" and he looks like he really wants to but just can't let go. Also, "ball" seems like it would be a good early word, so I figure if I say it a lot maybe he will, too.

I let him play independently most of the time and he's really good at it. But we have some long days alone in our house and when the weather is bad or he has a cold and we're all cooped up, those hours stretch endlessly ahead of me and I get ambitious.

And here's where it gets embarrassing because I'm not just holding my hands out saying "Give Mama the ball," I take it out of his hands and roll it towards him saying:

"Here's BALL!"

“Buh buh BALL”

"You want BALL?"

"Mama has BALL."

"Baby has BALL"

"Go get the BALL"

"Go get the green BALL"

"What's that? BALL?"

Alone in my house with the baby. Talking like a fucking crazy person because I want him to say the word "ball."

And the thing is, the reason it's even more batshit that I'm doing this is that he actually seems to be a fairly verbal kid. Though he refuses to call me "Mama," call his father "Dada," or use the word "ball" under any circumstances, he can regularly, reliably and emphatically identify his toes.

"What's that?" I'll ask him as I hold up his foot and wiggle his toes.

"Toe!" He replies, pulling them into his mouth. Every time. My son's first word is "toe."

And I think he might also have "doggie," which he pronounces "daddie." But if he says "daddie" every time I hold up his stuffed doggie and he crawls after our dog yelling "Daddie! Daddie!", well, I think we've got it.

So why can't I let him chose his own first words? Why do I want him to say "ball" so badly? I don't even like sports. I can barely even catch a ball myself.

Tell me, people, how did you train your kids to use a cup? Did you "work on" milestones with your kids or just let them happen? Am I extra crazy or just a normal amount of crazy? And was your baby’s first word “toe”?