November 16, 2016
What’s yours is mine and mine is yours
We’ve entered a phase where JuggerBaby really wants us all to be doing similar things. If I’m not eating, ze doesn’t want to eat. If I AM eating, ze wants to eat too – but ze wants to eat the thing I was about to take a bite of. So we go halfsies on a lot of things. Except yogurt. Ze will eat all of my yogurt if I’m not paying attention.
Ze is really into family time, sitting on the floor mat, and pointing at a spot next to zir very emphatically: SIT HERE. Ze has us pretty well trained and is doing zir darnedest to get Seamus to cooperate. He’s no fool, though, he keeps a safe distance between them. Unless carrots are on offer. Then they’re buddies.
Imitation isn’t exactly flattery
You think the kid’s not paying attention to you until you’re woken up one morning at FinCon by a badge-wearing bundle of energy holding your cell phone to your ear yelling “Yeee-yooo?? YEEAAA-YOOO!!”
I don’t sound like that! How rude.
Self defense from the womb
I don’t know when it happened but JuggerBaby has a brilliant set of self defense skills. Ze is a complete klutz, like zir bemused and vaguely proud mama, but if you come in to pick zir up against zir will, or try to tickle attack, ze goes into a guard position that would make a quarterback and linebacker proud. You’d have to look twice to be sure ze didn’t have the pigskin tucked under the right elbow as ze fended you off with the left hand sweep.
And try, I dare you, TRY to grab zir belly when ze doesn’t want you to. Ze sweep-blocks your hand like ze is a wushu master and follows up with an elbow to the throat. I can almost hear the Mortal Kombat “FINISH HIM” in the background.
I had to train for years to get any kind of feel for this sort of self defense. Apparently I passed it all on through the umbilical cord?
Parenting skills: baby chores
Several months ago, I was pretty sure we had a budding fluff and folder here. Ze would help me take the washed clothes out to put in the dryer, piece by piece, usually licking it before handing it over. That’s apparently become boring, though, so we’ve upgraded zir jobs.
Ze helps PiC unload the dishwasher in the morning, only licking the occasional utensil, and only sometimes dumping all my silverware in a hidden spot. After work, ze is responsible for taking socks and other laundry to the laundry basket or the washing machine, and for throwing away any trash ze might find.
If ze is balky, I can always bribe zir with the offer of letting zir give Seamus treats. Works like a charm. We think it’s important that ze learns to contribute to the household!
Surprising things about parenting
Still licking everything!
Why are we still telling JuggerBaby not to eat the soap, lick the dog, the butter, the floor, our shoes….??
“Ze has licked worse” shouldn’t still be such a regular part of our daily conversation.
Things we are loving
Where the Wild Things are, Maurice Sendak
I’m at least a little wary that this is such a favorite right now. Especially when ze is stuck on the wild rumpus part and still wild rumpusing when we’re 3 pages past. But it’s amazing how many read throughs ze will sit for when you remember that usually you can’t even get through one page before ze chooses the next book. It’s a fun read, though.
Favorite bath toys
Empty Luxury Lane jars: toddler’s top recommendation. These are the best for catching water and dumping it on my head. Ze will occasionally dump it over zir own head too, then fling back zir head in squinty-eyed disgust at being splashed in the face.
October 19, 2016
Pardon my doting
But I adore this child. When ze was first born, the reviews were mixed. Ze looked like me, some said. Ze looked like him, said others. Never mind that, I sighed, how do you get zir to stop crying?
Ze got that from me if you believe the family canon. That and the face. And the fire. That nearly savage defiance is almost certainly from me.
It’s a peculiar thing in my family that certain facial features are incredibly pronounced in the first two to four years. It was long told that you couldn’t tell our matriarchal pack of cousins apart by voice or face comparing us at the same ages, male or female. There are still a few pictures I remember holding up to Mom and even she couldn’t tell which of us two kids it was. It didn’t help that we also shared the same hand me down yard sale clothes. Uncanny really, and the genes hold strong for yet another generation. For now, ze looks like every two year old in my family.
PiC twits me for my “vanity”, joking that I’m just admiring myself. “Sure I do, I’m great. But that kid’s not ME, that’s mini-me,” I retort. But it’s only a little bit true. This child did come from me but other than some superficial similarities I think (and hope) ze is a totally different person. Super finally, ze is far more compellingly attractive than I ever was, ze is brimming with personality and quirks. Where I was sullen, ze is vibrant. Where I was suspicious and shy, ze is curious and inquisitive. Sometimes even charming. Definitely wholly engaged with the world I only wanted to hide from. The whole combines to make a child photogenic in manifold ways. I was, and am, not. Which is ok given my personality, honestly but I wonder how well it’ll serve zir. A dear friend sighed, “Well. Ze will be a beauty, nothing we can do about that.” I had to laugh at that – but we both know that living with good looks can be more an impediment to good character than not.
I don’t recall what my good traits were from that time, other than “finally stopped crying all the time” and “obedient” and the person who might have remembered is long gone. Maybe that’s why I keep these notes. Someday I’ll share them so JuggerBaby might know what a challenge and a delight ze was.
We talk a lot about parenting and what we hope to share with zir. We hope ze has my sense and his way with people. We hope ze has the love of money that I have and the sense of responsibility that he has. We hope ze enjoys life like he did, that ze enjoys being zirself like I did. But that’s the hope we hold through the lens of our experiences.
I know that ze isn’t us 2.0, and zir experiences will be wholly zirs, not ours to retread. I hope we do a good job of supporting and guiding without alienating or enabling. I hope that ze avoids the uglier gifts of my family line. The depression, the bipolar disease, the preponderance of abuse issues. We’ll talk about them, in hopes ze is as well informed as ze can be, and so ze also knows to come to us first if ze has need.
Ze has a whole life ahead that ze will live and I hope love.
Of course, it’s not ALL good
We’ve been having a problem with biting for the past several months.
It started as something ze did for a reaction, for fun. This is how we went from “oh, weaning, maybe around a year or so” to “We’re done, keep those teeth away from me, take your a bottle.”
Let me tell ya, it did nothing good for my fears that ze will grow up into an adult sociopath when ze would grin, bite, then chuckle when you yell OW! Sometimes, ze would be overcome with baby belly laughs, and mock your “ow”: “aaaoohhwwww! heh heh heh heh oooohhhhwwwww!”
… It’s not funny!
Except zir laughter was contagious and ze wins again because everyone’s laughing and ze did it. Sigh.
And mostly ze was biting me so, not a big deal, except teeth happened and it flipping well HURT. Those bites were mainly out of frustration – ze would be angry that I was preventing zir from, say, licking the dog, or throwing a punch, or flipping over everything in sight. Ze would yell, and I don’t respond to yelling, so then ze would zoom in for the kill and chomp down on me. That sucker is quick, too, I know it’s coming and sometimes I still can’t block it.
The laughing at mouthy-biting stopped right quick when the anger biting started, and we’ve been working through all kinds of techniques. Let’s start with what doesn’t work: Saying “no” calmly. Saying NO loudly. Saying OW! Not reacting. Opening zir jaws like ze is a dog, not saying anything. Pulling away. Not pulling away.
What’s worked: NOTHING.
The teachers keep saying this is just a phase and it’ll pass when ze can talk, but in the meantime, I live in dread that ze is going to get zir little butt booted from daycare if ze doesn’t stop biting kids as communication. Generally it stems from an inability to know how to ask for toys, and other kids’ unwillingness to share. We don’t insist they always share but ze doesn’t understand kids who don’t proactively offer to share like ze often does. Ze doesn’t share everything but almost always offers something, and I’ve noticed a shift in zir behavior from willingly offering to being more guarded and refusing to offer since ze has been playing more with these kids. Maybe it’s just a phase they’re all going through, but I’m pretty sure the company has a lot to do with it too since you see zir behavior adapt to the company ze is in.
Parenting skills: boogers boogers everywhere
Everyone I know swears by the NoseFrida snot-sucker. If this works for your kid, you’re clearly blessed by some deity. For MY kid, if you even pick up the thing and look at zir, ze will scream blue-brown-grey-purple murder. It doesn’t matter if ze has lost the ability to breathe like a normal human, that snot-sucker and the saline isn’t coming near zir.
FINE. So I very quickly squish zir nose like I’m pinching it shut several times, gently, and voila! The boogers come out. No fuss, lots of muss, but whatever, the boogers are removed.
We love …
Chase, AKA, I’m a monster, I’m going to get you. If you’re too slow, ze will come back to get you. If you wander off, ze will come back to get you. Mind, you’re the monster in this scenario.
Tickle my toddler. JuggerBaby will shriek with laughter, then say “no”. I always stop when ze says no. Then ze looks at me and points at the tickle-spot: you may resume. Rinse, repeat.
Find my toes. Ze stretches out zir feet, as far as ze can, and waggles zir foot. Where’s my foot? Do you see my foot? Touch zir toe with one finger and ze collapses with laughter.
Where’s my belly button, do you have a belly button? Flip shirt up. Stick head under nearest adult’s shirt to check if they also have the elusive belly button. Check the dog’s belly. Where’s his button?? (Seamus: STOP.)
Nursery Rhyme Comics, published by First Second. We don’t love all of the nursery rhymes but with 50 to choose from, who needs to? Ze can sit through three read-throughs of this book. Ze loves Three Little Kittens, Three Blind Mice, Pat-a-Cake, Rock-a-bye Baby. Ze is not creeped out by Mike Mignola’s Solomon Grundy but PiC is. Personally, I think Georgie Porgie’s a jerk and I’d have punched him in the nose.
Lunch things: bento boxes
I’m in love with bento boxes, conceptually, and having to get JuggerBaby a new set of lunch gear was right up my alley. You wouldn’t believe the hours of research that I put in to find the perfect lunch set but we’re very exacting people when it comes to buying containers.
Our requirements: leakproof, insulated, stackable, microwavable, dishwasher-friendly, the right size for JuggerBaby’s lunches from now until ze is 5 (aka not too big, not too small, juuust right).
After a few false starts, I happened across the InnoBaby brand. While it doesn’t fit the microwave-friendly requirement, we can work with that because it’s excellent on all other fronts.
We picked two InnoBaby Keepin Fresh 15 ounce boxes instead of the smaller 11 ounce snackbox sizes. The smaller ones come with a convenient divider which would be nice but zir idea of a serving size of fruit isn’t your standard toddler size. We didn’t want a hangry toddler wreaking havoc in daycare after an inadequate lunch.
It’s been FANTASTIC. It’s secured by four clips, one on each side, and the metal tray stacked within the plastic box holds in cold or heat for hours. This also means that despite JuggerBaby’s habit of shaking zir lunch like it’s a mysterious Christmas present, it remains intact and non-leaky for the rest of the day.
We’ve sent some good lunches to daycare, if I do say so myself! Certainly better than the hot lunch option they’re providing.
- Box 1, grapes, strawberries; Box 2, cheesy pasta w/veggies
- Box 1, banana, hummus and 3 pieces of pita bread; Box 2, fried rice with veggies
- Box 1, banana, strawberries; Box 2, baked beans and cornbread
- Box 1, cherries, grapes; Box 2, meatloaf and pasta primavera
- Box 1, mango, yogurt; Box 3, turkey cheese sandwich
:: What were some of your favorite books to read as a child? What’s your earliest memory?
September 14, 2016
My Little Dobby
This child cannot be convinced of the one sock & one shoe per foot rule. Ze is constantly asking me to add another shoe on top of the one ze is already wearing. The best we can do is layer socks, though, and ze has stolen several pairs of socks from me so as to better mix and match zir footwear.
Transitions and weanings
It’s occurred to me that, despite my worries about never managing it or fighting over each step, our several weanings, off the bottle, off pre-sleep milk, and fuss-free naps ended up going much smoother than I’d been led to expect.
At daycare pickup one day, I overheard a parent telling the teacher: yeah he’s still on bottles. His doctor would kill us if she knew but it’s just easier! The kid was two years old, at least, and was running around with a bottle clenched in his teeth. I think I let that, and JuggerBaby’s general stubbornness, get in my head.
Looking back, though, it really didn’t suck. One day I realized that no part of me wanted to be dealing with bottles, bottle brushes, or any of that nonsense on our travel in 2016. In the Spring I decided we were doing it. Ze had been using a sippy cup for water already, so I started offering both milk and water in sippy cups during the days with meals. After a few days, since ze didn’t seem to care much, I offered the milk in a sippy cup for pre-nap fill-up. The first time I did that, I got Such A Look. Ze firmly pushed it away. It took three tries for zir to convince me that this was not happening. Fine. I switched to the bottle and ze sucked down the milk contentedly.
But the next time, I offered the sippy again. Ze considered it, and decided that yes, ok, this was acceptable. And so for about four days, ze only got milk in a bottle before bedtime. Otherwise, it was all sippies.
By the end of the week, because ze was eating so well and drinking plenty of milk at dinner, I changed it up again and gave zir a water sippy cup at bedtime. This changeover was accepted with equanimity, as long as there was something to occupy zir hands and mouth while we read bedtime stories, zir full belly didn’t care if it was milk.
This was strategic: zir teeth were coming in and I didn’t want zir to be so in the habit of having milk right before bed that those teeth rotted out of zir head before permanents come in. (#ParentingHorrorStories)
Naturally, it was time to introduce a few new habits since ze was going so well! We used to let zir nurse or get milk drunk before naps, now I’d give zir a sippy, change zir diaper and started rocking zir on my shoulder for a couple minutes with a song. Same song, every time.
Sooner than even I anticipated, ze absorbed what I was hoping to ingrain, and that was if I’m holding you and singing, it’s time to nap. Within a couple weeks I was able to stop giving nap sippies and ze responded very positively to the Pavlovian signal of being picked up, patted on the back and sung to. This is a kid who normally pops up like a jackrabbit the second you lay zir head on your shoulder – no way was ze going to miss any action! Now, unless ze is overtired, if you scoop zir up at the right time and start singing, plop! Zir head goes down on your shoulder. It’s a pretty reliable signal – if ze isn’t ready to sleep at all, ze stays head up and alert. Mostly we’ve finally gotten the timing right.
Sometimes we get it very wrong and even just suggesting that we’re going to pick zir up sets off a wail and collapse to the floor like you cut zir strings. That’s when you’re unforgiveably overdue and zir heart is broken. Broken, I tell you!!
We’re getting better at avoiding that, too.
Most days, the transfer from shoulder to crib is smooth. Tuck zir in, ze hugs a plushie or kitten-pounces a blanket and folds over on zir side. There’s not a lot of the popping back up to stare at you accusingly like in days of yore. I thought we’d NEVER get a baby that would sleep like a reasonable human, but nowadays ze just mumbles to zirself for a while and then passes out.
I don’t know what’ll happen when it’s time to free the creature from zir cage, though. Ze is already outgrowing zir crib and I dread giving zir the freedom of crawling out of bed to play. It’s almost inevitable. Because of how we sleep trained zir, the school of drop off and run, there’s no staying by zir side til ze sleeps, that would be an undeniable invitation to play. How much worse will be once we remove the crib door?
We’ll see. That’s a fight for another day. I’m just going to be grateful that these transitions went as well as they did. It was anyone’s guess how ze would take losing bottle privileges or pre-nap milk top-ups, and so the next step is a mystery too. Unless I can dig up some kind of trial run to ease zir into the idea of sleeping voluntarily when not caged in a crib, or perhaps devise a netted dome situation. Or a stationary human baby hamster ball.
Things we are loving
Since our transition off bottles, and the arrival of teeth, we’ve been fighting a losing battle against JuggerBaby’s biting and shaking of sippy cups. The standard Munchkin sippy cups with straws and biteproof / leakproof cups were no proof against the chompers. Everything leaked or dripped after ze had zir way with it. Since ze also knows how to drink from a cup, I hunted down our latest aquisitions, the Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cups, and they work wonderfully.
Ze figured out this new set within seconds and sucked down three cups of water in zir fascination with the new cups.
The only bad thing is that they’re not easy for me to open, my hands can’t get a grip on the slippery outside, but they’re ten times easier to clean, and except for one user failure (mine) to properly re-affix the silicone lid to the trainer handles, we’ve had zero leaks despite all zir best efforts. And believe me, ze tries. Ze shakes them upside down, slams it against the tray, walls, zir head. I love them. I highly recommend them.
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?