The past few days in SF have been wonderfully hot but my boys, being native to this temperate climate, have suffered through it. They were overjoyed to have their temperate weather back today, while I grumbled about freezing my derriere and wishing this city would grace its inhabitants with a proper summer (my husband misses the discernible seasons of the east coast, but there’s one frigid season I can readily live without). Growing up in Australia, I'm flummoxed that my boys consider a beach outing to be one in which everyone is garbed in hoodies and vests.
The boys have been very interested in the concept of gravity of late and periodically like to drop a ball or a toy and then exclaim its cause- “that was gravity”. We were discussing how energy is constantly transforming and that they are made of old stars, their elements completing the circle one day by returning to the stars. M in particular loves to run around shouting that everything and everyone is made up of atoms and that we are made from carbon, which he can recognize on the periodic table of elements.
L continues to question the world around him. Why do we have seasons? Why do we have tides? Why is there wind? Why do we have earthquakes? Why do volcanoes erupt? He and his brother in turn have also been particularly interested in the human body. Now they know a simplified version of the various bodily systems and that there are four blood groups, our whole family being the same blood type, the universal giver. Both L and M are mostly fascinated by the immune system (our little protectors!) and I remember being particularly fascinated by this important bodily system as a child (and continue to be). When M fell ill the other week, he declared in his febrile state with a strained voice, “The white cells are giving me fever to fight the germs, mama. I’m sick.” Then demanding I take this temperature (which I did). I remain guilty that a small part of me enjoys the time when they are sick because I get added cuddle time during this period.
L continues to want to be a marine biologist, L an astronaut. Every time he hears M declare his aspiration, L shouts, “not me, I’m afraid of heights” and then requests assurance that I won’t let M embark on such dangerous escapades as going to space until he is fully grown up. I assure him that this would not occur.
L has provided everyone in the family with nicknames. I am not in favor of my recently adopted nickname of "smoochie butt" nor am I in favor of the nicknames of various other family members christened by L, all with the same epithet (my father, for instance, is "planet butt"). L thinks this is raucously funny and so does his little brother, who has the worse habit of having a potty mouth whilst still using the potty. Our only consolation is that his expletives have been confined to Serbo-Croatian. Unfortunately, the language is rife with imaginative expletives so that phrases that would flabbergast an English speaker, for instance, a detailed description of how your nemesis keeps company with a hedgehog, are a natural course of colloquial exchange. M likes to sing all manner of pejorative descriptions of his mother, without understanding what he is singing except that it causes his mother some distress which in turn provides him encouragement to continue. My reaction faltered from the start. I burst out laughing. He was thus encouraged to continue. Next, I fibbed that he was informing me he never wanted ice cream, but he either didn’t accept this or didn’t care because he redoubled his efforts. Finally, I explained that what he said meant he didn’t love me and hurt my feelings, in a last resort to arrest his efforts, but this got me nowhere. I was assured he was going to sing his calamity out to all and sundry, but he has confined his cussing to our home. I suppose that is somewhat of a victory.
L has been playing more basketball and football (soccer) and we have let him watch the NBA Finals which he has expectantly followed with anguish and shrewd calculation. Due to basketball’s high scoring, following a game has been quite useful in L’s exercise of addition. How much is one team over the other? Are the Warriors winning or are we behind? For M, who has not yet reached the level of being able to figure the difference between 100 and 103 (which L also struggles with albeit he has no issue in recognizing numbers), it has served well to register two-digit numbers by identifying the various players. Number 30 was thus first registered by M, being a Curry fun. Allowing them to watch the finals has somewhat eased L’s burden of not being allowed to come with us to the Warriors game earlier in the year wherein he quizzed me why he had to wait until he was 8 (this seemed an appropriate age to me on the fly when I was excusing his absence, but I have admittedly not considered it sufficiently to make a qualified decision).
The other day I realized my days of coming up with less than veritable excuses are decidedly over. L had already decided that my answers to certain questions lacked verisimilitude and decided the best manner to put up a defense was to gather evidentiary support and back me into a corner. We were invited to his friends’ house for an extended play date. Not wanting to suffer our friends through the consequence of an M raging in their home without a nap, we decided to leave after M woke up from his daily afternoon nap. When L was dissatisfied with this answer, I qualified it with a fact of questionable accuracy, informing L that his friend was also asleep and was not able to play until later in the day. Later that afternoon, at O’s place, L asked O in front of me, “how was your nap today O?” to which O replied that he did not nap. L shot me a look and then calmly continued examining his witness. “What were you doing instead?” O shrugged, then thought better of it. “Playing” he said. “Playing” L repeated. “Did you hear that mum? We could have come before, because O was playing and not napping.” I declined to cross examine the witness.
M continues to compose songs daily and to hum his favorite tunes (including encouraging his preschool class to hum the Imperial March en route to the playground) and particularly loves to make up different characters, such as for instance, deciding that he would be a robot for the better part of a day and to this effect, speaking in a robot voice (which was quite well done) of even tone and moving slowly, deliberately and mechanically.
M has a fastidious nature, which is exemplified in his precise contraptions (rockets being his current object of favour) and in cleaning the house. Every few days after his bath, M asks me whether he can clean the sides of the tub, which I allow and wonder whether M’s eagerness to clean is due more to his fastidiousness or my domestic neglect.
Despite my instruction on positive discipline and my attempt to adhere to its dictates, there are times when I resort to bribery and threats, particularly when I am faced with resistance at the dinner table or bed-time. A few weeks ago, I careened off my positive pedagogic approach and caved into catastrophe. After a series of failed confined decisions (which usually work a charm), I turned to pleas, and after my boys had breached the bastion of my bribery, I resorted to threats. More distressingly, I resorted to threats that I would not keep, and the boys knew it. M was the instigator. I turned my focus on him.
“If you don’t go to bed right now, M, I will take you to sleep outside in the crisp night air!” I raged.
My boys redoubled their resistance. M shouted “it’s not open mum! The street is closed! You can’t take me outside! Look at that stop sign” and L shouted “you can’t take my brother outside! You can’t do that to him! It’s dangerous!”
I knew I had decimated my chances of victory. If I didn’t proceed with my threat, I would not be taken seriously. If I proceeded, then- well, I hadn’t factored that far ahead. I abdicated authority and called in their father, accepting defeat. It was a sorry sight.