Toddlers are…

Oh, dear sweet Two-and-a-Half. You’re so delicious. What amazing life skills you have developed.

It shows impressive planning skills to wait until Mommy’s not looking and then do what she just asked you not to do. My! Your scientific mind is certainly in prime display while rolling trucks down the stairs. I know I’ve cost you the  Nobel in Physics by stopping you. But right now it’s not safe. No rolling trucks down stairs.

Hey. No throwing them, either.

Oh, how clever you are to think of ways to achieve your goals yourself. Yes, the refrigerator handle is a pretty handy foothold when you’re trying to get into the freezer for ice cream. I have an idea, too, that’s probably less to your liking. Maybe ask a tall person for help. I know. That would preclude your eventual gold medal in pole vaulting.

You, sir, model quite impressive forethought and patience to ask for a spoon, then throw food at your brother when I go to get it. And again when I turn to look as the doorbell rings. And again when I close my eyes to sneeze. You’re going to be an internationally renowned ninja master if you can teach others not to blink for fourteen hours, too.

I marvel at how prepared you are, already, for college.  How you can sit there an concentrate on carefully removing the screw from the battery door on your train despite having not napped in four days is simply beyond me.

But really, I most marvel at your fine-motor skills. Only an experienced jeweler or a well trained surgeon could take toy pliers and, pinch by pinch, remove most of the potting soil from that palm tree in the living room. And heap it onto the arm of the couch. And call me over, quite proud of your accomplishments. Sorry I gasped and said “uh-oh.” I’m sure that questioning your crowning glory has scarred your for life. But I had to sweep it up. That, my friend, is a no touch.

Even when I’m not looking.

Hey. Did you hear me? Or are your training to be in Congress?

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Bio of a toddler

Meet Butter, our resident two-year-old.

His favorite activity is dumping things. Water, sand, popcorn, sun lotion, jars of pricey spices, salad dressing, rice milk, liquid soap…if it responds to gravity, he will watch it fall to the ground. Intermediary stops (such as a bucket, bowl, or sink) are tolerable for a few dumps, but then wholly unacceptable surrogates for the Mother of All Dumping Grounds: The Floor.

His idea of cleaning up is shoving things under the couch. He does this without being asked, but when prodded to help clean up he shoves fistfuls of anything he can reach under the nearest furniture.

His favorite place to sit is in gravel.

His favorite place to lie down is in gravel. Second place: sidewalk.

His favorite animal is a cow. He will gladly tell you about the time he was feeding a calf celery and forgot to let go and the calf bit his finger. Gently. But it hurt. But it got better. And now he likes big cows not baby cows.

His favorite color is yellow.

His favorite game is “Where’s Butter?”

His favorite snack is cream cheese. Right out of the tub. Thanks for the whipped organic option, Trader Joe’s, since regular cream cheese is hard to eat with a tiny Green Toys yellow spoon.

The only utensils he’ll use are tiny Green Toys yellow spoons and polka dot handled cheese spreaders.

The only comfort he wants when psychically wounded is draped on his mama with both hands entwined in her hair. Like an orangutan baby.

His favorite word is “no.” His favorite reply is “no.” His favorite shout is “NO!” His favorite question is “No?” And his favorite whisper is “no.”

His favorite outfit is naked. Gloves, hat, and oven mitt are optional.

He likes his food slightly colder than room temperature. Hot’s no good, warm’s no good, fresh from the fridge is no good. Even popsicles are asked to wait until they are two minutes shy of a puddle.

His favorite number is TWO!

Everything is two.

And now he is, too.

Happy birthday, you crazy delicious goofball love bug.

Can’t be sure

Because taking a woman out of her element and letting her parent two amazing baby humans is akin to stringing her up by her ankles and asking her to live with bats, I’m not always sure what I’m doing. It’s hardly my fault. I’m a diurnal, visual biped forced to hang upside down and fly around echo-locating by night.

So I was surprised when our two-year-old decided his outfit for the week would be just socks. On his hands. And nothing else.

I shouldn’t have been shocked. His brother did the same thing for one whole month, four years ago. Also in the winter. It’s as though winter nudity with impromptu mittens/puppets is in the toddler manual.

Wait, is it?

The week of rain at the end of a rainless winter did not surprise me. Neither did the frenetic and borderline sociopathic cabin-fever behavior during the same time. What did shock me was how planned activities totally took care of everything. One part dance party, one part playdough party, one part playdate, one part role playing goodness. Who knew? (I did. I had just forgotten. We’ve had a dry winter and I haven’t had to do this for over a year.)

And I was taken aback when the six-year-old decided it was time to use his words, react calmly, and speak in a normal tone of voice.

For the first time in six years.

Who knew that there was a phase during which children were reasonable, interesting, and fun to be with?

Oh, yeah: Me. Because it happens at least once an hour.

Sucked in by the cute

Butterbean is trying his hardest to get sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council. Dude, he is pushing our every button and flagrantly violating every toddler rule of international conduct.

So why are Russia and China refusing to approve an official sanction? Their evidence, entered into the official Cuteness Registry of Adorable Guerrila Warfare:

He yells, “Mama, pee!” and runs to his little potty and sits. With his pants on. And as I come rushing over to help, he grins, gets up and says, “nah, no” and runs away.

His favorite game is Yes-No. I ask him if he’s ready to get out of the tub and he says, “Yeah.” So I stand to get him and he changes his mind. “Nah,” he smiles. So I sit. Then he says, “Yeah” and I start to stand and he says, “Nah.” He can do this, honestly, 30 times before he plays something else.

He waits for me to go to the bathroom, then climbs the drawer handles to the kitchen counter, unscrews the spice jars’ lids, and dumps each into the stock pot. Then waits…*waits*…with a spoon and asks if I want some soup. When I say yes (through clenched teeth) he puts on the lid and signs “wait.”

He stands in the door to the kitchen and counts on his fingers: “Two, two, two; GO!” and runs through the house. Then back to the starting line and “two, two…”

I think if I can just get Portugal and Columbia to vote with me on their way out, I might get the council to approve a Yogurt Embargo until he cleans up his act.

Okay, Listen up.

Seriously. You have to listen to me this time. I am a parenting genius for today only, and I must share.

I found the secret to ending a tantrum. More specifically, a two-year-old’s tantrum.

Both my kids have very strong opinions. [Shocking.] The eldest used to yell at people at the supermarket if they looked at him. “THAT LADY NO LOOK AT ME!” Every person in the store. Screamed at them. I learned to shop at 10pm by myself when that kid was Two.

One of his longest, most intense tantrums was in the car. He started yelling “That car no on road! MY ROAD!” He yelled and screamed and sobbed for almost an hour that the cars and trucks on the road must get off his road.

And I talked nicely the whole time. I patiently explained how roads worked, and taxes. I explained that he could use his money, as a grownup, to buy his own road, but for now we had to share. “I understand,” I said. “I want them gone, too. But they have rights.” I told him about rights.

Not one single word worked. Not even the taxes part. [Again with the shocking revelations. I’m on a roll.]

[Wait, you’re rolling your eyes, aren’t you? You would have ignored him, I’ll bet. Yeah, aside from my inability to go that route, this kid was un-ignorable.]

Cue the tantrums of the youngest. Wow that kid has lungs. And opinions. And the helplessness that launches a thousand tantrums.

Yesterday we drove past a front-end loader. And an excavator. And a backhoe. (I know, right? Why the backhoe if you have the other two? Why have the two standalone tools when the backhoe is all things to all projects? Why the redundancy? Dunno. Wish I did.)

All three trucks were stopped. We paused, we looked, we evaluated. We let the little guy give the cue to move on. (We’re not crazy. We wait ’til he says “bye-bye” to a construction site or we’re Dead.In.The.Water. Even the kindergartener knows this.)

After we leave, the Almost-Two starts demanding more trucks. Loudly. A tantrum is a-brewin’.

“That’s all, Butterbean. You want more trucks but I can’t make more trucks.”

“YES!” he shouts. “More!”

The older one just shakes his head. “No,” he says. “No more.”

Well, that’s it. Little guy is gone. In his place is a raging sobbing machine who will not rest until he sees more trucks. Especially since his brother said “no.”

So I try my favorite tantrum technique—empathy—but ratchet it up seven hundred fold.

“Aaaaaargh!” I yell. “I want more trucks!”

He calms down to listen.

“I like trucks” I shout, “and I want more!”

The Almost-Six protests. “Mom. You don’t even like trucks.”

“I know, buddy. But watch this work.” I continue. “I LIKED those trucks and I want MORE! And I’m mad there are no more trucks. ANGRY!”

The littlest gets it. He joins in a bit, he adds his two cents. He calms markedly. Finally, as I repeat that I’m angry, the toddler yells his sound for “angry”. All three of us bellow a barbaric yawp.

And the tantrum is done. I feel great (though hoarse). The older guy is relieved. The younger guy is satisfied.

So all I’m saying is: don’t ignore and don’t explain. Join in. It feels good, they feel heard, and all is happy and good in no time.

If you’ll excuse me, I think TED might want this lecture now….

[Update: one hour after I posted I got emails that this genius invention of mine is already a thing. In a book. By some parenting expert person. Figures, of course. The one moment I have parenting success could have come earlier and more frequently if I read a book, an event that happened before kids but hasn’t since.]

From my toddler to yours

Today we have a guest post from our almost-two-year-old, Butter. He was inspired this morning to start composing this. And since I started this blog when his brother was just a bit older than Butter is now, I thought it would be a nice beginning to The Years That Require Some Coping Mechanism.

Take it away, Butterbean.

***

Want to know what’s fun about being almost Two? Everything. Except when they try to do things for you. Blech. They don’t know anything. Why would I want shoes or socks or pants? If you don’t want shoes or socks or pants, just tell them. Loudly. They’ll give up. And then, guess what? No shoes or socks or pants!

Want to know what’s fun about being almost Two? Dumping. And Throwing. Today I asked the Cuddle Lady to get me a game so I could dump out all the plastic disks into the box, then dump the box into my truck, then dump my truck into another truck, then dump all the disks on the floor. When I asked her to put them back in the bags so I could dump again she said “yes.” I like “yes.” I also like “uh-oh.” Uh-oh means people pay attention and say gentle words and clean up for you.

I don’t like shoes or socks or pants.

Want to know what’s fun about being almost Two? Chalk. Today the Cuddle Lady game me some chalk and I dumped it on the floor. Guess what? Chalk makes More Chalk if you dump it. I took my More Chalk and put it in the cup thing that goes with other cup things in my drawer of cup things. Then I poured the More Chalk into a different cup thing. Then I dumped it on the floor. Guess what? Even More Chalk. Back into the cup thing and into the other cup thing and onto a table and onto the floor and into the cup thing and then guess what? Some of the Even More Chalk was dirt! Lello dirt and purpu dirt and boo dirt and orja dirt! I pinched that into the dirtpan then dumped it on the table. Then I put stickers on it. Stickers with BEES! Then the Cuddle Lady said it was time for pants. Boy, was she wrong. Uh-oh, Cuddle Lady. Time to clean Even More Chalk.

Know what’s fun about being almost Two? Lunch! The Cuddle Lady calls not-quite-bathtime food at the table “dinner” and morning food at the table “breakfast” but food walking around the kitchen or in the yard is “lunch.” Lunch means no shoes or socks or pants. Lunch is yay!

The most yay is potty. Being almost Two means taking off your pants, and sometimes taking off your pants and sitting on the potty. If you tell your Cuddle Lady or Poky Face to stay away while you’re on the potty, then when you’re done you can throw the potty. And guess what? Throwing the potty is even more fun than dumping the potty! Everything flies out of the potty.

Flying out of the potty is yay!

Uh-oh. Cuddle Lady says pants. And dinner. Pants and dinner are not yay. Time to make more uh-ohs so Cuddle Lady will talk gently and forget about pants. While she’s cleaning the potty throwing, I’ll climb up to the table and dump dinner.

Bye-bye!

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.

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.

on that note…

This week’s Peanutisms:

“Mommy. Don’t EVER give me plain goat cheese again. I only want my cheese without herbs.”

“I want something really new that we haven’t had in long time.”

“Mommy, Daddy. ‘P’ peanut. ‘P’ pee. ‘P’ punkin. ‘P’ pree. ‘P’ I don’t want to do this game anymore.”

“I just don’t want one baby. They’re too little.”

“Mommy, you picked me so many blackberries that I need to go poop.”

Perspective

A sweet family member saw some pictures of Peanut on facebook the other day and said something to the effect of “I don’t understand how someone so cute can be such a terror…”  And I need to clarify, for my own sake (and for his grandma, who reads this blog and did a damned fine job raising Spouse)

Peanut is wonderful. Sweet, gentle, spirited, intense. But compounding that is the fact that he’s three. Before that he was two. Right there, ‘nough said, right? Two can be like having all the poles on your batteries reversed as they are attached to your watering eyeballs. And three can be like peeling off your skin and diving into grapefruit juice. And I just can’t take it. Doesn’t mean he’s actually a terror that Spouse and I talk, daily, mutually, about a 4:30 bedtime for Peanut. He’s not the problem. WE are the problem. We grownups who can’t seem to find the patience and willpower and energy to make it through 15 hours of this every day.  Without a break. Without formal training. Without the benefit of a spare in case we actually sell him to the gypsies. (Anyone know if they’re buying, btw? And where to find them? I know the economy is tough and I don’t know the going rate, but…)

He’s not a terror. We are terrified and terror-stricken and terrorized. But it’s not the boy’s fault. I wish I knew whose fault it is, because I’m all about the blame and the downside and the cloud within the silver lining. But until I find some perspective, my friend is right. It’s a good thing he’s cute.

Okay, that’s it.

Attention ants: Stop it. I know it’s warm in here, I know it’s dry in here. I don’t want you in here. Stop it before I run out of Biokleen spray, because its replacement is decidedly less pleasant for all of us.

Attention interest rates: Stop it. Fucking settle around the low 5s and stop. For fuck’s sake. We’re trying to fix an economy here, and you’re not helping. Greedy fucking bank jerks who stole our 401ks. Stop, stop, stop. Just lend everyone nice some money and quit trying to turn 2005 profits. Stop it stop it stop it.

Attention toddler: Keep up what you’re doing, boy. We’re having a great month. You’re doing very well. Nice effort on the friendliness, the compromising, and the listening. You’re a fine and decent human. Keep up the good work.

Attention early morning freight trains: Stop it. You don’t need the horn. Nobody on the planet could miss the blinking lights and dinging bells and dropped crossing arm. Stop honking your horn at 4am already.

Attention everyone on the planet: Step off! Just get out of my way for a few days. I have a novel to send to KGT, about which I’m terrified, even though she’s the sweetest and most gentle creative soul I’ve met, including MPG, who is the sweetest and most gentle creative soul anyone has ever met. While dealing with that fear (and unfinished novel that has two days to be finished), I also have to stop interest rates, decide whether to buy a house, decide how to finish this conference paper, decide whether to think about another kid, decide whether I can pull off above the knee striped socks with a skirt and an aircast. It’s an artificial-crisis-filled stressful month, and I’d like to ask that you all stay home, stop calling, and take a step away from the car keys. Just have some eggnog, chill, and resume your duties after the new year. (NDM, you may resume whenever, since the whole international date line gives you an extra day, anyway, and you wouldn’t get in my way, anyway, since you’re busy not drowning on the other side of the world, fighting to keep the world a better place than the rabid monkey blogs ever could without you.)

Attention babysitters: please select the best amongst yourselves and call me. I have no idea how to find one of you, but I need to see Spouse once before Peanut turns three. It would make three dates in three years, and I’m begging you…please call your own references, because I don’t have time. That’s why I haven’t found you yet. I haven’t looked. It’s a daunting task, one that should be important enough to stop parenting for the three months or so I assume it takes to find a good sitter, but that would sort of make the whole thing a bigger deal than I’m willing for it to be, seeing as I just want one stinking date with my husband in 2009. At least, I mean, but still. Ah, fuck it. I’ll just have Netflix send something not subtitled, and we’ll have our stinking Hot Tamales and popcorn on the cat-litter dusted couch. Sigh.

Attention world governments: please, please hear me now. I’ve figured out the secret to world peace. It came to me in the car (you know, that thing that very few people in the world have, and I’m way too spoiled to even have that, considering what most of the people in the world go through daily). The world would stop its fighting if every man woman and child had working indoor plumbing. Clean water, yes. That’s just necessary, though millions don’t have it. But beyond that, a flush toilet in some sort of structure where you can go all by yourself and close your eyes and have one minute of peace and quiet. And I’m going to go out on a limb here, and GUARANTEE world peace if somehow Bill and Melinda can get everyone a heated toilet seat. I know. We need to fix malaria and AIDS and birth traumas and birth defects and maternal health and cancer and everything else that afflicts the world populations. But once we’re all healthy, we might still be angry. Not with a heated toilet seat. There would be no wars if everyone had a heated toilet seat (which, if you were paying attention above, requires clean water and indoor plumbing, and about three thousand steps of poverty and disease eradication before the heated seats, but still).

Just consider it. Because once I go against my personal beliefs and kill all the ants in the house and strangle bank interest rate people and put a huge boulder on the railroad tracks and kiss my toddler and get a sitter and finish my novel and cure all those diseases, I would really like, for once in the winter, to not freeze my ass just trying to keep the house cleaner than our cat is willing to. And I can’t enjoy a heated toilet seat unless the rest of the world is also fed and healthy and happy and not abused and not endangered and also evacuating on a lovely, clean, heated toilet seat.

So there.

At least someone values my labor, even if the exchange rate sucks.

Peanut was playing with his Chrismakkah tea set today. (First night present. There are ten days of Chrismakkah because that’s the maximum number of token presents we feel like wrapping.)

I noticed he had spilled water on the floor. “Oh,” I said. “You haven’t cleaned that up. Would you like a towel?”

He walked across the room to the coin purse his uncle gave him. He took out a penny.

“Here, Mommy. I pay you do it.” He offered me the Lincoln.

Well, that is how it works. Sigh. I took the penny. “Okay.” And I cleaned the water.

He looked at me, evaluating. “You keep that money, Mama. I give it you, you earn it.”

True dat, little boy. Now hand over the $1.224 million you owe me for every other minute of cleaning up after you.

Non-violent, non-scary videos

I need ideas. Peanut watches about half an hour of videos once a week, and we’re getting bored with what we have.

We watch Signing Time, Charlie and Lola, and Planet Earth. We’ve checked out Boobah from the library. He loved it, but our new library only has the VHS, which won’t play on my laptop.

These are all fine and lovely, but we’d like something more.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but, ideally not something that appears on sneakers, cereal, or bandages. I’m not in the mood to explain why a Dora scooter is not a better choice than a well made scooter.

We want non-violent, non-sarcastic, non-annoying, non-religious, non-scary movies or shows with no “bad guy” (despite grandma’s best intentions, he still doesn’t know the word “bad” or that there are generally not-nice people out there. He knows there are people who sometimes do not-nice things. He just learned at a play place last week that some people hit their kids.) (Way to go, btw, random mom. I’m sure that slapping your daughter to make her stop grabbing kids’ toys will definitely teach her not to grab. Too bad it will also teach her might makes right and if you’re bigger you can hit people to get what you want. Outstanding work.)

Anyway. Videos. Suggestions? Nothing with “just a few minutes of scary,” or “just one bad guy.” No scary. No badness. No lurking, no dead mothers, no abandoned by parents. Nice stuff. Like Signing Time and Charlie and Lola.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Someone found my blog by googling “how to change toddler clothes for nap.”

Several things. First: boy, did you find the wrong blog. I’m lucky if my kid wears clothes. When he does, they’re usually stained clothes because we don’t care, at all, and do laundry thusly: take clothes, throw in washing machine, add soap, wash, and leave for two days until you remember to dry them. Seriously. We don’t separate for color or size or fabric or any of the nonsense that other people seem to separate for. We don’t pretreat or chemically treat or trick or treat. We just freaking wash.

(Little secret: you know why we’re totally cavalier about laundry? ‘Cuz I don’t do it. Spouse does. And he could rub them in acid and douse them with lye and I would wear them with a smile on my face because it’s the one freaking thing around here I don’t have to do. Other than compost. So it’s the first of two things I don’t have to do. Yay me, yay Spouse, yay stains.)

But asking how to change toddler’s clothes for nap begs two rather obvious, if facetious, questions: what the hell is your kid wearing that it needs to be changed for nap; and how did you manage to get the one toddler in the world who tolerates costume changes? I have a kid who would rather sit in his jammies at home, running in small circles than actually don outside clothes to do his running in the sunlight. (Never stops moving, this one, so it’s a shock when he offers to stay in just to wear jammies.)

It’s not like our kid’s outside clothes are binding or rough or chosen by anyone but him. He just doesn’t like changing clothes. And he likes control. And I’ve just described 99% of toddlers, so who the hell is this googler parenting? How does his or her kid dress willingly in whatever breeches and bowtie Little Lord Fauntleroy costume they’re making him wear, AND willingly change again? (Notice how I pretended there was even one iota of a chance that the google dude is a guy? Please. What guy would even think to change clothes for nap? There are some awesome dads out there, but they attend to emotional, physical, and mental needs. Not weirdass bullshit. This is one of those moms who scrapbooks and crafts and bakes and sews curtains and makes furniture and color coordinates. All before dawn.) Does this jammies-then-clothes-then-jammies kid get to wear his jammies, then, for the rest of the day? Or do they (see, I did it again) change him a third time, and again for nighttime?

I’m all confused. I mean, it takes everything I have to be allegedly responsible and change my kid into clothes in the morning. I sleep in whatever I wear, and I often wear it again the next day (much to my mother’s try-to-keep-it-under-control-but-really-abject-and-borderline-screaming horror). So I’m pretty proud that I’m trying to be all socially acceptable and force my child from one comfy outfit into whatever creative combo he chooses in the morning (or afternoon or ten minutes before dinner when “Mommy, I HAVE to go outside”).

Now that I think about it, and just to make the world a bit more balanced after crazy google lady revealed her tidy little secret to the world via my 60-hit-a-day blog, maybe I’ll start letting my kid wear jammies all the time.

Wait, something just occured to me…are you one of those people who has a toddler in party dresses most days? Combed hair? Barrettes that match her shoes? You know what? It’s the holiday season, so I won’t judge. But I totally just lost 97% of my respect for you, oh random person who googled about changing a toddler’s clothes for nap, and forgot the possessive apostrophe and ess. So needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of respect left to lose. But you just wiped it all out, in one frilly crinoline and satin flourish.

Now I’m totally making tomorrow jammies day.

Thanksgiving for Santa.

Peanut has been in an intense no-sharing mood for almost a year. So he’s intrigued lately with the concept of giving presents. You give someone stuff, but you’re not sharing. It’s not yours; it’s theirs. You don’t get it back. There is no control after the giving. But there is control in the choosing.

He likes this.

He’s picked out birthday presents for friends, telling me exactly what his friends get and what they don’t. He usually picks out something for himself, too, though he’s perfectly willing to have it put away until birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas, Nana’s birthday (which is a great holiday at our house–Nana’s birthday is a couple days before Christmas, after the all important Solstice. Nana’s birthday is a holiday nobody else gets (except, well, Nana). We love Nana’s birthday. We get presents for no other reason than because we’re lucky enough to have her in our family.)

So we’ve been talking about Santa in our house for two years, because I knew it would come up, and, like making spiders and owls and wolves friendly, and fairy tales completely non-scary, I wanted to manage how this once-benevolent and now out-of-control commercialist holiday is portrayed in our house. I want him to believe in magic and hope and love, but not in getting stuff because you’re good. So I researched Santa Claus and found that the original dude, on whom the St. Nick character is based, was intensely into charity. He gave to the needy. That, Spouse and I discussed, is something we can be down with.

We taught Peanut that Santa, when he was around, gave to people who need. Santa’s not around anymore, but remembering him makes people want to give. True. Not as true as I’d like it to be, but still. (And yes, I did just teach my kid that Santa’s dead. So? He’s a myth. He’s fun to talk about and believe, and being honest now makes it less upsetting to find out later that Santa’s a myth.)

So each year, as often as we can, we give to people who need. After we moved, a truck came to take all the gently used things that we don’t need anymore, but another family might. He was totally fine giving stuff to the truck, because we said it was like Santa’s truck. When we read books about Christmas and Santa has a bag of toys, we tell him that it’s like the fire station and the library having Toys for Tots barrels. Santa has a bag of toys because the family left them out for Santa to take to people who need. Santa’s not bringing to the people in the stories. He’s taking, so he can redistribute. (That’s called being nice, you pre-election hatemongers.)

So I asked Peanut what he wanted to do for Christmas to help like Santa. Last year he wanted to bring toys to the dogs and cats at the local shelter. He loved every minute of giving, in part because he got to choose which dog got which ball, and which cat got which feather. This year he wants to bring apricots to the Food Bank. Because he says they don’t need raisins, but “if they need apricots, I give them apricots.”

Then he said, and I won’t let him forget this ever, that maybe some people just need someone to cuddle them. Maybe, like the babies Grandma cuddles at the hospital, maybe some people just need friends. He would like to find them, he said, and listen to them and cuddle them and make them feel better.

So that’s what we’re doing for Thanksgiving. We’re going to try the local retirement community, and see how he reacts to cuddling seniors. He tends to be wary of older people, so that might not work. Then we’ll bring apricots to the Food Bank.

And we will head to the animal shelter again this year. At least once a month. Because those dang critters love them some attention. And though it’s hard for me not to bring them all home, it makes Peanut feel very important to cuddle small creatures who don’t have families yet. He needs to feel important. And lots and lots of people and pets this year need love. So Spouse and I are going to try to meet as many of those needs as we can, and teach Peanut in the process that the best thing you can do is give.

Santa didn’t come to our house last year, and won’t be coming to our house this year. We don’t need anything. But we’ll make sure that we help whomever we can.

So let us know if you need a cuddle. ‘Cuz we’re ready for ya.