Sigh.

“Okay, sweetpea. Now that your brother is in school, let’s head this way and we’ll…
Oh, you’d rather go this way. Oh, for the light. Okay, let’s go look at the…
Hmmm. That looks like a pine cone. You’re right. A pine cone. Seeds for new trees. Interesting. Can we…
Sure. Hold the pine cone. Okay, sure, throw the pine cone. And now get it to throw again. Mmmm-hmmm. And again. Honey, can we…
A dog. Yes, that’s a dog. Woof. Want to say hi to the dog? Okay, first we ask it’s papa. Slowly, bugbutt. We want the dog to know we’re gentle. That’s right, gentle…
Okay, now we’re going, huh? Let’s…
Oh, I see, we’re going the other way. That’s an interesting choice.
Um, yes, that’s gravel. Tiny rocks. Mmmm-hmmm. Gravel. You may tough it, sure. Okay, but…oh, please keep the gravel in the yard. Not on the path. People could slip and fall.
Come on, sweets. Let’s walk to the…
Yes, I see the tree. Mmmm-hmmm. Tree. Can you walk, please? You need to touch the bark. Okay. Bark of the tree. Bark. Like skin for the tree. People skin is soft, but tree skin is rough. Rough bark. Okay, can we go now?
Uh-oh, go around, butterbug. Not for touching, please. Not for touching.
Wow, you’re fast. Running! We’re runn…
And now we’re stopping. Stopping and lying down in the dirt. Do you like the dirt? Hmmm. Dirt. Does that feel nice? Okay, let’s go, please.
Butterbean, let’s walk, please.
Do you need me to carry or can you walk? Okay, thank you.
Let’s walk this way and…
Oh, for the love of Peet’s, would you please walk this way so we can…
Mmmm-hmmm. More gravel. Yes, different. But gravel is all the…of course you need to feel the difference. Yes, sure, by all means lie down in the gravel. Gravel. Does that feel bumpy?
Okay. Let’s please go walking. Bugbean, walking. Please walk. Please.”

That recap was 3 minutes of our unceasing day. One-quarter of a block of the 3 miles we travel round trip to and from Peanut’s school each day.

I do love these moments, sweets. I really do. But I genuinely feel like I’m living on Mars. Things look slightly similar, but nothing is the same.

And I wonder if I will ever sit down again. I want to sit down and rest. I’m beginning to feel old and tired and I want to sit down. When may I do that? Oh, I see. Here in the gravel.
Okay. Sold.

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10 Things I Know

Just in case anything ever happens to me, here are the 10 best things I know. Because my vast knowledge might actually help someone else some day.

[Hush your mouth. I didn’t say multiple someones. I said someone. And this is the Interwebs, so as long as I’ve helped on person navigate the grammatical errors of pop songs, my life has meaning.]

[And seriously, why are you rolling your eyes, messing with someone who is writing her most powerful thoughts for you a) free to you for your unfettered use and b) after expressing that she might eventually be the victim of an errant construction-vehicle concrete-flinging accident? Dang, reader, you’re cold. I spend a lot of time by backhoes these days. You never know, you know?]

10. When a toddler won’t nap, tickle them. Makes you smile, gets them tired. Especially when you want to wring their grouchy little necks.

9. The zoo comprises the animals, but the animals constitute the zoo. (I love grammar pneumonics. My other fave is “I lie to recline after I lay the grape on the table.”

8. If you count on a child going to sleep, they will not. If you don’t particularly care, they might. Either way, don’t make any plans around a child’s sleep. Do not plan to drink after they drift off. Drink. Before. Bath.

7. There is no plural for moose, platypus, or mongoose. Do not let me catch you trying mooses, platypuses, or mongooses. (Just typing those made me die a little inside.) Don’t try meese, platypi, or mongeese. (That was a bit more fun and still sould-deadening.) There are no plurals for these mammals. (Availability of a plural does not define mammalhood. Breathing air, being warm blooded, and making milk for babies are the only requirements. Grammar has no place in science. Please try to keep up with the basic genre of my rants. The science rants are less funny.)
Don’t bother looking up that triumvirate of singular nouns, either. I’m right. Most existing references are wrong and your willingness to trust a blog on ten important items means you probably use an online dictionary [shudder] which is why I’m desperately trying to assist you now, before you genuinely need help and turn to one of those dreadful online schlock-fests.
Moose and platypus and mongoose are solitary animals and the only reason you might need the plural can be remedied thusly:
“Dear sir, Please send me a platypus. While you’re at it, please send another.”*

6. There are too many people in the world. If you feel like holing up some afternoon and hiding from the rest of civilization, feel no guilt. It’s not introversion. It’s a courteous use of space. If you feel like hiding with a book and hot cocoa, you are officially saving the world.

5. Measure the oil before you measure the honey or syrup or molasses. I don’t care for your excuses. Do it.

4. Before you have a child, please, for the love of all that’s holy and good, decide whether you like showers or sleep better. You have to. Because once a week, when you have time for just one of those, you must not waste any time deciding.

3. Where you would use “he,” use “who.” Where you use “him,” use “whom.” Please. Please.

2. Grow and make your own food whenever you can. You’ll feel good about yourself and you’ll be prepared for the zombie apocalypse. Two birds, one stone, yo.

1. The dorkier you feel about doing something, the better it is for you. Like karaoke. And bowler hats. And sleeping in the shower.

*This line blatantly stolen from an outrageously bright individual I know who has no blog and has no attorney and who probably stole it from someone else anyway and therefore I win at the Internet. I didn’t say I made this stuff up. I said I know it. It’s true. Check the post title.

Whatever it takes

For your consideration:

Item #1 At 9 months Butter discovered the jars of spices and was smitten.
Item #2 He requests several times a day to have someone hold him and open all the spices so he can sniff them.
Item #3 He did, anyway, until he could open jars himself.
Item #4 And work the stepstool.
Item #5 He regularly pads over to the far end of the kitchen, drags the stepstool over to the spice counter/drawer, and has at it.
Item #6 if not closely supervised he will pour them all over the floor.
Item #7 Lack of close supervision includes blinking during the close supervision of spice sniffing.
Item #8 He opens the jars, sniffs, then recaps nicely unless he smells weakness with the herbs d’provence. Then he speeds to the cinnamon.
Item #9 The cinnamon is the only rat bastard spice to have a flip top.
Item #10 Today I decided I can’t fight this anymore.

I grabbed the cinnamon and the small child. I asked him, “Cinnamon sprinkle, cinnamon shake, you like cinnamon?”

“YEAH” came the resounding answer.

“Let’s sprinkle the cinnamon outside, okay?”

“Tookatooka!” he agreed.

So we spend a half hour outside, him meandering through the backyard and announcing each tablespoon of cinnamon with a crashing wet cement on metal sound, the likes of which only small truck-lovers can make.

On paper I might appear to be an awesome mom. I let my kid shake $2.50 worth of cinnamon all over the patio and lawn. In reality I just take whatever drives me nuts and give it a positive outlet. Outside.

Always with the outside.

Coming soon to our backyard, a whining contest and an indirect-wood-carving-by-drawing-on-thin-paper extravaganza.

Wisdom of the past, wisdom of the present

A question for the generations of women who have done this and been doing this and who represent a wealth of knowledge I need to tap:

Q: I beseech you, women of previous generations, when your children were playing in the yard, and you gently and politely asked the big one not to point the hose at the little one, looked away for a moment to put something down or pick something up, then looked back to see a guilty looking older child quickly turning the hose away from a soaked and crying younger child while proclaiming, “I didn’t do anything!”…
…how did you not beat the older child?

A: Not beat? Oh, sweetie, we use the switch for the lying and a belt for the disobeying.

Okay, that didn’t go as I’d hoped. Let’s try again.

Q: I beg of you, current parents in my community, when your older child is lifting your younger child toward the stovetop while you are chopping vegetables for dinner and you say, “Please put him down. Put him down. Put him DOWN that’s dangerous!” and he continues, reaching the little one high enough to catch his feet in the oven door and open it, hurting the little guy and endangering both…
…how do you not beat the older one?

A: We breathe, we get down on their level, and we talk. In fact, we often find an appropriate song and a snack helps in these matters.

I see. This is harder than I thought. I envisioned wisdom involving margaritas. Or caramel. Deep breathing and talking I’ve tried. Let’s try again.

Q: Internet, please, I beg you. When the older one thinks it’s funny to take the big exercise ball and bounce it in the living room just hard enough to knock over his brother, and he has been told firmly that such behavior is not acceptable and that bouncing the ball must be gentle and not near his brother or anything breakable (else have the ball removed and placed in the garage); and you step out of the room to check the food almost burning on the stove to hear a screech and a crash and return to a fallen and crying toddler, and a fallen and broken lamp…
…how. do. you. not. beat. your. older. child.?

Hmmm? How? Help me Interwebs. You’re my only hope for wisdom today.

A:

Alls well that ends well. I think.

Act I
Interior, Boys’ bedroom. Bedtime.

Peanut notices Butter is happily cuddling a little green bear. The bear he gave his younger brother months ago. The bear he said he was done with and didn’t like. The bear that represents one of only two things he’s ever given Butter to keep.

“Why does he have that? I want it.”

I’m going to spare you the details of the next ten minutes. Suffice it to say it was a ping pong match of screaming versus calm. He wanted it back. I am not going to take a bear from a happy baby. Ill-gotten gains would be a different discussion. But the 5 year old GAVE the bear to the toddler.

Peanut bellowed and writhed for 10 minutes. And he refused to calm down, to lie down, or to stop screaming. I sat next to Butter’s crib, reading a book. (Most nights I nurse the wee one, and put him to bed awake. I leave the room. If he cries I come back, tell him to lie down, fix his blanket, and leave again. After four tries, if he won’t settle, I sit in the rocker and read until he’s asleep. I might actually read a whole book this year.)

I told Peanut I would talk with him when he was prone and quiet. He refused. I had lots of tricks up my sleeve: the other green bear on Peanut’s bed, the idea of taking this green bear back tomorrow, the possibility of a trade for the orange monster Butter has never liked, and the piggy bank just itching for a new bear purchase. I get to use none of my masterful techniques because my child’s stubbornness rivals my own.

He’s actually quite hilarious, and I had to fight not to laugh. First he walked circles around the room for ten minutes while I ignored him. Clearly tired, he finally sat down on his bed. But he refused to lie down.
And he told me so.
And he stared at me, fuming, sitting on his bed, for another ten minutes.

It took half an hour before I told him he could have the bear back in the morning.

Act II
Interior, morning, days later

I wake to the sound of Peanut mimicking Butter’s morning sounds. They banter in toddlerese for a while, then Peanut reads (from memory) and embellishes (from his awesome cache of storybook rhythms) Butter’s favorite book. I go in when Butter gets frustrated because he can’t get out of his bed.

His bed that now contains the forbidden green bear. I casually ask Peanut what they’ve been doing and he tells me, “I brought Butter the bear and told him he can cuddle it for a little while, but that I’d like it back later.”

Fair enough.

Act III
Interior, afternoon, days later

I’ve fallen asleep nursing Butter before his nap. Peanut sneaks into the room and softly talks to me. His whispers are a change from moments before, when he was begging for a movie, cursing my name, and threatening not to eat ever again if he couldn’t have pudding for lunch.

P: Do you want me to pull the curtains?
M: Hmmm? What? Oh, that would be nice. Thank you.
P: [he closes the curtains] Is that enough?
M: Yes. That was such a huge help. Thank you.

He gets the magical bear from his bed.

P: Which way will his head be when he gets in bed?
M: That side.
P: I’ll put this in the middle so he sees it no matter which way he sleeps.
M: That is so friendly, P. What a great idea.

What!? Who is this model citizen? This is the kid I met years ago and haven’t seen since he started preschool. This kid standing before me has been missing for two years. Is it possible he’s shaking his Threes and Fours just in time to leave our sphere of influence and enter the terrifyingly unsheltered, unprotected, unsavory world of public school?

Cool!

Act IV
Interior, bedtime, same day

The boys rush into their bedroom after bath, screeching and laughing. B sees his crib and points. He wants the green bear. P sees me give it to him and seems fine. B holds the bear, kisses the bear, drags the bear around during the bedtime ritual. And as he nurses he bangs me in the face with the mangy little thing. Repeatedly.

Peanut laughs. A lot.

And I’m guessing Butter can keep the bear now. Because he has helped Peanut turn the nauseating little urchin into a partner in crime, used first in a petty war but now as a weapon against the arch-nemesis Mama. Forget rivalries. They’ve moved onto the bigger picture: their lifelong rebellion against the Forces of Rules and Expectations.

Leeches

Small children, adorable, clever, hilarious, cuddly little humans suck the life out of you if you’re with them 14 hours a day without cease. And when it’s seven days a week, and they’ve sucked the life out of you by Monday afternoon, it’s a long, long, long long long week.

In related news, the debut two-hour stint of our first babysitter is six days away. In other related news, the submission of my novel to the next round of agents will be about eight babysitting sessions from now.

In unrelated news, kale chips are nice. Even better was last night’s Thai sweet potato lentil foil packets. Baked for now, but next time will be grilled. By someone else. From packets I’ve prepped the night before. It took almost three hours to prep a meal that takes someone without small children (who cling, scream, and hit more during meal prep than any other time in the day) about 15 minutes.

And finally, in this abbreviated version of our news hour: people suck. Twice in two days someone turning left almost hit me and my small wards as we were walking in the crosswalk. At an intersection with a green light and a walk sign. No late afternoon glare, no echoing sirens, no tsunami, no excuses. Bad drivers almost killing perfectly decent bloggers and future bloggers.

People suck.
You heard it here first.

It’s….Velcro Baby!

Oh, dear sweet one.

I know you’re hot. I can feel it radiating off you before I even gather you, sweaty, from your nap. I would take that fever from you and wear it for a week if I could make you feel better for an hour.

I know you’re miserable. I can tell my the way you ball up inside if your feet touch the ground for even a moment. I will keep you with me as long as you need me to, even if I have to ice my biceps later.

I know you hate medicine. I can tell the way you gag when you see the dispenser syringe thingie. I would do anything to make love and milk and good intentions fix this illness, baby, but sometimes we need to bow to the bludgeoning power of Western meds. Because I won’t let big bad germs get you.

I know you want mama. I can tell the way you haven’t left my hip for four days. If I could just zipper you on while you need that, I would. Until then we’ll use slings and arms and wraps. No, of course not backpacks. I know better than that, butterbean.

I know you’ll be too big soon to be a Velcro Baby when you’re sick. Soon I’ll be replaced by movies, then books, then someone else. When you’re sick. When you’re not sick, too.

I hope you won’t ever get sick again. I hope you won’t ever get too sick. I hope you won’t ever completely lose the need for Mama when you’re feeling crummy.

I hope I won’t ever forget the heft and heat and helplessness of Velcro Baby.

Tickets. Get your tickets.

This weekend, Spouse took Peanut to an arcade museum. Pin ball machines, carnival games, and skee ball. Peanut was in heaven and has, since he came home, forced us to perform feats of skill and chance in exchange for tickets. Tape flags, really, that I gave him to get him to stop raiding my desk and (to my horror) the books I’ve flagged during my ongoing, stunted, stop-and-go research.

But that’s another story for another day.

Anyway. I’ve been bouncing balls across the room into yogurt cups for tickets. Spouse has been coaxing plastic toys through jumping contests for tickets.

And when Butter finally let go and walked on his own, Peanut counted the steps. And awarded Butter tickets for each unassisted step.

We have pages and pages like this.

Peanut is so excited to be in control.

Butter is so proud of himself it’s irresistible.

It’s a good time to be at Casa Naptime.

Rose-colored hindsight

There was a time that a headache would strike at 4pm and I’d go into the corporate bathroom, two doors between me and the bright, loud, engaged world. I’d sit, disengaged, and I’d close my eyes for up to two minutes. Dark, cool, quiet. And if the headache didn’t resolve I’d know that in two hours there’d be peace and quiet at home. Solitude. Food.

Now when a headache hits at 4pm there is no dark, cool, quiet. There aren’t two doors between me and anything. There is no closing my eyes. There is no solitude (and often no food). Because two small people will get hurt and sad if I close two doors and my eyes. Now there are at least four hours before bedtime separates me and the bright, loud, engaged workplace. And those four hours will not be easygoing or peaceful. Those four hours will be escalating screaming and demands and hot, frantic, noisy unceasing tasks.

No sitting for four hours. No breathing or relaxing or closing eyes. That’s a lot of unfettered headache time.

Dinner comes much later, quiet comes much later. Cool, dark, quiet long blinks come much later.

Working is not a picnic. It’s rare to find an ideal work environment, and even when I do there are hard days. There are annoying people or clients or computers or projects. But there are bathrooms. And doors. And closed eyes. And a way to separate at the end of the day.

For people who leave work and come home to small, needy, loud, helpless creatures, it’s a jarring transition. And there are several hours before bedtime for them, too, after a long day of sometimes awful colleagues and awful bosses and awful projects and awful clients.

There’s nothing for me to leave. No “gee, today one job seems easier than the other and I’m glad I have work/home on days like these”. No closing some doors or opening others; no transition except bedtime—that sometimes relaxed and delightful, but usually dramatic and daunting cataclysm.

So 4pm headaches seem as though they’re a much bigger deal than they used to be. And when corporate bathrooms seem a dreamy vacation spot from my current world, maybe I need to reevaluate a few things in my life.

Where’s your dark, cool, quiet, disengaged happen? Is it hourly or daily or weekly? Is your dark, cool, and quiet at the mercy of others? Do you have a room of your own? Do you sit and blink and eat and go to the bathroom as you see fit?

How do you do that?

A life, simplified

Child:
Stop doing that and pay attention to me.
Stop driving and look at me.
Stop eating and do for me.
Stop talking and listen to me.
Stop sleeping and comfort me.
Stop reading and play with me.
Stop thinking and focus on me.
Stop being you and do what I need.

Parent:
I have to give them what they need.
I want to give them what they want.
Only what’s helpful.
What’s helpful?
Only what’s reasonable.
What’s reasonable?
Only what’s appropriate?
What’s appropriate?
Only what they need.
What do they need?
Almost everything they want.
But is it too much?
But is it enough?
But is it too much?
But is it enough?
No. But it’s all I can.
But is it enough?
Is it too much?
Is it enough?
No.

Shell of the person she once was

Everyone knows children change you. But in my case, I’m ruined. Ruined, I tell you!

Wanna know eight ways in which I am totally wrecked now that I have kids?

8. I can’t do just one thing at a time.
It’s simply not possible any more to just read or cook or go to the bathroom. I have to run over mental to-do lists and gauge how long I have before one of the children loses it while I try to read, and I must dodge in front of the baby to snatch whatever crumbs he finds while I try to cook food for the family plus several special requests for the older child. And the one time this week I went to the bathroom without holding someone, yelling at someone, listening carefully for someone, or preparing to go stop someone, I was done and washed in 30 seconds flat. I used to use the office restroom as my locked-door-where-nobody-can-see-me-close-my-eyes-and-breathe-for-ten-seconds haven. Now I hold my breath and rush through so often that force of habit made me miss this week’s only solo effort.

7. I can’t ignore bugs.
I’m not a bug person. I paid my brother to collect bugs for me when Biology class mandated a bug murder-and-display project. But now that I have children I can’t let a bug go by without stooping down to check it out, point out its details, and wonder about its diet. Sometimes Peanut asks about a bug, but more often I’m distracting one or both boys from all manner of childish b.s. and need to point them to something unusual. So critters who used to make me shudder are now members of my emergency “please-let-me-make-it-through-today-and-I’ll-give-money-to-local-entomologists” toolkit.

6. I have amazing biceps.
Two children with long-term separation anxiety issues equals 5 years of lifting heavy weights. They don’t fit with the rest of my body at all, so I’m freakishly distorted now (aside from the typical post-pregnancy distortions none of which have I escaped).

5. I can’t see a garbage truck without looking around excitedly for a child.
It doesn’t even matter if I’m away from my own children. When I see or hear a garbage truck I get all frenzied hoping I can make someone appreciate this amazing (huh?), unusual (what?), scintillating (who are you?) sight.

4. Slightly more embarrassing is my new, post-child reaction to fire engines.
I grin and wave and talk excitedly about the differences between a pumper, tiller rig, rear-mount aerial ladder, and snorkel truck. Last week I went for a walk without the boys and realized only when I saw the reactions from the firefighters that I was waving and smiling while completely alone.

3. Clients seem a lot more reasonable.
After negotiating cataclysms in which sandwiches were cut rather than left whole, adults removed shoes from a comfortably shod child, protein is poison and little bodies claim to need only sugar to survive, and waitstaff are tipped heavily for the mounds of food on the floor beneath high chairs, clients who want a quicker turnaround or want additional iterations seem downright fair even when they don’t say, “please.”

2. I can’t vacuum without warning the household, even if I’m alone.
Every child goes through vacuum issues. Mine adore the vacuum and fight over who gets to be held aloft to steer with me. If I ever turn on the vacuum without making sure its dance card is properly allocated, I don’t hear the end of it for days. So I warn the cat about the noise and ask who wants to help. Even if it’s 11:00pm and nobody around me cares.

Everything is different now, but the biggest change, the most significant reason I am ruined now that I’ve had children:

1. I cannot pass by even one festive decoration without stopping and grinning. I didn’t even know I had it in my heart that is two sizes too small, but I’m fascinated and entranced by twinkly lights. Glitter makes me giggle. Streamers lighten my day. And its all their fault. As infants they made me look up. As toddlers they made me explain why. And as adults, they’re gonna pay.

Because I’m wrecked. They’ve ruined me.

Freaking exhausted

“What are the odds,” people said. “Of course the second one will sleep.”

Oh, dear Aphrodite, I’m tired.

Peanut didn’t sleep well. As a newborn he work the typical every two hours. He extended his longest sleep to three, four, five, even six hours until he started teething. Some nights we was up, screaming in pain, several times an hour. I’d comfort him to sleep, and he’d wake three minutes later. When not teething he woke every three hours. For three years and two months.

Of course that won’t happen again.

When Peanut was a newborn, other moms commiserated. Then they dropped like flies as their children started sleeping longer.

“Yeah, it was hard, but six months is much better.” So I hung on until six months. Six teeth, no sleep.

“Once he turned a year he magically slept.” So I hung on until one year. Thirteen teeth, no sleep.

“Wean him at night and he’ll sleep.” I didn’t believe it, but at eighteen months was losing my mind and probably clinically depressed so I night weaned. Twenty teeth, solid food, no sleep.

His first pediatrician told me to read a couple of studies that offered stats and findings about how some kids are just not sleepers. And that all kids reach adult sleep patterns by age three or four. I made him promise there were no seven year olds in his practice who woke frequently. He promised. So I hung on past age two.

Peanut’s second pediatrician said her daughter was the same, and that after age two you can reason with a waker, and explain how other family members need sleep and they need to pull up the covers, close their eyes, and go back to sleep as long as it’s dark. I hung on past age three.

With no fanfare, warning, rhyme, or reason, he slept through the night at three years two months. For four months his nightmares woke him but he didn’t need help back to sleep. Now the nightmares leave him screaming in his sleep but he doesn’t usually wake.

“Of course the second one will sleep. What are you, cursed?”

Butter woke every two hours as a newborn. Then extended his longest sleep to three, four, five, six, seven hours. And then he got ear infections. He went to every hour waking. Then two hours, now three hours. After I promised to worship the goddesses of nighttime he went six hours. For a week.

And now we’re back to every three hours.

Some kids are not made to sleep well until their sleep cycles mature. They’re not waking out of habit or to manipulate or because their parents aren’t doing the “right” things. If you think that, in the words of William Goldman, “feel free to flee.” My cousins woke every three hours for three years. My nieces wake about that (they’re almost two). Peanut woke that often. My friend’s daughter woke that often. My pediatrician’s daughter woke that often. My friends’ son is still waking that often.

But I don’t want to wake that often.

I don’t really want to talk logistics. Both boys go to sleep easily, wide awake, in their own beds. This is not a nurse-to-sleep issue or a rocking issue, though if it were, I’ve read the book to address it. About half the time I can get Butter back to sleep with a pat on the back, so it’s not a nurse to sleep issue (though if it were, I’ve read the book to address it). If it was any of those, and you felt the need to judge, you may back away from the computer, bend over, and kiss my ass . I have no time for people who sleep judging my desperation. And if the words “cry it out” are dancing around in your brain, keep ’em to yourself.

My friends fall into two categories: people whose children wake often at night, and everyone else. The difference, I’m convinced, is not childfree vs. parent. It’s families of any stripe who sleep vs. those who don’t.

I don’t begrudge people who sleep and whose children sleep. Mazel tov, I say, and many more great nights to you. But I also want to cry with self pity and sleep deprivation.

I’d really just like to rest.

Really, really want to rest.

Sign language for the short tempered and goofy

Butter is desperate to communicate with us, and is much more clear than I expected for this age. He signs “all done”( or “touchdown,” depending on your perspective) when he will not tolerate any more of something, and shakes his head viciously back and forth for “hell no!”

Like his mama, his two speeds are “absolutely not!” and “right this very minute!”

He’s also modified the sign for “want” to look like he’s conducting an orchestra. Make no mistake, though, it means “I must have that right now. Right now right now!”

So he makes it clear when he wants the doll on the shelf, refuses to eat any more of a new food, and is all done with me having time to myself. “Mommy, I must have that doll immediately! No way, oh hell no, am I gonna eat cottage cheese. Now, I’m done with Daddy holding me. Hope you enjoyed your twelve seconds of cutting an apple for yourself. Time to put me back on your aching back. Touchdown!”

Eeeek! Kindergarten!

Research on what to do come kindergarten time is freaking me out. I’m appalled at how aggressive kindergarten is, both academically and socially.

Research shows kids shouldn’t be forced to read until second grade, and that countries who begin reading instruction at age eight have a 100% literacy rate. Could be correlation, but it could be that waiting helps more children learn. That homework and formal instruction in kindergarten are counter-productive. But public schools aren’t listening. Maybe they can’t, given how many layers of legislation governments pile on the how, why, what, and when of teaching.

I want play-based kindergarten. I don’t want formal reading education until second grade (that’s what public school was when I was a kid) or homework until middle school.

I want choices.

But paying a high price for the kind of schools we went to as children versus public subsidized pressure cookers for small children isn’t really a choice. A five-year-old who is struck by fits of noise, movement, and lack of focus isn’t disordered. They’re normal.

Why isn’t there an option for elementary school that honors a child’s developmental needs? Why doesn’t my area have charter schools that are trying out ideas based on research rather than legislation? Why is there no play-based option for kindergarten? Why am I not thinking seriously about homeschooling or unschooling when that makes more sense than cramming 20 five-year-olds into small chairs and insisting that they sit still for hours on end? How can I disagree with the way government runs schools without sounding like I believe science is a theory?
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This week in Peanut

Things you did this week that made me want to cry (how’s that for a executive summary of four-and-a-half?):

You interrupted your play at school when a toddler’s ball rolled away from her. You stopped the ball and handed it back to her before resuming your own wild shenanigans.

You stood atop one play structure at school and intoned obscenities, grinning ghoulishly, at a group of girls playing below.

When asked if your baby brother could play with the wooden utensils from your play kitchen, you looked me right in the eye and said, “Always.”

The glitter paint all over the dining room and living room weren’t really your fault, since the cat walked through your painting, then sat down on another to lick his glittery, sticky paws, then rubbed himself all over the furniture trying to get the paint off his fur. Thank goodness, I guess, you like pink glitter paint the best, because it blends a bit better into the rug than the blue he could have sat in.

When you woke from your nap with a fever, and went wandering into the kitchen to find me, you carefully barricaded the open side of the bed with pillows so your baby brother wouldn’t fall out.

You pointed your bubble blower at me, repeatedly, even after I asked you to shoot at something else. When I took that away, you pointed a well tuned recorder. When I took that away, you pointed a cardboard tube. When I took that away, you used your finger. Don’t fool yourself, boy, I can take that, too.