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Posts Tagged ‘child’

L really doesn’t need as much sleep as we need him to have. We need the full 12 hours of rest from him and that’s why we put him to bed at 7. His natural time to sleep isn’t until about 8:30. That’s problematic because his parents’ natural time to sleep is 9:30. One hour of wakeful reprieve is simply not enough. So, we put S down at 6:30 and tell L he’s staying up late when he gets that extra 1/2 hour until 7. Then we slog through a bedtime routine full of more manipulations, chases, battles and tears than I care to think about. By 8:00 we’re ready to be on our own, relaxing. We expect our fully wakeful son to just stay in his room relatively quietly until he’s ready to go to sleep on his own. He does not do as we expect. (Which, really, is what we expect.)

All this is a long way of saying that when he comes out of his room every 22 seconds to tell us of an urgent need for water, a last hug, a toy he forgot downstairs, a band-aid, some itchy cream, etfuckingcetera, we are displeased. Instead of hearing a cute little voice in that annoying fake-sweet voice he puts on, we hear the manipulative little devil that he is.

But last night, I had a decent amount of wine. I was in a good mood. Also, yesterday I had 7 full child-free hours! So, I was in a really excellent mood. Instead of just yelling upstairs, I went upstairs. Instead of just unceremoniously marching him back into his room, I smiled at him, held his hand, and sat on his bed.

He then explained to me that he and his two teddy bears are lions. The big teddy bear is his brother lion and the little teddy bear is his baby son who he has to take care of. And they are a family. But they had no food to eat. And they already ate all the sticks. But they were still hungry. So they ate his brother, the big bear. They cut him right here and here and drank up all his blood, because that is what some people do. He then lovingly set up a bed at the foot of his own bed in which he tucked the small bear, his son. He sang a lullaby, kissed him, and gently covered him with one of his own lovies. His own lovey, people! 

After this whole strange scene I left thinking, “What a loving, caring and imaginative son I have!” Normally, I’d leave a scene like this fretting about my blood-sucking-sociopath 4-year-old. But like I said, I had a decent amount of wine.

Moral of the story? I think the moral is that I should drink more, but that seems like a weird moral. I’ll have to look further to see if there might be some other moral in there somewhere.

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I had a long conversation this morning with the director of L’s daycare that should have made me feel better, but just made me feel worse. He’s been going there part-time since just before S was born – so just over 2 years. They know him well and know that I struggle with him. They see him at drop off and pick up and how he acts (out of control and obnoxious) and have always told me that he’s completely different the second I leave.

I told her that I’m getting him evaluated and asked if in her opinion L might have ADHD or some similar problem. She said no, absolutely not. She has seen kids with ADHD over the years and L totally does not fit the bill. He listens to the teachers without defiance. He is excitable, but is quickly and easily settled down. She said that he is 100% within the normal range of behavior for a 4-year-old boy, that he is not one of the kids that needs to be spoken to more than once.

However, she sees how he is with me. She said she’d like to see my drop offs be much quicker so that L and the other kids don’t think that sort of behavior is at all acceptable there. I try to get out the door as fast as possible but L hangs on me, hits me, insists he’s going with me, opens the door and runs outside…

So, I should be happy that L is so well behaved in school. That he is able to hold it together, to listen, to engage and interact well with the kids and teachers. I should be happy. But I’m miserable. What am I doing so wrong to make him so so so bad with me?

This morning, he did not come into my room as he normally does around 7. Was he sleeping in? Nope. He had opened the baby gate at the top of the stairs (which most adults can’t manage) and came downstairs and helped himself to cookies, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and 2 popsicles!. He made a massive mess – coconut and melted popsicle all over the place – and he ate almost a whole package of cookies. This is blatantly against any and all rules and he knows that. He seemed proud of himself when I discovered it all. I’m so shocked at this level of badness that I still can’t wrap my head around it.

I don’t know what to do. He is so out of control.

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I’ve mentioned that L has a fresh mouth. Sometimes his attitude is slightly more subtle than calling me names. Here are a few conversations from yesterday and this morning that have me laughing and pulling my hair out.

 

L was given a container of cotton candy yesterday. In the car ride home, at 4PM, we had this conversation:

L: Can I please, please, PUH-LEEZE have some cotton candy when we get home?

me: No. I don’t think it’s the greatest idea to eat cotton candy right before dinner.

L: Just a little? Please? Just some?

me: Sorry, Honey. I still don’t think it’s a good idea right before dinner.

L: Why don’t you just think about it some more and then answer me.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Conversation this morning after he took a book of Spiderman temporary tattoos and ruined them all by soaking them in the sink:

me: Why would you do that? You ruined them all! That was a nice thing I bought for you. It cost money. I’m not buying you tattoos again.

L: Don’t worry about it. You’ll forget about this really soon and buy me tattoos again.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Conversation at 9:15 this morning:

L: Mommy, are you still mad at us?

me: I’m annoyed. I’m really annoyed because you two have been annoying me all day. [Not my finest parenting moment.]

L: No we haven’t. It hasn’t even been all day yet.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Now my question is whether to publish this now, or wait the rest of the day to collect more smart-assery?
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If you’re looking for a post about mouthwash, move on. This is about the fresh mouth and attitude that L has developed. He thinks nothing of talking back and saying things like “Stupid Mommy” and “I hate you!” This drives me nuts! I realize how little control I actually have. I can’t make him stop saying this stuff. All I can do is give him consequences, talk to him about how it’s not OK to say such things, and hope he makes better choices in the future. Which, so far, he has not chosen to do.

All you pro-spankers out there are getting excited to tell me to spank him, right? I honestly don’t think that would be an effective punishment for him. He’s the first one to point out if I chastise him for something I do myself. You know how I pinched him the other day? Well, he’s reminded me of it several times with comments like, “Since Mommy pinched me, it’s OK to pinch people.”  When I explain the difference between me and him, that my pinch was meant to teach him something etc, I get “Well, I can only pinch someone if they do something bad first.” I just don’t need to go there with hitting.

So, what to do? Just wait it out and hope that he one day develops the desire to respect me? Yell and scream at him like a maniac when he talks back? Ignore it?

His first reaction lately when things don’ t go his way is to call someone stupid and tell them that he hates them. So this comes up a lot.

I can feel the people out there who are thinking ‘this behavior just wouldn’t fly in my house!’ Well, why not? Because your children never tried it? Or if they did, what kind of response did they get from you to let them know they’d better not do it again?

L is not deterred by time outs, not deterred by privileges or beloved objects taken away. He’s smart enough to know that there is no real consequence – that we’ll always love him, feed him and let him live in the house. In fact, he often will infuriatingly say “But you still love me!” right in the middle of a battle.

Nothing makes me feel like a shittier mom that having my obnoxious 4-year-old show complete disrespect and disregard for me. Please tell me your kids are jerks sometimes too?

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Poor S has a disadvantage. Well, let me rephrase that. Poor me, S has a disadvantage. She has L to learn from. Now L has many, many wonderful characteristics that make him a great big brother to have, but he also has many, many annoying traits and habits, and those seem to be the ones S is attracted to.

S gets hurt a lot while following in her big brother’s wild footprints. He’s big and coordinated and she’s small and clumsy. This makes what might be a simple climb, leap and roll maneuver for L, a catastrophe and blood-letting for S.

But what’s gotten my attention lately is not the constant injury, but the mess. See, S naturally is a neat person. She’s the one who puts other people’s toys and dishes away whether they’re done with them or not. She likes things in their place. She knows where her shoes are at all times, because she puts them away. It’s in her nature. But L is wearing off on her at such an alarming rate that it’s actually changing her very nature!

For a child who never liked to have food on her hands, she has come a long way down the slippery slope of slobdom. Let’s use yesterday’s painting activity as an example. Out of desperation to get outside, but unable to because of constant thunder and lightening (despite the sunshine), I set the kids up on the porch with some paints. I provided brushes, dressed them in smocks, and went inside for about 2 minutes. I came out to find this:

I think there's a piece of paper in there somewhere.

Is that paint on my house? Why yes, it is. I found this mess somewhat alarming. Hang on, I’ll be right back with some wet rags. Just don’t touch anything…

Oh, that smock was in my way so I just took it off and painted myself.

Think all that paint will come off the porch floor easily? Neither do I.

The truth is that I should have known better. This is not the first time that something like this has happened around here. Did I ever tell you guys about this time?

At least they're working together.

What’s that definition of crazy again? Something about doing the same thing and expecting different results? I guess I qualify.

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There was a misinterpretation of results. Turns out S does not qualify for early intervention. The normal maternal reaction is probably relief, but I’m disappointed. Having her qualify didn’t make her any more behind than I thought she was; it just meant that she was going to get help and support. Having her not qualify doesn’t make her any less behind. She’s still not talking. We just don’t get the help. Boo.

The assessment covers 5 areas of development: Adaptive, Personal/Social, Communication, Motor and Cognitive. A “development quotient” (way to say “score” without saying “score”) of 77 or below in any area would qualify for early intervention. Average normal scores fall between 85 and 115 and S’s scores range from 86 to 110, well out of the range for intervention.

I was given some tips and tricks and told to call back if she does not make a huge leap by her second birthday. So, if you see me making funny sounds at my toddler, (“bay-BEE!”) please ignore.

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I spend most of my time here talking about L. Once in a while I write about S’s adorable-ness, but she definitely takes a backseat in terms of the percentage of my angst she causes compared to her brother. So here’s something you may not know about her: she doesn’t really talk yet. At 21 months old, she is waaaaaaaaaaay behind her peers. While they are putting together simple phrases and consistently naming the objects around them, S says only a small handful of single words. Words like up, mama, dada, more, bye-bye, boo-boo. It was nearly a year ago when I was told to worry that she didn’t know a cow says moo. Guess what? She still doesn’t know.

S can understand anything that is said to her. She can follow a series of directions and will point to the correct object when I name it. Her problem is clearly not cognitive. Is she just lazy? She is actually quite able to tell me a whole story with a combination of charades and simple words. She can, for example, convey that she has a boo-boo on her head because she was on the couch and L pushed her off causing her head to hit the coffee table. Since she’s so good at communicating this way, why bother talking?

Whatever the reason for her delayed speech, my it-will-work-itself-out approach hasn’t been effective (yet). So today I’m having her evaluated to see if she’s eligible for early intervention. I imagine that she’s going to fall just to the normal side of the upper limit of what would qualify. Meaning that she’s speaking at the bottom-most possible level of what is considered normal. And this will be fine with me, because I do still believe it will work itself out. It’s just taking longer than I anticipated.

Funny thing is that when L was about 19 months old I had him evaluated for the very same reason. He had 3 words, which only I could understand: “ma-em” for milk. “cheese” for please, and “do-do” for thank you. (So polite!) I set up the appointment and by the time the team of evaluators arrived at my door a few weeks later, L was totally talking. And hasn’t stopped since. (rim-shot) I attributed L’s lateness to the fact that he’s a boy, and that he was too busy figuring out how to run, jump, climb, and break dance to bother learning to talk. But not only is S a girl, she also spends a lot less time break dancing. Anyway, I fully expected her to start talking before the evaluation date, but it’s in an hour, and she wasn’t talking this morning and she’s sleeping now, so I think that’s not happening.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Nana, my mother-in-law, arrived Friday evening and I was uncharacteristically relaxed – my house was clean beyond reproach and my kids were asleep, therefore behaving. It’s a good start.

The kids were thrilled to see Nana in the morning. L was beside himself with excitement. S probably didn’t remember her, but was as happy to see her as she is to see everyone. I got to sleep in until 7:30 (some sleep-in!), T made coffee and everything in the house was peaceful.

T and I immediately took advantage of the situation and went out to run errands alone. (This was more exciting to us than it sounds, and possibly more exciting than it ought to be.) Later, while S napped and Nana and T did yard work*, I got to take L to the local town fair.

*Yard work = leveling a huge swath of our backyard for an 18 foot diameter above ground pool. This is hard work and I got to miss a few hours of it. Horay!

L and I often have “special time” together, and it usually sucks due to a combination of my too-high-expectations and his too-low-acceptable-behavior-bar. But this time was different. L was still in a great mood because of Nana’s arrival, and we were going to a fair. What would have probably been a combination to create an overstimulated nightmare a year ago, was a perfect combo for a one-in-a-million awesomely perfect, tantrum and strife free outing with L.

It rained the whole time we were there. We rode The Scrambler and had belly laughs like we never had before. Several rides later, we shared a caramel apple and L won a teddy bear who he creatively named Teddy. It was a sitcom/movie-montage type of outing. I never get outings like this. I got to relish all that is fun and awesome and wonderful about my little 4-year-old L.

A total win of a day all made possible by Nana’s visit. A win!

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We did it! I took L to another marionette show and we lived to tell the tale. Did he at one point lay down in the middle of a street, stopping traffic and alarming innocent bystanders? Yes. Yes, he did. But did he behave in the theater? Yup. So, it was more successful than last time.

It all began in the 6:00 hour when L came into my room and woke me by physically lifting the eyelid of my blissfully sleeping right eye. Into my eye, as if it’s a microphone, he not-quietly says, “I’m so becited, Mommy! Today we’re going to the movie theater. I got dressed all by myself!” He was dressed. “OK, Honey. Can you go back to your room for few minutes and let Mommy wake up on her own?” And can you please release my eyelid? “No, I’ll just stay here with you because I’m so becited. Get up now. But don’t take a shower.” Good morning.

I explain that it’s not a movie but a puppet show. He jumps for joy. He whoops it up. Then he stops and asks earnestly, “Am I going to be a puppet?” On the drive to drop S off, and then on the drive to the town with the theater, L explains that he’s going to wish on a star to become a puppet. But not a puppet. A real boy puppet. My end of the conversation consists of unenthusiastic unh-huhs and mmmm-hmmms.

We arrive an hour before showtime. Perfect timing for breakfast at one of my favorite spots. L charms the wait staff, charms a few other diners, and charms me into feeling hopeful for our outing. I also had a few coffee refills, which helped charm me. We hit the bathrooms at the restaurant and walk across the street to the theater. We’re 15 minutes early, perfect time to get a good seat upfront. (The marionettes are small and hard to see from the back of the theater.) The 15 minute wait felt long enough for me to give in and get L popcorn, despite my morbid fear of it. I spent the rest of the show on alert and ready to call 911.

The show, Pinocchio, was weird and a little boring, but L enjoyed it well enough. He especially liked clapping, so he was in an exceptionally good mood at the end of the show after all that clapping. We stepped outside into a beautiful day, so I thought we could stroll through town a bit and window shop. Big Mistake.

Note to self: quit while you’re ahead.

I was ahead. Way ahead. We had a great morning that included breakfast out and a show. I should have put the kid in the car and headed home. Why oh why didn’t I do that?

Instead we ended up in a store where L wanted to buy a button that said “Bullshit” when you pressed it. He also wanted to buy a fart machine. And a set of rubber balls – as in testicle balls, not bouncy balls – although he did not know what they were supposed to be. Clearly, I had wandered into the wrong store. We were nearing a meltdown when I spotted a set of foam Yo Gabba Gabba bath toys on sale. I thought I had the solution. I could buy him something, and have that something not be rubber balls.

He didn’t want it. We left the store, some of us walking some of us being dragged. Once outside, we had a full atomic meltdown on our hands. I pulled, I pleaded, I finally said “OK, bye,” and walked away. This is where he walked 1/2 way across a side street and apparently decided to lay down. I didn’t see that part because I was the awesome mom walking away from my 4-year-old. I turned around at the sound of a gasp, a shriek, and a honking horn. A crowd of concerned citizens began to surround L, who appeared to be injured or having some kind of seizure if one didn’t know better. A car was waiting for the street to clear. I felt like a royal douchebag as I pushed my way through kind strangers to unceremoniously drag a now boneless L to his feet and off to our car.

So, the verdict is that the show was a success. And yet I still managed to achieve a parenting fail by not pulling the plug while things were going well.

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I think it’s hard to appreciate kids who are older than your oldest. Just like the mom who is expecting her first really has no idea what’s coming, I have no idea what comes after 4. When I see a group of 10-year-old boys running around on the playground I feel like I’m witnessing a gang of bad kids. Chances are these kids are anything but. I’m sure they’re well-loved, totally normal 10-year-olds and not a group of thugs at all. But they think it’s funny to get L to repeat things like “fart-butt” and therefore I see hardened criminal kids. I’m certain they have tattoos and carry weapons.

This under-appreciation starts well before having kids. It’s the same feeling that causes non-parents to think things like “my kids would never do that,” or “my car will never look like that,” or “those people are doing it all wrong and I will be a better mom than that, easily!” I thought I outgrew this ridiculous sentiment when I had a baby of my own and he did those things, my car looked like that, and I was clearly doing it all wrong. But I didn’t. My no-clue-ness just shifted, and continues to shift to children just slightly older than my own.

When L was born we lived downstairs from a family who had a 1.5-year-old boy. He was an adorable blur of a thing, always on the run, wearing mischievous dimples and leaving a wake of destruction behind him. He was the most wild thing I had ever known. His parents came down to meet our new baby, with him in tow. Did I mind if he came in? YES! I totally minded the germy wild thing in my house with my precious new baby, but I said no, of course not.

This was before our house was taken over and redecorated care of Playschool and Mattel. The bookcase in the living room still had our books on it, even on the bottom shelves. The coffee table was still a safe place to put a cup of coffee. We had no idea what a 1.5-year-old boy was capable of in such a setting. They were in the house for maybe 3 minutes. He ran past our legs at the door and Tasmanian-deviled the place.

This “terrible child” went straight into the nursery, still perfect and new, and ripped every brand new board book off the shelves, threw every brand new toy out of the toy box. His “negligent parents” didn’t even bat an eyelash. They didn’t apologize profusely and catch him and leave immediately. Of course they didn’t, I realize now. They were happy he was ripping apart playing with actual kid’s toys and not destroying our living room. Not yet anyway. When they left, I remember thinking how out of control he was. I seriously under-appreciated that toddler. 10 months later, when L started walking, running actually, I realized how wrong I was.

Now that I really understand this older-than-my-oldest under-appreciation phenomenon, I try to avoid putting L and myself into that situation. S doesn’t have any friends, unless she’s lucky enough that some other kid has a younger sibling. I can’t really bring L around moms who just have a toddler. I see their thoughts written all over their faces. They see L as wild, out of control, a little hoodlum. And even though I might think the same things sometimes, it’s not OK for other people to think it.

One day when L is 10 and he’s actually playing with a 4-year-old on the playground, I’m sure I’ll think that he’s being sweet and inclusive. I probably won’t notice that he’s laughing at this little kid repeating bad words. And I certainly won’t notice the dirty looks I’m getting from the young mom hovering nearby, thinking I’m negligent because I’m sitting and chatting to another grown-up rather than intervening and parenting my little thug. But for now, even though my car looks like that, I still foster the delusion that my sweet little L will never run with a gang like those boys.

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I once swore I’d never take L to another marionette show. (You should click over and read that post, it’s a good one, I’ll wait….) At the time it seemed like a plausible thing to do, even though I doubted that I’d do it. I knew even then that one day the memory would fade and my hope for a fun outing would eclipse the dusty memory of a disaster.

That time has arrived. Next week the very same theater is putting on a marionette version of Pinocchio. L loves Pinocchio. (Which, by the way, is full of kidnappings, smoking children and donkey morphing, all of which I didn’t really remember or notice until I watched it as a mother.) He is four now, is he big enough? Surely the m&m debacle won’t repeat itself. But could it be a good outing?

Any outing that involves something new and potentially exciting, something new and potentially boring, any waiting, any sitting still, and any expectation of quiet on L’s behalf is an outing full of potential pitfalls – an outing that gives me anxiety. But then I think of how fun it could be, how different and special it could be. And all of that hope outweighs my anxiety and my right mind and I go ahead and do it. And then I end up bitterly disappointed and swear off any such thing ever again, again.

So, what to do? Buy the tickets? Give it a shot? He is getting big and sometimes he’s actually, surprisingly, well-behaved.

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I have two children and I’m supposed to love them equally. (Isn’t that what good moms do?) While I do love them both, I certainly don’t love them equally. There is almost nothing similar at all in my feelings for them, except that visceral attachment that keeps me up at night with worries about rare childhood diseases, teenage driving, freak accidents and abductions.

S is easy to love and I love her with abandon. I can hardly look her way without smiling, beaming. It’s all I can do to let her play or color and not scoop her up and smother her in kisses and squeezes. There is no challenge, no risk to loving her as much as I do (except the horrible and unlikely things mentioned above). I am smitten. This is epic stuff.

My love for L is different. It’s wrought with worry and riddled with frustration. He breaks my heart, little pieces of it all the time. As soon as I lay my heart out on the ground for him, he steps on it. I simply can’t have the same reckless abandon with my love for L as I do for S.

So what am I going to say when they ask me who is my favorite? Certainly S is easier. Her disposition is pure sunshine while L’s has some more complicated storm fronts. I sometimes can’t help but find myself wishing for two S-like kids. How easy it would be! We could have all the family harmony and good times I imagined having with my kids. When L is a dark storm cloud, I can’t help but wish he was just easier. Why can’t he be more like S? Some families get two S-like kids. Seems unfair.

Then I feel awful for thinking that. Would I really wish L away? Of course not. His exuberance and intensity are amazing, but that same intensity is also the wall I bang my head against daily. It’s the worry that I’m not a good enough parent for him. It’s the worry that he’s going to struggle. Why can’t he just be more like S? Why can’t he be more like the other kids I know? Why can’t he ever just acquiesce, just get along, just sit still?

And then I feel more awful for thinking that. Here I am, mom to two wonderful, healthy kids. Some moms have real problems. I need to somehow put away my image of what our family life could be, and accept and appreciate what it is. I am grateful for my healthy kids. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the kids come into our bed on a weekend morning to hang out, read stories? We could easily do that with S, but never with L. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk somewhere with both kids and feel confident that L isn’t going to suddenly dart away and disappear in a crowd? Wouldn’t it be nice to play a fun game and then let the game come to an end without the inevitable tantrum that follows? Wouldn’t it be nice for me to ever be able to relax in front of other people and not worry that L will hit their children, hit me, throw a fit, swear, break stuff or go ballistic in some other embarrassing way?

As much as I might wish for it, I feel like if L were the easy kid I long for he’d lose some of his awesomeness. The very same traits that give me the most difficulty, also bring the most joy. When he points his energy and intensity towards good rather than evil, the awesomeness that follows is unmatched.

So what am I going to say when they ask me who is my favorite? I’ll probably tell them that I love them both the same.

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T read yesterday’s post and knew immediately what the blue stuff is. Any guesses?

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No?

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Are you sure you want to know?

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OK, here it is. Mystery solved: the blue stuff refers to the blue part of a flame. T and L were talking about camping and fires and s’mores and L fixated on the fact that parts of a fire are blue. Anyway, he was absolutely right about it: one should never touch it. It’s very, very hot.

So, now we can all rest easy. Our houses won’t be condemned. No need to worry about the cat’s fur. (Actually, this blue stuff would be very bad for a cat.)

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It looks innocent enough.

A cute, realistic toy spaghetti fork for our play kitchen.

However, it is not innocent at all – but the most diabolical of all toys! A true marvel of evil tiny engineering.

I promise that there’s not much worse at 6:50AM on a Sunday than meeting this with a bare foot. Good &$#@*%! morning! (Do I get any bonus Mommy points for the fact that not only did I not drop S, but I also refrained from hurling her across the kitchen?)

 

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Another Thursday, another miserable day. Instead of having fun at the Children’s Museum, like we planned, we’re still home and L is in a time out. Why the F he has to F with me on Effing Thursdays, I have no idea. (I’m doing a good job curbing my swearing. I already emptied our checking account into my swear jar.)

Clearly something BIG and BAD happened to send L over the edge into obnoxious land costing him a trip to the museum. Right? Of course. The BIG BAD thing was that I asked him to wash his hands after peeing. That’s right. I’m such a bitch. Not only did I ask him to wash his hands, but then when he crumpled on the floor into a puddle of whining misery, I did not acquiesce and come help him wash his hands.

This is after a morning of walks and a bike ride, giving him his favorite lunch (a Nutella sandwich) and letting him watch a show while eating it, all with the promise that afterwards we’ll go to his favorite place ever. All he had to do was pee first.

Another special day, another huge disappointment for everyone. Maybe L and I just shouldn’t spend any time together. I’m so pissed off. I told him that if he made one more fresh face or comment that we wouldn’t go to the museum. He promptly stuck his tongue out at me and said “No, YOU won’t go to the museum.” So, up to his room he went. Apologizing, crying, wailing against the injustice.

And now I have to follow through. In order to be a good mom, I have to find something else to fill the next few hours with. Something certain to be harder for me and less fun for him than a trip to the museum. This sucks. And will he learn any lesson from this? Will he actually internalize anything about actions and consequences? About how mommy is serious when she threatens something and you’d better listen to her? Not likely. He’s missed out on so many things, been dragged out of so many fun places. I always follow through. And he’s still the worst behaved kid I know. (When he’s being bad. When he’s being good he’s a freaking angel.)

Thursdays always suck.

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‘Peace and quiet’ is elusive in this house. When I have it, I have a choice: relish it with willful ignorance, or investigate. My responsibility to keep my children alive always makes me investigate, grudgingly.

Today this is what I found:

My first thought was to take a picture and Tweet. (I’m that devoted to you guys.) Then I remembered the sharp scissors that I keep in my knitting bag. I found them lying by her feet and took them away, deciding that the yarn was a mess anyway so I might as well enjoy the silence while it will lasts.

But she followed me to the computer. Then back to the kitchen to retrieve the camera. Then back to the computer again.

Worth the 15 minutes of quiet? You bet!

 

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Recently I was asked in a comment about how I made the decision to have a second baby. This is a seriously good question, especially considering the trouble I had with L over the last year. The simple answer is that having only one child was never really a consideration for me. So it wasn’t a question of if but a question of when.

Luckily we decided to try for #2 before L was 2 years old. Had I still not been pregnant by the time L morphed from sweet but challenging toddler to complete evil monster villain (somewhere around 2.5), I don’t know if I would have gone through with #2. The year from almost 3 to almost 4 was so so so hard. L was not easy to be around, to put it mildly, (way mildly – he was extremely, impossibly, unfathomably unpleasant,) but thankfully S was already here by then.

So now I have my sweet but challenging 4-year-old and my sweet 1.5-year-old and I’m done. Right? Totally. I’m completely 100% mostly almost sure of it. What more could I want? I had 2 healthy pregnancies, have two healthy kids, have one of each sex – why push my luck? Also, I can sort of see the end of the tunnel. Baby days are close(ish) to behind me. Soon I’ll have a family that can go places and do things and not be encumbered by naps, diapers, and other babyish stuff.

But babies are just so cute. Can’t argue with that logic.

Unlike normal people, I liked being pregnant and I liked the newborn phase. I love that warm little floppy helpless bundle, even if it means colic, no sleep, sore nipples and diaper blow-outs. I recognize that this feeling I have is not remotely coming from my rational brain. It’s coming from some evolutionary, biological, clock-ticking, animal place and I should know better. And I do. Mostly. Luckily, T totally knows better and has not even the slightest inclination towards having another baby.

So, back to the question of how one arrives at the decision to have or not to have another child? I don’t really have an answer for that. For having a second, we didn’t really ever consider the alternative so there was no decision process beyond timing. As far as having any more, I feel like the partner who is done has veto power over the partner who may want one more. So we’re done. Well, at least we’re shelving the topic. For now. No, really, we’re done. Almost certainly absolutely probably so.

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I just returned from a vacation without kids. We had an amazing time and it didn’t take long to get used to (and  love) having absolutely no responsibilities. It also didn’t take long to miss our kids. Sounds crazy, right? While we did miss our actual kids, what I think we missed more was the idea of our kids. The overwhelming all-the-timeness of kids is quickly forgotten when they’re not with you. All you see is the adorable toddler playing in the sand and you wish yours was there doing the same.

All around us were unbearably cute kid moments: naked tiny toddlers squealing with delight and toddling around in the very fringes of the surf. Slightly bigger little people venturing out into the waves clutching a parental hand tightly, mis-timing their jump over the approaching wave every time. Water-wing wearing kids splashing in the hotel pool, having as much fun as the substance enhanced spring breakers adjacent to them at the in-pool bar. Adorable floppy sun hats. Kite flyers. Sand castles and mouthfuls of sand. Our kids could have been there. Imagine the cuteness!

What we did not see was the all-the-timeness of these kids. It seemed great to have kids on vacation. The parents were happy. The kids were beside themselves with happiness. But those were only moments. What is the ratio of awesome moments to pull-my-hair-out-I-can’t-believe-I-spent-money-to-bring-you-godforsaken-brats-to-Puerto Rico-moments? My guess is that ratio is not a favorable one. And this is what I kept reminding myself as I sipped my umpteenth pina-colada, enjoying me freedom, and pining for my kids.

Missing our kids allowed us to like them. Wait, that sounds bad. (But it’s true.) Instead of talking about all the frustrating things, we talked about the cute and sweet things that we missed. We talked about how much L or S would like this or that. We completely romanticized our kids into alien versions of themselves. Great, perfect, flawless versions of themselves. It allowed us to focus on the good, and there is a lot of good. It’s just hard to focus on it while limping because you stepped on some small pointy toy while trying to wrangle your kicking and screaming kid into his pajamas, after a day of equally as annoying moments.

Another bonus to missing your kids? The hugs you get when you reunite. Quite possibly the best hugs of my entire life. Sweet enough, in fact, for me to forgive the immediate and thorough house-wrecking that took place upon their return home. It’s honestly amazing what those people can do to a house…

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Another day where L boggles my mind with his goodness. Today we headed back to the hospital for L to get his new leg braces.

8AM: We pile into the car.

8:20: Too early to drop S off at daycare, so we first go to a coffee shop where I said no to 578 things and yes to a slice of banana bread that L has to wait to eat.

8:30: Drop S off at daycare and allow L to eat his banana bread.

9:15: Arrive at hospital after long drive in AM traffic with Raffi playing in the car (shoot me).

9:40: We’re seen for the first time. L tries on the braces.

9:50: Back to the waiting room while the braces are fine tuned.

10:15: L notices a boy with one leg. “You are the best hopper I’ve ever seen!” L and the boy quickly become friends and the boy happily explains all of his congenital anomalies to L, who thinks they’re cool. L tries and tries but just can’t hop as well as the boy. “I’ll just stick with running. I’m good at that. You should stick to hopping since you have one leg and you’re so good at it.” The boy’s mother and I look on, beaming with pride at our respective little awesome fellows.

10:45: L is finally fitted with the braces. He needs to walk around and play in them for 15-20 minutes to make sure they are comfortable.

11:25: We’re given the go ahead to leave. L’s shoes don’t fit over the braces so I decide to go to a nearby mall to buy shoes at Target (best place on Earth) and have some lunch.

11:45: Loud POP sound from L’s right brace in the back of the car as I pull into mall parking lot. Uh-oh.

The guy had told me “don’t be shy” when he supervised me strapping them on L for the first time. He wanted me to crank those straps tight. Apparently, he was not aware that I have superhuman mommy strength, and I busted a rivet. Dammit! Since we’re at the mall, we buy big shoes, hope they fit, and grab some lunch before heading back to the hospital.

At this point I feel bad for L. He has already spent all morning mostly waiting. I also have the heartbroken feeling I get after a day in the children’s hospital and I’d buy the kid a freaking pony if he asked for it. Instead, I take him to a candy store on our way out of the mall. To the best of my knowledge, L has been in a candy store one other time in his life, so this is a very special treat. Upon entering his eyes bug out and he exclaims, “I love this place!” While he occupies himself with a display of sparkly m&m purses (?), I get him a few assorted pieces of bulk candy. Not a lot.

The small bag of candy completely blows L’s mind and he cannot believe his luck. He keeps telling me, “I love what you got for me!” and “You’re the best mommy I ever had!” and “This is the best day. I just love this day!”

1:25: Arrive back at the hospital, deliver the busted braces back to the guy and head to the waiting room.

This is where the magic happens. L approaches each person in the waiting room, shows them his bag of candy, explains that his mommy got it for him, and offers them some. Remember, there was not a lot of candy to begin with; despite that, he offers candy to the nurses and doctors, to the parents and children, the receptionists, aides and a janitor. Most decline, some take a piece. The child gives away almost all of his candy! And he’s happy as anything to do it.

At one point I heard him trying to convince a waiting mom to take a piece: “Are you sure you don’t want one? I’ve got some gummy worms and here’s a frog. And a couple of these things which look really good – I’m sure you’ll like them. You can take it home and eat it later.”

Now I really want to get him a pony. After spending all day waiting around in a hospital L cheerfully gives away his reward for good behavior. Absolutely overwhelmed with happiness at having a bag of candy, he simply wants to share the joy.

We finally leave the hospital around 2:30 with no more candy in his bag. “Mommy, do you think you can buy me a bag of candy another time? I just loved it.” Yes, L, I will buy you a bag of candy another time. (Grateful he hasn’t asked for that pony.)

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When S turned 1 I wrote her a letter, beginning what I hope to be a long birthday tradition.

Dear L on your 4th birthday,

I can’t believe you are 4 today! That sounds like such a big boy. Where did the time go? When I look at you, you are clearly a big boy now, no trace of the baby you were. Lately you’ve grown long and lean like a kid rather than round and pudged like a toddler. Only a few remaining mispronunciations remind me of the toddler you came from.

I am so proud of the boy you’ve become. I’m especially proud of your kindness and empathy. This is something born in you. You rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. You are so excited when it’s someone else’s birthday, or when someone masters a new skill like riding a bike. You burst with happiness for them, as if their accomplishment or special occasion were your own. I love that you can feel so happy for others. You also naturally sense others’ sad feelings and do your best to help – with a hug, bringing a favorite toy, even sharing your own treasured cookie or sweets. These are things I did not teach you. This is who you are. And I love it about you.

Recently I got to see a side of you that surprised me. You had to get a cast on each of your legs to help you walk on flat feet instead of on your toes. The casts were big, heavy, itchy, uncomfortable, cumbersome and annoying in a million other ways. But you didn’t complain. From the instant you got them, you just figured out how to walk and went on about your life. You still climbed and played and were your happy self. I’m amazed at your resilience.

If you had your way, we would play all day long. You’re like a puppy that way. Unless you’re asleep, you’d like to be jumping, wrestling, tickling, running, dancing, and giggling. I know I sometimes seem annoyed at all of this, but really, your playful nature is delightful. I’m just not always a good match energy-wise. I wish I were! Your energy will serve you well for your whole life and I’m glad you have it. I’m sorry that I get annoyed sometimes and I’ll try to be better about that.

Seeing your relationship with your sister is just about the best thing in my life. You are (mostly) kind and gentle with her. You always look out for her and try to make her happy, protect her, play with her, etc. You also are insatiably curious about her tolerance and threshold for pestering and wrestling. You always manage to find it and pass it. But then when she cries you usually do too because you feel bad for hurting her. You give her a hug and a kiss and apologize and then the two of you are on your merry way again.

You have a clear sense of what you feel is right and you are not afraid to assert yourself. Although this can frustrate the grown-ups around you, it’s actually a trait that will take you far in life. You just have to survive through your childhood first. (We all do.) Which might not be easy for you. All along the way you’ll come up against grown-ups who you will have to listen to, even when you think they’re wrong. I will do my best to support you and help you navigate through these frustrating relationships. Even with me.

Your spirit, exuberance and sense of wonder make me smile every day. I hope you keep them as you grow up. And I hope you keep your wacky sense of humor, which I think you will, since it’s exactly like your Daddy’s wacky sense of humor.

Being your mom is certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding. Seeing you grow and change, and witnessing the emergence of the wonderful, individual person you are has been amazing. I have the highest hopes for your 5th year. I think you’re going to have a great year making friends, discovering new skills, and bringing joy to everyone who is lucky enough to know you. I love you so much!

Happy birthday!

Love,

Mom

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