Thursday, January 26, 2017

Don't Forget the Umbrella

Parents know the old adage that you have to be cruel to be kind rings true. It is however no less easy to apply and I am particularly fragile when it comes to discipline. I stick to it, but part of me is always attempting to scramble an escape, mellifluously whispering its surreptitious sedition that maybe, just this once, I can let it go. I'm but a vitreous monolith, ever ready to collapse and give into the cries. The other night, we left his door ajar, because he said he wanted more light. As we cuddled on the couch, we heard footsteps and freaked out we were certain we locked our door, when the nimble footsteps revealed no imposter but our son. We were impressed. He ran up to us and asked to be cuddled. That's all we wanted to do ....BUT... we had to be strong. Sometimes being the responsible parent stinks. We had to be resolute and stick to the sleep training... and we did... as much as we didn't want to.

 Yet, I know I must be resolute and somewhere inside me, I hold the strength (but only just) to enforce the rules. Our punishment (for L) is Time Out. It works a charm (save for my faltering). Our first go at Time Out was not successful to say the least. L just talked to himself in his chair. He was shy of a year and we now think he was too young to understand that he was being punished. Now, Time Out is a terrible predicament for L. Yet he obeys it. When I say he has to go to Time Out, he cries and cries but does not defy me. He skulks over to his Time Out armchair and climbs up on top of it and cries, asking to be let out. I tell him he has to wait one minute to two, depending on the nature of his indiscretion and won't let him leave the chair until we discuss why he was placed in Time Out in the first place. He now listens through cries and apologizes and stops doing what he did before. The crying is excruciating however. It's as if my form of punishment was flagellation not simply sitting in an armchair two feet away from me.

My sons' cries viscerally affect me. M, who is 6 months now, cries far less than his brother, but when he does, the whole neighbourhood must suspect that we are criminally negligent and indubitably we will receive a call from the government soon enough because he cries so much that he very nearly chokes himself. He is copacetic one minute, the next coiled in a cry. His laugh bursts forth in the same way. M has a judicious personality, much more than his brother, who was and continues to be much more excitable. However, when his displeasure is such, he lets out a tsunami when L would have teared out but a trifling. Likewise, when M finds something funny he cracks such a cackle for such a sustained period that we wonder whether babies could give themselves a hernia from laughter. Our Little Tyrant has learnt how to demand attention. He has refused his crib and now has uncontested dominion over our bed. We know this cannot last and that we must stage a coup. The brutal regime of constant night nursing has left both me and hubby in a constant hypnogogic state, a frayed wakefulness ever ready to dissipate into a dream. It is the threat of his cry that stalls us (well, admittedly mostly me), his Praetorian Guard protecting his imperium. Sorry buddy, but soon your empire must collapse, as they all do. Must we also get him a queen bed to regain sovereignty over our own?

L is becoming an acute negotiator. I tell him during our bedtime reading that I will read him only 3 books in bed. He asks for 10. I give into 5 (how could I not support his love of reading? We read and read all day and I love that my boys have such a voracious appetite for books). He knew he had to raise the bar in his first hand. He is still obsessed with Lego Land and I keep providing excuses, which he challenges. The other day it was raining. I explained we couldn't go because we would get wet. He looked at me incredulously. "Mama, umbrella" he reminded me. Right.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

To the Moon and Back (Page by Page)

The other day my two year old started piling his books together on top of the bed and I asked him what task he aimed to accomplish. He responded, still focused on his literary tower, that he was building a mountain out of books so that he could stand on its peak and reach the moon (in admittedly a different register). Then he proceeded to stand on top of his library and reach up at the ceiling, excitedly proclaiming, "L reach the moon! L stand on mountain of books and reach moon!" My mouth was agape and as I stood there stupefied I was fortunate that no fly was near to take advantage of my vulnerability (and I suppose so was the fly that escaped such fate, for as much as we hate swallowing flies, they are probably not avid fans of their demise either).

This is really a time of treasures. He is quite conversant - nearly in three tongues - and it is amusing to watch him express himself sometimes using all three in the one sentence. It is amazing to now know what he is thinking. He can crack jokes and call himself funny (he continues to refer to himself in the third person). He associates flamenco music with dragons so that when he asks for dragon music, we know to put on the Spanish guitars. He remembers the lines to most songs he likes and remembers the tunes, demanding we play them. I was pleased that my silly ditties have a fan base since he asks me to sing them but my ego is kept in control when he corrects me on my own tune. Oh, yes. My son has now learnt the way things should be and he sticks to it. "No, mama, like this" he says when I put a toy in the wrong place or do things out of order. We taught him to put away the toys he is playing with in order to play with another and after a few grumblings and one time out, he is a strict convert. Yesterday when he was ill, I decided to let his train run around the track while he took out a puzzle and he admonished me for my slight. First the train goes back in the green box and on the blue shelf, mama, he corrected me, then we get to take out the puzzle. Pardon my indiscretion.

For the past month or so he has also started asking "why" recursively, leading me invariably to Derrida's paradox or a distraction. M watches this all with avid bemusement as he chomps on his tortured teether. M at 6 months, is now much more aware. He is now understanding that he can demand more attention and he is sure milking it for all its worth. Hubby and I are now sleeping in the one bed with him in the H formation of sleep training capitulation, an H that's bent after a hard night on the town, with both of us at the edges in the foetal position, whilst M lies diagonally in the middle, imperious. As much as he reigns over us, he follows the lead of his older brother, whom he avidly adores. L is also becoming much closer with him, much more careful. He picks up M's toys and brings them to him, he has the patience to continually pick up M's teether that falls out of his grasp and say so nonchalantly "here you go, M" as M beams out a thank you. He loves to join M in tummy time, doing the yoga poses that I have been teaching him (albeit only a few being on his tummy). I can't wait to hear them talking, watch them riding their bikes and indubitably both correct me on proper terminology for construction equipment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Lure of the Land

We recently had our first theme park experience. The first thing that struck me, and with a heavy force, was the entry fee (my husband attributed this to my Eastern Bloc upbringing, as I suppose he must follow the Jesuit stance that you give them a baby and they will show you the person at the tender age of 7). I was also unprepared for the meal situation. We packed lunch but one insufficient for what ended up being a whole day around the park and were forced to grovel at the trough of what indubitably contained the grand makers of heart disease. There's also a lot of waiting around in lines in which wearied parents on the brink of capitulation try to tame their hyped up kids with weak threats and scuffles (a brilliant training exercise in patience).

The whole experience is really an interactive marketing campaign for the park owner's products including a shop that is delicately placed right where one must exist with children's keen eyes ever ready to pounce on their new merchant conquest. Sometimes being a good parent means swallowing your ideological stance, and as much as I didn't want to pay for advertising that was directed to me, I couldn't wait to see how my 2 year old would act when his favourite activity, apart from reading and spinning around in circles (which is the gateway act to seeing how fun altering your reality is), Lego, surrounded him. Lego dinosaurs! Lego rockets! Lego cars! Lego robots! Well, he still talks about it. Admittedly, we had a lot of fun too.  

The one issue with our two year old, apart from digesting and accepting the concept of waiting for a ride, was the fact that he could not touch the Lego structures. If we let go of him for a second, we would see him run to a Lego plane and we would have to catch him before we would get kicked out of the park. We took photos in front of the city where we live, SF and the city where our first son was born, NY, smiling all the while I was secretly sad that while the cities looked impressive, they were not geographically correct. If you're going to put in all the effort of having someone do a Lego New York, at least put the buildings in the right place! Maybe the dark dirty secret is that the Lego structures are hollow.... I also made a fool of myself by complaining that they must have simply smashed different European cities together in a crude way as a prelude to making a comment about insular modern American culture until it was pointed out to me with an appropriately raised eyebrow that I was looking at a depiction of Vegas. I'm going to blame it on my maternal diminished grey matter. 

How did we avoid the Lego store on exit? Distraction. I cannot emphasize how much of an effective tool distraction can be - at least it works with our son. He can be so intensely focused on one thing, recursively repeating a demand, that to negotiate directly against his wish becomes futile and the only saviour becomes distraction, by delicately attracting his thought to another object and/or subject, his previous mantra is discarded in favour of the new new. Boom.