August 17, 2016
We’re in that life stage where JuggerBaby loves being chased. So much so that even if you’re just walking behind zir, or look like you might be considering following, ze runs off with a shriek and a cackle. Then comes back to peek – are you coming? Are you coming?
*shriek – giggles – laughter – runs away*
It’s actually a useful game where I don’t have to move very much, I just have to hear zir coming and go “Boo!” around a corner.
It’s a little harder on Seamus who has no idea why his sibling is fleeing ahead of him, noisily, then coming back to prod him into chasing zir “again”. He’s also very confused by the game of “I have the remote and you can’t have it.” His sighs plainly ask me, “but why would I want it?”
If/then statements are now an almost effective tool with an almost reasonable child. When ze is tugging on my hand to Get Ye To The Kitchen, I can persuade zir to come with me first if I suggest that FIRST we will change zir diaper, THEN ze can eat all the crackers ze can hold. Or FIRST, take a nap, and then we will read that extra compelling book.
It’s not always successful and I still have to physically wrestle zir to the ground on some particularly intractable occasions but it’s working more often than not so I’m calling that a win. Ish.
This child is already showing symptoms of the Terrible Twos.
In general JuggerBaby is a genial child. Out for a bit of fun, overly forward in the willingness to snatch things ze wants out of anyone’s hands, ze often shrugs and moves on to the next opportunity when told No.
When ze grabs my iPad and signals “more” (meaning “make it work!”) and I pretend that it does nothing more than make a clicky noise, ze will move on.
When ze grabs for a handful of Seamus’s tail and is roundly scolded, ze stops with a grin.
Or when thwarted yet again from zir fifth attempt to dash past me into the street, ze might fling zirself at my legs, arms octopusing around me as ze goes for the gusto. One of these days, ze is going to take a chunk out of my legs and that’s going to be bad times at the AGSL Corral.
Once in a while, though, when we say no, ze falls to the ground as though we cut zir little puppet strings, sobbing actual tears, face scrunched into a little angry red square.
It’s WEIRD. Tears stopped being a form of communication months ago. Ze has since learned to be stubborn, to brazen zir way through to a yes, to rage hir way there or to charm it out of us. But crying as a form of protest is just a bit ridiculous when ze has so many other effective tools in zir arsenal. So we tell zir to do what ze needs to do and leave zir to zir feelings until it’s cried out and miraculously all better or we start reading a favorite book and suddenly the tears are forgotten.
Speaking of emotions, ze thinks it’s really funny to bite me now, for fun, not just when ze is tired. So funny that ze broke skin and I now have a scar on my shoulder to show off because my child is a tiny many-toothed monster. Grrr.
Also like a ferocious kitten, ze has been leaping on me from behind things, grabbing an ankle to pin me, and going for a bite. Sometimes it’s a fake bite but who wants to stick around to find out which it is?? Not I, said the thrice-bitten tasty morsel.
Then, just when you’re about to pitch the child out on zir ear and toss a knapsack of provisions after zir, ze learns things like blowing kisses and hollers “mama!” And blows a dozen kisses at you. Then holds out zir hands for a hug which ze Does Not Do. *melt* Alright. You can stay for one more day. But tomorrow, you’re out!
Lean into the nonsense
At dinner, our one sit down meal together of the day, ze has a short attention span and if ze had late snacks, not much appetite. We don’t care if ze eats a full meal at dinner because that Buddha belly of zirs very plainly shows ze isn’t going to waste away for lack of half a meal. But what we do care about is zir level of civility during the meal. And that wanes dramatically when ze isn’t hungry and occupied with eating everything in sight.
We used to think that ze would do better if we treated zir like an adult: you tend to your meal and we’ll eat ours. For a while, that was true. Lack of attention was better – no one to show off for. But since ze has gotten used to company at daycare, ze wants more interaction, and was acting out more to get it.
My new strategy is simple. When bored, ze acts like a little punk: throwing food, throwing water, throwing bowls, spoons, forks. If ze is even just minimally snacking and/or playing, we all survive to fight another day. So if zir attention is wavering, it’s time to engage.
When ze is dramatically slumping over, I mimic zir. If ze is dancing, I dance. If ze is waving hands around, I offer a high five or a fistbump. It’s silly but the sillier, the better, because a laughing toddler is much better than a plotting toddler. If we’re “playing”, then even if ze isn’t eating or hungry, ze remains a tolerable dining companion and will even offer to have a few bites of our food. In solidarity.
I’ve also learned to plan to have a second dinner or a dessert after because ze eats a LOT of our food!
I know it’s a natural impulse to compare yourself to others but I find my tolerance for it in parents regarding their children is nearly non-existent. We joked about making sure JuggerBaby reached certain milestones by a certain age because expectations! But in reality we are NOT playing that game. Fat lot of good it’s going to do us here in the ultra competitive Bay Area?
A friend’s kid seems like a genius. He hasn’t started school yet but he’s a literate polymath. He speaks, reads and writes in at least 6 languages that I know of and will likely pick up a few more because he loves it. That’s awesome and we are happy to entertain his showing off new language skills because he’s a kid and he’s so proud of them. Meanwhile other parents are reacting to his accomplishments with weird jealousy and guilt. Like oh, HE knows this, now I have to catch up. And my friend hears this so often she actually feels guilty about how smart he is. I hate that for her. I get why she feels that way – he’s still a kid despite all the intellect and acts like it, he shouldn’t be set apart the way the other parents are naturally doing, so she is catching herself downplaying it with the obvious: he’s awesome at this thing. He’s not awesome at other things that kids are normally into. She’s sensible and cognizant that balance is good for him, too much of the academic can leave him lacking in other necessary life experiences if he never pulls his nose out of a book, but I hate that the competitiveness of other parents means there’s this whole dialogue of “but he’s not perfect!”
If you’re a parent, that goes without saying, doesn’t it?
Why is it such a reflex to blurt out things like “my kid is so behind” and “we better go home and make them study now” over things that aren’t age appropriate? I figure the kid is oblivious right now but it’s a stinky impulse.
Wash your mouth out with … wait, no
Some things, JuggerBaby will never learn. Every bath, ze rearranges everything in the tub, plays with zir toys, and as soon as I’m distracted, grabs a handful of soap to eat.
Ze hates the taste, makes a horrible face every time, but it’s like ze has baby-amnesia and can never remember the 58 other times ze tasted that exact same bar of soap and had the exact same reaction.
Comprehension and communication
You’d think we’d be used to it by now but we’re not. I can ask JuggerBaby a yes/no question and get an actual answer now. Ze gets to choose from a small selection of breakfast foods, for example, and when I ask “do you want some yogurt?” I might get a firm headshake NO. Then ze points at the scrambled eggs. “Eggs? You would like some eggs?” “DA!”
“Do you want some toast?” “DA!”
“Do you want some strawberry bread?” “DA!”
“Do you want your water?” *headshake*
Ze hasn’t said no aloud yet but ze is quite firm when that’s the answer. Ze shakes zir head, puts zir hands up to signal “all done”, pushes things away. There is no convincing this child if ze didn’t want to be convinced. Luckily, ze is relatively open to trying most things at least once. Of course, it could all be stuffed in zir mouth to be dribbled back out slowly, so buyer beware.
:: How much soap can a baby eat before ze foams at the mouth? Did your food preferences as a child stay your food preferences as an adult? Do you have trouble with comparing yourself or your family to others?
July 20, 2016
Lend me a hand?
Just two weeks ago, we were holding out our hands to JuggerBaby, either to assist an unsteady gait, or to lead zir the way we needed zir to go. Ze would sometimes take our hands and wobble along with us. Other times, ze tucked zir hands close to zir body with an “Ngh!” clearly refusing to be led. “I can do it! (but I won’t)” you see, on zir face.
Overnight, it seems ze can walk without wavering, without hesitation, though ze has zero concept of the proper way to navigate stairs and stay upright. Ze is now even running with that peculiar pace that wee kids use. Shoulders nearly up to zir ears, entire torso swinging left and right wildly, angled nearly 45 degrees to the ground.
JuggerLB extends a hand expectantly. Makes eye contact, and as hand clasps hand, ze sets zir feet firmly, preparing for my resistance. Sometimes I cooperate and follow. Sometimes, I play limp noodle and resist. Ze is prepared for this, and digs in zir feet like a pro tugger-of-war. The stubborn is strong in this one.
I see a future of our wills clashing and smile. It’s inevitable to have some clashing but I hope that at least some of the time, they’ll be teaching moments: teaching zir how and when to stand up for zirself and be zir own advocate when it’s time for zir to spread zir wings and fly solo.
JuggerBaby has graduated from needing to be tickled (physically) to laugh and now finds the humor in things on zir own. We play games, like “bring me all your toys”, or “destroy everything” and either because of my expression, or my exclamations, ze will burst into laughter and try to get me to do it again. Role reversal of the best kind.
A friend said of toddlerdom: say good-bye to anything staying in its place ever again. I did the mental equivalent of plugging my ears and shutting my eyes and pretended that wasn’t coming my way.
Sure enough, nothing is safe any longer. We often hear footsteps: pat. pat. pat. pat-pat-pat PAT-PAT-PAT as ze makes a dash for our bedroom and my nightstand. My side of the room has been off limits for months but now it’s too hard to keep zir from it. If you give chase you hear a cackle peel out as ze makes the final end run, bouncing off the dresser, crawling over Seamus’s bed, scaling the boxes to Baby-Ninja-Warrior zir way to the treasure trove that is my nightstand and bookshelf.
Every day and night, ze tries to check the nightstand just in case there’s something different there to inspect, taste, and steal.
It’s amazing how such a little package can contain so much defiance and attitude. Ze knows the rule is that we sit when we eat, even if it’s just a quick snack and sitting on the ground. Ze sits just fine at a size appropriate table and chair at daycare.
“Sit down and have a bite.”
Squats, opens mouth.
“Sit ALL THE WAY DOWN. I refuse to be responsible for you getting stabbed in the face with the fork.”
Plops down with a scowl. Bounces back up on zir heels before the fork is fully out of zir mouth.
And heaven help you if ze really wants something and you’ve said no. You’ll get a long stare, then ze will attempt to grab it anyway. Dodge the attempt and scolding “no” riles zir further and ze lunges again. This time for the nearest Mom flesh, not zir desired object, in order to sink seven sharp vindictive teeth in.
A strangled shout of “STOP THAT YOU DO NOT BITE ME!” is met with an unwavering glare and another attempt to bite. Never turn your back on zir. Ever.
Pure pigheaded defiance, this one.
I remind myself that this is probably normal and assuming that ze lives to adulthood and I survive to see it, this pigheadedness and refusal to be cowed will likely serve hir well in this world of ours. A lot of ifs, if you ask me, but here I am, being patient, deep breathing and rubbing bite marks out of my arms.
The things we do for our kids.
We’ve tried this dozens of times but JuggerBaby has always held out against our bargaining. At the beginning, we would stand firm and insist that ze needed to eat as directed but we learned that a more flexible approach combined with some firmness and some humor made mealtimes a lot more bearable.
Ze remains a fan of dropping food overboard but now that ze is starting to understand simple cause and effect, I’m enforcing a new rule: if food is tossed, you’re done. Whether ze has had a full meal, or two and a half bites of zir snack, ze gets booted from the high chair the moment food is tossed on the ground.
After several repetitions, ze has gotten much better about it but that doesn’t mean meals are consumed with grace and alacrity.
We had burger night and ze was 100% focused on the juice boxes on the table. It was my treat, I usually drink water, but PiC wisely set one out for zir. The trick was in getting zir to eat food instead of sucking down the whole juice.
By the way, when I make burgers, I make baby sized burger patties especially for zir. It’s a thing I’m proud of. Next we need baby sized buns.
I dictated that ze had to eat TWO BITES before getting to sip the juice. I held out two fingers, and counted out loud, very firmly. At first, ze was defiant and insistent, shaking zir head NO at me very firmly and pointing at the juice. I replied, nope, two bites or no juice and went back to my meal. Ze called for the juice box again, and I repeated: 2 bites. Ready for one? Ze glared, then relented and nibbled on the burger bun. I praised the bite, “that’s one! One more.”
Ze chewed, mulling it over, then silently accepted when I offered another bite. Then decided to go for the gusto and launched zirself at the burger and snatched a dino-sized bite. We were on!
Ze willingly ate 2 bites per sip of juice for a while until I suggested a 3:1 bite to juice ratio, at which tyranny ze balked and decided ze would rather not eat or drink than to accept such unreasonable terms.
FINE. After I went back to the 2 bites rule, ze even relaxed enough to enjoy the burger normally, and stopped demanding the juice. I guess you can train a toddler!
It’s still hit or miss, honestly, but it’s a start!
Vegetables have been the least popular food group now that JuggerBaby has to chew all zir own food. I hate well-cooked vegetables but crisp vegetables are harder when a baby only has the tearing teeth and not the grinding teeth. We compromised with slightly more limp specimens than I like and we’re seeing more veggies go in the mouth without making a surprise reappearance.
When they’re sauced, ze will even clamor for more, so that’s motivation for me to stop being lazy with only steaming vegetables and learning to make a sauce.
We’ve decided not to care about zir very odd habit of dropping food into zir water cup, like a crow trying to raise the water level, or dipping zir food into water like Kobayashi with his hot dogs. If you want to eat waterlogged food, that’s fine with me.
We’ve also decided not to care about zir imitating Seamus at mealtimes. It’s faintly ridiculous but ze is still determined to eat and drink like big brother, cramming zir face into zir food bowl without using zir hands. It’s hard to decide if ze thinks ze is a puppy or that Seamus is human because ze does not act like he’s like any other dog.
Chatting with a neighbor while JuggerBaby struggled to pick snacks out of zir snack box, our neighbor offered to help zir out and quickly solved the puzzle. I didn’t mind, I just commented that normally I stand back and observe until JuggerBaby has exhausted all zir ingenuity and asks for help. And even then I might just point out a possible solution and encourage zir to keep trying.
Ze is still quite young but I want zir to develop a firm confidence in hir ability to eventually crack even the toughest nuts, occasionally with help, and learn that early frustration and failure aren’t good reasons to give up.
With food and books, ze is willing to batter the problem into submission but we see zir give up quickly with concepts like shapes and colors. Pondering how to fit one shape into another shaped hole, often ze will bypass the problem by opening the top of the container or hand it to one of us with an imperious “ah!” This may pass but it won’t if we don’t give hir the freedom and push to keep trying. It’s not that I worry ze will be seventeen and still unsure of the difference between a sphere and a hexagon. I worry that at seventeen ze will hit the base of a mountain, metaphorical or otherwise, and give up before ever taking the first handhold.
I’ve no idea how early children develop and firm up their willingness to face down frustration but I hope this all adds up.
:: Do all kids imitate animals when they’re young? Were you an independent kid? Did that carry over to adulthood?
June 15, 2016
Hide the china!
LB is walking, wobbly and wiggly and waggly, on hir own. Somewhere, ze also acquired stealth mode, too. I used to track hir movements by listening for the telltale “heh heh heh”and slap-slap-slap of hir hands as ze superspeed-crawled straight into disaster. Now, I might hear a chuckle and then Seamus’s snort of surprise as ze pops up in front of his face, or catch a glimpse of hir peering around the corner, several feet from where I left hir.
This is good for NO ONE.
What’s that you say?
So much communication is happening this month. Once, when you asked hir to sign “more”, you’d get a sidelong glance and a quirked lip sneer. “I’m not waving my hands around like that. JUST GIVE ME THE FOOD.”
This month, ze is suddenly willing to sign to communicate, and more than just “more”. “All done”, “ready”, and “please” have come into play. That doesn’t mean hir primary mode, yelling louder until we magically understand like the stereotypical American talking to a non-English speaker, has stopped completely but if you prompt hir with keywords, ze will sign appropriately, and happily, now.
I’m also teaching hir the age-appropriate formal cultural greeting that I learned as a child. Ze thinks it’s HILARIOUS.
Swimming with the fishes
JuggerLB LOVES the water. Washing hands? Awesome. Taking a bath? Awesome. Swim lessons? Awesome. Pool time with family? Awesome. Ze can’t actually swim yet but acts like ze knows how, pushing off me or PiC as if to say “I can do it!”
Teething is horrible
It feels like we’ve been in a teething phase forever. We used to get by with the Hyland’s teething tabs but lately the teething pains come with a side of high fevers and extra misery. I DID NOT ORDER THOSE.
We’ve spent many a night cuddling after a dose of Motrin and cup of water, waiting for the numbers to reverse course from 105 degrees F. I know some parents prefer to avoid the drugs and we don’t love using medications but if the kiddo is suffering, in pain, and crying when ze normally brushes off most discomfort and some ibuprofen will help, I don’t see the percentage in holding to any such principles.
Exchanging anecdotes with a friend about our babies, we realized that our children get really violent when they need sleep. I knew that ze HATED being patted for comfort when in the car seat and tired-angry. But since ze still hasn’t learned the sign for sleep, ze resorts to wildly signalling “please” and “more”, and then inflicting pain if you don’t figure it out. The first time, we were up an hour past hir normal bedtime talking to friends. JuggerBaby launched hirself into my arms and bit me. Then I noticed that if we were too slow to prep hir for daytime naps, ze would take my hand and try to tear off a chunk of it. Ouch. We’ve finally learned to catch the subtler signals of hir slowing down and confused signals as TIME FOR SLEEP. If we didn’t, ze might tear off a leg.
:: Is it possible that this is all normal for this age?
May 18, 2016
I leaned back against the side of hir crib as ze stealthily, unsteadily, inched away from me, leading with hands gripping bar by bar, heading for the opposite wall. No idea what ze was after. I couldn’t see from my position and I wasn’t trying. It was easier to peep through the bars and catch hir eye, then dramatically fail to hide behind this crib bar or that slat. Ze took the bait, reversing course, shaking with increasing ebullience after each of my faked gasps of horror.
A baby predator, more enthusiastic than skilled, catching the scent of weakness and running it to ground with cackles like fireworks, bright bursts of delight, a lopsided grin showcasing nearly five Tic Tac teeth. Dropping to all fours on final approach, ze menaced me like a tiny tiny bull, bobbing forward, backward, threatening to leap and smother me in drool and laughter.
Ze dissolved into uncontrollable chortles and I want it to last forever.
Who’s the boss?!
Ze clambers up, heedless of danger to life or limb, to plop into our laps or atop our legs with a book in hand, imperiously opening it to a page, and pushing it up to our faces with an insistent “‘ey!”
Read it to me!
When we’re both in the same room, ze insists that we share reading duties. I read one page, ze takes the book away and places it in PiC’s hand. He reads a page and a half, ze switches again.
I think ze learned this from Seamus. He used to insist on specific turn-taking when we played, too.
Temple of Doom
After an 11 hour daycare stint, I braced for impact. LB loves the place but an 11 hour day of playing and socializing with, in all likelihood, no more than a one hour nap had the potential to end in tears (hirs) and bruises (ours). This wise mama had dinner ready by the time they walked in the door, and what a grin it was on that child’s face when we said hello. It was hardly believable but not pushing our luck, we quickly started to feed the beast. Not quick enough. Within several bites, and ten minutes, the excitement of the day came crashing down, and ze flopped over sideways in hir chair, trying to navigate a spoonful of mashed potatoes into hir mouth, piteously crying. Considering hir aim when upright, that effort was doomed.
Ze sat up abruptly and alternately stretched out hir arms to me and yelling at PiC “Ma-ma! Pa-pa!” while he went for the bedtime bottle.
Once freed from the confines of the high chair, ze was all grins again, cackling for peek-a-boo and stood to dance in the bath when the joy was too much. Best moments of the night, I thought.
Dressed and damp, we three laid on the bed together, Seamus stretched alongside the bed to complete our set, and ze drank hir bottle. We normally put hir to bed solo, freeing the other parent to spend a few minutes cleaning up but it’d been a long day.
Hir drinking flagged, tiny fists curled around the bottle drooping lower and lower until I lent a supporting hand. The “enough!” push back never came. Ze drained the bottle but gripped it tighter. Tentatively, PiC produced a second bottle and we tried to extract the first but ze grabbed it back with both hands, insistently. We tried again. This time, the second bottle slid in place the split second after the first was released and success!
Then I realize we’re celebrating the tricking of a one year old so that does a little number on the self esteem. But only for a minute.
:: Do you triumph over children? Are you a mess when you’re tired or hungry?
April 20, 2016
LB will stop dead in hir tracks whenever Seamus gets his dinner. These days, it’s less the calculating “Can I get there in time to see what he’s eating and grab a handful?” and more of a thoughtful, head cocked, wheels turning in hir head expression. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that ze is now experimenting with eating face-first or carrying hir plush toys in hir mouth. Also I think ze has now established that dog kibble is not actually a super treat. The hard way, of course.
This kid can count like a dog can count. When I pull out crackers to share, ze gets one and I get one. Except not. Ze stuffs hir cracker into a cheek and immediately flings out a chubby, imperious hand to demand the other.
When offering hir one of two toys, ze maneuvers so that ze accepts one and then swipes the other one before you have a chance to pull it back.
Ze will accept offers of trade, except it’s a bait and hook scheme. Ze offers me an item, clearly wanting what’s in my hand, and then refuses to relinquish the proffered toy. The toddler always wins.
Food is good, unless it’s not
Even as ze is more opinionated about having to examine all food that goes into hir mouth, most of it is eaten pretty happily. Most rejections are of the Eh boooooored variety in which case it goes over the shoulder or is casually dropped down by hir side. Life’s too short for boring food, I guess.
We share meals with LB, ze doesn’t get a special meal or special preparation beyond cutting up spinach so ze doesn’t choke. And like Seamus was extra motivated to take his medication as soon as Doggle started cruising by and asking for some, it’s motivated hir to eat more and better through the conviction that I’ll eat hir food if ze doesn’t.
And it’s great.
Su comida es mi comida
Last month, my food in my bowl was hir food for hir mouth. Now ze is insisting that what ze eats, I must eat, pointing hir fork at me with an insistent “ey!” Ze is slowly learning “no thanks” because ze already knows the command for “put it in YOUR mouth” so the two of them together means I won’t be eating that twice-slobbered banana please, thank you, and ewwww.
Yes, I said “command”. Ze is like a puppy. These are useful commands.
Give it up, puppy
Ze demanded the orange slice I was going to eat. Fair enough, I’d stolen it from hir bowl in the first place. Ze held it flat on hir palm then SQUEEZED! as if to say “I just didn’t want you to have it.”
The juice splattered everywhere and one stream hit hir right in the eye.
Never try to dominate Mom. The universe is on my side, kid.
You know that feeling when someone’s doing a thing that you can do much better but you have to sit on your hands because they’ll never learn if you do it for them? It pays off. After months of practicing pincher movements and accidentally flinging food over hir shoulder, ze can steer a small spoon with its contents into hir mouth AND pick up the crumbs that didn’t make safe landing.