Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Care and feeding

My Mom always told me that she had to handle me and my sister very differently. If Deborah had a doctor's appointment, it was fine for my Mom to tell her the day before or even the day of. But me? Evidentally I had to be told well in advance, and reminded as it got closer and closer. It wasn't that I minded going to the doctor (or whatever appointment it was); I minded my schedule being suddenly disrupted. It made me feel very out of control, and I tended to dig my heels in a wee bit.

Nate is very, very into challenging me. Loves it. His eyes get bright and shiney when I say "no" to something. He hears it, looks at me with barely undisguised glee, and very deliberately does the thing again. And again, if he can get away with it. Most frequently, this involves throwing food off of his tray, throwing blocks at my head, or touching the electrical sockets (despite the baby-proof coverings).

Sometimes I'll plant my body in front of the thing (stairs, or electrical sockets) and just wait - he comes full-tilt at my body and tries to move it. If I'm standing a few feet in front of the desired thing, he tries to dodge around me. It's good training for his basketball career, and he has the tenacity of a dog after a bone.

Yesterday I figured out that if I say "no" sharply, but then look away from him (so we're not doing the "challenge stare-down") he doesn't do the thing! And instead of telling him "don't throw that", a command that he seems to adore and interpret as "please throw that harder", I'm telling him to please put the block on the ground. In a tone that suggests it's the MOST FUN THING TO DO EVER!!

Both are working pretty well. I feel like I successfully taught my dog his first trick. I feel power! I have manipulated a 14 month-old!

Go me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wha' happenin'?

Today Nate gave me a kiss without being prompted. His version of kissing is just pressing his open mouth against yours, but it was touching anyway.

So it turns out that he's just going through a phase. Healthy as a bloody horse. I've never rooted so hard for an ear infection in my life. Ear infection = fixable. "Going through a phase" = really, really hard. On me, anyway.

The "milk" sign has morphed into a "gimme" sign and it is being applied without restraint. He wants the shaving cream, my phone charger, my checkbook, the refrigerator, and really anything else he lays his greedy little eyes on. When I say "no", he throws himself forward onto my thighs, arms clutching up at my shirt, and weeps. When I don't pick him up immediately, he slides to the floor with tears streaming down his face. When I laugh (as I'm prone to do), it doesn't help matters. It's better than screaming, though, since it appears that he's going to keep growing up no matter what I do.

Stewart and I are in agreement on a new perspective on life. When we used to watch Nanny 911 or Supernanny, we would shake our heads with incredulity. How could these parents not see the mistakes they were making? How could they be so dumb?

Now we totally understand. We totally get it. How your kid screams when you take something away, and it's just better if they're not screaming. How the tears run down their cheeks and you think "Why can't they have the pen? How likely is it really that they're going to hurt themselves?" And you give the pen back! And they smile and go on with their lives and then they're 5 and they're calling you horrible names and refusing to eat anything except saltines and ketchup.

We're still fighting the good fight, but the thing that's really confusing is that when you're right there, in the moment, you can't really see what's happening. It's just another day and you're trying to get through some errands and keep everyone mostly happy at the same time. So you get them a treat at McDonald's to keep them happy today so you can just finish up the holiday shopping, and it's only when you step back that you can see that you're bribing them with food. Which you promised never to do. It's not a slippery slope, it's an invisible one. And you're halfway down before you even notice.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Monthly Newsletter, Month Fourteen

Dear Nate,

The trick to these newsletters is to start them on a day when I'm madly in love with you. Starting them at times like these is like going shopping when you're hungry - dangerous.

Right now you are either cutting your fourth molar or you are sick or a bit of both. It manifests with much whining and scrabbling to be held. You like to point at something (anything), and when I don't give it to you, you melt down. Often literally melting to the floor, arising to claw at my legs to be picked back up again. This is one of your favorite "I'm not happy" games - you push at my chest to be put down, but if I put you down you up the whining and cry to be picked up again. I don't know what you want, and I don't think you do, either.

Sometimes I'll just truck you off to your crib and lay you in there for a bit. You don't fall asleep, but the "alone" time with your Woobie and your crib bumper pillows seems to help your mood greatly. As I type these words, you are in your crib making funny noises to yourself. I don't leave you there long, maybe just a few hours. Long enough for me to have a few drinks, maybe a nap or two, and some Quaaludes on a really bad day. Okay, it's long enough for me to respond to 2 e-mails and blow my nose, but that's good too.

You had your first real Halloween! I had fantasies of making your costume, but Old Navy stepped in with a very cute chicken costume. I bought it in honor of your Peepa and his Poultry-Americans. We went around the block with a few of your neighborhood friends. I think you lasted about 35 minutes and that was it. Next year I think you'll understand the "candy" part of things better and we'll probably have to drag you home.

You have had a ton of family-time this past month and have partied like a rock star. At your Peepa's 75th birthday, you actually went to bed at 11:15. We also went to Chestertown for cousin Dana's wedding party where your Daddy captured two wonderful photos of you with your closest-in-age cousins:

What's amazing to watch is you playing with other kids. You're starting to have this fun life outside of us and I'm so excited for you! You're so game for trying anything and so happy-go-lucky. I'm watching it all with such joy and with such wariness; the day will come when someone will try to squash that eagerness out of you, and then I will have to beat them down.

You and Daddy like to go to the park together a lot. You love watching the big kids play basketball, and you love following the little girls around.

You are still my joy of joys. I love you dearly.