Posts Tagged ‘toddler’

Renewable Energy

8 November 2010

Dear J-

It almost feels like there’s a never-ending array of devices and junk to be charged that I touch daily; between the various iPods lying around the house, the blogging machines (keyboard and computer both), my phone, and of course the ten lights deployed around my bike (four of which, at any given time, are about to give out it seems), I’m always plugging something in to the wall. It would be nice to have a simpler solution, like some sort of robotic wireless valet who’d determine the charge and top each off as efficiently as possible, on an as-needed basis and prioritized by relative amount of use, all without me having to intervene (although this leads to visions of power-greedy devices crawling over to the socket and gorging themselves, much the same reason we keep dog food, cat foot, and small snacks out of reach of the various under-50 pound residents of the house).

I like to say that it’s the mental recharge that happens on weekends that’s kept me from remembering to take care of the things I do for the weekdays, like inflating tires and making sure the lights are all juiced up, but that’s just excuse-making. The mental recharge is really more from shifting gears and having to satisfy curiosities throughout the days, where does that thing go and how long can we do this now? Kids are bundles of energy. My brother points out that they instructed athletic people to do the typical things — jumping, tumbling, sprinting — that toddlers do throughout a day and found that the adults were exhausted by the end. And now I’m telling myself that I need a break?

I want to say that it’s because the kids haven’t learned to listen to their bodies, when to say stop, that’s enough. After all, they’ve just been given this marvelous body machine, and they’re burning through caloric energy like there’s no tomorrow between growth and activity. And I realize now that that’s just more excuse-making: it’s not that they don’t listen to their bodies, it’s because their belief is infinite: I can! Hurrah! I’ll do it again! Each leap a celebration, each nap a realization that the well’s not infinite, but infinitely renewable. Get out there and get after it.

Mike

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Time Slot

23 June 2010

Dear J-

Time slides away in great, greasy chunks this morning; you wouldn’t suspect it of moving so fast — doubly fast when you’re trying hard to pin it down and keep it still — if it wasn’t for checking the clock every now and then to see another five minutes gone by. They say that time flies when you’re having fun; I say it accelerates when you’re on the run. Hurrying up and trying to finish something is a sure recipe for having time fly out of control — I like the feeling of a ticking clock on some of the work that I do, but not when it’s down to the final minutes and I’ve got nothing to show but rework and re-checking.

Anything else like time where the harder you try to control it, the less successful you are? Well, three-year-olds for one, I suspect; now that figgy has discovered she has an opinion and a right to express herself, there’s no way to induce her to do anything except through outright bribery (I’m finding that treats and stickers work well), though sometimes the (if … then) constructs don’t always follow. You can eventually force things, but all you’re left with for it is redoubled resistance for the next occasion; nuanced reason plays the same role as toilet paper to a tank.

I suppose it’s all about perception — like traffic, if you look for idiots, you’ll always find them (and occasionally for you, more often than not for me, I’ll definitely find one wearing my pants in my driver’s seat). If I’m always looking out for obstacles, that’s all I’ll ever see; I have trouble keeping my eye on the bigger picture while trying to take care of the day-to-day details, and that’s when time starts slipping away. It’s funny how small details shrink in the bigger picture or given a larger pool of data — I know, for instance, that it takes a good forty minutes to do all the simple chores in the morning, so I shouldn’t be surprised at my rush out the door if I get up late. Bigger picture. Brighter day.

Mike

Young Talking

25 May 2010

Dear J-

My folks are back from New York (one of my cousins got married in New Rochelle) and they’re talking about how gorgeous the wedding was (on a harbor), the great food (they tanked up on hors d’oevures), and getting ripped off (trying to save a little money on a downtown Manhattan tour, they ended up buying tickets for a nonexistent harbor cruise that turned out to be the Staten Island Ferry, which is now free by the way). They could go to a thousand weddings and come back with the same impressions every time, but that’s how they’re wired; it’s like how you could put me in a thousand parties and I’d still find a way to hang out with the kids and avoid grown-up conversations.

We have had long nights for the last few weeks, especially on days she’s back from daycare (they somehow pull of the trick of getting toddlers to nap at the same time, and getting them to nap for hours at a stretch, to boot). She’s gotten independent enough to hang out in her room, and the conversations that come out are alternately amazing and horrifying (when they say that kids are sponges, that’s an understatement; she does dead-on impressions of everyone we meet, but especially of our anger). It’s a sobering thing to see your words writ small, admonishing a doll for having poopy pants; exclaimed disgust and short, angry movements betraying our real motives..

Today she came back wearing her hoodie sweatshirt because it was cold; the sweatshirt has a convenient pocket on the front where she managed to stash at least three pieces of chalk from school (not just little nubs, either — big “D” battery-sized chunks). What do you say? There’s no concept of ownership in the three-year-old brain; there’s little distinction between right and wrong; there’s no sense of patience or delayed satisfaction: everything now, everything just so. The best line I’ve heard all week is that the greatest illusion with communication is that it’s happening; it’s just as true with all the thousand conversations we have every day, figgy and me, but I have to keep working at it.

Mike

Will Power

20 February 2010

Dear J-

We are making a more serious effort (i.e. not just saying that we’ll do it next week) at potty training, prompted partially by the weather (rainy this morning, meaning that between the surgery and precipitation, the forecast was for lots of indoor time) and also by the fact that we’re tired of having what seems like the world’s oldest toddler still in diapers. Although she was incredibly excited at having real underwear to wear, she was also not particularly interested in keeping them dry — we ended up sitting on the potty only after it was actually needed; more than once I thought of a more apropos cliche than barn doors and horses.

The other thing that you’ll end up realizing as you go through this new phase is just how many things can be peed on; there is no dearth of absorbent surfaces in the house. We ended up having her sit on towels at one point; it was either that or clear out a little corral of hard plastic in the middle of the house. I used to make the joke that there are no diapers sized for five-year-olds, but much to my chagrin, there are. We hope not to explore that particular universe.

The other thing we need to explain is that the point isn’t wearing underwear; we have what seems like an unending supply out of the one drawer, but you also don’t want to have her sit around in a clammy mess all day too. It’s going to be another round of researching multiple approaches and finding out what actually works with her. For as much as she learns, we find that we’re learning new things about her (and life) all the time.

Mike

Toddler Patron

16 September 2009

Dear J-

Perhaps it’s me reading my own biases into it, but I wonder if the children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard contingent are getting more vocal.  At the wedding reception, figgy spent a little time in her chair (upon discovering that the favor boxes contained chocolates, she immediately started trying to open all those in reach) and more time running around — as the bride and groom didn’t show up until two hours after the start, and the room was already noisy and busy, I didn’t think it was a big deal to gambol across the dance floor or to make orbits around the head table/dais.

Yet I read about (check out the comments) how two-year-olds shouldn’t be at sit-down restaurants (and in comparison to her cousin contemporaries, figgy was a dervish of activity; most of the rest were too shy to leave their parents — ah, I remember those days), especially if the parents show no sign of wanting to or being able to control them.  Other folks chime in to note that despite being quiet kids, they never went out until they were at least five.  I wonder how guilty we are of this — as a family we’ve been eating out most weekends since, well, forever (at least ten years now) and while we wouldn’t take her to a fancy schmancy place, we’ve gone to Outback Steakhouse (save your money; the cost-cutting is now reflected in the food quality), admittedly not a pinnacle of formal dining, but not the sort of rowdy, boisterous place you’d expect kids to hang out in.

I understand and respect the right of people to dine out in peace; for the most part, figgy saves her best tantrums for home — bedtime struggles continue, now featuring blanket on, blanket off, tuck in, tuck out, lights on, lights off, a last sip of water and oh, one more story.  So if you see us out in public chances are you won’t hear loud cries of anger; you may hear exuberance, though.  And I think that’s better than okay — restaurants and companions should be fun, and kids need to learn that lesson.  There’s plenty of time to be quiet later; right now everything is wonderfun and needs to be explored.  Crushing that is tantamount to the principal’s mission in Uncle Buck; where should we draw the line between letting kids be kids and teaching them to grow up?  Two?  Five?  Continuously?

Mike

Block Party

11 July 2009

Dear J-

One of the latest batches of books contains the recommended Making the “Terrible” Twos Terrific (John Rosemond), which is written to help you understand what must be going on in that churning period between twenty-four and thirty-six months. Much of it is common sense — in developing your sense of independence, there are several milestones — sleeping alone, potty training — that must be achieved without crushing that independence. Therefore, in outthinking a two-year-old (it’s harder than it looks, honestly), you have to appeal to them feeling grown up.

The book is liberally sprinkled with Rosemond’s strong opinions — daycare, an evil to be avoided at all costs; co-sleeping might as well be an invitation to years of therapy. We’re not innocent of any of those (it did take a few days to break her of needing to sleep with us, and we continue, as we have for nearly two years now, to keep her in day care. The one that we’re most guilty of, though, is the TV watching — he claims it’s deceptive in being able to keep children calm, and giving you a break. Indeed, it’s more like creating a zombie (interaction drops to nothing, slack-jawed staring does not count) for the time it’s on, and then an amped-up monster is on your hands the rest of the time.

T3 Pantograph 4308 -sm

He goes on, in fact, to recommend that all toys invented after 1955 be taken out of the house and replaced by simple ones (Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, LEGO bricks, and wooden blocks) that spark imagination. So I tried the blocks today; he may be on to something here (there was still some TV, but it was much more limited than typical in this house), as figgy was enthralled with the destruction of the soaring structures I’d set up. Good for me — keeping me involved and interested instead of the semi-comatose state I slip into after the umpteenth iteration of the latest obsession (WALL-E has replaced Kung Fu Panda); good for her — excited by the world around her instead of the world in the little black box.

Mike

Dad Day III

21 June 2009

Dear J-

Father’s Day today — these milestones make pretty useful one-year markers for me. First one, figgy at six weeks and pretty much unformed; second one, figgy barely able to stand but interested in various foods (that was the brunch, I think, where we thought we’d made a shrimp eater out of her); and third one — third one already! — somehow she’s turned into a real little person. She slyly leads us over to the TV and enquires “TV?” — once you confirm with “Do you want to watch TV?” she almost acquiesces, as if thinking that well, if you’re going to be watching anyway: “Yeah, TV, hokay.”

She runs and trips, finding owies in skinned knees and fat lips — at one point we were sure that she was a careful girl, as she was always very cautious about walking. She bullies the dogs, pushing them out of the way yet charming them with hugs given freely and sometimes unsolicited. She tells us to sit, or stand, or cater to the smallest needs as needed (lately she’s been a carb monster; the rice crackers that my parents gifted to us are going pretty fast).

Boho Girl 3581 -sm

And the fourth, next year? I’m always looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Mike

We Grow

4 October 2008

Dear J-

figgy continues her assault on sleep habits (the luxury of two naps a day was too good to be true, and coupled with the at-first-light rising time, we’re zombies by the end of the day) and innocent living things (petting via open-handed blows — this puts me in mind of a D&D character I once had, a monk who wasn’t allowed weapons or armor, mostly for my brother, the Dungeon Master’s amusement; on the other hand, he did send me a steady stream of giant ants to build up my experience until we both tired of it).  In an interesting escalation today, I woke from dozing in front of the PAC-10 night game (Oregon, getting pounded at USC) to see her, maniacal grin and all, bring her sippy cup down on my forehead.  I’m just glad we haven’t switched to stainless steel cups yet.

It’s funny, this world of parenthood; you never quite know what’s going to happen next, or how quickly things are going to change.  Though her vocabulary remains limited, there’s no question that she’s reasoned out that there’s no reason to go much further, at least for the time being.  Gestures and syllables will do; she’ll take my finger and lead me to the refrigerator and announce “Mah,” asking for the milk within.  She hears dogs barking and will point and declaim “doggy” without a glimpse of a hair or wagging tail.  She laughs at our silly pokes and grunts with frustration while opening various items and every day shows how amazing, how human we all are.

Mike