Go trademark it!

Dear Love Bug,

You’ve been asleep for hours on your magical blow-up toddler bed at Nonna’s. I think it must be made with chloroform because you power down the second you crawl into it and you’ve been known to sleep for 13, possibly 14, hours in it. 

I’m tucked into the futon in the basement, where I’ve slept the best sleeps of my life. May we both wake up refreshed because I’m exhausted. Not only have I been packing, painting, and yard sale posting for a week straight (The Project progresses), I’m flying solo this weekend because Daddy’s at Man Camp. All I can say is props to all the single parents out there. 

That being said, you’ve been particularly delightful lately. I mean, you’ve been amazing. Not perfect, by any means. But just so good. Is this the ramp-up to Three? If this is what your fourth year looks like, I say gimme more. I’ve heard from many, many, many people that 3 is worse than 2. I’ve had a hard time envisioning what that might look like because 2 has been difficult bordering on disaster. I kept wondering how it could get any worse. But now I’m wondering if you just had a particularly terrible 2 and maybe 3 won’t be so bad?

Some examples of your turn toward awesome: 

  • You feel remorse. You’ll still throw things on the floor, but then you’ll realize this isn’t OK and you’ll actually apologize and then pick them up. 
  • Bedtime has been miraculously drama free. You’ll maybe try to bargain for another book or some extra cuddles, but when we say it’s bedtime, you pretty much roll over and go to sleep. 
  • You tell us you love us all the time. And if we say it to you, you say, “I love you back.”
  • The physical manifestations (biting, hitting, kicking) of anger have all but disappeared. I don’t remember the last time you lashed out at one of us violently. Today, you got mad and kind of stomped around and then turned to me and said, “I’m frustrated!” The other night, out of nowhere, you said to me, “I’ll never ever pinch you again.” (It wasn’t like you had just done it or anything–you were just sitting there.) I was like, “Uh, thanks!”
  • Not always, but when I ask you to do something, you’ve begun to say, “OK, Mamma.” 

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, don’t get me wrong. Last night at Sorrento’s, you flipped your pizza over onto my purse and ruined it, for example. But we are trending in the right direction. 

Also, our conversations have become so smart. In the car on the way down here, we were listening to your CD, and “This Old Man” came on. You know, “This old man, he plays seven, he plays seven up in heaven, with a knick knack paddy whack give a dog a bone …” You listened intently and then said, “Mom, what’s heaven?” I had instant sweaty palms. “Uh, it’s a place,” I responded. You chewed on that, and I steeled myself for a follow-up question that never came but will soon enough, I’m sure. You’ve never asked about song lyrics like that before. 

And then this evening, you requested Team Umi Zoomi, your new obsession, and Nonna got it loaded up on Amazon. We wound up talking about the delivery method, and you said, “No, Amazoff.” It took me a split second, but then I got it, and I was speechless. How clever of you. Go trademark it. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma 

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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 …