A few weeks ago, I wrote an honest?and a little scary?post on Facebook about my fears that my son Sam, who was then almost two, would be labeled a bully. He was deep into a biting and hitting phase, and I heard another mom at the playground tell her kid to be careful around him.
“You should write an essay about it,” a friend suggested.
So I did. It was published this morning on the Washington Post’s On Parenting column.
Since I haven’t yet made any big decisions about my blog(s), but thank you all for your words, and since I’m still taking Britt Bravo’s Juicy Blogging class and I have homework, you’re stuck with me for a few weeks longer as I practice some skills and work out some ideas.
Today’s assignment: Write a post about how to do something your ideal readers would like to know. Title it as a “How to,” or a numbered list (e.g. 5 Ways to . . . 10 Steps to Create a . . . 4 Tips for . . .).
Hmm. I identified my ideal reader as either someone who is interested in straight talk about Momming OR someone who is interested in straight talk about writing. I’m going to hold off on writing about writing, since I have a post due in about a week on popcorntheblog (stay tuned!).
So here goes.
Five Things I Find Fascinating about Toddlers (Or, should I say, my toddler).
1. They have a given sense of gender…but sometimes they surprise you.
I very much believed that gender was constructed, and was careful not to lay any trip on my kid about his being male: “You must play with manly toys, L!” No. But at 16 months, when all of his friends were girls, L developed an unreasonable and intense attraction to trucks that has been unwavering. I really do believe, now, that gender is much more innate than we post-feminists would like to believe.
In any event, L’s wonderful Nana made him a T shirt with a garbage truck on it, and because it was such a hit, we “ordered” shirts for all of his friends. One was yellow with a pink garbage truck on it, for the little girl next door, X, who is very into pink and dresses and etc. When we unpacked the box from Nana yesterday, L snatched it up.
“This one is mine, Mumma.”
“No, sweetie, that’s for X.”
He holds on tighter.
“No, Mumma. It’s mine. It’s lello like a lion and lions are my favorite animal. And I really, really like pink.”
2. They reveal your every weakness, even the ones you thought you were getting away with.
L, in the car yesterday, yells at some guy who’s poking along: “Hey dude! Move!”
This, after several driving trips where L had said to me, “Why did you say ‘dude move’ to the guy in that car, Mumma? What you frustrated ’bout now, Mumma? Huh? You ‘noyed ’bout something?”
Yeah, yeah yeah. So I’m incapable of driving without hollering at all the other cars. Sue me. At least I have stopped indiscriminately flipping them the bird.
3. They sleep like…babies.
Which is to say, they’re totally incomprehensible again. L’s newest thing? Nap at daycare. At home, wreak utter havoc for ninety minutes until I let him out of his room, pulling my hair out. Don’t even get me started on bedtime or the return of middle-of-the-night-waking.
And now there are dreams he can remember and relay.
L, first thing yesterday, incredibly cute in his footy jams and snuggling up to his Dad in bed: “I was with my lion on BART and then I came home and saw you guys.”
Me: “Was this your dream?
L: “Yes, but it was a real dream, not a sleeping dream.”
4. They’re more fickle than a windsock.
A friend gave me this pamphlet on something called “Hand in Hand Parenting.” It talks about how, when your kid is upset, his prefrontal cortex shuts down. That’s why you can’t reason with a tantrumming toddler; because they literally can’t think. This morning, L was completely distraught because, after having to be convinced that he should get dressed before breakfast, he agreed; only to hop into his bed and refuse to get into his clothes until I finally left to eat my own breakfast. I’m enjoying my poached egg when he comes in, sobbing.
“I need to get my clothes on before breafrast!”
I sit with his head in my lap, stroking his head with my non-egg-eating hand, letting him cry and being loving as I firmly hold to “I’ll get you dressed after I finish with my breakfast.” Weeps the whole time. B finishes first and offers to get him dressed.
“I want Mumma!” yells L, who, for the past month, has literally chosen his father over me in any situation where he’s had a choice. Finally relents and lets B get him dressed. When he cheerfully comes back into the room, all better, and I get up to start doing dishes, he loses it all over again.
“We all need to eat together!”
B and I exchange glances. Decide we needed to finish our tea and eat some fruit at the table while L eats his now-cold egg.
5. They make your family stronger.
Last week was a tough week with L, and I found myself at one point giving him a lecture about how he needed to be a better community member (they’re learning about their community at daycare–I was grasping at straws here, people). Later on, I realized that I need to be a better community member. I realized that all these things–the tantrumming, the fickleness, the pre-frontal cortex–are a part of his job right now. It’s so clich?, but it’s true. And my job is not only to grin and bear it, or to turn to drink, but to become more patient, more good at this, more loving, more energized, and more in control. Somehow, when I think of it like that–kind of like we’re all actors in a play, and L plays the insane crazy person who just needs a lot of love and support in order to realize his true and wonderful potential–it makes me see this time in a different context, and B’s and my roles as more significant and heroic. It also makes me feel blessed to have a good co-pilot.
I find that magic shows up in my life when other things feel completely prosaic and mundane. I’ll be totally fed up with my work and my writing, parenting or my relationship will feel humdrum, and then there will be this little glimmer of something–an interesting coincidence, maybe, or a good turn done unexpectedly or even something strange and painful that makes me pause (magic isn’t all good–remember Lord Voldemort). The magical: A few weeks ago, when I did that great yoga workshop, I had an intense moment in meditation when the word “cleave” starting running through my head. For some strange reason–maybe because I am one of those types for whom strange words running through the head is sort of normal–I wasn’t alarmed. More than that, I got it. I have felt since I gave birth to L that the experience caused me to sort of split in two, in a very weird, esoteric, almost-too-deep-to-access (and really too personal to talk about) sort of way. So I’ve been kind of carrying that word around a bit. And this week at a doctor’s appointment I learned that, in fact, part of me did split in two when I gave birth. You ever have something happen that you would never have known was about to happen but then, once it does, you realize you knew it was going to happen? That’s what I’m getting at. It’s a little…magical.
So then, this morning, I was chatting with a friend on the street. She’s not been having an easy time of it, and I remember a week or so ago her telling me that she had been so out of it one day that she’d forgotten to put her son in a nighttime diaper and generally made a right mess of things in her life. I don’t think she told me but she also lost a favorite earring that day. This morning, as we were chatting on the street, I looked down and said, “Oh look, an earring”–at which point she went ballistic with joy. I’d found her lost earring and the weirdest thing was that it was lying at a place on the sidewalk where anyone could have stepped on it. In fact, it was directly in the path of a car that could have backed out of its driveway at any time and crushed it. She lost the earring ten days ago. But it was beautifully, perfectly intact. To me, this was sort of medium magical, but she is convinced I’m the next Hermione Granger.
Well, okay, if you say so.
And oy, here’s the mundane: I had a rib injury in December, as I think I’ve mentioned. I either cracked a rib or pulled a muscle from a particularly violent bout of coughing. This injury was healing, slowly. But yesterday I sneezed and I literally felt something pop in my side. Then: agony. I’m very barely mobile on 600 mg of Ibuprofen. I’ve been able to sit at the computer for a while but I should probably go lie down again. Doctor’s appointment at 2:45.
And can I just say, toddlers are not capable of empathy? Trying to explain to L this morning that Mumma had a really big owee and I needed him to cooperate–failure. After B left for work L climbed back in his crib. He climbs in, but he doesn’t climb out. I couldn’t really go in after him so I had to wheedle to get him to the edge, then one-armed drag him out. He gave me hell putting on his shoes, etc., and all the while I was trying to find some adult place to connect to that would understand why he should be ginger with me. Not happening. Good to know he’s developmentally appropriate, I suppose…
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I'm working from the premise that motherhood is not just all diapers, tantrums, and setting limits. It's interesting. Okay, sometimes.