Friday, August 18, 2017

Playground Politics

The playground is a microcosm of our society and it is quite astonishing to see how staunchly children interpellate our social mores. 

"Mine! Mine!" the rallying cry of our property centred culture is intermittently heard throughout the playground. 

I believe the proper etiquette respecting toys is that if they are not played with, they are fair game while you are in the playground, but they should be returned to where you found them upon leaving or earlier, upon request. I find it useful to arrive at the playground with toys, because this draws children to my own, who are particularly social, and forces them to share. Of course, this also forces me to plod around the playground at times in search of kidnappees, where on occasion I've had to negotiate tough terms for their release. I learnt early on the primacy of returning with all our party, or at least the vast majority of it, for my toddler has an acute accounting ability (forget what we bring to the playground - I stand flabbergasted and somewhat disconcerted that he can account for all his toys at home and knows exactly who gave what to him, so for example, he would not merely describe one of his puzzles to be the "road construction puzzle" but add its origin, "the one deka {grandpa} gave me" et al, as if he had drafted a Magna Carta of his room's possessions to which he could easily refer).

Some parents, for reasons that escape my logic, follow a different code respecting toys at the playground and attempt to gate their possessions by emblazoning their children's nomenclature on them as if it this provides indelible protection, to be respected by the rampaging toddlers in the sandpit. Yet the natural law of the sandpit tends to prevail and toys do not enjoy solace for long as little hands conquer them as captives to their imagination. It is difficult to suppress laughter when a wearied parent points to their lettered alarm and waxes hysterical over the trespass of their forgotten toys by adventurous, imaginative and none the least, illiterate toddlers. If, for whatever reason, perhaps a heightened anxiety over the loss of a particular toy or the gain of unwanted germs, they are so concerned that no child plays with their kids' toys, perhaps they should not leave them alone or even, take them to the playground.

A simple way to ensure your kids have toys they can play with, is to bring them with you. This also draws the attention of the other kids, which I find a benefit, even if at times, this may result in the kidnapping of members of our party. Most parents understand that wresting a toy from a toddler is a no go and instruct their kids as to this rule, and, as I do, intervene when its transgressed. Fortunately for me, I have not had to do this for my older son for a long time now, I believe he was still crawling when I had to discipline his penchant for piracy in the sands of the sandpit. My younger son is more interested in flinging himself onto the most dangerous escapade for toy piracy to be an issue and my primary concern is to leave the playground with all his appendages intact. 

L, my elder son, is a social butterfly, to say the least and when we arrive to a playground he prances to other kids to play with them. At first he would demand their audience, "hey kids! come play with me!" and after some gentle persuasion by his mother that this may not be the most effective strategy and a butchery of le bon ton, his latest tactic has been to say "excuse me, may I play with you?" which has my full blessing and to which he receives mixed responses to say the least. Some kids stare befuddled at this request before resuming their previous activity without gratifying my quixotic son with an answer to which he has learnt to simply repeat his request. My heart is pinched every time he so politely asks children to play with him and punched when he is ignored or refused. Yet, most children let him play and the ones that don't (usually older boys) are to a large extent worn down by his attrition. I try not to intervene because I know he needs to learn how to negotiate the predatory social jungle but I earnestly record what goes on, so that I may later divulge what I perceive is good advice for social negotiation. I don't want him to be discouraged by refusal, yet I also do not wish him to pester people that for reasons alien to me, are not besotted by his enigmatic personality and the constellations within his resplendent eyes (ah, a mother's love). Human relations, after all, are travails of trial and error. 

If he comes to the playground armed with toys, he becomes much more interesting and rather than running around in search of company, it comes to him. It has also taught him to share his toys. He likes to dispense his toys as if he were handing out largesse and enjoys having other kids play with his toys, whether or not they are playing with him, until it is time to leave, and to account. 

Some parents, albeit and thankfully few and far between, also for reasons that I suppose must have to do with a too keen concern over germs upon their gems, do not wish their kids to fraternize on the playground to the evident distress of their imprisoned progeny. Why bring a kid to where there are others only to prevent them from enjoying their company? I’ve watched parents attempt to separate kids that are playing well together, so that they can segregate their kid/s to play solitary games that seed a sorrow that will indubitably later aid the pockets of their therapists. 

Our playground excursions are always a careful choreography of playing together, whether we’re racing cars down the slide, going down together or taking turns or seeing how much sand our shoes can swallow as dump trucks and cement mixers construct cities in the desert plains, and being apart for which I employ sideline supervision. This invariably involves panic as in the shatter of a second I lose sight of my son - a muted moment of torment before he reappears over a ledge and shrieks in delight down a slide.  Recently I’ve endeavored on a project to have him answer his name and respond “over here!”, which has yet to come to a conclusion. 

There is always the trepidation of allowing my kids to tread onto the next step. The first slide down on their own. The first circuit through the jungle gym. The other day, L wanted to go down the toboggan slide by himself, expertly picking a fine piece of cardboard to accompany his derrière down. I was concerned, but I decided, after reasoning that any injury would be impermanent and teach an invaluable lesson in carefulness, to let him go. I was somewhat stupefied at his finesse. While I fractured a climb and weaved in and out of vertigo, L scuttled up expertly and descended with delight. Again and again. This ignited desire like wildfire in my younger son, a wild child to no end, who began to nimbly scuttle up with a ferocious agility. I stumbled behind, drenched with worry. They don’t grow up, they spring forth in bolts through blinks.

I’ve had to intervene at intervals when I see my kids about to venture upon a dangerous activity or entwined within evident social acrimony. When an aggressive kid decides to target my ducklings, I swoop in from my perch and take them away, albeit I worry whether I came too soon. After all, how are they ever to resolve conflict if we end it for them? Do we not form fools if we protect them from their folly? While it is better to learn a painful lesson from a book than through experience, muscles remember in a way pages cannot persuade. 

Parents must appear a spectacle on the playground. Akin to dog owners who expertly ignore each other as their dogs sniff parts most intimate, and who on the rare occasion address the other canine and on the rarer occasion, the other owner and so merely to comment on their pet, parents lurk around their kids in the playground, part paying attention to their kids, part audience to their phones, ignoring each other with finesse, on the rare occasions asking how old the other parent’s child is. 

Working on east coast time, I take my kids earlier to the park most days when nannies number far more than parents. They like to socialize amongst each other, engaged in a lively banter as their charges play, occasionally taking a few choice pictures for their parents so that they may claim they were keenly concentrating on their activities. 

Kids are perfect exemplars of the law of inertia. Engaged in activities at home, they resist going to the playground and once there, they loathe to leave. I admit I’ve resorted to cheap tricks to effect an exist from the playground. I offer snacks in the stroller. I bribe with promises of rationed screen time at home. And sometimes, after my efforts prove fruitless, I employ force. I always wonder how no one questions my authority in taking my children away when they join in mutiny and scream their resistance as if I am kidnapping them from their kin.

My playground adventures have affected my garb. I used to admittedly have a stentorian sartorial style with a particular penchant for pelleterria
 which suited the flat topography of New York but which the torment of the nebulous city's terrain, coupled with trotting about after my toddlers whipped from my whimsy and now I plod around in jeans, a windbreaker and sneakers to the inner grumblings of my fashionista and the gratitude of my muscular-skeletal system.

The problem of the playground and soon, preschool and school, is that you can only shield your kids to a certain extent. We don’t have any toy guns, but they are in abundance on the playground. My son heard boys running around shouting “bang, bang” and then employed this tactic against his younger brother to my dismay. Yet we can’t keep our children secluded and protected in a castle of our own making for it is bound to be vitreous and prone to shatter. All we can do is influence their aspect to better understand what they see. Better to teach your kids to swim than fence your pool. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Little Fierce Potentate

It’s hard to believe that M is already one year old even though admittedly I feel five years older.

M’s character was prominent from his entry into this world, fierce and fast with less than three hours of labour and only three pushes (the hospital staff referred to us as the “stop and drop”). Since we are all to some extent the prisoners of contingency, my little potentate’s character developed through his attempts to eclipse the refulgence of his elder brother’s lucent personality. He has mercilessly learnt how to charm and wile and makes friends of strangers when we're out and about.

Learning from his elder brother and in a nanny share with his brother and his best bud, who are 19 days apart and about 21 months older than M, he has learnt how to fight, because he’s had to. Some months ago, when L and W decided the only way to protect their puzzles from the resident Godzilla’s rampage was to play on top of L’s bed where M couldn’t crawl to, they provided M no better incentive to conquer the climb and he was up there in no time. The desire to play with his older brother and outdo him led to him crawling at seven months, before his body could even support the physical act, so that our determined little dude looked rather as if he were on a military mission with a Navy Seal crawl. 

One of my favourite memories thus far is when M, shy of months, decided on his own to start playing the piano. His elder brother and I were flabbergasted and both burst into laughter. The piano had been for his brother, but M must have seen him thump away at it and decided he would attack it - and yet, M delicately approached it and was very conscious of its sonorous qualities whereas L’s relationship with it could be somewhat termed abusive were it decidedly not sentient. While L is also quite musical, I’ve never seen a baby take to melody and rhythm and be able to copy what he or she hears like M. This talent he avowedly did not inherit from me. I perceive myself to have certain talents, but musical ability is not one (and unfortunately I’ve learnt the hard way that you can’t make up in decibels what you lack in melody). While I love to concoct little ditties and sing them to my boys, considering that all boys must enjoy their mother’s voice, I would not dare impose by trituration of melodies on any innocent ear- particularly after my own son asked me not to sing to him. To give you an idea as to how much my toddler doesn’t enjoy my singing, he even allows me not to sing the part in The Book with No Pictures (if you want to know the truth, ask your children- their verity is venerable). But I digress…

Ah yes, mon peti carporal’s conquests have been grand. A few months ago, he took to the walker and then began to zoom about the house before we had taken the gates from L’s rampage out of storage. He took his first few steps alone when he was 11 months. I seem to have missed his first sprint even though I was right there. I was speaking with my sister and brother in law, who came to visit for his birthday and baptism, relating that M was ready to walk, but he felt unsteady, so that his first promenade could happen in a couple of months or in a few days or any second. As I finished saying this, my brother in law calmly asked me how my son had travelled from the coffee table in the centre of the room to my feet. I looked down and sure enough my little guy was there, smiling resplendently. He crawled, I concluded. My brother in law contended that he had never seen his head drop at which point I understood he was telling me that while I was telling them that he could walk at any moment, I had missed it. Oh, the misery! 

I had previously worried that while M’s appetite for literature was voracious, he was literally digesting the pages, rather than enjoy their content and am pleased that he outgrew this stage, albeit he enjoys reading by himself more than being read to, turning the page and immersing himself in their images.

We can already see that M is going to be a grand conversationalist, just like his brother. When they start talking, they don’t stop and they like to command the conversation ( L has become an ardent negotiator). M babbles away incessantly, the general vein, which we can discern through his animated expressions, frustrated gesticulations and changes in cadence. However, we can only understand a few clear words. His vocabulary consists of mama, dada, baba (grandmother), yia yia (ditto), hi, bye and water. The other day, as his dad was holding him, he watched me get ready to leave and as I headed for the door he waved to me and said “bye mama” and I stopped at the door, staring at him, stupefied. They grow up so fast!

M has a particular smirk when he conquers something new. The other day we showed him a toy musical carousel which he immediately became enchanted with and learnt how to manipulate so that he spent hours pressing the button to renew the songs until we took it from him before its repeated sonorous incursion into our house eclipsed our sanity. 

We recently got M down to two feedings a night and I hope that before he is 13 months, I can cut the dream feed and have a straight 8hours of sleep (oh, joy!). The other day I unwittingly overheard, due to the decibels undulating in my direction from a very stentorian speaker, how a woman’s children both started sleeping through the night at 2 months. Neither of my children slept through the night for a year. When the woman complained of how difficult the first two months were, I wanted to exclaim “try a year!” but resisted such a social faux pas (this was my punishment for eaves dropping after all). 

M’s favourite foods are avocado (he is Californian after all), apple, broccoli, salmon, banana, strawberry and havarti. He has a voracious appetite and thumps his table when he wants more. 

M and L have begun to hug and kiss each other as well as tussle. This latter activity has spiked anxiety in our household for L does not understand how fragile M is, nor does M realize this and I’ve had to break them apart and provide stern explanations. My husband warns that the tussling will continue as they grow older.

M has a distinct quality of finding what is most dangerous to do in a room and ventures forth to do it. His adventures have already resulted in innumerable scratches, bruises and a chipped right canine. What am I do with my thrill seeker?

As much as he may fight with his brother and is at times, the fiercer party, M adores his elder brother. He wants to be just like him. I hope that they become close and stay close throughout their lives. I've never had a sibling and am happy to have provided them a relationship I lack. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hiking Hacks, Sleep Reboots and Viral Vexations

Last week we took our toddler on his real first hike in Tahoe and he made a stellar effort, hiking nearly half the hike. We thought he was a real ninja, considering the blistering sun (thankfully covered in sun block and wearing his super hat!) and altitude.

I had been researching toddler friendly hikes around Lake Tahoe (or as L terms it "Lake Taco"), where we spent some splendid summer days and was a little disappointed at my results. Numerous hikes were deemed "family" or "child friendly" but didn't specify whether this included the tiny steps of tots. Hikes that were proffered as "toddler friendly"  didn't specify why and if they were also stroller friendly. For instance, the hike (which isn't really a hike but more like a tough promenade) down to Emerald Bay is toddler friendly because it is paved some of the way and while you endure elevation, the gradient is not steep so that your little tyke can walk the majority. It is also stroller friendly (depending on how much you use and abuse your stroller - our tired traveller has faced travails of various terrain around the world, including mountains and beaches). The Lighthouse Loop at D.L. Bliss is termed toddler friendly and our toddler walked half of the way, but it's certainly not stroller friendly. The hike itself is immeasurably beautiful, providing grand vistas of glistening azure Tahoe bordered by verdant Pines below incandescent, alabaster peaks (their grandeur best captured in an old Maori aphorism, 'long after man passes, the mountain remains').

When we couldn't use our stroller, I carried M, L walked and hubby carried supplies and when needed, our tired toddler. We kept him walking by diverting his attention away from his hurting legs to his treasure hunt - L having adopted my penchant for picking up rocks wherever he goes (so now when we finish any holiday, my hubby stands sentry as L and I have to undergo the painful process of culling our treasure, later invariably and clandestinely adding some stone stowaways to our luggage). I found one of the most enchanting rocks I have ever seen during the Lighthouse Loop hike, only to have lost it before it ended to my dire dismay (was it the universe informing me that all is fleeting?). Alas.

We decided to go with the single stroller, since any double stroller would be but a monstrosity on any hike and we hacked it to put both our kids in. We undid the back to its fullest extension and had little M sit far in the back, while L sat at the front with stern instruction not to sit back, which we supervised through the opening at the top of the stroller. They loved it and started tickling each other! This allowed some respite for weary little legs as well as parental arms.

Both boys dipped with us in the lake, which proved quite refreshing, and it was M's first swim in a natural body of water, to the tune of the giggles of a nearby gaggle and under a kaleidoscope of butterflies. L also had a first... he righteously threw up the contents of his breakfast as we increased in altitude in the serpentine road, stopping for relief next to a creek at El Dorado. I must admit that I'm quite emetophobic and had always feared the day motherhood would lead me to clean up my progeny's expulsion. However, I didn't mind cleaning L up at all and it didn't even make me gag. I remain befuddled, but it's good news, since I know this is merely the start of a long, smelly, dirty, journey.

After we returned from our holiday, we decided we've had enough of sleeping in our kids' beds, alternating between M and L and that we would reboot their sleeping habits. Unfortunately L got sick and I gave into cuddling him to sleep and sleeping in his bed all night, but we remained on target with the bub. He's about to turn one, so it's high time we all started getting uninterrupted sleep through the night. I am thankful and elated to say that we hacked M's night snacking which had remained a solid three session process for the past few months. The past several nights, I've only nursed him at midnight and then again at 6. Woohoo! That's 6 straight hours of sleep for moi and soon for hubby and M too, who endured a battle of the wills until M, despite his hunger, fell vanquished and
 succumbed to his slumber.

At the end of this month, it will be 6 months since L's been off the prophylactic antibiotics and on my breastmilk (which he drinks in his tanuki ninja cup) which his pediatric urologist had provided as a solid temporal period to measure in considering whether he should have surgery. We looked like we were going to pass through without any issue, when this week we endured a crisis.

It's always the same circus of chaos whenever L gets a fever of guessing whether L's fever is due to a virus or other infection or a UTI- and his case, with no barrier, pyelonephritis (thankfully, it was a virus he is beating). Every time L gets a fever, we're walking the tightrope of waiting to see whether it's a virus or whether he needs antibiotics, not wanting to medicate unnecessarily if he doesn't need antibiotics, but well aware that if he does and we prolong the process, he risks kidney scarring. What is a parent to do? No decision is perfect and each delivers its own risks, the consequences of which we know we chose. We take a cautious approach and watch for any other symptoms as we watch any rise in his fever. Now he's even old enough to tell us where his boo boos are, which is a great asset (does anything hurt? where does it hurt? does your ear hurt? your pee pee?). We also know how our son reacts when he is ill and he's reacted the same the few times he's had an infection - high, persistent fever, lethargy, malodorous urine being the main symptoms. So despite knowing that UTIs can present with low grade fever, he's never presented this way and we remained skeptical, albeit still worried and finally nearing the 48 hour mark of his first fever, stampeded into our pediatrics office to test him. Thankfully, he no longer requires a catheter, which was a traumatizing process for all of us and can provide his own sample, being fully potty trained (and for nearly a year now!). I told him we would be playing a game to see if he could aim his pee into the cup and my husband disinfected him and supervised his sampling (in truth he's more delicate and deliberate in these things than I am and was the better parent to attend to him). The problem is that particularly with uncircumcised males, you have a difficulty with obtaining an uncontaminated sample and simply knowing that there are higher leukocytes or nitrates doesn't provide an accurate result and you must wait for the culture to grow. The decision we face then, is do we wait until the culture returns or medicate before? We decided to wait it out because neither of us thought it was a UTI from the display of his symptoms and his previous history and were thankfully right, but each time we have to weigh the risks and are engulfed by looming stress. We're also well aware that L starts preschool in a number of weeks, and that kids being cesspools of bacteria and little whirlpools of viral infestations, we're going to go on this rollercoaster more often.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kakastrophe 2

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to face creative fecal expression from my progeny.  

My two and half year old toddler has been toilet trained for nearly a year now, but last week he got the runs and we endured kakastrophe… which kakastrophe continued until a few days ago. I’m not sure what it what was that unsettled his stomach so, but if he wasn’t near a toilet within the minute, kakastrophe ensued. Last Saturday, he was banging on his door clamoring for our aid to the potty and before we could get there, he had managed to write what appeared a frenzied SOS message on his wall and door using the very material of his pernicious predicament. 

Apart from our frazzled fecal misadventures, we’ve faced a mutiny over sleeping arrangements which has resulted in an insomniac version of musical chairs in which my husband and I have recursively moved from our bed (colonized by M), to the couch, to L’s bed with nary two winks of sleep. We’ve analyzed L’s regression as his realization that he was getting the short end of the stick, noting that M refused to inhabit his crib for some time and that we've pandered to his every cry. L, offended at this unequal treatment, with arms outstretched and booming voice, stood on his bed and proclaimed his right to the fraternal share of parental cuddling as if a sans-culotte in a Delacroix painting. Our regime crumbled against his rebellion, resulting in less sleep for all concerned with L waking up in the middle of the night to ensure that one parent was on sentry in his bed, awaiting cuddle duty. 

Yesterday we decided it was time to employ counter-revolutionary methods of donning headphones, re-establishing a line of sight in his room and refusing to abandon our posts in the living room. As L protested at the door, we implored each other not to give in. In the end, he fell asleep alone and didn’t wake up during the night. Mission accomplished. 

However, we still have the infant intifada in full bloom. His crib remains empty and he continues to hold dominion over our bed and demand regular nursing sessions. We’ve come to the realization that le petit caporal will not stop his imperial stampede. Our Waterloo will not come until we (and while I use the collective form, it is admittedly really me who has been weak and succumbed to the cry that has decapitated my resolve and pierced me with guilt with the mechanical accuracy of the guillotine) resist his repeated rebellions and leave him to his tears. It’s a step by step process of coming in ever so often and assuring him of our presence and concomitantly, of our resolve (which means that The Milk must remove itself and the Paternal Praetorian Guard must deal with the incessant incursions). 

It’s nearly a year since M entered this world in a frenzy that is suitable to his forceful and somewhat tempestuous character. I have resolved that before he reaches one (in just a couple of weeks), he begins to sleep through the night. I’ve also resolved that I will discontinue being milkmaid to our toddler who can contend with the bovine variety. Oh, to regain dominion over my bed and body once more! It shall be glorious. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Last week I had to return to New York, decided not to pump during the night and had my first six hour session of uninterrupted sleep. It was glorious. Pumping every 4 hours during the day between meetings (and in the bathroom of a new Chelsea restaurant) was not as glorious but also not as difficult as I was fearing it would have been, albeit I left the shields at home one day and had to trudge back. I had planned for the electric pump not working (or forgetting a pertinent part) and had brought a hand pump as a contingency, but had not planned for failing to remember to bring even one shield, a vital component of the hand pump also. I was left with merely the ability to hand express which got me nowhere.

JFK's Terminal 4 has only one nursing station and it's recent at that (I think it came after the pet relief area to give you an idea of how down the rung nursing mothers' comforts are). It was clean but looked very much like a bathroom and it was probably converted from one. No posters of Care Bears and loungy chairs and a dire smell of chlorine. I shared the station with a harried mother who was on break and rushing to return to work. I started to inform her that she had the right to request nursing breaks, apart from the rest breaks provided to her, but she was in too much of a hurry to engage in any instruction of her rights and it unfortunately appeared that she was being pressured at work to stop nursing her infant son. It is a shame that our society is not more accommodating nor understanding of nursing mothers' needs when they perform a vital social role (the many benefits of breastfeeding being dispositively proven). I suspect that the statistics of nursing are low in this country because women are rushed back into work and to work environments that are not conducive to their repeated needs to pump throughout the day, even though protected by law.

On my return trip, I was concerned that I would have to argue with the TSA officials to keep my milk, but they simply checked it without even opening a single packet and sent me on my merry way. I immediately went to the nursing station for a pumping session before the flight, which was about to board, and discovered to my dismay that it was occupied by another mother that did not want to share it nor reveal how long she intended to solely occupy the one nursing station in the whole terminal. There was nothing much to do there, so I left and asked to be the first to board so I could pump in the bathroom - I was allowed to do so and all went well. I was hoping not to have to pump in the bathroom during the flight as the bathroom gets progressively dirtier and I would occupy much needed real estate, but unfortunately I was not provided any other place. I had to occupy one of the two stalls in the sardine class for 20 minutes, which was in the end reduced to about 15 as incensed sardines began to aggressively knock and hurry me out. I retorted that I was pumping milk and would only be a few more minutes but the knocking resolutely continued. Some people lack understanding. As my friend said the other day, instead of wasting your own energy by getting annoyed, just think, "they must have violent diarrhea" (this works if someone cuts you off etc - it's brilliant, really).

Never before had I found it so hard to leave and get on a plane. I was nauseated and began to cry. When the flight took off, I feared dying, albeit I fly regularly and have not worried about it before. My husband related the same sentiment when he left a few months ago for a trip east. Travelling without your kids is heart wrenchingly difficult, as if tearing yourself away from a limb, and there is a new frightening, aspect to your mortality - that you will be unable to rear and protect your children.

It was surprisingly harder to leave my toddler than my infant son, whom I had never left before. This was because my toddler understood that I was leaving and it was more of an emotional toll for him. My infant son would struggle not being able to nurse at night, but at just shy of eleven months, my absence at night we figured would be good for him as we're trying to wean night feedings.

I wrote three letters to my toddler, one for each day I was gone and my husband told me that our son kept my letter the first day in his shirt pocket and then reminded my husband when he was being undressed before his bath to keep my letter in a safe place. I also resorted to toys and diverted our Face Time sessions from him asking me to come home ("I love you mama, come home") to a display of the toy treasure chest which awaited him on my return (this was a cheap trick and not the best from a pedagogical point of view, but hey, sometimes you need to do what works at the time).

 I was worried that he would feel abandoned and I had explained to him that I needed to go before I left, but while he was upset when I was gone, he didn't harbour any separation anxiety or contempt when I came back (I feared both). Instead, he hugged me and said he was happy now that I was back and that I was his best friend! This resulted in my heart doing a spree of summersaults.

I was also worried that the little one may forget how to nurse when I got back, but that surely didn't happen! He went on a nursing rampage....and unfortunately I have yet to wean him of night feedings.

In other news, we've had some fecal catastrophes the past few days (if you don't have any kids and are pregnant or trying, know that you're going to be lanced into a loop of perpetual poop no matter how you slice it). In fact, while we use the term kaka in our family, I would say, we've undergone some kakastrofa or kakastrophe this week. One perfect exemplum is my toddler getting the runs as we were running up and down Lyon Steps. In front of tourists capturing our bay vistas with their keen cameras, I undressed him, wiped him and re-dressed him (I always carry a full wardrobe change, just in case). Thankfully, my son was calm and compliant during the whole process and my little one was out in the stroller. My nanny was off this week and I now suspect she may have particular prescience...

I started to teach my two and a half year old to read this week by telling him we were going to learn to read by doing puzzles. I thought he was ready because he has tried reading himself for a couple of months. He would "read" me books by memorizing what they say and he has a stellar memory. So it was time. I made cards with three letter words car, bus, dog, cat, cow, pig, sun and hat and cards where I drew the object. Then the game was to match the words with the pictures and make a pair. Thus far we have dog, cat and hat down pat. I realized it was too much when I pressed for the rest, so we're going to take it a step slower - but the sight reading is definitely working and it's exciting to be a part of it!

I'm continually amazed at my son's growing comprehension, both in logic and in empathy. When I was putting up his blinds today, which involves me standing on a stool and for this morning's arrangement some acrobatic work, he ran up to the chair and held it tightly, quietly cautioning me. "Mama, you are not Dusty, you can't fly, don't go out the window." I assured him I had no intention of doing that. Again, my heart spurted into a spree of summersaults.

Meanwhile my younger son's personality is developing like wildfire. He is talking continuously in his own language and he sounds exactly like Donald Duck. For the first time, he and his brother have started to play together - they often hug and start a drumming jam in the double stroller. It's beautiful to witness. While it's difficult having them so close together, I already see the advantages, particularly for their future fraternal relationship.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rocket Push!

My ten month old is a little rocket. A few weeks ago he took his first steps and now he is scooting about the house with his wheelbarrow walker and woe if you get in his way. It is amazing to see how he is exponentially developing these days. He loves to play with cars and imitates their sounds and is engrossed in puzzles. He also loves to make sounds with his finger by flapping his lower lip. His drive is in part forced by the enigmatic personality of his elder brother and M's competition to slice some of this attention unto himself.

His elder brother meanwhile, has discovered the joys of toilet humour and laughs about poop with his best bud, who is also potty trained and two and a half, for a solid part of the day. The consequence of this newfound humour has been an inordinate amount of toy defecation and I've had numerous stuffed animals and toy cars poop over me to their unbridled amusement.

For me, however, poop is no laughing matter. Particularly since I usually have to deal with a deluge of defecation from one of my sons before I've even had my morning coffee. The other day I changed infant M on our living room carpet after a poop and possibly offended by this slight he decided to show our carpet some untoward affection and I was anxiously googling "cleaning poop from carpet" in the next moment.

Do rockets poop out fire? Hmmmm....

The other day, I was pushing L on the swing and he asked for his usual "rocket push" where I launch him to the moon (he is either not desirous of going farther or believes the moon is farther than any other celestial object as my calls to launch him to other planets and even galaxies have been met with a disparaging eyebrow raise and a virulent shake of the head) and he cried out in glee, "I have fire out my butt!" which attracted the attention of our fellow play-grounders.

Oh, the things children say. The other day, as I was about to sip my afternoon iced coffee during a day trip out of the city on a pit stop in our car, I looked back and saw one weary toddler who had refused his nap staring dejectedly at the wheel of our car as his little brother snored away. "You look tired, L" I commented, to which he responded, "I am mama, I need a coffee."

I of course must say that same phrase pretty much every day after lunch and he's obviously parroting it. I've really had to clean up my potty mouth since having kids. I'm also a much better speller since my husband and I, not being proficient in a language together that our kids don't speak, have resorted to this thus far foolproof conversationalist code. You can't control what your child will pick up from what you say or do, but you can control what you say or do around them (you may be engrossed in the new Twin Peaks, but you're not going to watch it with or even around your kids).

L's parroting nearly got me in trouble earlier. When L was younger and couldn't even string sentences together but would love to babble out words in succession "money, doggies and cars" being one baller phrase he would repeat as we would stroll up and our city's unforgiving hills to the arched eyebrows of flummoxed passersby. I was relieved at that time that he would still say most things in Serbian, so that when he repeated his drink mantra of "kafa, vino" which in Serbian means "coffee, wine" when we would line up for my morning latte at cafes, I didn't have calls for Child Services directed at my parenting skills. Children are astute and know your habits well - L knew his parents have coffee with breakfast and wine with dinner and he was proud of knowing that fact.

If you want the truth, go ask a child or go to a bar and pick an evidently inebriated soul who is still decipherable. Children have no filter and no tact and sometimes, they keep their parents in line. If I forget part our routine, my toddler reminds me with an admonishing aspect. Thus, while he complains about his routine, he nevertheless subscribes to it and woe to the parent who shirks it. If you want to know how you look, go ask your children. There have been a number of times when my husband and I have received critical looks from L and a request for a wardrobe change. He apparently likes to travel in style and he's not about to have his courtiers cramp that.

L loves to sing The Wheels on the Bus on the bus at deafening decibels. The usual reception to his surprising serenade has been quiet bemusement, but I've had a few stern looks shot at me by people who are frustrated by the incursion of L's decibels into their commute. My reaction is to simply smile back with a vengeance and sometimes expose my daggers to boot. I have no intention of telling my son to stop singing and crush his usually infectious vivacity. If I'm ever upset about this silent altercation, I remember to have compassion for people that are upset by a child happily singing for they must be having a really difficult day.

 The adults that appreciate a kid happily singing would probably cringe at an adult doing it for some things are only socially acceptable for children to do. While I would agree with much of the regular custom, the need to compress our feelings in public and not, for instance, sing out our souls when we feel like it, may be at a great common loss. Maybe we would all be happier if on the bus, we eroded our day's stresses by singing about being on the bus.

As we age, some of us lose the ability to be present , we are never in the now, our thoughts marauding between yesterday's misses and tomorrow's tasks and that is extremely unfortunate because all we ever have is the present moment, a moment so precious that the moment you're present in it, it's gone. While on the one hand children's lives are constructed by their parents, and in particular toddlers, are directed where to go, what to wear and what to do, they seem to have more of a control of their own existence than most adults and be more in touch with their environs. Our children learn from us every day, they adjust to cultural norms and clip their childhood contours to more sqaure shapes, but this may not necessarily be a good thing in every instance. If only adults regained their childish imagination, presence and vivacity! As parents teach children, children can teach parents and remind them at times of what they've lost. For some, this may result in parents reigniting some of their childhood abilities and in nurturing these in their children so that they do not lose these invaluable skills and their mindful mindset as they grow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Manipulation in Masquerade

My elder son is a master puppeteer. He has recently revolted against his younger brother's increasing encroachment upon his parental attention by resorting to a mastery of manipulation. "Mama, I love you" he implores, with an emphatic elongation of the word he's understood pummels persuasion, "please don't pick M up." He solidifies his performance by skewing his head and battering his eyelashes in solemn supplication, "I love you so much, mama. Can you not do that? Can you?"

This certainly coils me into a conundrum. I have to explain that I'm M's mama too, an explanation which evidently does not satisfy L. "Why?" he asks matter of factly. "Can you not?" he asks as if he were merely requesting a change of wardrobe.

Recently M may have had an increasing share of attention. His first few steps occurred a few weeks ago in his ninth month and we were stoked. L looked on circumspect. He pointed out that he can also walk and his upturned lip and curt tone implied that he thought the absence of parental cheer attached to his every step was an egregious injustice.

L's tried to inveigle us into accepting the laxer standards of his brother when it comes to bed time. Since we took the protector from his door so that he can come out in the morning when he wakes up and use the potty if he so needed (or come cuddle and read in bed, our favourite morning pastime), he's used it to leave the room at bed time and run up to us in the living room, refusing to go to bed. Between repeated statements of "it's playtime" he tells us he loves us as if he were vacillating between whether hypnotization or persuasion were the most effective policy and endeavouring to cover both for good measure.

Meanwhile, our little tyrant, is still not sleeping through the night, demands multiple feedings and continues to hold dominion over our bed. He's obstreperous to an offense. After all, he's the kid
that Navy Sealed his way across a room to get a toy car when he didn't have the muscles to effect a proper crawl a few months ago. However after ten months of nursing continually through the night, the tapestry of my sanity is in tatters and the time has come to grit through the gallows of sleep training. My excuse at first was that he was hungry and then I feared that he would wake up our elder son, but now neither are holding up. To prevent his guillotine of guilt which usually slices me to submission, we're going to start the rigid sleep training the three nights I'm back in NYC.