Isn’t it postmodern? Don’t you think?

Four-year-old Butter loves to sit on my lap and pretend to read books. Any books. His favorite are texts he’s already memorize (I’m looking at you, Frog and Toad), but he’ll fake read anything he can get his hands on.

Tonight, he opened a text on embodiment and ethics that I’m zipping through in case it helps my paper for this week’s conference, and ran his finger along this line:

“Or, as Judith Butler suggests, partly following Foucault, gender is that embodied entity constituted through a ‘stylised repetition of acts’ the significance of which is social rather than natural” (Butler 1990: 140).

And he read it thusly: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl. And the girl…The End.”

So, clearly: full ride to Rutgers’ Women’s Studies Department.

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Okay.

Language acquisition fascinates me. The ways in which small people hear, process, and develop language twinkles with neuroscience and social acclimation. It’s different from the process by which adults learn multiple languages, and by nature of the subject’s biological needs, simply adorable.

Since he crested his first year, Butter has used the word “dato” for “that.” Peanut was a “dat” kind of guy, and I couldn’t quite figure out why the younger guy added an “oh” to the end of his word. But he has done it for other words, too, so I just chalked it up to a lingual quirk.

But last week after he asked me for “dato” and I gave it to him, he said, “Dato kay, Mommy.” I figured out that, because of an infant and toddler’s basic “uh-oh” relationship with objects, physics, and social expectations, more often than he’s heard “that,” Butter has heard “that’s okay.”

So his concept of “that” is framed by how it exists in this moment. Dato just is. Dato kay is fine.

Made me smile a little Foucaultian smile about the parameters Butter uses to bound his reality. In an The Order of Things kind of way, I’m rather impressed that our family has taught this little person to see those two categories: thing, thing that is okay.

Hope we retains that as he ages. Heck, I hope I do, too.

Sad-sack-itis

Today, my two-year-old asked for help with his wooden train tracks. His trains were upstairs, his train tracks were downstairs, and he preferred relocating the relatively large, intricately linked and somewhat difficult to move rails to transporting the things on wheels.

Cool. It’s a day, man, and we gotta live it however we gotta live it. Happy to be of service if you’re gonna play and not scream.

So I went downstairs and brought the train tracks up.

When I arrived at the new train station, he said, “You good helper, Mommy. Good helper.”

And I got a little weepy.

Because nobody in six and a half years has told me that I’m a good helper. Or if they did, they used a regular, grown-up voice and verbs in their sentence so I didn’t completely internalize what they were saying. Either way, it felt really, *really* good to be noticed.

So, either I need a job with regular performance reviews again, or I need to hear these wonderful children when they thank me. We all know the appreciation in this job is at best implied and at worst deferred until they have kids of their own and call, weeping with the exhaustion and overwhelming terror of having a newborn, toddler, preschooler, or teenager to apologize for what shits they were as kids and to express their awe at what great parents we were to tolerate them.

So I’ll take my “good helper” kudos and chalk up my points for teaching him to ask for help, appreciate it, and articulate his feelings. Plus bonus stickers for actually *being* a good helper.

Now, where do I turn in these tickets for prizes?

Okay

My heart is broken and the sheen has gone off this glorious season of sun and school-less freedom.

Why? Today Butter said, “okay.”

No big deal to you, I know.

But for six months he has said, “Haykoe.” It was an adorable, dyslexic, mirror image of okay that I found so delicious I asked him several times each day if he was okay just to hear that yes, in fact, he was haykoe.

But now he’s just okay.

[sob]

Well, poop. It’s the beginning of the end.

Note to the concierge

Peanut and I had a date today to see a marvelous puppeteer and his marionette vignettes. I found out that P has a 55 minute sit-still threshhold, for at 56 minutes he discreetly stood up and wiggled in place for a few minutes while he watched the puppeteer’s penultimate story. We had terrible seats on the right margin and nobody behind us, so I just watched and smiled.

But that’s not the point, cute though I find it. We have business to attend to. A marketable idea. Make note:

Walking to the will call window, I explained that we were going to pick up our tickets then go to the theater.

P: Do they have little bags there?
M: [confused] There where? The ticket place or the stage place?
P: The stage place. The theater. Do they have little bags?
M: What kind?
P: The kind you need in case someone loses a tooth.
M: Bug, are you worried you’re going to lose a tooth during the performance?
P: [annoyed] No, of course not. My tooth is barely wobbly. I mean for someone else if they lose their tooth.
M: Well, people who are ready to lose a tooth are usually with a grownup, and grownups are good at finding safe places for teeth that fall out. Purses, pockets…
P: No. Not good. They need something tiny. Like a little bag.

So if you run front of house for a theater, or are looking into operating a theater…heck, if you stage manage or operate concessions at all…I’d like to send out a thought that you might want to stock little bags. For the teeth. All the falling teeth.

You don’t know anything.

Took Peanut and Butter to a padded room last week, mostly because I wanted to put them in a padded room. But also because they play nicely together there, climbing and sliding and laughing and bouncing. The gym (my recent compromise on having no child care or breaks from the kids) has a climbing wall and bounce house and huge toxic foam climbing structures for our use, free (now that I’m paying for a gym membership), whenever we want.

When it’s time to go I give a five minute warning, and a “last chance to do something that’s important to you” warning. Then we go.

But last week Peanut would not leave. As is his wont, he ignored, ignored, ignored, then yelled, “No!”

I was calm, I was respectful, I was nicer than I should be. I wanted to throw him against a padded wall but went with:

Me: Yes. It’s time to go. We need to get home for dinner.”
P: No. Come on, Butter, let’s go over here.
M: Butterbean, come get your shoes! [He does, thankfully.] Peanut, we’re getting out shoes on and then we’re leaving.
P: I’m not going.
M: Oh. Well it’ll be hard to have dinner in a bounce house, but I wish you the best of luck.
P: I’m not coming.
M: I heard you. And I’m not compromising.
P: WHY?!?!?!!
M: Peanut, please use an inside voice. I’m not compromising because we came here for you to have fun and to bounce and climb. And you did have fun, bounce, and climb. So now it’s time to go home.
P: I did NOT have fun.
M: Mmmmmmkay. That’s a shame. Maybe next time, then. Come on.
P: No.
M: Okay.

He comes over to the child-keeping door and climbs the half wall instead of going through.

Me: Sweetie, that’s not safe. Please get down and come through the door.
Peanut: This is the only way I can find to get to you.
M: Honey, try the door.
P: No.
M: Peanut, get down. This is not a climbing wall. Come through the door.
P: No.
M: Yes.
P: I can’t.
M: Little boy, this is not working for me. Get down. Now. Because what you’re doing could hurt you.
P: But the door has a forcefield and I can’t go there.
M: I see. Here. I turned it off. Now come through.
P: NOOOOOOO! It’s invisible and you can’t see it.
M: And you can’t see my angries, inside me, but they are circling their wagons right now and getting ready to come out all over you if you don’t get down.
P: You don’t know anything.
[just a look. a really long, blinking, calmly enraged look.]
P: I’ll climb when I want and where I want.
M. [deep breath] You will take a deep breath right now and consider how you’re talking to me. And you will consider that coming here is optional and climbing is optional and bouncing is optional, but talking nicely to your mother is. not. optional.
P: FINE.
M: Peanut Full Name Naptime, that is not talking nicely. I will not ask you again. You will talk nicely or we will think of a consequence together.

At this point a deep breath didn’t help. A snake breath I read about in a Mothering Magazine article on Mama Rage did. Especially when Butter mimicked it and I started laughing.

I still snubbed Peanut for a while, even after the situation was defused. Because I’m petty and nasty and immature. And because I could *totally* see that forcefield. What does he think I am…old? Powerless? Unfun?

(I am so old and powerless and decidedly unfun lately. But how dare he notice? He doesn’t know anything.)

This Year in Peanut

This Week in Peanut is good enough, really, to stand for all of 2011. As always, these are swear-to-saturn quotes. No editing, no fabrication. The new year in retrospect.

Observe:

P: Is there time for one more game before bed?
M: Well, it should be bedtime, but you napped well. How does your body feel? Are you tired?
P: Well, my body feels like…how long does one game of Crazy Eights take?
M: About ten minutes.
P: Well, my body feels that in about ten minutes it will take a deep breath and relax and go to sleep.

. . .

“Mom. My name is annoyed. Because you’re annoying me.”

. . .

“Butter stop following me! Why does Butter want to do everything I’m doing? Butter, stop it! Butter you’re not fun anymore! Butter!! Butter stop! Stop it! I don’t like Butter. He’s always…where’s Butter? Hey, Butter. Want this? Butter, sweetie? Butter, pay attention, I’m showing you something. You want this Butter? Hey, Butter. Come here.”

[It’s an incessant loop playing in our house dozens of times an hour.]

. . .

“Daddy, my answer is no. Ask again and say please this time. And my answer will still be ‘no.'”

Center of the Universe

Setting: Breakfast table. Early, early morning.

Peanut: I don’t want rice milk on my cereal.
Mom: okay.
she busies herself getting everyone’s breakfast ready. Sliced kiwi and dry cereal for Peanut, pumpkin and plums for baby, coconut granola for herself. Begins to pour rice milk on her own cereal…
P: [screaming] I said I don’t want milk on mine!
M: P, this isn’t yours. Yours is just the way you wanted it. This is my breakfast.
P: Oh. I thought you were ruining my cereal.
M: Not everything is about you. [wondering when she started reciting the Mother Soundtrack] You know, the Earth revolves around the Sun, not around you.
P: Um, no. The Earth revolves around the World. You can ask me next time. I know everything.

So this is parenting a teenager? One part wanting to tape it shut, one part stifling your laughter at how painfully clueless they are?

Turn your head and laugh

For the first time in a long while, my Monday jaunt to the local produce mecca was a solo venture. I usually walk or run there, with at least one child, so I’m limited in time and volume—I can only buy what I can bring home in the stroller and only what I can grab before one or both lose their patience with obscure veggies.

So I brought home a lot more than I normally would have, including selections from the bulk bins. Grains, beans, nuts. And I let Peanut try several before dinner. Raw peanuts, spicy pumpkin seeds, tamari sunflower seeds, cinnamon almonds.

And while I washed and peeled and cored and sliced, P was making a mess.

“Peanut, please, please, please. I know you’re a wiggly guy, but can you please eat and then go play? It’s important to me that you don’t play with your food because of the mess it makes.”

“Mom, it’s just really important to me that I play with my nuts. Because it’s important to me.”

I did a double take before I realized he meant the almonds.

I know that some day soon (next year, according to a mom with three boys) he will mean what I thought he meant. Until then, I still laughed really hard. Because I am a fourth grade boy at heart.

If you can’t beat ’em…laugh at ’em

The first rule of Parent Club is you must talk about Parent Club. The second rule of Parent Club is never laugh at them, because it will come back to haunt you.

Mom: Peanut, it’s time to get out of the bath.
P: No.
M: Yup. Time for jammies. Pull the plug, please.
P: No.
M: Peanut, you can have Dad dry you or Mom dry you. Which one?
P: Green.
[Mom and Dad both laugh. Thus begins our downfall…]

Spouse: Peanut, time to put away your toys.
P: No.
S: Let’s see who can put away faster: you or me.
P: [looks right at Spouse and pauses…] Left.

M: Peanut, let’s go for a walk.
P: No.
M: It’s a gorgeous day, Mama wants some exercise, and you can choose to bring a blueberry muffin or a sandwich. Which do you want?
P: Green.

The non-sequitors are not just for defiance, either.

S: Peanut, time to get out of the bath.
P: No.
S: If you don’t pull the plug I will lift you out of the tub. And you will be sad because you like to do it yourself. And you will be cold. And I will put on your jammies and you will be a little cold and still sad. And you will get stories and songs but you’ll still be a little sad.
P: And tomorrow I’ll still be a little sad.
S: Correct.
P: Where did we get this washcloth?

The eighth rule of Parent Club is if this is your first child in Parent Club, you HAVE to parent.

Overheard

Peanut, on witnessing his baby brother’s first bath:
“My penis is bigger.”

Grandma, on the phone while trying to parent a Wild Peanut:
“P, grapes are not for soccer.”

Me, to Spouse, after peering into the fish tank before bathtime:
“Would it be wrong to “notice” the dead fish tomorrow morning so we can get P to bed on time tonight?”

Spouse, each time I burst into tears:
“What time was your last pain pill?”

Stranger, before I smothered them to death with milk-soaked breast pads and soggy bra:
“How is he sleeping?”

Peanut, as he kisses his sleeping brother on the head:
“When you get bigger, you can play with me if you want to. Only if you want to.”

Full of surprises.

The days I expect to go by without incident are constant battles of spirited-intense-intelligent-feisty small-person will versus spirited-intense-intelligent-feisty parent will. Hell on wheels trying to be gentle and only rarely succeeding is the baseline around here.

But when I think things *should* be tough Peanut makes me laugh and relax (as he did last year when we spent eight hours shopping in a holiday marathon totalling more than the rest of the year combined, and today when we needed extra supplies for tomorrow’s bake-fest of multiple goodies) He’s patient when I least expect it; giving, sweet, and loving not necessarily when i need it, but when I really appreciate it.

I laughed at several proclamations in the car and stores today, surrounded as we were by people trying their best to cram 4,000 things into their day, and doing a pretty poor job of holding it together—including “I want to have pfefferneuse every day if it has protein!” and “don’t worry, Mommy, if they don’t have healthy rice cereal we can make the cookies out of healthy oatmeal.”

My favorite, though, which had other people in the way overcrowded supermarket laughing:
P: I see candy corn!
M: Yes.
P: I think I want some.
M: Not today.
P: Well, for Halloween.
M: Halloween is 10 months away, so we’re set on candy corn for now.
P: 10 months?!?!?
M: Yup.
P: I can wait.

Take that, parenting experts

Let’s not bandy about the word precocious. Let’s not say anything about the apple falling from the tree. Let’s just say you parenting dorks and your stupid games are making me feel like an ass.

Me: Hey! I just heard that all the animals in the zoo are out roaming around and they’re hiding in someone’s mouth! Let me use your toothbrush to check your mouth to see if they’re in there.
Peanut: Mommy, we don’t put animals in our mouths because they have germs that can make us feel crummy. And did you know this? We use our eyes to look and sometimes a telescope.

Next day
Spouse: Gee, I can’t remember how to brush my teeth. Peanut, can you come in here and help me? I don’t know how to do this.
Peanut: Daddy, you went to college. You know how. And I saw you brushing today. Are you telling me a true story?

Next day
Me: Hmm. I’m feeling pretty fast today. I wonder if I can brush m teeth faster than you!
P: Mommy, we don’t brush quickly. We brush carefully. Are you feeling careful today?

Good luck, my friends who are in labor even as we speak. This might be genetic.

This week in Peanut, early December

During dinner: “Maybe we could name the baby Jazz. Jazz is nice music. Maybe we could name the baby Art Tatum. He plays good pinano. Maybe we could name the baby LyleLovett because he talks his singing. Or name the baby Flower. Because I like flowers. Or maybe name the baby out of snow. ” Later, specifies we should *make* the baby out of snow, not name it Out of Snow.

In the tub, apropos of nothing: “Daddy, could you do me a favor? Can I have short shirt jammies tonight instead of long sleeve? Thanks.”

Spouse: If you drink from the bath, I”m taking you out…..okay, you’re out.
Peanut: Oooops. Here we go.

P: The baby is pretending the water it’s in took a trip to the ocean and it came back and now it’s hiding.
Me: The baby is hiding from the ocean-going water?
P: No. That water is hiding from the baby.
M: Where?
P: Anywhere that’s not a uterus.

“Mommy, I love you much as apple.
I love you much as snow.
I love you much as Daddy is stinky.
Mommy, I want to lick your eye.”