Concerned

Dear Love Bug,

Not too long ago, Timehop served up a photo from last year’s Chincoteague beach week and there was a caption that said something about what a terror you’d been that day. “Good thing he’s a year older and he’s outgrown that,” I thought at the time.

And then today happened and (as usual) I realized how naive I am. Kind of like that time I wrote IN THIS VERY BLOG that I was certain Three could be no worse than Two.

We had a lovely morning at the beach, albeit a bit nippy in the pretty intense breeze coming off the water. The waves were much rougher today than they were Sunday, too. In any case, you happily did your thing for a couple of hours: digging; running; climbing up a fairly significant wall of sand left behind from the recent storms, I’m guessing; flying kites (which you did all by yourself! *high five*); building an awesome sand kingdom with Daddy and me. I asked you a few times if you wanted to stop for a minute and have a snack, but each time you refused. “I’m just digging,” you’d say. Or “I’m busy building stuff.”

At about 12:15, we told you it was time to start packing up to head home, and you turned into an absolute deranged lunatic. You kept running away from us, cackling maniacally, until we physically picked you up and carried you toward the parking lot. At which point you flailed about and writhed and swung at us until a few of your punches landed.

I kept asking you to calm down, to take breaths, to use your words, but you just got yourself more and more worked up. And what was scarier than anything else was your goofy grin and crazy laughter through the entire unpleasant experience. Daddy and I have never spanked you. Ever. Today we had no tools left in our arsenal, and you got one from each of us. You howled and cried until we threatened to leave you at the beach, locked in a changing room. And finally, finally you calmed down enough for me to shower you with Nonna’s help, dry you off, and get you changed.

I told you there’d be no lunch. You’d be going straight to your room for a nap when we got home. “But I’m hungry!” you wailed. Nonna offered you a snack in the car, and you absolutely inhaled a full pack of peanut butter crackers and a small bag of popcorn.

And then it clicked. I’m starting to wonder if your terrible, unmanageable behavior, when it happens, is a result of hunger. But not just hunger–could it possibly be hypoglycemia? Hear me out. I’ve read accounts from moms with diabetic toddlers, and they talk about how they battle absolutely erratic, nearly unresponsive children when they have blood-sugar crashes. And I do truly wonder if we’re dealing with something biological here and not purely behavioral. Your Beebee has diagnosed hypoglycemia and your Granddad has diabetes. Maybe you’re dealing with something related to blood sugar, too?

When we get home, I’m going to make an appointment to have you tested, just to make sure we know what the situation is. And then we’ll be better armed to manage it.

We put you to bed when we got home from the beach, and you’re STILL sleeping. It’s going on 4 hours. And I wonder if pure exhaustion might also be a symptom of something more systemic than simply running your heart out on the beach.

In the hope that there’s another parent out there who might have experience with this, can anyone share some advice?

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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Junior Ranger

Dear Love Bug,

Mother Nature gave us a gift of a day, and it was so unexpected I felt like doing cartwheels down the beach. We actually got there today, and it was a pretty damn near perfect beach morning. The sun wasn’t beating down or anything, but it was warm (but not hot) and slightly breezy, and the beach was relatively empty because I think the forecast kept people away.

You immediately got your big shovels out and began to dig in the sand, which you’ve been waiting approximately one year to do. Then you played your favorite game of Run Squealing Into and Out of the Water, letting it get as high as your knees. You also made some friends, played badminton and bocce (each for about 5 minutes), and dug for mole crabs (also admittedly one of my favorite things to do). I got hot at one point, which was completely surprising because again, the forecast made it seem like it was going to be the most disappointing beach week ever, and waded past the breakers to cool myself off. You called to me from the shore, so I came back, scooped you up and took you in with me. “I can swim!” you kept screaming above the roar of the water. “I can do it on my own!” Love Bug, your confidence overwhelms me. I love you so much for it. But you can neither swim nor do it on your own. So I flipped you tummy down and let you kick about while I hung onto you pretty tightly. I’m what I would consider an excellent swimmer. I’ve been jumping waves since I was barely bigger than you. But I have a HEALTHY respect for the ocean, and I’m trying to instill it in you, too.

At 11:30, we wanted to get to a ranger-led activity out on the boardwalk behind the visitor center. You put up a little bit of a fight because you really wanted to stay on the beach. But eventually you capitulated and let Daddy carry you across the parking lot to the center. The program had already begun but we were able to catch up easily, and we joined a group of 10 or so people in examining “clues” along the boardwalk of life/death in the marshy salt flats on the bay side of the beach. You stole the show in your loud, adorable, smarty-pants way. You were by far the youngest participant, but you’d blurt out answers to the ranger’s questions or say “Excuse me, Ms. Ranger!” and then ask a question or make an observation. You really seemed to enjoy it, which made my heart happy, because I spent many summers immersed in the ranger programs here when I was (much) younger. Hope we can do many more in the years to come.

I’m exhausted. I’m listening to you sleep-sigh along with the rolls of thunder outside, and my eyelids are getting heavy. We’ll have another big day tomorrow. Night night, my love.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Sweet Dreams

Dear Love Bug,

It’s been a while–nearly a year! It’s funny how rhythms shift, and then you start wondering how you managed to do something so easily in the past when it seems so daunting now. In any case, we’re on vacation, back in our beloved Chincoteague, and the absence of any other demands has afforded me the opportunity to write (to you) again.

You’re going on 4, and “the beach” holds all new meaning for you as your world has expanded significantly over the past year. You can’t wait to get there. I just hope we can make it, as the weather this year isn’t any more promising than it was last year. In fact, it looks worse, much as we didn’t think that was possible. We’ll do our best. I’m trying hard to mask my disappointment lest it be contagious to you. I’m telling myself that what’s important is that we’re on vacation and we’re with family. But I’m not sure that will really resonate with you.

We prepped for this Beach Week by buying a new set of twin-sized sheets because we decided early on that this was the year we’d stop hauling alternative sleeping arrangements for you (no Pack N Play, no inflatable toddler bed) and you’d finally sleep in the daybed in our room in the house we’ve rented since you were born. Nonna had bought a bed rail for you some time ago. We’d talked to you before we left about sleeping in a Big Boy Bed, and you seemed pretty comfortable with the idea.

So as soon as we arrived, we made up your bed and called you up to check it out. Of course you wanted to climb into it immediately. You announced that you had no need for the bed rail. We suggested we test it out tonight, and if it didn’t seem necessary, we could ditch it. When we came up for bed, we found you pressed right against it, so … I think we’ll keep it on. It’s a long way from the bed to the hardwood floor. I don’t think a fall would feel very good.

This evening, you and I crawled into it together to read a few books. What a luxury! There’s no way to get into your toddler bed at home together, even without the rail that we removed some time ago. So we always read in your glider. But being able to cuddle in bed is a whole different experience.

Before the end of the calendar year, we’ll convert your bed at home into a Big Boy Bed, bigger even than the one here. And I’m already envisioning chapter books (hello, Harry Potter!) read curled up together in that big bed, night after night. More milestones to come.

In the meantime, I’m wishing us all sweet dreams of sunshine and beach weather. And doing a little bit of praying, too.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Back to the Beach

Dear Love Bug,

Here we are, back in our beloved Chincoteague. This year may not be as beachy as years past; the weather looks just ok. But we’ll make do and we’ll still have fun. 

In the late afternoon, after unpacking at Misty Moon, we drove out to Assateague to make sure it was still there. Just kidding (but some years we worry). It’s there, and other than the addition of a bike lane along the road across the island, it’s more or less unchanged. We parked as far to the left as we could, kicked off our flip flops, and ran across the sand toward the water. It was incredibly windy and pretty chilly, so we zipped you into a hoodie. 

After launching a kite–it was great kite weather!–in which you immediately lost interest and retrieving a shovel to ward off a meltdown, you got to work digging, which is your favorite beach pastime. But when you’d had enough of that, you ran toward the water’s edge and absolutely squealed with glee at getting your feet wet. You were jumping and twirling, running up toward the drier sand and then back toward the waves. You’ve found your happy place. 

The next thing we knew, the water–all 65 degrees of it–had lapped your front up to your belly button, and you’d managed to sit down in it as it creeped up the shore from the breakers. I consciously quelled the OCD rising up inside of me and told myself it was fine. 

I continued to do so as you hauled your fully wet self up into the powdery sand beyond the reach of the water and rolled around in it. You became a sandy burrito. A very, very happy sandy burrito. 

It was hard to haul you away from there, but we did. And we stripped you down and let you air dry in the gentler wind near the car until you were clean enough to put on dry clothes (Mother’s Instinct FTW, but it failed to remind me to bring a towel). 

Tomorrow will be a true beach day, and you can dig and jump in the waves to your heart’s content–and to mine, too. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma


Crossing the causeway, having just woken up from your nap. 

Heart Fonder

Dear Love Bug,

Last night, you had an impromptu sleepover at Nonna and Opa’s–the first of its kind, really. You’ve slept away from home without us only a handful of times, and all have been carefully coordinated and choreographed.

But when Nonna offered to take you home with her rather than babysit you here at home so we could sleep in this morning, we couldn’t say no. 

So you got a fun afternoon and evening with your grandparents, including dinner at your absolute favorite restaurant IHOP at which you were allowed to order the Happy Face Pancake chock full of chocolate and smothered in whipped cream AND bring Marshall to dinner with you. 

And Mamma and Daddy got a delightful dinner out with friends complete with a stop at the Charmery and a low-stress, lazy morning. 

Win win! And boy are we lucky–and thankful!–to have your grandparents close by and willing to do this for us. 

This is good practice for us, too. In September, we’ll be leaving you for a couple of nights for a weekend away in celebration of our fifth anniversary. And there may be opportunities before then for nights away from each other, too. 

What I realize is that I miss you almost immediately. The house is eerily quiet with you gone–I miss your constant, sweetly pitched chatter–and I have so much time on my hands, it makes me fidgety. 

And isn’t that exactly what they say should happen? Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I can’t wait to squeeze you in a couple of hours!

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Terrible. And not. 

25 months

We’re headed home from a blissful long weekend in the mountains of Western Maryland that was everything I hoped it would be: relaxing, wholesome, full of fresh air and chilly nights that are good for sleeping, exhausting in the way that only hours spent hiking trails can be. It was our first time away together since I started my new job, and it was so necessary for me–a pause in the breakneck pace of our new normal, uninterrupted time to make up for the distractions of a role that requires so much attention, even when I’m at home. Not having reliable cell service was a blessing. 

We spent most of the weekend with good friends who share our love for the outdoors and for good food, so that made it even sweeter. And they have an 8-year-old girl who’s tolerant of and generous with you. You adore her consistently with how you adore all the older girls in your life, including your cousin. You chase them around with such glee and want to do everything they do. And you miss them when they’re gone.

Yesterday evening, after our friends had left (we stayed an extra evening), you looked around, seemingly just noticing they had gone, and said, “Where is everybody?” We explained that Claire and Ollie (their dog) had gone home with their mommy and daddy. We asked you if you missed your home, and you said “My home is here.” I don’t know if that meant you liked the huge, beautiful, rustic cabin we’d rented so much, you’d prefer to stay there (wouldn’t blame you) or if your home is wherever you’re with us. Either way, it was sweet. 

We were unsure of how the weekend would go, as your behavior has been erratic lately. Or rather, it’s been predictably unpredictable. The more I read about 2-year-olds, the more I discover you’re pretty much a case study: sweet as sugar one minute, full of absolute irrational rage the next. And if you’re not wild with the hottest, burning fury birthed in the deepest pit of hell, you’re doing something to evoke just such emotion in Daddy and me. Usually something we’ve either told you not to do no fewer than 1,000 times or something we’ve told you not to do about 30 seconds earlier. And you do it with a lunatic grin on your face. It. Is. Infuriating. Almost unbearably so. But we’re trying different techniques to help us get through this rough patch and all we can hope is it’s short lived. 

People have said, probably to make us feel less like the most incompetent parents ever, that your behavior is a byproduct of your intelligence. It’s because you’re so clever–they say–that you’ve figured out so many ways to push our buttons. (And for the most part, they’re just ours, as your reports from daycare are overwhelmingly glowing.) But if that’s the case, I keep wondering why you aren’t learning from the constant lessons we’re trying to impart by taking things away, taking you away from the things you want, timeouts, discussions, distractions, offering choices and every other accountability measure we can think of. Why is being told “no” about a million times not sinking in? Anyone?

And then, once the tears and the wailing have ended, you are the kid everyone wants around. You can have full conversations with adults about what you did last weekend; you can explain why you want to play with a particular toy or read a particular book; you point out things that interest you in your sweet, sing-songy little voice: “Look, Mamma!” You can entertain yourself for a good chunk of time; you rarely fuss in the car; you’ve started cleaning up (if motivated) even without us asking. You eat like a champ, you ask for more broccoli, you sit quietly in restaurants and color or play with stickers until your food comes. You say “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” often without prompting. 

On our lengthy trail hikes this past weekend, you sat contentedly in your backpack, commenting on the leaves and the trees, taking in the world around you. You are completely unfazed by changes in your environment; you go to sleep happily in your Pack N Play in a room that isn’t yours in a house that isn’t yours. You have no problems making yourself at home wherever you might be. 

You are a study in contrasts. A beautiful, bold, frustrating, funny enigma. It may take the entire rest of my life to figure you out. 

I’ve heard from some that three is worse than two, and I wonder how that can possibly be the case. Perhaps their two wasn’t as bad? Maybe you’re precocious and we’ll get this over sooner and begin to move on more quickly? 

We can only hope. In the meantime, we’ll continue weathering this storm and praying we don’t wind up worse for wear. Your bads may be pretty terrible, but your goods are so good (your creativity, your compassion, your sweet gentleness with animals, your generosity, your humor), I have to think we’re doing something right. 


kind

22 months on the dot

It’s been a rough month for the world, kiddo. I read a tweet recently that went something along the lines of, “Let’s unplug 2016, wait 10 seconds and plug it back in.” It’s worth a shot …

We’ve lost some brilliant minds this year. But worse, we’ve lost a lot of average people. For no reason. Senselessly. Absurdly. Terrifyingly. Since my last post, just about 50 people were killed during our country’s worst mass shooting in history.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a jaw-dropping decision that you’ll probably read about in your history textbooks as “Brexit,” leading many voters to wish they’d acted differently in a response now dubbed “regrexit.”

The two incidents are completely unrelated until you look under the surface, and then you realize that they were most likely driven by similar rotten motivations related to intolerance. And now we’ve got a presidential election looming that is being underpinned by the same nasty motives.

And Daddy and I are depressed and frustrated, and we’re thinking about moving to Malta if Trump is elected. (It’s got a 99.5 percent literacy rate! It’s a gorgeous Mediterranean island! They speak English and Italian!) I spent some time feeling sad and a little guilty about bringing you into this world that’s seeming pretty dismal lately. I wondered if I was selfish, wanting you so badly because, well, I wanted you rather than thinking about what I might be subjecting you to. But then I realized that’s shortsighted because you–and your generation–can shape the world if we teach you well.

So we’ve started talking about values. I’m sure it’s all going right over that nascently curly little head of yours, but if we talk about it enough–and model the right behaviors–I know you’ll catch on. We’ve been talking about tolerance. But not just tolerance, no, that’s not right. It’s not tolerance; it’s respect for all humans and embracing others. It’s living and letting live and acting on what you believe is right. It’s sticking up for people even when no one else will because you know that it’s what you’d want if you were in that situation. It’s love.

You were born with a completely open heart, and it’s our job to make sure it never builds up walls and that it never believes that some people are more deserving than others. Daddy and I have a sticker that we got in Key West. “We are all created equal members of one human family,” it says. That’s what we’re working hard to make sure you grow up to believe.

In the meantime, we’ve been dealing with some “terrible twos” behavior, although I’m not sure that it’s so much “terrible twos” as it is just normal human development. (I am fascinated by this, and I don’t understand why it happens if you’re not seeing the behavior modeled.) For a while there, you were hitting, biting and pushing people. Daddy and I were  your favorite victims, although you’ve lashed out a few times at Nonna, and I’ve even seen you hit other kids–especially E, a little girl about six months younger than you–at daycare.

We put the kibosh on this immediately through a variety of strategies, and (somewhat surprisingly) you seem to be moving beyond those behaviors. But what’s strange is that instead of acting on these behaviors, you now express your anger/frustration/irritation by saying what I think you’d like to do. You’ll get mad and say “push!” and throw a hand up, palm out, like you’re pushing someone away. Or you’ll say “hit!” or “bite!” but you won’t actually go through with the behavior. So we’ve been responding calmly, since you’re not acting violently, and saying “No, Ethan, you don’t hit/bite/push. Why are you saying that? What’s bothering you?” Usually, it’s fleeting, and you’ll already have moved on to something else, but sometimes you’re able to express to us what the source of your negative feelings is, and I’m encouraged that we’re getting through.

You’ve got a pretty great group of role models, bud, and I hope you learn from them. Daddy and me, Nonna and Opa, Mimi and Beebee, Gina–we’re all working hard to make sure you grow up to lead a life motivated by love. And you are (generally) so sweet, so big hearted and loving. Just this morning, I caught you (via the video monitor) hugging your stuffed friends, one after the other, and my heart just about burst into a million pieces. A little bit later, I thanked you for helping me do something, and you said, “Eefan is kind.” Kind! Where in the world did you get that word? But without missing a beat (and because I jump on any opportunity to reinforce positive behavior), I said, “You are kind.” And I hope the world is kind to you in return.

In the meantime, lest this be a total downer of a post, here are some photos from the awesome, amazing week we spent at the beach (our beloved Chincoteague, Virginia) with Nonna and Opa. You were SO in your element, running on the beach, digging with your shovels, transporting water in your pails for no other reason than to transport water, jumping in the waves with Daddy and me, stomping on the sand castles Opa so patiently continued to build for you, chasing seagulls and ducks, collecting shells with Nonna, taking a ride in a bike trailer around the Wildlife Loop, racing around the top of the Assateague lighthouse, eating seafood like it’s going out of style and totally, completely, face-first indulging in the best homemade ice cream there is. You took a whole week away from home totally in stride, and we can’t wait for next year.

May this next trip around the sun engender kindness in everyone …