I’m Telling You You’re A Quiet Child

Sierra on Strollerderby writes today about getting your child to do what you would like them to do by complimenting their behavior, not by directing them to avoid certain behaviors. I should know this as a teacher. It is much more effective to tell students they are smart and capable than to tell them not to slack off or how bad their handwriting is.

Tonight is yet another teething night causing not only Nora bedtime pain (she’s fine until we try to start winding down, when all the tried and true relax-now techniques are failing lately), but bedtime pain for me as well. I can hear her right now negotiating her way through the books, songs, bed routine with Ken. She began the whole routine with a horrifying screaming exercise (egged on by her dad who is probably now regretting that decision).

According to the strollerderby post, instead of walking into the room with her water tonight and saying, “stop screaming,” I should have said, “You’re a very quiet child.” Somehow I don’t think that would have worked either.

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Some Days are More Two Than Others

Two weeks ago we took Nora to a friends’ house for dinner. Nestled in her backyard was a storybook house, miniature and perfect, just what Nora had always dreamed about, I’m sure. She played in the house, rocking in the chairs, building with her blocks we had brought. She didn’t eat much at dinner, but she didn’t fuss or complain, simply getting down from her chair and continuing to quietly construct towers with her blocks. She was an angel, perfectly behaved.

These are the moments that trick you into thinking that the “terrible two’s” are a myth, that you have the perfect child, are the perfect parent. And then nights like tonight happen to quickly bring you back down to earth. Because some days she is just more two than others.

By the time we left my parents from dinner tonight, Nora had stripped off all her clothes, momentarily running around naked until I caught her and told her she better not pee on Meme’s floor. She has recently discovered that she is capable of stripping off her clothes without assistance, which makes taking clothes off much more fun than putting clothes on these days. This nakedness ensued after repeatedly and purposefully spilled cheerios, regurgitated chicken, thrown rice and other lovely defiances. We took our almost naked daughter, put her in the carseat and headed home. She tricked me for a while by sitting quietly on my lap, reading her books. But bedtime didn’t go smoothly, perhaps because we’ve kept her up so much lately, perhaps because her molars are just white nubs under the thinnest surface of gum, perhaps just because she’s one of the bossiest two year old’s I’ve ever known.

Today being two meant all the stereotypes that go along with it. Let’s hope tomorrow she’ll trick me into thinking we’re all perfect again.

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Breaking Free

Sometimes it’s alright to keep your kid up late.

I told myself that multiple times today as I decided whether or not I was going to go and watch Ken and Uncle Ian in their bike race. What the heck, I thought, she hasn’t been great at bedtime anyway, why not throw another wrench in the works, test the waters, break free of the routine.

And so I went. And it was fun. And Ken is putting Nora to bed right now and she is being equally a pill about it as she was last night – no worse and no better.

When I think about what I would like to most change about myself as a mom it is that I feel so incredibly, cripplingly tied to a routine. If it doesn’t go according to plan down to the minute I begin to analyze the failings of my day, chart my course back on track. I know many moms who flourish with spontaneity and whim. Why can’t I be like that, I think.

I don’t remember ever being this routine before I had Nora. Sure I liked structure, I hated to have things popped on me last second, took time getting adjusted when plans suddenly changed, but this attachment to minute by minute schedules? No. That wasn’t me at all.

But I guess that is who I am as a mom. At least for now.

I broke my rules tonight. And it felt good.

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They Start Early

He walked her out to the car like a perfect gentleman and she wouldn’t even say goodbye.

Now, I could be writing of teenagers, adults, any girl playing hard to get and boy doing all he can to seem the chivalrous type. But, no. I am writing about toddlers.

Nora had a happy hour playdate today – happy hour for me, playdate for her. She played with a friend, a little boy 9 months younger, and not only exhibited her ability to share and take turns, but, most importantly, to manipulate like a pro.

Nora’s friend, Ian, had a few push toys outside – a grocery cart, a roaring lion and a lawn mower. Nora and Ian spent the afternoon chasing each other around, pushing toys across the lawn and, really, sharing quite well. From the porch, we watched the toddlers playing, happy they were happy, admiring their innocence. Then, in what could have led to the first conflict of the afternoon, both Nora and Ian wanted to push the grocery cart. Instead of pushing and hitting and throwing a fit, Nora walked over to the lawn mower. She knew that Ian would follow; he had been happily chasing her most of the afternoon. Sure enough, he went to the lawn mower too. As he put his hands on the handle, she darted back over to the grocery cart. She had won. She had manipulated him into thinking that he really wanted the lawn mower, that playing with it had been all his idea in the first place.

As the group of women sat on the porch watching this play out, we all laughed at how early this womanly manipulation begins. We shared stories of tricking our husbands in that exact way: “Sure, honey, it was all your idea.”

We remembered how Ian had begun to show off for Nora the second we had arrived, splashing water, throwing his soccer ball, dumping water on himself in a great show of courage and fun. How typical of boys, we all said, peacocking for us women, doing silly stunts because they think we’ll be entertained or amazed. “And we fall for it every time,” one of us mused. And we all laughed, knowing she was right, seeing Nora smile coyly, falling for it each time her friend flashed his million-dollar-grin and dumped water all over himself.

At the end of the afernoon, as we headed out to our car to head home to dinner and bedtime, Ian followed Nora all the way to the car, waving and saying goodbye. She ignored him, as she does all people who are trying to get her to say bye bye. It’s not her thing. And in this scenario it fit – one more way she was manipulating him, playing hard to get and hoping to leave with him wanting more.

Toddlers clearly already know all there is to know about being men and women.

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Working Mom Paradox

If I wasn’t a working mom I wouldn’t get anything for Mother’s day. I wouldn’t receive an orange bird house painted by Nora, signed and dated on the bottom by a teacher. I wouldn’t get to go outside and feed the birds with my sweet and curious toddler because I would never have made myself a bird house.

If I wasn’t a working mom I wouldn’t be called Ms. Dille all day and come home to be called Miss Mama by toddler who is used to addressing all the women in her life with the polite prefix.

If I wasn’t a working mom I wouldn’t storm around the hallways of school, stressed out by some insignificant detail of the day only to be stopped in my tracks and forced to smile because I see a Roly Poly on the ground in front of me. Before Nora I would have ignored the Roly Poly or perhaps had an English teacher flashback to the passage in To Kill A Mockingbird where Jem asks Scout to spare the poor bug about to meet the bottom of her shoe. But now, as a working mom, I no longer see a Roly Poly as a literary symbol of innocence, but as a real life reminder of how happy one small bug can make a small child. And how that “thing” that I let stress me out during the hours of 8-4, doesn’t matter so much when I’m out searching under rocks for little bugs that roll up into balls – an effective  protective mechanism for curious toddler hands.

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The Nebulizer Dance

Since Thanksgiving we’ve been sitting on the couch with Nora, holding her nebulizer mask to her face, once or twice a day. As part of the ritual we watch Youtube videos – entertaining our toddler as she sits and breathes in her precious pulmicort. Not only has this made Nora a healthy child for a record four months, but it has also taught her about the finer parts of our culture, as defined by Youtube.

We’ve watched countless Sesame Street clips, from Elmo’s Song to Regae Rubber Ducky. We’ve discovered a series called Wheels on the Bus featuring the lead singer from The Who as a bus-driving dragon. We’ve watched clips from Tinkerbell movies, prompting Nora’s love of fairies. And, more recently, we’ve discovered a Pepsi commercial from the ’80s featuring Michael Jackson, Nora’s favorite singer (probably due to her early introduction to his crazy music).

After we finish sitting for ten minutes with the mask firmly planted against Nora’s face, she has taken to watching an extra video while I clean it out. Apparently, not only has the nebulizer made her healthier, it has made her a dancer too. Tonight I left the mask dirty on the counter since I could not resist filming her doing a crazy dance to the Pepsi commercial.

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6 Words

Smith Magazine is holding a competition for 6 word MOMoirs.  I was drawn to this since I heard an NPR story a few years back about the idea of 6 word memoirs and I adapted the idea to use with my students at the close of the year. Since then, the 6 word memoir has seemed ubiquitous: projects in technology worshops, references to Hemingway’s attempt to write a story in six words (“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn”), stories in the Times and Vanity Fair.

So today I am thinking about my 6 words.

After last night, my thoughts on mother hood have something to do with the paradox between joy and pain:

Vomit all night. Still cute today.

Thinking about my own mom: 

Hoping I can be as patient.

Last summer in a workshop I wrote:

Life is better with a baby.

What are your six words?

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