This week in Peanut

A roundup of the goings on in a certain four-year-old’s world…

Me: Would you like melon in your lunch?
Peanut: Heck yeah!
Me: Heck yeah? Where’d you hear that?
P: From you.
Me: Great.
P: Spectacular.
Me: Spectacular?
P: Yeah. What’s that mean?
Me: Like really great, something that makes you say “wow.”
P: Oh.
Me: It’s a good word. Where’d you hear it?
P: You. Can I have some spectacular melon?

Stalking through the house, and unearthing tape and construction paper projects at every turn, Peanut narrates his misadventures as though reading them from a book:
“He searched and searched for the shooter but could not find it. So he made one himself and put it on so he could shoot pirates who came to the castle without paying toll….”

Running naked out of the bathroom after his bath, Peanut dove under the huge box he’s been playing in to hide from the jammies-application process. Spouse, tired of playing the “where is he? I can’t seem to find him” game, said to the cat, “Cat One, do you know where Peanut is? If you know, go there.” Then picked up his feline mole and tossed him onto the box.
Peanut was horrified that the cat gave him away.

Ah, to be so adorable and clueless.

it’s all relative

Which is harder: parenting one or two? In the first week home, two is harder. But I can, honestly see that will change.

Which is harder: labor or parenting? Hands down, parenting is harder. Labor is on my terms, in my head, and following my rhythms. Parenting is a clusterf*&# on someone else’s schedule, hostage to their demands, and in the service of exactly the opposite of what I want and am good at. Plus, labor was 47 hours. Parenting is 47 years.

Which was rougher: C-section or VBAC? The surgery. Scary and debilitating. Healing is a toss up, only because of the 5 hours of pushing a 14 1/2 inch head wedged under a pubic bone and resulting vacuum. But surgery much less my cup of tea than the VBAC, even with aforementioned 47-hour protracted vacation from parenting.

Which wears on you more: sleep deprivation or four-year old tantrums? The former went on for three years with Peanut, so tired is old news. The tantrums are legendary—nay, cataclysmic—and much more draining.

Who’s cuter? Gasp. How could you ask that? Of COURSE the one who is not screaming at any given moment is the cutest.

Which came first, chicken or egg? Egg, clearly. Some not-quite-chicken lays slightly mutated egg that gives rise to actual chicken. Yes, mama was necessary, but egg was first at being chicken.

When will you posts be interesting again? Not any time soon, sad to say.

Holy handful, batboy!

Oh, boy, do we have a handful and a half living in our house.

Thankfully, the past few weeks have been quite enjoyable. Sure, we’ve had age-appropriate struggles and nonsense and frustrations, but totally in proportion to what normal children dish out. Nothing like the batshit insane we often endure (barely) here at Chez Nap (see for instance the popular posts that involve my child being a bit off-the-charts in general), or that they have handled for many more moons over at Bad Mommy Moments.

This weekend, when gently instructing Peanut on the reasons we do not jump on the furniture in our house, he told me, “Don’t worry about me, Mommy. Just worry about yourself.” I usually give a gentle but firm lecture about respect and ways that we talk to other people before leaving the room to laugh my ass off, but I didn’t make it. I burst out giggling, and then called Spouse over for a conference. I had heard those words before. Directly out of my alleged partner’s mouth. So that Peanut announcement, though saucy, was not entirely his fault.

Today, though, while we were climbing at best of the neighborhood’s awesome rock parks, he told me, “Look, Mom, I’m almost four and that’s older than you, so just climb your rock and let me do my day.”

Um….so torn…want you to grow up. Dig the independence. Absolutely groove on you pushing back. But dude? That rock is several stories high, and covered in moss and rain. Also? I’d leave you here in a heartbeat after a comment like that if I hadn’t already invested quite a bit of care and hypervigilance and patience and reason and what was left of my sanity over the past few years. If you didn’t have so damned much Mama Equity in you, you’d be on your own.

So instead I played along. “Well, yes, almost-four is older than almost-forty, so you’d better go to college and get a job and find an affordable house and get a mortgage and pay your way, because otherwise, I’m gonna be the boss for a few more years.”

His answer? Predictably: “Just worry about yourself, Mom. Don’t worry about me.” Would that such a thing were possible, dude. Before we left for the rock park, I was thinking “four down, twenty to go.” But we all know I won’t stop worrying (or butting in) after another 20 years. Sweat equity, patience capital, and sanity stakeholding and all.

Play rather than memorize

Thanks to Elizabeth over at bleakonomy for linking to this article in the Washington Post about the importance of playtime over scheduled, formal instruction.

The quote Elizabeth pulled for her blog post is jaw-dropping:

Research has shown that by 23, people who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.

Of course academic preschool doesn’t make people felons. That isn’t the argument in the article or in my ramblings. The argument is that formal, didactic learning for young children is counter productive. They need imaginative play with other children, supervised to make sure play is a safe and rewarding experience, but not scheduled and formalized to the point that the play becomes work. Or quote-educational-unquote. (Especially major corporation educational-for-profit type play. That means you, LeapPressure, Baby Neurotic, and Fisher for Dollars.)

Because seriously? Eight times less likely to need therapy is pretty significant. Especially given the other things we’re doing to screw our kids up.

We now rejoin our midlife crisis, already in progress

We went to the guitar store today to restring Peanut’s awesome little 1/2 scale SX guitar. He earned it potty learning, when he got 20 dry days in a row (and therefore 20 stickers) at 21 months. He bought himself a guitar with the stickers. You’re damned right, kiddo. Not yet two and dry all the time? Guitar? Fine.

Well the trip to the guitar mecca coincides with a midlife crisis I’ve been contemplating, based in part on the nausea I’m feeling at life, my choices, and the impending and rapidly growing BOMB that will descend on my already precarious situation. My midlife crisis today looked a LOT like a $2660 twelve string guitar. Then it looked like an $80 used and totally awesome used natural ash wood bass for the band my newest peeps and I are starting. Then my midlife crisis looked like a miraculous $3200 keyboard that sounded honest to goodness like a well tuned piano.

And then my midlife crisis reminded me what end was really up. Because besides not having even the $80 for a bass, I don’t have time for a new hobby. I have a novel to edit. Again. I have a paper to submit, another paper to write, and a PhD application to ponder for next fall. I have to find a babysitter and a preschool.

I grabbed an Atwood at the library, because there’s nothing to counter balance 32 picture books like an Atwood. We got home late and I had to wash dishes and make dinner. Peanut was in a lovely mood and tried to dump out a whole canister of ground flax. Sealed, luckily, but he was willing to test Oxo’s sturdy seal.

I asked him nicely to put it down, and he did. Sweetly. In the dining room. I continued thinking about whether, really, cowboy boots would serve the same purpose as a guitar, as midlife crises go. Maybe I’d need them for the band (blues, I think, but whatever. Everything goes with buckaroo boots.)

I went into the dining room to give Peanut some carrot sticks. He had dumped all the flax neatly on the table and was sorting it into piles. I took a deep breath and told him to get down. I asked, as I gathered the placemat parking lots, what he was trying to do. He was making pretend smoothies. Sure. okay. As I brought the soapy sponge back and forth from the kitchen, I explained that while pretend is a good idea, his pretend kitchen is a better place for pretend juices. And that using real food for pretend food isn’t a good idea. And that I understand how he wants to help, so he can make a real blender juice with my help. But real food always needs a yes from Mommy.
Well, kind of. Except that now, at the dining room table, he has his face burrowed into my brand new, 64 oz. jar of organic kosher pickles. tongue fully extended, licking the brine in the freaking jar. i collapsed on the floor. Took a deep breath. Contemplated a good cry and realized that I already had his cold, so, no harm no foul. I mean, really, really foul, but I’ll be done with the pickles in a few days, so…meh. I told him how not okay it is to put hands or mouths on containers of food. I try to explain, I try to be forceful but casual. I remember a gorgeous burbinga wood guitar and take another breath.

So we make a smoothie together. He’s happy and proud of his blueberry pouring skills. I’m almost ready with dinner. I turn away to get cups for the juice. I pour the juice. I turn away to get lids for the juice.

And now I need one fewer lid because he’s poured all of one juice on himself, trying to get to the purple one first. “you can’t have thee purple one,” he began, before getting really wet and cold.

Here’s the thing, people. I’m barely hanging on. And now the flax-y sponge has to sop up 12 ounces of blueberry smoothie. WHY CAN’T PREGNANT WOMEN DRINK, AGAIN?

I don’t think a late night trip to the pawn shop to trade my wedding ring for a guitar is too much to ask.

Seven years, almost

Overheard in L.A.

Peanut: I love you, friend.
Friend: [whispering] I love you, too.
Peanut: [louder] I said, I love you!
Friend: I said, I love you, too!
Peanut: I didn’t hear you.
Friend: [louder] I said, I love you, too!
Peanut: Oh. I didn’t hear you.
Friend: [shouting] I said, I love you, too!

Lucy and Ethyl, ladies and gentlemen, at ages three and three and a half.

Preschool science fiction

It’s a scientific fact:*

A three-year-old playing by himself can methodically work through the most intricate toys and attempt the most gravity-defying physical feats if he is in his room pretending to nap during quiet time.

Yet he cannot manage more than three minutes by himself without apocalyptic levels of crying and frustration if you are in the shower.

* (in our house. your results may vary.)

I want to have a tantrum, too

You wanna know how bad last night’s tantrum was? You wanna know what made me so physically keyed up that I was shaking for about an hour after Peanut finally passed out from exhaustion?

Oh, boy.

We don’t get many tantrums here at the WaN household. (I love that acronym…never noticed writing at naptime is wan. Nice. I also like it when 20-20 calls our blog Nappy. That’s good clean fun, too, and not at all Imus.)

In fact, I have blogged the few tantrums we’ve had. I think we’re up to four in three years. (Four big ones. I am not fazed by the fifteen minute tantrums.) Not bad. They tend to last for two to three hours, but still, as two-year-olds go, we’re batting, like, whatever would be a really, really good batting average. How do they say that? Whatever.

But last night the other shoe dropped.

Started with a tough day. Some days just are and that’s okay. No nap, including a power struggle, the end of which included the statement, “Well it’s quiet time, and if you won’t let your body try to rest by closing your eyes for just ten minutes, then I’m ignoring you for an hour. You get to choose. It’s your body. But I don’t have to play with you.” Nice sign for impending doom.

It was bad enough that two hours later I made us both cocoa. That’s a big deal in our house. His first cup of cocoa was election day. He’d never had it before and I told him it was a special treat that we got because it’s so important to vote. It wasn’t a bribe because he didn’t know about it until after the voting, but it felt lovely to make a little ritual out of his outstanding behavior at the polls. He pushed the buttons on the televoting newfangled computer thing that, by the way, brings out the 80 year old Luddite in me. Where’s the paper? Well, this year there was a paper printout, so I’m all better now. Twitch, twitch.

Anyway, the second cocoa incident was thanks to a lovely gift from NM. She gave him a little tea cup, little saucer, and little tin of cocoa for Hogamany. Yay, NM. Very cute. Except that my kid thought we got to go vote again, and this time he wasn’t voting for no rules or no bosses. He was voting for himself so he could tell me what to do. He said so. I laughed. Big mistake.

Third cocoa was inauguration. Big day, y’all, and I felt it warranted cocoa. Plus, and this is a little wrong, but I figured since the whole world was gettin’ a little cocoa that day, that my kid could, too.

So yesterday things got bad enough to bring out the cocoa. And it helped. But the afternoon got worse by about 4. His body can’t handle being nap-free. He started to melt down in little bursts. Fell a lot. The usual stuff. I was lovely and comforting, for, after all, I was full to the rim with warm, chocolate-y goodness. By 5, when Spouse called, Peanut was on my lap, whimpering that he wanted to go to a playground. It was dark, it was cold, it was almost dinner. No playground.  Uh-oh.

I told Spouse on the phone it was a rare, choice, and in all other ways USDA bargain-basement, salmonella-grade day. Which the USDA is not required to tell the public, but I felt required to tell Spouse before he got home. Spouse didn’t hear me, or didn’t listen , for his arrival, later, would spin the situation out of control. What a shock. Take a delicate balance and throw a man in the middle and watch it implode.

Peanut went from whimpering to crying. He wanted to go to Longs. To buy tissues. I had offered that several times during the day to get him out of his jammies and out of the house. Nope. Not until 6pm does he want to go out. Fine. You go put on your clothes and I’ll have Daddy take you to Longs. Twenty minutes of “not Daddy, you.” Then twenty minutes of “I don’t want clothes, I’m too sad.” Then twenty minutes of “I want go Trader Joe’s.” *blink blink* Why? “I want go Trader Joe’s get mushrooms.”  Um, we don’t eat mushrooms. He won’t try them and Spouse and I pass whenever offered fungus.

“But I *need* mushrooms. I no have mushrooms long time. I need go Trader Joe’s get mushrooms.” Well, we’re not going. And therein lay the beginning of the end. As soon as he started to ask for things that defied logic, I knew I was done.

Spouse came home in a foul mood and pissed me off. I barked at Spouse. Spouse snapped at me. I asked Spouse to get dinner ready. Spouse emptied the recycling and rearranged the kitchen and complained about the overfull trash and…where’s the mother f—ing kid’s dinner, a–hole? “I’m getting to it.”

Yeah. Like *I’m* getting to a place in society that’s respected and well regarded. Right.

So I hobble into the kitchen without my crutches to make dinner and Spouse yells at me. Tells me not to walk without crutches and tells me he’s taking care of dinner. I yell back. That was fifteen minutes ago, and I could have had it all done by now. Oh yeah, you’re so perfect. Oh yeah, you’re never here. It’s all been said before, by countless others, including John and Kate. And if those mo-fos say it, it must be true.

So Peanut is still sobbing, though mostly to himself now because Spouse and I are passing him back and forth, knowing that if his feet touch the ground we’re done for.

Peanut doesn’t want ravioli, he wants burrito. Make him that, he won’t eat it. Now he wants ravioli. Fine. Here you go. “I’m too tired to eat.” amen. Go to bed. “Not time bed. I want play.” No, buddy. Bed or bath are your choices. “Mmmm, Bryce.” Bryce is not a choice. Bed or bath. “Not any.” Okay, bed. “No! Bath!” Okay. get naked. “I don’t want naked.” Okay, do you want bath in your jammies? “Yes.” That’s fine, but after bath you’ll need to change to different jammies because those will be wet. “I want these jammies.” Okay, take them off and put on different jammies for the bath. “No I don’t want take these off at all.” Okay, go get in bed. “No-o-o-o-o-o-o!” This bed bath cycle repeats for half an hour.

Now, seriously, how awesome am I to offer a bath with jammies? To offer a bath with different jammies just to keep the treasured mismatch of pink polka dots and red spiders dry? Awesome. I know. And you know. But that little dude doesn’t know. Please email him and tell him. ‘Cuz this would all be easier if he knew how good he has it, given the whole powerless and overwhelmed and full of newness and exploration and hope and change and stuff. He’s got it just about as good as it gets. Minus Mommy and Daddy fighting over the trash and a burrito. But still.

And thus began another hour of sobbing and writhing and hitting (he hit us, we didn’t hit him. Who are we, Glenn Beck to announce that we beat our child? We don’t, and we don’t believe in it, but we wouldn’t announce it. Are you kidding? In a blog post with the words Obama and inauguration and cocoa? We’re already getting a Secret Service visit, I guarantee you.)

Anyway, it was three hours of sobbing and crying and sadness and wanting everything but what he can’t have. Including mushrooms and cocoa and a bath in jammies that magically dry. Nope, not good enough. We wanted to hold him down and cram him in bed. We didn’t. I wanted to lock him in his room and leave him. Spouse wouldn’t hear of it because i’ts just too dangerous. I offered to let Peanut roam the house, glassy-eyed and convulsing with sobs, and ignore him until he passed out. Spouse questioned my new ignore parenting, wondering, mostly to himself because he’s smart, if all I do all day is ignore Peanut. Remind me to yell at Spouse again later. We cuddled the lad and maintained nice voices (after we got all of our frustrations out on each other…nice role models) and he finally passed out while I was singing the alphabet in his dark room.

And I shook for an hour and drank heavily but couldn’t get even relaxed. And at 1am, 2am, and 3am he screamed from his room, crying, that he wanted stories.

Are you kidding me? Obama help me, I’m gonna be 300 pounds, all cocoa, by the time this kid goes to school. And my poor readers, all eight of them, will have forty-thousand pages of lovingly creased and earmarked pages of printed out blog pages because my only sanity lies in telling the world that my kid, and my decision to raise him with respect and love and attachment and intelligence is killing me.