Friday, October 28, 2016

The Great Negotiator

I would like to think that I'm a good negotiator. After all, that is my job, as an attorney, I advocate and negotiate on behalf of my clients. And yet, my two year old, with his arsenal of manipulation, stands victorious more than I am here willing to admit. He has learnt to say "love you mama" which brings me the greatest joy but also laces me with liquid fear, for when he looks at me with his alluring aspect, his azure eyes with their emerald glitter, I am putty in his waiting hands and he is ready to rattle out a range of requests in rapid succession, while I am still imprisoned in the glint of his glare. I well understand that I need to be stronger, but it is proving a difficult task, particularly with his latest ammunition. For instance, when I have to change his clothes and bedding when he wets the bed, I know I should leave, but then his mellifluous voice ensnares me as he says "mama, love you! mama, cuddle! mama, cuddle!" and the next thing I know, I'm cuddling next to him and rubbing his hair as he smiles victoriously.

It easier when he simply resorts to asserting his contention and I can refuse, albeit he is very insistent and my general tactic has been diversion which works a charm and if not, I resort to bargaining. Yes, I bargain with my two year old and he is now well adapt at holding out and negotiating back so that we reach a modicum of consensus in which neither of us is upset nor well satisfied, the mark of a good compromise, I suppose. It is far easier to negotiate with my fellow counsels rather than my children. They know my weaknesses. When I was away the other day and my toddler was asking for me, my father told him that he had me on the phone and told L to speak to me and he said "mama, M is crying, home, home" knowing that when his little brother cries, I jump to action. Indeed, my 3 month old's arsenal is limited to crying, but it's a truly powerful weapon. His crying hits that pitch that lances me to his aid.

I find myself caught between their competing cries - each wanting my sole attention which I must somehow accommodate by dividing it. My two year old cannot stand when I nurse my baby, he cries "M, all done! M, all done! M, down! M, down! Mama! L hungry! L hungry!" and it crushes me that he is so distressed when I cannot stop nursing his brother. I don't have siblings, which may be problematic in being the mother of siblings and having to employ strategies that appease their want for sole attention without neglecting the other sibling. The aim is to foster closeness rather than incite jealousy and competition, but I am not sure how yet to tackle this. I trust it will be easier when M can crawl and I don't have to hold him all the time, for as soon as I hold him, L wants to be held too and invariably I end up holding both with L pushing M to one side and M crying in protest.

On another topic, I have to get Halloween costumes for the boys. Last year I dressed L as a ninja (I am particular to ninjas). For my outfit, I wanted something very simple so that I could with a simple prop wear black leggings, boots and shirt and get away with being in costume. I discarded Cat Woman as too boring (plus the last thing I wanted post-baby was to draw attention to my figure) and decided to go with Big Oil, which is legitimately frightening and which involved placing black strips around my back and arms. I was pretty stoked with what I considered my genius. As with the plight of most geniuses, nobody understood me with most people asking why I hadn't dressed up rather than even inquiring what I was, despite the fact that I had black paper streaming around me, which made me second guess my fashion sense. My husband was not amused either. He rolled his eyes and asked why I had to put a political bent on everything, to which I responded that there was nothing scarier than climate change... well, maybe that should be my outfit this year... hmm...I suppose we are sure to see many Trumps around....

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Potty Papers

We started tepidly potty training around 14 months or so. We had a potty before then which my over ambitious mother bought when he was just around 5 months with high claims that she had potty trained me by the time I was 10 months. My parents are very proud of this achievement (notably understood as their achievement). My husband remains skeptical of the proclaimed time-frame and in fact my parents do admit at times that I had accidents after I was trained, which some may speculate may mean that at 10 months they just got sick of washing cotton diapers and decided I would venture free, learning on the run. However, there may be some truth to their claim because my first memories were being on my hot pink potty, watching my grandmother repeatedly pour a half glass of water between two cups in an effort to encourage a urinary response. 

For the firs few months, we simply tried to have our son sit on the potty, but he had an aversion to it and would scream so virulently against his placement on it that we had a not too insubstantial fear that child services would come knock on our door to inspect us. Thus the potty remained untouched except for my son's occasional propensity to slam his toys in it or decide to wear it as a headdress, a fashion I have not yet seen picked up around town.

At about 14 months we kicked into gear and started taking our son with us into the bathroom and bought a kiddie insert for the toilet, entreating him to sit on it and pee with the environmentally destructive prize of getting to throw toilet paper into the bowl and flush. In just a few weeks, we had a routine in which he would pee before his bath. This was our way of acclimatizing him, both believing that this would eventually lead to a 3-day potty boot camp by the end of which we would kiss diapers and our carpets goodbye. 

However, this has never happened. Our son is pretty much potty trained, only wearing diapers at night and we never had to send in the military. We have to admit that we utilized our son's adoration of Elmo to our advantage and showed him Elmo on the potty, which worked wonders to have him rekindle a relationship with the potty such that he was comfortable sitting down on it. He was also by this time (around 18 months) telling us when his diaper was wet and/or soiled. If we pushed him to go to the potty when he didn't want to, he resisted so we realized that for his character, we progressed better if we didn't push. At first we put him into undies - which he loves wearing - after his daily poop until bedtime and tried to have him pee first thing in the morning. Now he wears undies even going outside, where we take him to the potty often (which involves one of us taking him into a cubicle and having him stand on the seat to pee) and we've only had one accident. He now resists wearing a diaper, albeit we still put him into diapers at night because he invariably still wets the bed, albeit he can now pee first thing in the morning also. 

We've read many books and articles that warn against us our tepid approach and using diapers at night (including the advice of our mothers) but our step by step approach seems to be doing the trick so we're sticking with it. We were also told that he might revert by seeing his little brother (now 3 months!) in diapers, but I believe telling him that his little brother is a baby and that only babies (unlike him and unlike us) go in diapers has rather propelled him forward in what appears an earnest effort to distinguish himself.

Soon we'll have to make the leap to no diapers at all and since we're halfway through our latest package, we're hoping to do this right before we finish it, just in time for his 2nd birthday. After all, he wets the bed every night anyway and we change his sheets daily, so there's nothing much stopping us from making the leap...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Toddler Talk : Liquid Language

My toddler's tongue is exponentially expanding and now he is structuring simple two to three word sentences with a rare four word sentence that stuns us into silence. Recently he understood that he speaks two different languages. When he speaks to me, he now uses the Serbian word and if he uses the English word, I ask him for the Serbian and he complies. At times, one can visibly see the wires get mired as he looks at an object which he knows in both languages but can't recover either word and resorts to onomatopoeia so that dog is not "doggy" nor "pas" but solely "woof" at times (albeit the onomatopoeia is not always the same, I always ensure to use one onomatopoeic term). I have not seen any other retardation of his lingual development, albeit we had expected this as we had read various literature which instructed that bilingual and multilingual children initially develop lingual ability at a slower pace. However, all children are different and instruction is always based on median differentiation so you never know what you will get.

I find his association most interesting. Language is all about slicing definition (as an attorney I know this more than most) and initially, in order to express himself, my toddler rather amplifies definitions so that they encompass as many objections as possible (this might be telling for all of us and the progression of language in general). For instance, one of his first words was "dog" so that when he saw a cat, he excitedly denoted the domesticated quadruped meowing at him as a canine. When he understood "cat" his term for lions, leopards, tigers and other big cats were all encompassed under "cat." As he etches out each specific species, "cat" becomes less flexible. "Mouse" continues to be a capacious definition encompassing all rodents. He still views crocodiles as dinosaurs and today, to my surprise, related the silhouette of a plesiosaur as a giraffe and refused to submit to my correction, continuing to point to its long neck as dispositive of his assessment (I wonder now that we know that "giraffe" refers to 4 distinct species whether our term for each will change - and which will, if any, continue to be denoted as "giraffe"). Moon was most recently encompassed under the definition of "sun" and now he can differentiate both a crescent moon and a full moon which I take for him understanding not the celestial object itself, but that when presented with day, there is a bright yellow circle in the sky which we call the "sun" and when presented with night, he understands the glowing shape to be the "moon". If I ask him what it is and he says "moon"and I ask for the Serbian, he immediately says "mesec" (which is the same word for month). All babies were recently encompassed under his brother's name until he learnt he word "baby".

Judging from his development, language seems to grow exponentially and we seem to be able to be shrewder in our differentiation of objects through knowing their name - as if once we have a name of something, we find it easier to recollect and understand...albeit this seems a bit of a paradoxical proposition since to name an object or a concept, we would need to have some understanding of it in order to capture it under a name...possibly the naming of something after an initial intellectual understanding allows us to leap into a deeper understanding, a finessing of the idea...