Oy, you’re gonna be a great teenager

So Peanut bangs his head on the toilet paper holder and begins to cry. I make a sad face, kiss the red spot,  and cuddle him. He flips his face up to look at me and says, giggling, “Peanut laughing at Mommy sadness.”

You still call a truck a “doot” but you can say that you’re laughing at Mommy’s sadness?

So glad I taught you about emotions, so you could learn to express your feelings and empathize with others. Lot of good that did.

Geez we’re gonna have a good time when you’re 14.

We made a weird kid.

All kids are weird, I know. And I don’t mean all the pejorative baggage that comes with the word especially vis-a-vis a certain person involved in my upbringing. But our kid is just weird. He’s in a licking phase, where he laps your face or arm if you get too close, but I remember my brother doing that at age 3ish. He’s in a plopping phase (peanut, not brother, though you can never be sure) where he thinks plopping on people is hilarious. Peanut’s also in a run-top-speed or creep-slower-than-a-snail phase, but that’s normal, too. His answer is always “no.” Normal. He doesn’t want to share. Normal.

But he announced this morning, appropos of nothing, that if a “baby with drippy nose come to Peanut house,” he won’t share tissues or the bulb syringe.

Um, okay.  ?

Weirdo.

He’s in the living room, wearing gardening gloves and a bright green shirt. (He dresses himself each day, and always chooses the loudest color combinations. Usually orange and green or blue and red. The latter makes me realize that, though I love the ideas this country stands for, I am not at all opposed to revisiting our colors. We just plain ol’ chose poorly in borrowing from the Motherland. Anyway, regardless of clothes choices, by afternoon the pants are ALWAYS gone, and there is often an extraneous accessory added. Yesterday it was T-shirt and witch’s hat, with lizard undies. Most days, as is true today, the undies are apparently optional. And, in 84 degree heat, he needs gloves. Que sera, sera; you know?) He is sitting next to the vacuum, which he insisted, shrieking and crying, I not put away after we used it this morning. Whatever, dude. I’m picking my battles since you were born, and putting away the vacuum has always been optional. He is now pointing the Hoover’s hose at anything that moves and pretend squirting, insisting alternately that the cats like wet, cold; and that someone should call a police officer because Peanut is hurt.

Weirdo.

If I try to go into the room, he pretend squirts me. I get pretend wet, pretend offended, and actually leave. It’s nice to be chased away from a toddler at play. Trust me.

Earlier, I had the audacity to go to the bathroom and pause to brush my hair. (Yes, I actually brush my hair now. Upside to being so lazy that you don’t cut is that you don’t have to do monthly cuts. Downside is that your mother, with a regularity straight out of the hair chapter of Deborah Tannen’s You’re Wearing THAT?: Understanding Conversation between Mothers and Daughters, has mentioned several times that, not only does she like it shorter, but it’s just terrible not brushed. And though I agree, I generally don’t care. But I was in the bathroom, nobody was bleeding, screeching, or sobbing, so I paused for some grooming.)

In the two minutes I was gone, Peanut dragged his bench to the kitchen sink, took all the dishes off the counter and placed them in the sink, filled them to the top, and was dropping walnut halves in each dish, one by one.

When I asked what he was doing, he cheerfully and condescendingly noted that he was “washin’ dishes….And floatin’ wahnits-. See?” As though we do that all the time.

Oh. Yes, I see.

Again, I say, our kid is weird.

No, no, no, no.

I have found a new toddler technique that works very well in getting toddler to behave in ways I find desirable. I borrowed from RM, who tricked Peanut into going to the bathroom by insisting his stuffed cow couldn’t go pee because it didn’t have a penis. Well, he showed her.

Now, instead of having the insane morning battle wherein he refuses to pee and I refuse to do anything with or for him before he pees, I simply instruct him not to pee. I’m polite about it, but I’m quite clear (I don’t use my stern voice, I use my mock serious voice. He seems to know the difference, because this little bit of reverse psychology hasn’t made discipline any more difficult–when I mean it, he knows.)

Me: Please don’t pee when you get out of bed.

P (smiling): Yes.

Me: No, no. Please no pee.

P (laughing): Yes! (starts pulling off his jammies.)

Me: Oh, no. Please don’t.

P (laughing and scrambling atop the toilet): Yes! Yes pee!

Me: Aw, man. I said don’t pee.

P: Peanut peeing! Mommy angry! Mommy frustrated! (Laughs) Pee!

What has my life become when me only control lies in begging someone not to pee?

He’s turned it into a game, too. He says, “Mommy, say nononono no no.” I usually ask, “What am I saying no to?” He replies, “No get book. No read!” I love absolutely nothing better than having this sweet boy sit with me while we read. So I smile at the game. “Oh, Peanut. No reading. I don’t want to read.” I smile so he knows I’m playing, too. He laughs and runs to get a book. He finds one and heaves it at me. “Mommy say no no no.”

I go one better. I whine, in my best two-year-old voice, “I don’t want to read this book. Ugh! Do I have to?” He laughs as though the cats are rolling around disemboweling each other. “Yes, Mommy. Read!”

“Ugh,” I sigh. “I don’t want to read this book.” It’s enormously cathartic, refusing to do what your two-and-a-half-year old wants. He is so demanding and, though I never say this to anyone around him, bossy, that it feels good to refuse. Even if it’s pretend. Because the few times I really do refuse, for something that’s not safe or when we really have to leave, it feels crummy. I wish the world could revolve around him for a while longer, because he’s in for a rude, rude awakening soon. And eventually, the rudest, when everything he’s made out of his life has to balance, still and breathless, on a pinpoint while his infants and toddlers need more than he can give.

Two and a half

Me: Do you want macaroni or hummus for lunch?

P: Hmmmmmm…… Peanut idea! Mommy eat macaroni. Peanut eat grapes.

Me: We can have grapes, too, but do you want macaroni or hummus to go with the grapes?

P: No Mommy grapes. Mommy eat macaroni. Peanut eat grapes.

Me: Yes, you can have grapes, too. Macaroni or hummus?

P: No two grapes. Lot.

Wee hours

Yesterday was a really tough day for Peanut, and though he’s been sleeping much better…wait, I need to address that:

Attention sleepless moms: don’t let the books and the advice fool you. Some kids just don’t sleep until they’re two or three. No matter what you do. They’re just too mentally or physically active to stay asleep. And abandoning them at night just sends mixed messages but doesn’t “fix” them. [Please don’t email me to tell me how to get my kid to sleep. And please don’t email to tell me cry-it-out isn’t cruel. It is. And I do know how tired you are and I do know why you felt you had to try. I’m not judging your desperation, I’m just not going to use your method. I’ve read every book and talked to everyone who has an opinion, story, or child. Most books don’t address our situation. And my child goes to bed easily, happily, lovingly. He falls asleep by himself because he always has and prefers it that way, but he can’t stay asleep more than 3 hours at a time. Not his fault. Not habit (and don’t you think that if habit was a successful way to wake up that alarms would be obsolete? Not sleeping is not your child’s fault. I know you don’t want to hear that you may not sleep for a while. But you might now. At one point I asked my pediatrician to swear on his life that he didn’t have any eight-year-old patients who didn’t sleep through the night. He promised. I was desperate, desperate, painfully desperate for 18 months, then hysterical for 6 months, then resigned for six months. And at 2 1/2, there it was. A full night. And another. And another.

In other cultures, parents don’t expect kids to sleep until two or three. What’s hard here is that they’re “supposed to” and, therefore, either they or we are failures if nights are regularly, if not frequently, interrupted. I mean, I know Americans have some good reasons to think they’re awesome, but do you really think you’re so awesome you give birth to superhumans who sleep better than the rest of the planet? Come on.

My resignation to my fate doesn’t mean I haven’t almost lost my mind to sleep deprivation. But I know lots of really good parents with really good kids who didn’t all sleep through the night until three years had passed. And I’m surrounded by parents who made it through and parents who are struggling to get there, and we’re in it together. Except at 3 a.m. Because nothing is lonelier than caring for a wailing child at 3 a.m. Don’t care who you are, it’s tough to feel that alone.)

Back to the story.

Though he’s been sleeping better lately, yesterday was really hard for him, so nighttime was hard. The day was filled with sharing (his current nightmare of choice) and playdates and hitting (he’s getting it back now and doesn’t like it) and infrequent snacks (the child is more calorie-dependent than even his mother, and that’s saying a lot) and a timeout; so he was just guaranteed a difficult night. He tossed and turned, he yelled in his sleep (mostly, “No share! No share no hit!”), he woke every few hours. He needed help a few times, including one justifiable need for the potty. It was dark, I was half asleep but carried him silently to the bathroom, helped him, and redressed him. He went right back to sleep. Three hours later he called me through the monitor:

“Mommy! Underpants! Mommy, underpants! Mommy. Underpaaaaaants.”

I’m irritated, thinking we’re having a “I need to choose another pair” moment as we do in daytime. In the light of day that nonsense is fine with me. Control what goes in your own pants. Fine. At night? No way.

So I go to him and he says “P*nis stuck.”(“I’m sure it is,” I think, “since you never leave it alone. Probably caught it in the waistband, didn’t you?”) I lift the waistband and let gravity work its magic.

“There you go, Mommy fixed it.”

“Mommy no fix it. P*nis stuck.”

“Okay, stand up. I’ll try again.” I reach to help him up and get a handful of cheek. Nude.

I had put both his legs into one leg hole during his late night peebreak. He’d slept three hours hanging out the side of his unders.

Nice work, ma.

I fixed my error and asked, “Is that better?”

“Yeah.” Lies down, sleeps.

When do they learn to walk down the hall to take care of that themselves? Probably before he regularly sleeps through the night, right?

Rantlets: little rants of the day (iii)

Greetings, people within a few zip codes who are hoping to buy a house: I have a proposition for you. Buy my damned house. I’m tired of cleaning it, I’m tired of having bastards who aren’t you traipse through it, I’m tired of explaining to my son why we’re still here while Daddy is in San Francisco, I’m tired of lowering the price, and I’m tired of feeling rejected everytime someone who is not you says they’re going to write and offer then backs out when they find out all banks are people with DICKS who made a fortune at our expense and now won’t give anyone any more money, when they were practically cramming it down our throats before. They all suck. The other buyers suck. I like you. Please buy my house. Now.

Attention, ants: I freaking tired of this b*llsh*t. Get out of my house. Now. I’m tired of being all natural and organic with you. I know I carry out the spiders and the beetles and that one frog who got trapped between the slider and the screen, and I would willingly do the same for you if there weren’t eight hundred trillion of you. Plus, you freaking scurry any time I try to scoop you up. I’m tired of making little cinnamon and baking soda lines to discourage you, I’m tired of wiping down your trails with vinegar to confuse you, and I’m sick of telling my son that the new, last-ditch resort ant traps are “little houses” for you and your colony so you can “have your own house instead of using ours.” Eat the freaking poison, take it back to your stupid queen, and get the freak out of my house. You have the old oak stump, you have my cypress, you have the hose near the back patio, and you have the whole state of California to invade. Get the f*ck out. Now.

I decided today while we were out running that if you walk your dog by hanging onto its leash while you ride a bike, I hope someone pulls the skin off your big toes and makes you walk through lemonade for the rest of your life. How freaking dangerous can you be? Why not tie its leash to the bumper of your car and take it for a really slow drive? Are you so lazy you can’t walk with your freaking dog? Why did you adopt it, if you’re gonna be all borderline-abusey? Do you keep it cramped in a tiny apartment all day and then get pissed that the poor thing is full of energy? Why did you adopt it, if you’re gonna be all borderline-abusey? Are you convinced it needs to run but can’t be bothered to run with it or take it to a park where it can run with other dogs? Why did you adopt it, if you’re gonna be all borderline-abusey? Do you notice a theme, you borderline-abusey a**hole? Are you so out of shape you can’t even walk with a dog? Put down the Tw*nk*e, back away from the computer, and spend some time playing with your dog!

Hey, toddler. It’s a simple question. I’ve asked it four times. I know I could just pick one of the two choices and start doing it, and that you’d holler and choose the other and we could go about our business, but I’m tired of that game. Answer me. If I have to ask it again I’m going to lose it and you’re going to have to explain the ringing in your ears to your eventual parole officer, and I’m gonna have to answer to the other natural parents at our hippie granola meeting. So I’m gonna ask one more time, and you’re gonna answer. Got it?

Groceries and building blocks

While we were at Trader Joe’s, Peanut dictated his grocery list. He usually draws it at home before we go, but we forgot. So he proclaimed, loudly, while ticking off on his fingers, and with a great sing-song rhythm:

“Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, soy, water, blender juice, bread, little bread, pizza.”

When we were building with blocks, he told me he was making a new house. I asked what he wanted his house to have.

P: “Garden. Flowers. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blueberries, pick, eat eat eat. ‘Matoes. No like ‘matoes. Pick throw.”

M: “Sounds like a nice garden, with flowers and lots of berries. Do you want to have a kitchen inside for cooking?”

P: “No. No kitchen no bathroom no dining room. Pick eat pee poop garden.”

Well. sounds like we’ll be a big hit once we move.

On another note about building blocks and toddlers, I’m kind of sick of the build-it-just-to-knock-it-down thing. I’ve tried casually suggesting he build his own stuff. That works until he sees what I’m compiling, and he knocks it down. I’ve tried getting him to collaborate with me. He just knocks down what little I’ve built. Seriously, dude, it would be nice to maybe get this thing more than two blocks high, or maybe get some structure to it. No offense or anything, but you’re not much fun when it comes to playing blocks. Sure, watching you have fun is pleasurable for a while and all that, but this gig is getting boring. Mommy used to have a job where people liked what she did and didn’t instantly knock it down. In fact, when mommy did work at a place like that, she quit. She prefers work environments where lots of people collaborate to build things, or work independently then show everyone the fruits of our labors. Mommy kind of wants a job like that again. Whadya say?

Toddler or Anarchist?

With whom would you rather share your home—-a toddler or an anarchist?

Hmmm. Tougher choice than it seems. Unless you have (or have had) a toddler. In that case, you know pretty much where this is going.

Two-year-olds can be loving, can be interesting, can be wonderful companions. They also, though, often strive for independence and control over their own ideas and bodies, usually in wildly disproportionate episodes of writhing, screaming, and sobbing. In short, they are trying on independence without any of the skills it takes to button the cuffs of social diplomacy.

Anarchists, on the other hand, just want coercive government to go away. They have social skills, and their tactics are often in direct response to the perceived threat to their independence. You don’t have to baby-proof a house for an anarchist. They have better things to do than chase your cats, break your favorite coffee mug, or pee on your phone.

Like toddlers, anarchists come with all manner of agendas and methodologies. Like toddlers, anarchists can be loving, interesting, and wonderful companions. Unlike toddlers, anarchists aren’t out of their illogical, irrational, freaking minds.

Two-year-old evidence from yesterday: Peanut kissed me at least 45 times each hour, for all 14 hours he was awake. Big, full, lip-on-lip, sweet Peanut kisses. Most of the kisses accompanied by my favorite sentence from 19 months on: “Peanut…Like…Mommy.” Score one for toddlers. It was a good, good day.

Further two-year-old evidence from yesterday: Peanut walked into sporting good store, after agreeing that, yes, this store has some no-touches, so please ask mommy before you touch. He asked, then defied, on four items, each time looking right at me as he touched. I said, “no, thank you. No touch.” He said, “Please” as he touched again. I said, “No. No touch. Please listen to my words.” He touched again and repeated “please.” I shook my head and gently removed his hand. He cried “No Mommy move Peanut hand!” On the fourth item (sunglasses…why, oh why do they put those at waist-level instead of up by our eyes, where they should be?!) he threw a fit. Reaching for it…”I said no touch. If you touch that, we will leave the store.” Touch. Scoop up and take outside. Screaming, crying. Sobbing really, with tears streaming down his face. “One minnow!” (see the one minnow post. priceless. for all other toddler moments, there’s MasterCard.)

“Nope. We’re all done.” Cried on the sidewalk in my arms for, no joke, ten minutes. My biceps were on fire. I tried silence. I tried gentle talk, offering different options. I did not offer (or acquiesce to) a return trip into the store. Crying, crying, crying. Cried a few times as people walked by, I’m sure, just to inform them of my bad parenting. His words, not mine.

Anyway, toddler loses that one. (It was still a good day, btw.)

No specific anarchist data for same day, but passed several pedestrians in San Luis Obispo who were undoubtedly familiar with the tenets of at least one anarchist, and they seemed a welcome, quiet change from a two-and-a-half-year-old. Anarchists do not frequently scream or cry or try to grab things that society asked them not to touch. Anarchists break things and destroy property to reject the notion of property. They are rebelling. I can get on board with at least the idea, if not the reality, of this sort of rebellion. Two-year-old rebellion I do not support, as it makes absolutely no sense. (Yes, I know it does. Yes, I know why they try power battles over everything at bedtime and whenever you really, really need to get somewhere. Yes, I know why very gentle and well-behaved children turn into screaming banshees when you’re on the phone. Yes, they make sense. But not in a grown-up logical way. In a animal kingdom kind of way. But seriously. Let me have my little diatribe here. I need an outlet. Heaven knows I need an outlet.) Where anarchists may destroy property to protest capitalism, toddlers touch stuff that’s not even interesting. They don’t try to possess, or refuse to think in terms of possession. They just touch stuff to touch it. And especially if told no.

Give me an anarchist any day. I understand how infuriating and terrifying it must be to control so little of your world (unless you’re Peanut, of course, who controls more of his world than 99.8% of other two-and-a-half-year-olds do, and therefore should really cut me some freaking slack. We don’t use coercion in his world. He doesn’t even have a right to anarchy. Peanut protesting coercion is like white, middle class kids complaining about how hard their lives are, and turning to drugs because they’re bored. Get a job. Volunteer. Shut up. Go work for Amnesty International for a while.) I do not understand the battles pre-preschoolers choose. Don’t get it. Score one for anarchists.

Two-year-old evidence from today: walks through the kitchen and 1)opens the trash can for no other reason than to peer inside. Thrice. 2) Reaches on tiptoes into the sink to grab the sponge, wet, and throw it on the floor. 3) Grabs a fistful of straws from the choosing cup (I know, I know–my fault for leaving it on the table) and drags them along the wall. 4)Unwinds the whole paper towel roll. Again. 5) Screams bloody murder everytime one of Parker and Skylar’s horses fall over, even though they fall over because he accidentally knocks them down. His fault, but gravity’s response is physically painful to him. When I empathize and tell him that, yes, it’s frustrating when you work hard to stand up a horse just to have it fall down, and that maybe we should try again, he hits me.

Please send me an anarchist for Christmas. Or Channukah. Or Memorial Day. What a great co-brand that would be: Hallmark offering anarchists for Mother’s Day. “When you care enough to give mom a break, send an anarchist.”

Anyway, each of these incidents of strange but typical toddler behavior got a casual, measured, supportive, and corrective comment and a plea to “please don’t do that” because fill-in-the-simplest-reason. Except the hitting. That got a time out.

Here’s the problem. By incident number four I actually said, “Please don’t do that because…can’t you just be civilized? We have the same rules every day. They don’t change. It’s the same rule Sunday as it is Thursday.” [“Thursday,” he cries, “Movie!” He’s right. Thursday is movie day. One half hour of some video that is not geared toward kids. It’s the only way I get to see Planet Earth. But that’s not the point. The consistency of rules is. Or so I thought. Not in his world. Consistency, choices, whatever. He doesn’t really care that we have always been careful with our “no”s because we saved them for genuine danger. He thinks we’re restrictive no matter how many ways we use to suggest activities other than the disgusting, irritating, or destructive one he’s chosen. Please, please. An Anarchist for the weekend. Please. On a toddler for disestablishmentarian trade program?]

An anarchist might look in the trash to find food, subverting the establishment’s insistence on exchanging money for sustenance. Not just to look in there, and not just after I helped her wash her hands. An anarchist might throw the sponge at a representative of government, to suggest any number of metaphoric or literal needs to clean up. But probably not just to piss me off. An anarchist might…okay, seriously, what self-respecting anarchist would drag straws along the wall or unroll paper towels? And therein lies the reason I’d probably choose to live with an anarchist over a toddler–they know the rules and break some to make a point. Toddlers have heard the rules, figure they’re the center of the universe and not subject to the rules, and just do things to get a reaction out of those who watch them. Kisses make mommy sigh with happiness, and ridiculousness pisses off mommy. Gonna try each twenty times today to see what happens. And they quite enjoy that power.

Anarchists push society’s buttons to make us question assumptions. Toddlers push our buttons because it’s fun. I just want to scream at Peanut: “Have some principles, at least, like those comparatively upstanding and logical anarchists. The world is not your plaything, and my rules are really just society’s rules. So put on some pants so we can leave the house, pick up the sting ray so mommy doesn’t hurt her foot again, and please put your plate in the sink or I’m going to have to remember that all the things I’m teaching you will make you thoughtful and logical. Just like an anarchist!”

Who, looking at an infant, would think anarchy would be a positive trajectory?

Well, it’s a serious improvement over two-and-a-half.

Fire alarm

Ah, Peanut. I’m glad we named you something that would go well with either “Supreme Court Justice…” or “Recently Indicted…” because you’re getting to be a bit of a handful.

I was carrying him up the stairs to my mom’s place and he pointed and asked what the fire alarm was. I said, “That’s a no touch. It is for when you really need help, like an emergency, and it rings an alarm at the fire fighter’s stationhouse.” So he reached out and grabbed it. To be fair, it didn’t have a cover, and the little lucite dowel that usually keeps us from accidentally tripping the alarm was missing. Nevertheless, the alarm went off in eight or more condos Sunday just before noon. Thanks, Peanut. Nice way to meet grandma’s neighbors.

People were worried, but we were standing on the porch, reassuring everyone it was a false alarm, and very willingly blaming Peanut. “He did it. We told him not to, but he didn’t listen. We’re so sorry.” Everyone was, I’m sure, just waking up at noon to watch the Olympics and sit in their underwear spooning ice cream into their gaping maws (I assume people, given a day off, are able to do all the things we can’t do now that Peanut is here. Sleep in? Check. Watch t.v.? Check. Eat ice cream? Check. Hang out in either jammies or underwear, willfully defying the social rule that one must dress for the day? Check. Things we have to do under the cover of darkness for the one hour he actually sleeps–that’s what people with real lives do. Nobody else was off volunteering at an animal shelter, or befriending the elderly, or anything. That’s what I’d do if I had a day off. After the ice cream and Olympics and nap. And a little more ice cream. And flip through the channels in case I’m missing anything. THEN volunteering.)

Anyway, it took the fire department 25 minutes, so say the more irritated of Zsa Zsa’s neighbors say, to arrive with their shiny pumper truck. Peanut asked the fire fighter (whom I’ll call Young, Buff, and Gorgeous Number Three, only because there were two before him that got that name. I might have named them something else, had I seen YBaGNThree first). YBaGNThree confirmed that it was a pumper, not a hose wagon, as was Peanut’s second guess. Seriously. Okay, a little more honestly, Peanut asked me if it was a pumper or a hose wagon, and instructed me to ask YBaGNTwo. I was going to, when Three appeared and caught my eye. Instead of asking him if he knew a good attorney and would be willing to wait for me while the divorce paperwork processed, I asked about the truck. Whatever. Can’t believe I know the difference between a rear-mount aerial ladder truck and a snorkel truck, anyway. I mean, it’s pretty obvious, and nobody would confuse the two once they knew, but still. I’m pretty sure that cluster of neurons would be resting right now if it weren’t for my two-year-old’s g..d.. book collection.

So I kept apologizing to the fire fighters, telling them I knew they had better things to attend to, like, for instance, emergencies; and tried not to cry every time they said it was okay. Because the last three times I’ve seen a fire fighter up close, it was an emergency, and they were much less jovial and much less silly, but just as friendly and supportive. I know more than a few police officers who have no special love for fire fighters. I know the reasons abound. But I have had nothing but good experiences with the few fire fighters I’ve met, and I have nothing but gratitude in my tiny little Grinch heart for them.

Anyway, the Older, Buff, and Outrageously Handsome fire fighter (OBOH) praised Peanut for doing a good job. Told him he knew he’d hire him on the spot in 18 years. Gave him a red plastic fire fighter’s helmet, and told him to keep up the good work. Wonderfully nice, totally counter-productive stuff, parenting-wise.

Now we have to pay for the false alarm call, and frequently remind Peanut not to pull fire alarms, all while watching him run through the house naked, fire helmet on, pretending to squirt everything and everyone with anything that seems like a hose. Yes, that means anything—-drum stick, hockey stick, imaginary hose, and little boy parts. The reality that little boys get to have all the fun of a built-in friend is probably half the battle of gender-based differences that show up before those horrible other kids bring their parents’ baggage to kindergarten.

Oh well. At least ours can rouse all those lounging neighbors whenever he feels like it.

Rewriting history and fairy tales

I feel dishonest, I feel manipulative. But we change just about every book in the house because the content just isn’t appropriate for a toddler.
The troll in the Billy Goats Gruff, at least here, is a “great, big, silly troll” who pretends he’s going to eat goats up, but really just wants to go swimming.
The wolf in Little Red Riding Hood is proud of his huge mouth, for it’s all the better to kiss you with.
The coyote in The Three Little Pigs just wants to eat all the pigs’ cookies, and when he can’t get into the brick house, the pigs eat the cookies themselves.
Even in Where The Wild Things are, the monsters gnash their teeth and roll their eyes and show their claws, none of which is horrible. And Max isn’t sent to bed without supper. He just goes to bed.
I don’t like that I have to warn other people to read our books “correctly.” But I also don’t like that Ming Lo’s wife never has a name, even though she has just as many lines and pages as Ming Lo, and even when she does ust as much to move the mountain. So in our house she’s Sing Lo. Because my son isn’t going to grow up thinking the world is scary (he’ll find that soon enough) or that woman are just “so-and-so’s wife.”

Modeling good behavior

Oh, my, this parenting thing brings a whole new layer of perspective to rude people. I tend to thrive on confrontation. In business and personal relationships, I am quite forward about what I need, want, and will tolerate. I don’t mince words and it doesn’t make me any extra friends. But having a small child watch my every action and listen to my every word has changed the way I do things. Even when people are really nasty and horrible.

We were in Target this weekend, which is now a whole different adventure than it used to be. I used to avoid Target because I found so many things I “needed” and would walk away with a whole apartment redecorating project, garden renovation, and new beauty regimen. Now I’m lucky to run the half mile to whatever random household product we need and make it to checkout before Peanut loses his patience with the whole shopping thing. Luckily, he has no tolerance for shopping, whether in sling, cart, or on foot. I relish this because, aside from the biannual Target spendfest, I loathe shopping and would rather get everything on amazon (once they stop including disgusting McD*n*ld’s advertising in every one of my organic, vegetarian food shipments). So it’s nice to have a child who, likewise, has patience for 4.2 minutes in a store, and then wants out.

Anyway, he needed to use the facilities, and we headed toward the ladies’ room. (He prefers it when I take him into the men’s, and when we’re somewhere that it doesn’t matter, I do. I told him that our society has some people who think everyone should use the same potty, and some people who think men and ladies should go in different rooms to pee. I don’t know why, I told him. It seems silly. Nobody has a men’s and ladies’ bathroom sign at home. Whatever. I blame a lot of things I don’t understand on “society,” and I’m sure some year he’ll go dressed as “society” for Halloween.)

On the way to the ladies’ room, he saw a standalone handicapped-accessible bathroom. He was excited, because he knows that means more room and a lower sink. He’s used to the family-friendly bathrooms at the hospital and the mall (shudder), and prefers them greatly to the cramped quarters of a single stall. I looked around to see if anyone was headed that way. There was a woman with a cane in her cart making a beeline for the same bathroom. So I stopped and asked, “Are you headed in there?” I figured if she wanted the room, it was hers.

“Yes,” she barked. “That’s what it’s for.” She grabbed her cane and waved it. “I’m handicapped.”

No problem, I thought. But Peanut, of course, began his now standard line. “No share. No share that lady. Peanut turn. Please no share.” It used to be, “Hit that lady! No lady! Hit! Hit! Hit!” but we’ve managed, through talking, ignoring, and offering new words, to eliminate the hitting chorus of his skipping record. But the lady didn’t like the sound of his new song.

“It’s not for children, you know. It’s for handicapped people.”

“And families with small children,” I answered. That was my first mistake. I know damned well it’s for people with different abilities, who need more time, more space, more features. I know that. But don’t tell me off, and don’t snap at my kid. It just pushes my buttons. Imagine a family with three or four kids, who has trouble keeping them all perfectly well behaved in a huge, cavernous Target bathroom. If they want a shot at an empty, unwanted handicapped standalone bathroom, I say they deserve it. I don’t care what the picture on the door says. If the standalone is empty, my recently potty-trained kid with a fear of regular bathroom stalls gets it. I don’t believe in expectant mother parking. I don’t believe parents should get privileges that the child-free don’t have. But I think if a bathroom is empty and nobody wants it, a family that walks the balance beam of keeping everyone in a socially-acceptable mood can use the differently abled standalone. I know it’s not polite to occupy that bathroom in case someone else needs it . But life’s not fair and I have a kid with bathroom avoidance issues.

Plus, she goaded me.

“No, it’s not. It’s not. I’ve been handicapped for a long time and I know that much,” she sneered.

“No share that lady,” repeated Peanut. “No share. That lady no share.”

“Yes,” I said calmly to Peanut, mostly for the woman’s benefit. “We’re going to share with that lady. It’s her turn. When she’s done, you can have a turn,” I said calmly. I wanted to tell her we were there first, but I knew we didn’t really have a right to the bathroom, so I wanted to teach him that we wait graciously when someone else needs it first, even if we were technically in the geographic area first.

She left her cart and cane outside and started into the bathroom. “Wait,” she said, as she had almost closed the door. “Do you mean for changing diapers?”

“Yes,” I said, trying to silently hurry her. I have a recently potty trained toddler, lady, who needs to go. Please, please just go in there and so I can convince him to use the other bathroom. He won’t listen to me while you’re here and he con’t compromise while he can see into the Holy Land of Big Potties. There was no way, I figured, that he would let go of the idea of the big room. Not now. He had seen it and he knew he was next. So either shut the door and let me reason with him, or get down to business so we can be next.

“There’s a diaper changing area right over there.”

“Thank you. We’ll wait.”

“I’m handicapped you know, and even I know there are diaper changing areas in the other bathroom.”

I’m not an idiot. I know there are diaper changing areas elsewhere. I know most babies hate the changing tables and most moms wind up with babies on the floor. I know I don’t need a diaper change, I need a small bladder emptied in the potty. Get the f*%& in the bathroom! “Thank you. Please. Go.” I indicated the room. “Go ahead. Have fun.”

Ooops.

“Have fun? Have fun?!?! You’re an a**! You’re an a**”

Without Peanut there I might have chosen a few words for her. I might have walked away. I might have done a million different things. But I felt little eyes on me, and felt a warm calm come over what is normally a very hot temper.

“I don’t like that kind of talk.”

“You’re an a**!”

“That’s not nice talk. Please don’t talk that way in front of my child.”

“I have raised all my kids and I know you’re an a**!”

I picked up Peanut. I whispered to him, ignoring her. “That lady is feeling grouchy. It’s okay to have a grouchy day. It’s not okay to talk like that to people. She’s being not nice right now. That makes mommy sad and angry.”

She was FURIOUS that I was talking to him instead of her. She was railing on about how long she’d been handicapped. By myself I thought, so did you start out nice and being handicapped made you horrible, or were you horrible to start with? But that’s not nice talk. I know nothing about her life, and I just can’t do this right now. I’m holding my child and trying to put myself in her shoes. Maybe someone else had been rude to her today. Maybe she’d had bad experiences with kids playing in the handicapped bathroom when she needed to go. Maybe her different abilities include developmental delays that make outbursts more common. All I knew was that I treated her just like I would any other human being. I believe that people who need help should get help without feeling like it’s charity. I believe people should have every chance to have some of that pursuit of happiness stuff that seems to get disproportionately distributed lately. I hold the door for people who look as though they might need or appreciate the help. I offer my place in line or my seat to someone who looks like they’ve had a long day. I want to be as helpful as I can to anyone who needs it, handicapped or not. But I don’t like rude people. I’m sorry if life dealt you a shitty hand. I’m sorry if you’re usually nice and are having a hard day. I smiled at you, I le you go first, and you’re really pissing me off.

“GO AHEAD!” she shouted, pointing to the bathroom. “Go ahead and I hope you’re never handicapped.”

Me, too, I thought. I stared right at her and calmly turned around and walked my scared son into the main bathroom. Because he was distracted, he didn’t notice the loss of the fun bathroom. Because he really had to go, we had no issues with balking and refusing the small stall. And because I have to be a different person now, I talked with him quietly about how feeling grouchy is okay. How being rude is not okay. How I felt sad and angry that the woman yelled.

Unlike my former self, I didn’t want to have a whole conversation with her. I didn’t want to explain my point of view and feel satisfied that we were both heard. I wanted to take a deep breath and walk away.

If that’s what I’ve learned from child-centered parenting today, it was a really good day.

You say, russet? I say, leave the kid alone.

What is wrong with people?

My son loves painting. The day he saw me paint my toenails (he was in the bath, Spouse was watching him carefully, I was bored, the polish was nontoxic-ish) he fell in love with a new artform. He paints his own toenails about once a week now. He paints his father’s toenails. He tries to paint the cats’ toenails. He loves using a different polish for each toenail, then covers most with “russ-sit,” his favorite.

He paints a lot of toe with toenail. We pretend we don’t care. At first we quickly wiped off the excess, horrified at all the chemicals seeping into his otherwise Dr. Bronner’ed body. Then we stopped caring. ‘Cuz wiping tiny skin next to itty bitty toenails leads to smudges, and the boy hates having his art mucked up. Plus, since we’re trying to be all green and organic and nontoxic, we figure he has a few healthy liver cells to spare. It’s like we’ve been all hyper-organic just to save up purity credits so he can formaldehyde himself once a week. Sigg bottles all the time, with nailpolish on a third of his body. Like drinking organic Coke.

So yesterday we’re walking the ‘hood and a neighbor points at his toenails. “What are you doing with this girlie stuff?”

Um, he’s two and a half. He doesn’t know there are things society reserves for girls and for boys. He doesn’t know because we don’t feel the need to tell him. He doesn’t know that small-minded people will close off half of his joys in life soon enough. He doesn’t know why the shoe lady resisted, for a moment, bringing him the pink butterfly boots he asked for, or why when he asks for purple clothes, there aren’t any in his section. (Yes, most of his jammies are pink and purple…HOLD THE PHONE. What East Coast freaks are in charge of Word’s spellchecker? Because since when is jimmies a better guess than jammies? There’s no such word as jimmies. They’re sprinkles. It’s a shopping cart, not a carriage. It’s a freaking purse, not a pocketbook. At least give me the West Coast version of Word, not the Boston edition. If I type milkshake is it going to correct to frappe? Or better yet, cabinet? Geez. Come on. They look like sprinkles. They act like sprinkles. Why in the hell would they be jimmies? And why, you stupid little paperclip freak, would I have my kid wear jimmies? Jammies. Now I have to go teach autocorrect a lesson or two in California vernacular. Damned thing probably says PEAbuddy instead of Pea-Body.)

(Wait, do they mean jimmies as a verb or a noun? I guess jimmy as a verb occurs more than jammies…no it doesn’t. Nighttime is every day, and jimmying things open is rather rare. If not, get yourself in good with a locksmith or a carpenter. Because life’s too short to jimmy things open all the time. Or to have to recorrect jimmies to jammies, when you typed what you wanted in the first place. Meddling coder geeks.)

Anyway, why do strangers feel the need to put their ubermasculine malarkey on my kid? So he polishes his toenails. So? So he likes butterflies and ladybugs. So? He likes pink. A lot. Used to be, parents were told to dress their boys in pink because red was too strong a color for girls, who were conventionally dressed in blue. (Note that it all changed to blue/boy, pink/girl when the Baby Boomers showed up. Dagnabit, could more of the world revolve around that generation?! When will they go away and let someone else have a chance at determining the nation’s priorities?)

My parents gave me a dump truck when I was in the hospital at age 2, and the nurses thought we were from some cult. I liked freaking trucks, y’all. And I didn’t turn out anything except open minded. All toddlers like trucks and trains and bugs and dolls, so why do we have to be wiping half of that off the map-o’-funness for them based on their plumbing? Spin mama’s son erupted from the bathroom five years ago and pronounced, with his hair wrapped in a towel and nothing else on, that he was a beautiful princess. “Yes, you are!” we all fawned, and went back to our conversation.

I love that Spouse goes to the playground with his son, both of them in sandals and toenail polish. Spouse doesn’t think twice about saying “yes, please” to our little painter. And when friends give him hell, he just looks at them without flinching and says, “My son did them for me.”

Gives me a tangible reminder of why Spouse is the best spouse for me and the best dad for Peanut.

So all y’all who have a problem with the two men in my life painting their toenails, you can just shove off. ‘Cuz I like them more than I like you, anyway.

There’s a new pranayama in town

Back in the era where I had hours to myself to set my own schedule and wrap my writing around a sense of centered intelligence, I found that yoga helped enormously. My practice helped my body, my balance, my breath, my thinking, my writing.

But I haven’t put any time into my practice since Peanut was born, and I’m feeling the loss. My posture, my flexibility, and my breath are all distorted. But mostly, my sense of balance is off. Mentally and emotionally, I’m a mess.

My sense of what I need on any given day to be a patient, present, decent human being is totally off. So I was thinking this morning when I gave myself a timeout (I’ve decided I need timeouts more than Peanut does, because he’s just exploring and testing boundaries and doing his job by driving me to drink, and it’s MY job to find the patience, creativity, and flexibility I need to parent him respectfully. The only way I’ve found to regain my centered willingness to teach and play in the heat of the moment is to breathe and think. And being in the circle of a screaming toddler maelstrom is not a great place to breathe or think. Plus, I love just leaving the room when he’s pushing my buttons. That technique is totally Spouse’s m.o. for conflict with me, and I loathe being on the receiving end of someone who has to leave the room to avoid saying something nasty. But it’s been successful so far to leave a frustrating small person to figure out what he really wants while I go breathe. He seems to find clarity around his choices much more quickly when I’m in the other room refusing to play his reindeer games.)

Anyway, I was thinking, as I forced long, deep inhales to calm myself, that maybe I need to bring pranayama (yoga breath) back into my life. Even if I don’t find time for the full practice, complete breath should help, no?

One breath answered my question as it brought tension to my shoulders, neck and face: Nope. There is a time and place for warming, meditative breath. While you’re pissed off is not one of these times.

As humans, we need a lot of oxygen. As yoga practicioners, we need a lot of oxygen, too, but we try to still the breath and make it rhythmic, sustained, and transformative. And pranayama focuses on steady breathing that creates warmth, sound, and an internal metronome. All of those require friction in the airways, a slight constriction that serves as a gatekeeper for the large volume of air flowing into a yoga-engaged body that needs the breath to last a long, centering time. But even shitali pranayama, the cooling breath, takes a lot more constriction that I need when I’m counting to ten and trying to regain my balance.

Trying to calm anger requires a lack of constriction. Anger needs big, open gateways for air to flow through, because it’s precisely the cooling flood of air that squelches the fire of rage. Angry people need to breathe like runners–mouth open, chest swelling, maximal oxygen without interruption.

So that got me thinking that maybe I could begin to practice again, if only a few moments at a time, if I tried to do a hybrid yoga, changing breath from a single rhythm to a double. Maybe I could engage fully in a vinyasa with a deep, open runner’s breath if there was a whole cycle for each asana. Instead of moving through the poses as each half of the breath cycle completes, I could inhale freely, then move on the exhale. Inhale, exhale, move. Inhale, exhale, move.

I tried it (later, when he slept), and it worked. The same sense of rhythm, even if it was less meditative, returned to my newly rejuvenated practice. I was thoughtful about my movement, I was present in each asana. I wasn’t forcing a kind of breath I just can’t sustain right now. And finding my own kind of balance, even if it goes against what I’ve been taught, makes sense right now. Because I’m not the person I was, I’m not living in the body I once had, and I’m not trying to calm and focus the mind I once trained. I’m playing a whole new ballgame now. And I might as well write the rules to fit my search for a new self, body, and mind.

One minnow. Couple mice.

Ah, parenting a two-year-old. Good, good times.

I’m spending a lot of my time these days wishing I hadn’t taught him this, that, and the other. Mostly the dialogue bit. As K.D. says, why did I ever teach this kid to talk?

I long ago introduced compromise to Peanut’s vocabulary, a negotiating skill that gets me out of feeling like I’m caving, and gets him in a position that he thinks is powerful. “Mommy says all done and you say more. So let’s compromise. One more minute, then all done.” Yet for every time that a compromise works, there’s another time that I rue the day I taught him the concept. It’s not like knowing how to compromise will give him any social advantage later in life, or anything.

After an hour and a half at the library, he wanted more and I wanted to go. I was cranky, I was hungry, and I just couldn’t drink one more cup of pretend water from the library’s new play kitchen. I can’t. I’m pretend waterlogged.

So.

“Time to go.”

“One minnow.”

“You want one more minute to play?”

“Huh.”

“And after one minute, when mommy says time to go, you’ll say yes?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. One minute.”

[dum dee dum dee dum]

“Okay one minute is all done. Time to go.”

“One minnow.”

“One minute is all done. Time to go.”

“Mommy couple mice.”

“I did compromise. You had one more minute. Now all done. Time for car.”

“One minnow. Couple mice. One minnow. One minnow library. One minnow books. One minnow ‘tend kitchen.”

“All done library. Time for lunch. Time to go.”

“Mommy couple mice.”

“Mommy did compromise. And, need I remind you, you compromised, too. You said that after one minute if I said time to go you’d say yes. You have to uphold your end of the bargain or compromise won’t work.”

(At this point, a previously kindly-looking elderly lady is giving me a look. Not completely nasty, but appropriately sprinkled with “are you crazy?” Because, seriously, I talk that way to a two-year-old when I’m flustered. Not good parenting, granted. See previous posts for self-aware declarations that I have a long way to go—my methods aren’t ideal, but they aren’t soda in a sippy cup and regular beatings, so…)

He’s almost crying now.

“Mommy, couple mice. One minnow.”

I try not to laugh. I would honestly LOVE to trade a couple mice for one minnow, rather than have this conversation. But mice squish easily and I don’t carry around a pocket full of freaking fish, so, let’s go.

Here come the big guns:

“Well, you can choose to take one more minute, but I’m leaving. I’m hungry. It’s time to go and time for lunch.” Turn, walk.

“MOMMEEEEEE. Come! Coming!”

I turn around and sweetly say, “I know. I’m waiting for you.”

I suck. I’m awful. But I’m noticing a lot of parents using the same tactic. If you don’t do it my way I’ll abandon you. Raising some good, well adjusted citizens, we are. Nothing keeps marriages, companies, and democracy together like threatening dissenters with abandonment.

But it got me to lunch, so I’m okay with it today. I’ll search for alternatives tomorrow.

“No Mommy clews sraw.”

Peanut’s accelerating search for independence and control is really quite awesome.

Yesterday he was coloring and asked, please, for a cup of water. I got a cup, half-filled it with water, debated a lid, and reached for a straw. My hand collapsed back toward my body, slapped back by my half-addled brain that reminded me grabbing a straw would get me in big, big trouble. (If I ever make the mistake of taking on one of his roles, like pushing the blender buttons or putting the clean silverware away, or hanging the key on its hook, or pushing the car alarm button, I am chided very quickly and borderline hysterically. “Noooooooo! No Mommy turn. No. stop. my. turn!” Country Mama swears this sounds like, “no suck my toe!” and is still deciding whether to question the conversations Spouse and I have with Peanut when she’s not there.)

So now I know that anytime I’m fetching a drink for Peanut I have to let him choose his own straw. And not just ask what color. Offer the whole selection, and not touch any of them. Peanut had already forgotten the water (a welcome change from the normal script wherein he asks thirty-two times even if mom has patiently said yes to the first thirty-one). So I asked. “Peanut, would you like to choose your water straw?”

He turned to me and let a gorgeously bright smile spread across his face. “Yes. Pl-ease.” He seemed so happy that I remembered what was important to him. If felt quite yummy to be so appreciated and to know what was important in his life.

Sure, it drives me nuts that I’m usually asked (nay, told) to patiently watch him touch them all and play a bit and choose one (while every cell in my body screams, “It’s just a freaking straw! Pick one! If you’re really thirsty the color won’t matter!)

But today it was really nice to watch him feel completely in control of what goes in his body, how it goes in, when it comes out, and where it comes out. It seems that all the work it took to show him we respect his wishes and choices whenever possible finally made him realize that we do respect what he has to say and what’s important to him.

Aaaah.

Can’t wait until he does the same for us.