Friday, April 21, 2017

A Mercurial Reality

My toddler inhabits a mercurial reality. We appear to have not only inoculated him against certain diseases but our understanding of the linear nature of time and the difference between fact and fiction (arguably much akin to the Toddler-in-Chief). Each night, we go over the events of the day - a tactic I read from a psychologist and pedagogue that helps boost memory -and increasingly, I've discovered that my toddler has had clandestine and fantastic adventures. He has travelled far, from Lego Land to the moon, changed form, including being a tiger, a dog, a cow and visited characters both fictional, notably Elmo and Cookie Monster, as well as physically distant, notably my father. His partner in reality weaving, W, also inhabits a fluid reality. The other day, when asked the main event of the day by his mother, W proudly responded that he threw up. This had occurred a few weeks ago and had understandably frazzled him, but it had not happened that day. It could be a misunderstanding as to the concept of today or it could be the relation of a memory.  Or it could have been a way to garner more cuddling, for toddlers are shrewd politicians and one thing they well remember is that when they are sick, the rigid rules do bend...

It's possible that toddlers don't have clear delineations between memories, fantasies and reality - its concrete nature hasn't quite levelled them yet and they live above its surface able, able to enjoy a vantage point that we have lost. If a toddler remembers a memory, that could be a defining moment of their day, so when I ask L what happened that day, if he remembered Lego Land, to him, he was at Lego Land that day. Likewise, when L responds that he's been to Lego Land that day, it may have been the recreation of a memory or play-acting with his similarly obsessed best bud, W. I've heard them plotting road trips down to San Diego numerous times and possibly they've also play-acted going there and who am I to say that there is a concrete difference between their play-acting and reality if through play-acting they are physically experiencing it?

I continue to be amazed at the connections my toddler makes. The other day as we were walking to our usual park up on the hill and L pointed to a house, its facade an intricate display of masonry and yelled, "that's baka and deka's house" with glee. I thought it interesting that he's decided his grandparents live so close to us and more notably, that he assumed they live together albeit he has never seen them together (my parents though good friends and a model divorced couple, were divorced when I was young). In L’s world, Baka goes with Deka and they live together. I suppose he must also assume that Yia Yia and Papou live together - after all if understands that his grandparents are his parents’ parents and as mum and dad live together, he’s assumed each set of grandparents live together also.

Meanwhile, mon petit carporal continues to hold imperium over our shared bedroom. He has also learnt to demand more attention in other ways, competing with his brother for our attention and for various toys (one train in particular has been the subject of a few tug-of-wars, tears and calls for parental peace keeping). Somewhat paradoxically, as their internecine conflicts grow, so does their bond. They hold hands and hug in the double stroller, L comments on how well his younger brother plays piano, L likes to feed him, M’s stochastic and seismic laughing fits have come to be infectious and L loves to roll and giggle with his brother - all is fine and dandy until we come to the trains. Not only do they both want to play with the same trains, but M’s habit of destroying train tracks that his elder brother frustrates L to no end. This is particularly because L is very strict on routine. As much as he wines and opines that he doesn’t need to wash his “happy hands” after returning from outside, if I change up the routine just a tad and he gets an inkling that he will not wash his hands soon after entering the home - he reminds me. I stopped strapping him in the double stroller recently as I gauged that he no longer needs this uncomfortable precaution and was curtly reminded by my small passenger that I had forgotten to put the “strips” on.

It is interesting to see how different the two brothers are. Of course, I’m not sure how much of it is genetics and how much of it is environmental for M came into the world dominated by L, who is a rather intense individual and the development of M's character has been to some extent moulded by this contingency. M is as intense as his brother, even more so, but while L likes to command the attention of a crowd, M prefers to examine the crowd as if they were his subjects, a look of pinched pensively nearly permanently impressed upon his features. He is also becoming very hard to trick. If I need to divert his attention, I used to be able to simply hand him a new toy, but now my younger son, who just turned nine months, takes umbrage at this insult to his intellectual faculties and spears me with a dissatisfied look as he throws away the toy to ensure that I have received the message from my sovereign.

I’m not sure if any other parent has had to use a cyber nanny, but when I’m making dinner and the boys are not employed in their own endeavours, M pensive presumably about how he will gain domination over the whole world (one can only hope he will be a benevolent dictator) and L immersed in a fantastic world of his own making, I resort to using my mum and dad over Face-Time. We speak almost daily anyway, but sometimes I put them to work. My dad has perfected this scheme with an arsenal of toys which he puts up to the screen, using each toy to examine my sons’ knowledge of colors, shapes, sounds, letters and numbers. And lest I forget, the chess pieces (my dad has been training my sons for a while in chess and has pretensions as to their Masters potential). Meanwhile, I’m running the dishwasher or cooking dinner  - for this cyber nanny is not good for work since one ear always has to be on duty to ensure that neither boy has had a frisson of inspiration to say, climb the bookshelf.




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