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Posts Tagged ‘toddler’

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Glamor shot.

Evening.  A bedtime scene in a house in middle Tennessee.

“Chickens are sleeping?”

“Yes, Miles,  The chickens are sleeping.  It’s nighttime.”

“I will sleep with them!  They go BOCK-K! BOCK-K!?”

“Yes, they say bock bock.  Go to sleep, Miles.”

 

Morning.  A child rolls over in bed.

“The chickens are awaaake?!”

 

Naptime.  Rubbing eyes.

“I want to feed the chickens.”

90 minutes pass with no actual nap taking place.

“Bock-k!  You’re awake! Chickens!!”

 

Miles and I just went on a trip to visit Nana and Pah. And the chickens.  Were so.  Thrilling.  Miles didn’t nap at all after the first day, and I think his feathered friends were to blame.  How could anyone expect him to sleep when there were live chickens just outside?  Then again, how could he sleep when there were cousins to play with?  A golf cart to drive?  Cows to moo at?  Let’s just say that a good time was had by all.

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Evan, Miles, Cash.

 

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Rollin' with Pah.

 

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"I want to feed them!"

 

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Miles and moos.

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Wagon.

 

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Where's the stereo on this thing?

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Sometimes, when Miles is flipping out  — because I won’t let him stop to inspect a pebble covered in dog pee, or because I want to put the stroller away and go upstairs, or because the fridge magnets won’t stick to his kneecaps — I try to imagine what it must feel like to never be in charge and to be at the mercy of rules which seem needlessly arbitrary.

I mean, here he is, realizing he is a separate living being with volition.  And here we are, controlling his every move.  Miles, it’s time to put the train away and eat dinner.  Miles, it’s time to get out of the high chair and onto the potty.  Miles, it’s time to get off the potty and into the bath.  Miles, it’s time to get out of the bath and… you get the idea.  

Do not interrupt. I'm learning here!

He’s trying to learn things, like what fridge magnets will stick to, or how many books he can read on the potty (without peeing, of course!) before his butt falls asleep.  He wants to determine just how long it takes to go down three flights of stairs on one’s bottom, pausing every three of four steps to hum a song or point at a smoke detector.  This is important learning, of course!  And yes, the stairwell experiment must be repeated every time we leave or enter our apartment building.  For statistical accuracy!

"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall..."

And meanwhile we are trying to make life go.  We’re feeding him, washing him, providing time and space for sleep.  I spend all day coercing him — while he obstructs all forward progress.  I coerce, and he obstructs.  I’ve started calling him my little obstructionist.  (I don’t want to know what he calls me.)

So I understand why sometimes, he has to take a stand and do something himself, on his own time.  And sometimes, whenever I can dig deep and find the patience, I let him.  Sometimes that means sitting in the stairwell for twenty minutes until I feel myself seething with a dull, ridiculous rage. 

Other times, it means standing back at a respectful distance and letting him work something out. 

Can he do it?

The eyes say, "Stay back!"

He did it!

Piece of cake.

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I would like to state for the record that some things about being (almost) 2 are not so terrible.

Around 2 years old, children develop symbolic play.  That’s fancy child-development speak for, like, pretending and stuff.  They personify their stuffed animals and use toys to act out little scenes.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, this is closely tied to the development of language.   Which means that Miles is able to tell us a little of what he’s imagining, and we get a peek into his inner life.

There’s lots of hugging and kissing in Miles’ inner life.  His toy animals hug and kiss each other ardently, with little regard for preserving the purity of species.  You’ve heard of the lion lying down with the lamb?  Well, in our house the chameleon lies down with the monkey, and the giraffe lies down with the bear.  The animals are quite promiscuous, actually.  The animals also have conversations.  The stuffed dogs will not shut up. (“Ruf!” “Ruff Ruff!” “Ruff… ruff.”) 

There’s lots of cooking and eating in Miles’ inner life.  In his play kitchen, he unloads groceries, washes his hands, munches on grapes, and drinks pretend coffee. 

Other rituals confuse me a little.  Cows take naps inside houses made out of cut-up milk cartons and then wake up to endlessly climb invisible stairs.  (“Upstairs!  Downstairs!”) Huh???

And yesterday, this happened.

"Doggy read. Miles read. Book."

He put his little stuffed dog in his lap, nestling it in, the way he nestles into my lap when we read before naptime.  Then, patiently, struggling with the pages and smushing the dog somewhat dreadfully, he “read” the dog  several books, pointing out significant objects on each page.

"Truck. Fire truck."

Did I die from the cuteness?  Yes.  Yes I did.

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Guess what I did?

 

He pooped in the potty!  He pooped in the potty!  Stop the presses: he pooped in the potty!

Think this is a weird thing to get excited about?  Then you have obviously never raised a toddler.  This is a situation of location, location, location.  A fresh steaming pile of excremement smeared around in a diaper? Quotidian.  A fresh, steaming pile of excremement in a gleaming, never-used Baby Bjorn potty?   Victory!

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not hardcore potty trainers over here.  It’s not like we marked a date on a calendar and said, “Miles must be potty trained by this date!”  (Nor do I think one poop in the potty means we’re bidding diapers adieu.)  We’re also not doing the “boot camp” style of potty training in which you teach a kid in three days by abruptly going diaper-free.  We’re kind of taking the approach that he’ll learn to use the potty the way he learned to use a spoon — gradually, through imitation, and with often messy results.  So we show him how to sit on the potty seat and give him lots of practice sitting on it while we read him books.  And that is about the extent of our potty training.

He has peed in the potty exactly twice.  The first time, when the urine started to flow,  he looked frightened, jumped up, and tried to hold the pee in with his hand.  The second time he sat down, grunted, peed, and acted like it was no big deal.  But the first time was over a month ago, and we haven’t been very focused on the potty lately with all of our travel.

So we weren’t expecting much this morning when Miles wandered over to his potty, sat on it still wearing his diaper, and said conversationally, “Miles potty!”

I took his diaper off just in case, and Robin sat down to read him a book.  After awhile, Miles became completely engrossed in the book — a favorite of his, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” — and seemed to forget his purpose.

“Okay Miles, go ahead and poop,” Robin said.

So he grunted and pooped.

And we both lost our minds with delight.

We’d been intending to be low-key about any potty victories in order not to put pressure on him, but we couldn’t help ourselves.    Robin cheered, and I took photos of the poop and high-fived him.  I was just so proud — and certainly not of us.  We didn’t do anything.  But Miles did something amazing.  He wanted to poop on the potty, and he did it.  Without anyone forcing or bribing or stickering or cajoling* — with his parents basically being lazy about it, in fact — he decided he was ready and stepped up to the potty.

I mean, come on, what’s not to get excited about?  

See? There it is.

*I am not promising we will never bribe or sticker or cajole, for the record.

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Country Time

For Robin’s birthday, we visited her family in Georgia.  She comes from a small town — and when I say small, I don’t mean a town with a McDonald’s but no Taco Bell.  I don’t mean a town where the mall has a lousy selection and a cheesy fountain. 

I mean a town without a gas station.  A town of fewer than 300 residents.  A town where the only street light is the blinking caution light you roll through as you pass the abandoned mill.  A town where there is one restaurant, named simply, “The Chicken Place,” that until last year was housed in a defunct gas station with sagging old-time pumps.  In this town, Robin’s father was at various points both the mayor and the fire chief, and neither of those was his full-time job. 

It was the perfect place for some R&R in the midst of a summer of nonstop travel.  We lolled in the pool, walked in the woods, played with kids and, of course, ate and ate and ate.  Miles disappeared into the play room at Nana and PaPa’s house for long stretches of time with his cousins.  I curled up on the couch with a book for most of a day.  At Aunt Martha Ann and Uncle Bill’s house (clear across town, about a quarter of a mile away), we feasted on turkey, cornbread muffins, black-eyed peas, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, garden-fresh sliced tomatoes, creamed corn,  sweet tea and caramel cake.  Miles climbed tractors, a boat and a handful of lawn mowers.

So, basically, it was exactly like daily life in Brooklyn.  (Not.)

Into the woods.

 

"Miles have it?"

 

Nana's kitchen.

 

Turn signal.

 

Photo by Taylor Davidson.

Boat!

 

Cousins.

 

Homeward bound.

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Peas in a pod.

On the way home from music class Friday morning, we stopped spontaneously at a large, lovely playground that we don’t get to very often.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, so we usually go somewhere closer unless we are meeting someone.  Miles, thrilled with his good luck, clambered up a metal ladder (when did he start climbing ladders?!), chattering away in multi-word sentences (when did he start chattering?!).

At the top of the slide, he shouted joyfully, “Binn!”

Playgrounding in February.

“What Miles?”

“Finn!  Finn! Is she?  Where … is she? Where?”

I realized with shock that he was remembering the last time we’d played at that playground, almost a month earlier.  We’d played with his very best friend, Finn, and he expected her to be here today.  He scanned the playground eagerly from his perch.  Big kids shouting, tots racing through a water sprinkler, everywhere the hot sun.  No Finn.

Of course he expected to see her.  We see Finn at least once a week, and it had been much more than that since our last play date.  But Finn was on vacation with her moms.  “Sorry Miles,” I said.  “No Finn today.”  After a few seconds, he gave up, skidding forlornly down the slide.

Spring.

He’s been this way about Finn for quite some time.  Like the first time I mistakenly mentioned we were going to Finn’s house an hour before we were supposed to leave.  Miles marched to the door and began banging on it, chanting her name.  In case I wasn’t getting the point, he grabbed his shoes from the bin, thrust them into my hands, and entreated, “Go!” 

For several months, I was sure he thought Finn’s name was “More.” 

“Do you want to go see Finn?” I would ask.

“More, more, more,” Miles would chant, firmly signing “friend” with his hands. 

“Are you saying more friend?”

He’d look at me.  Concentrate. “More.” (Sign “friend.”) “Please.”

Got milk?

They met at two months old in a coffee shop.  A mutual friend connected Robin and me with Finn’s moms, Alicia and Melissa, because we were lesbian families who’d had babies within two weeks of each other.  At that point, Miles and Finn were bald and squirmy grubs, rooting for the breast.  They couldn’t have cared less about socializing.  Then they moved on to parallel play, eyeing one another with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, until their first tortured attempts at sharing.  Now their friendship is a passionate and intense toddler love fest.  He mostly calls her “Binn,” and she mostly calls him “Biles.” They’re a funny pair, both blonde and blue-eyed, running around like a couple of Scandinavian elves out of a fairy tale.  They scream each other’s names. 

“Biles!  Biles!  Biles!”

“Binn! Binn!  Binn!”

“Biles!”

“Binn!”

They debate the finer points of Elmo and Ernie.  They hug, they read, they giggle, they grab, they cry, they push, they chase.  

So funny!

A few months ago, we asked Miles and Finn for the first time if they would like to kiss each other goodbye.   We were finishing up a play date, and they’d been milling about, grabbing toys off the ground, turning in circles, grabbing the dogs’ tails. 

Both stopped.  They looked at each other.  And then they bolted — not away but toward each other — collided belly to belly and nose to nose, and bounced back, stunned.  Contorting with suppressed laughter, we asked if they would like to try again.  Finn smiled.  Miles approached.  He tilted his head and teetered.  Finn grasped his arm and leaned and… contact! 

The smooch train.

With Finn and Alicia, we go to the playground, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the amazing sandbox at Pier 6, the Transit Museum, the park.  Sometimes Robin and I babysit Finn, and other times Alicia and Melissa babysit Miles.  In the Fall, Miles and Finn will be together in a cooperative preschool, which means Alicia and I will be taking turns (with other parents) teaching and providing snacks. 

Best of all for me, as the kids’ friendship has developed — in between the breastfeeding, the diapers, and the snack times — Alicia and I have become great friends too.  We sneak in actual, adult conversations sometimes, conversations that help keep me sane and balanced.  On weekends sometimes we get together all six of us: four moms talking and two toddlers climbing and babbling.  In those moments, I realize just how eloquent our son really is.  More.  Friend. Please. 

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Two little monkeys jumpin' on the bed.

Play date.

 

Push!

 

 

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On Sunday afternoon, RJ and Robin and Miles and I stood outside our apartment building. 

“You look so rested,” RJ was telling me.  “Doesn’t she look like she just came back from a vacation? Your face looks different.”

“It does,” Robin admitted.

Which was kind of weird.  I hadn’t come back from a vacation; in fact, I’d just returned from a three-day trip in which I flew to California (with a layover in Minneapolis), attended a memorial service, slept very little, got up in the early morning dark, and flew back to New York (with a layover in Minneapolis).  On the various planes, I’d been squished in between snoring businessmen, stuck without food for hours at a time,  and, worst of all, had the window seat next to a couple returning from a fractious visit to their in-laws.  (“He was mocking me the whole time.” “That wasn’t mockery — why would you say that?” “He was mocking me.  You never notice it.”)  All of this followed by a harrowing cab ride complete with a skidding, screeching  near-death on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

I’d had, by most people’s reckoning, a brutal few days.  Yet I felt magnificent.  Why?  They were three days without Miles.

I’m not a horrible mother.  Really.  I just needed a long break, a break so long that I would be forced to stop planning, coordinating, anticipating, meeting needs.  A break in which I would be Not In Charge of Anything.  A break in which I would not wipe anyone else’s bottom, prepare anyone else’s food, wipe up anyone else’s spills, bathe anyone else’s body, convince anyone else (ever so cheerfully) to please, please, please climb the stairs or get out of the tub or let me put on your shoes or sit on the potty instead of running around naked and shrieking.  Yet as much as I needed such a break, I could not imagine taking one, and I could not imagine being without Miles for several days.  The longest I’ve been away from him is ten hours.  Leading up to my departure, I was anxious and fearful.

Then I got on the plane.  Almost immediately, I started having thoughts.  I thought about Robin dancing, my years working at a newspaper, the neighbors we had when we first moved to Brooklyn.  I thought about college and friendships, about my childhood cat, about family, about the man whose life I was traveling to celebrate.  And then I thought, “Hey, I’m back!  I’m Melissa!”  Meaning, not Miles’ mom.  Meaning, the person I have been my whole life, since I was a kid, that consciousness that has accompanied me through decades and changes of scenery.  That consciousness I’d somehow lost track of.  For the last two years my brain has been tuned to a different channel — the channel of snacks and naps and meal plans and housekeeping.  The noise of daily parenting had become so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. 

Three simple days.  I read three books.  I listened to people.  I went where I was supposed to be.  I carried only the things I needed.  (No toy trains!  No sippy cups!)  I felt calm.  And I made a list of what I need to do to feel this way again.  It included things like nights out, yoga, back-up day care, meditation, reading books, writing in a journal.

 After the list, I turned to a fresh page and wrote one sentence.

It was: I don’t want to lose this.

This is dedicated to all those parents who are so busy doing they don’t have time to think.  Let’s figure it out together.  Let’s change the channel sometimes, if only for a few minutes.  Let’s listen to ourselves.  And then let’s gather up our partners and our children and hold them in our arms, as I did with Robin and Miles on Sunday, and let that peace emanate from us to them.

You missed me. Admit it.

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