Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Quick, dirty and bruised

Photos of Dan are rare these days. Even videos are tough to get. He's just not as pliable as he once was. I downloaded a half dozen videos tonight that consisted of me urging him to show us how he dances ... to no avail. He does a dozen cute things a day and I can capture them only in words. I hope that's enough.

The photos below are just the perfect illustration of what life with Dan has been like lately. In the first photo, he's leaving the frame. Second photo? He's wearing his dinner. In the third, I tried to capture his latest bruise. And, boy, was it a doozie. He tripped over a toy and banged his head on the corner of a wooden toy box. The bruise is on the left. Most of his forehead bruises, though, are self-inflicted. If we have to deny him something, he still finds the hardest object he can and bangs his head.

So that's our boy these days ... quick, dirty and bruised. But at least he's one of the happiest, most easily consoled babies I know.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Share or take turns?

On four days in a row last week, Dan played with little buddies ranging in age from a month older than him to 2 years old. Hanging out with children in various stages of toddlerhood is very instructive.

Toddlers are greedy, impatient little neanderthals. If they see it, they want it, especially if someone else has it. Consequently, I've heard the word "share" quite often lately. One child has a toy, the other wants to play with it. Shrieks ensue. "Share," is the inevitable response.

But why? (You knew that was coming. I question everything.) And more importantly, how? Sharing seems to be a very misunderstood concept. Share means to divide something equally or give out a portion. What does "give" mean? It means to make a gift. What's a "gift"? It's something given to another in a show of friendship or affection.

Let me tell you, there is no affection among toddlers locking horns over that one toy in a sea of amusements. And how exactly do you apportion a single object as the definition suggests? It's like King Solomon splitting the baby.

On Friday morning, I worked at Parents Morning Out. I watched a pair of 3-year-old girls argued over two halves of a plastic Easter egg. One wanted to play with both parts of the egg. The other wanted to keep her half. One woman urged them to share. The girls ignored her and kept talking about the egg. I just watched and waited. The one girl kept asking the other if she was done with the egg yet. Eventually, the other girl was done and the first girl scooped up the other half of the egg. Problem solved. Turns out, they didn't need to share. One just needed to wait her turn, which seems a more important life lesson than trying to force an action that should be born of affection and friendship.

Ever heard the saying, "Take the gift in the spirit in which it is given"? Sharing is not a selfless, feel-good act when force or guilt is behind it. So what happens when you force a child to share? They resent having to share something they are enjoying and had first. And thus the spirit in which the object is "given" is full of resentment.

No thanks. I'll just wait my turn and teach my son to do the same.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Orbiting around planet Mommy

Dan doesn't really say mom or mamma or mommy too often. He has to be coaxed. But there really is no denying when he wants me, and only me. Dan calls to Jim, saying dad or dada. He whines and cries for me and generally sticks to me like Velcro.

Over the weekend, Dan seems to have hit a growth spurt. That's our go-to excuse for when he's being a total pain. (Yes, I just called my son a pain. I'm sure he'll feel the same about me when he's 13.) He woke up several times wanting to nurse on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, usually beginning the minute I walked in the door at 2:30 a.m. And in the mornings he was cranky, fussy and clumsy. I'd be upstairs trying to sleep off the late shift. He'd be downstairs with Jim, fussing so loud that one morning I actually staggered to his room just to make sure he wasn't still in his crib. Even when I was in the same room, he was melting down more often than normal. It's almost like I'm his personal complaint box.

This afternoon, Jim says "He never cries this much when you're not around."

"Well, maybe I should just leave," I replied.

In the six months before I got pregnant, I read a book that profoundly changed my outlook on what it means to be a woman and a mother. It's that very change in outlook, incidentally, that I credit with helping me become pregnant by really opening me spiritually. Of course, Jim has other ideas about how the whole pregnancy came about. Anyhow, the author talks about the centripetal, or "drawing in," force that women have. According to the Eastern philosophies, the Earth's energy moves up and through our bodies and inward, creating an irresistable pull. This is why most women I know tend to be the center of their households, setting the tone for what goes on. That explains the age-old (grammatically horrifying) adage: If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

It also explains why my son must be between my legs and the cabinets when I'm cooking dinner, or why he wants to eat off my breakfast plate and not his own, or why he follows me from room to room, or why he stands outside the bathroom door and cries for me. This weekend, Dan seemed to be saving his cries for the moment I got home. Yesterday, he just started wailing, toddled toward me and rubbed his snotty face all over my jeans.

Dan's day at the park

On Monday, Jim, Dan and I went to Duke Gardens. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, a little bit windy, still slightly damp from a recent rainstorm. Of course, since it's still the middle of the winter, there really weren't many flowers to look at, mostly just ducks and other people. Our main objective was to test out Dan's monkey backpack (see photo).

Using the monkey backpack is like trying to leash train a puppy. Dan at first tried to hold onto the leash himself. When we were at the gardens today, he was tickled to be walking with us, until he realized that Jim was in control of how far he could go. Jim did give him some leeway, letting him go off the paths to pick up interesting rocks, sticks and pine cones. Several times, though, Dan bent down and banged his head on the ground in frustration. I did detect some veiled disgust from passersby who probably thought it cruel and inhumane to put a child on a leash. But, mostly, Dan had a blast walking with us instead of being carried.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The great American shopping spree

With a headline like that, you must be expecting some more ranting about the "serve your country, go shopping" plan. Not quite. There's a quote from a founding father that comes to mind whenever politicians start baiting voters with calls for "programs, programs, programs" like a midway barker at the state fair. Benjamin Franklin said "When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic."

The American people don't vote anymore. They shop. And our elected(purchased) officials are the product. Americans shop for whoever will enhance their personal bottom line, preferably at the expense of someone else. There are goodies for all in the political mall. You want to grow a crop that makes little money? No problem, Uncle Sam will pay you to keep on growing. You won't ever have to learn a new skill or plant a crop that actually makes money. You want to out of a bad mortgage? They'll force evil mortgage companies to renegotiate your contract. You want a job? They'll create one for you, not because a job needs doing, but because you need a job. Oh, you don't want to work? Well, there's a program for that, too. In fact, to keep the economy going, we'll just extend unemployment benefits. You want day-care like services masquerading as education? No problem. Barack Obama has a plan to start education at infancy. (Remember Benjamin Disraeli? "It has been discovered that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.")

When campaigns have the feel of a mass shopping spree for greedy Americans, then I fear Benjamin Franklin's prediction may soon come to pass. Then again, maybe there's more to celebrate than to fear in the end of the Republic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Liberation through housework

Check out a new video of Dan. I just learned how to use movie making software.

One of my least favorite mass media mom stereotypes is that of the woman who eschews the domestic arts and invokes Martha Stewarts' name to insult women who do (somewhat) enjoy domesticity. No, I'm not a Martha Stewart fan and cleaning isn't my favorite activity, but I like the results enough to sweep, vacuum and clean with a smile. Okay, a half-smile. As for the decorating, well, I'm aesthetically challenged and slightly color blind so I leave that up to Jim, oddly enough. And cooking ... I'm the biggest foodie you'll ever meet. I subscribe to a gardening and two food magazines, plan meals for two weeks out and wake up thinking about that evening's meal.

Now, I know that men can keep house just as well as women. My husband does more around the house than most men I know -- sorry to the men I know. But when it comes to creating that safe haven, that restful place we call home, well, that will always be "women's work."

And why shouldn't it be? When women liberated themselves from domesticity, it left no one home to create that soft place to land. We seem to have gone from pride in a clean home and well-nourished family to competing for the title of least domestically competent. I do not aspire to mediocrity just so I can participate in a game of one-downmanship with other women. I really don't need to fit so badly that I'll brag about how much laundry I have piled up, how little time I have to feed myself and my family and how tired and busy I am. There's nothing wrong with being proud of the work I do to ensure that my family is fed and our life is not hurried. (Jim does most of the laundry, by the way. And I've even learned to just let him mix whites and colors, since he doesn't mess with some of my finer clothes.)

Money isn't the only currency and the workplace isn't the only place women can garner respect. Actually, the only people I want or need respect from are the people who matter most - me, my husband and my son.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wildlife in the backyard

Jim found a critter in the back yard. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Who's that boy?

Danny got his first haircut on Superbowl Sunday. The universal response seems to be "Awww. How did he do? Was it traumatic?"

Today, Jim replied, "It was traumatic for her [pointing to me]."

It's true. Dan didn't seem to mind. We plopped him in his swing on the back porch and Jim went to work. It was a bit traumatizing for me, though, to see my husband go at my little boy's baby-fine hair with an adult-sized electric clipper. I had no idea that high and tight was the order, either. It's a little patchy in places and my first impression was that he looked like a recovering cancer patient. (I know that is a horrible thought. Sue me.)

Now, he looks like a little boy instead of a baby. He moves differently, sounds louder, seems more confident. Over the past two days, I've found it easier to expect more from him. He comes when I call him more often. Dan even seems to follow directions better. Today, I told him it was time for a new diaper - he came over and laid down on the diaper pad. I told him to go find his water and he did. I told him to bring me his pants and he did. I showed him the budding pea plants and told him not to step on them. He's stepped on only one, so far, and has stopped just short of the plants a few times.

Dan doesn't look like a little baby anymore. I guess I'll just have to have another one.

The downside of obedience

Dan understands, but doesn't always like, everything we say to him. Fortunately, he doesn't hear the word "No" regularly. One childhood memory I have is of our preacher's angry toddler. The story was that, every morning, he would stand in the middle of the living room and angrily yell, "No" in every direction - east, west, north, south. For that very reason, I try never to say "No" to him. I redirect him by saying "Not for Dan. Let's go find something for Dan." If he's plotting a frontal attempt on the stairs or eying the knives in the dishwasher, a loud "Step off" suffices. Call us new age whackos if you want, but I don't say "No" all day long and he usually obeys. Plus it feels much more natural to show him what he can do, instead of focusing on what he can't do.

Dan used to just move on after a "Not for Dan" or a "Step off." Now, he looks at us, cries and bangs his head on the wall, the floor, the fridge, the window, the dog (seriously, the dog???), the sofa, our heads. He has a bruise on his forehead right at the hairline. This past weekend, his cousins kept telling him "Not for Dan" so they could see him bang his head on the table. Today, he banged his head on the fridge, looked to me for a reaction, then did it again. I'm trying to keep a straight face, which means no laughing or wincing.

But at least he listens and obeys, right?

Friday, February 01, 2008

The real reason we had kids ...

... we can make them do the housework! Jim took this video while I was at work.