Thursday, February 23, 2012

Toddler tales

I keep coming up with little tidbits of hilarious things Marko says and does, as my Facebook friends all know. (Every time I see someone I haven't seen or spoken with in ages, they always tell me, "Oh, I've been following Marko's adventures on Facebook!" Apparently he has lots of fans.)

Like this one. John likes to pretend to fall asleep on Marko. Marko always pushes at him to wake him up, and John protests, "Hey, you're waking me up!" So now Marko pushes at him and says, in his deepest voice, "Heeeeey, you're waking me uuuuuup!" John answers "I don't sound like that!" so now Marko says that, too. He also imitates my voice, though I don't notice so much because he does it almost all the time. For instance, he'll hand me something and then say in a really perky voice, "Thank you, Marko!"

John quotes stuff a lot. So now Marko does too -- a lot of shows that he would never be allowed to watch. Some of his favorites: "Be careful there, Ton-ay. Don't be dir-tay!" (Fry and Laurie), "We're on a bridge, Charlie! Candy Mountain, Charlie!" (Charlie the Unicorn), and "Honey Badger don't care." They come out at the oddest moments, like when he cried for me in the middle of the night the other night. I came in, picked him up, and quietly started rocking him ... and he announced, "We're on a bridge, Charlie!"

He also quotes his books, of course. Right now he's doing Hop on Pop. Marko talks pretty much all the time. Most of it is quotes from books, but he also repeats everything that he's overheard or that I've said to him.

His new favorite thing to do is to climb up behind me on my computer chair and put blocks in my hair. They always fall out, but he just climbs down, gets the blocks, and puts them back in my hair. I put up with it for as long as I can take it, but sooner or later he gets rough and starts pulling my hair, so I stand up and go somewhere else. This always provokes a tantrum. I tell him, "It's my hair, it belongs to me," but he yells, "No it's my hair! No it belongs to me!"

Our current way of diffusing tantrums is to sit on the couch and read. I usually have to wait for him to cry for awhile, and then quietly suggest that he sit and read with me. He agrees, but the screaming continues. Every time he pauses for breath, I read a little bit in my very quietest voice. After awhile he quiets down because he wants to hear the story! Usually by the end of the book he's completely calm and wants to get back to playing. It's like a miracle. (Since this happens a couple of times a day, as a rule, I am so glad we have a coping mechanism.)

Marko does not snuggle. He climbs. A certain percentage of every day, he has to be on me. He climbs, squirms, clambers, tugs, pulls, elbows ... urrrrrrgh. This is not my favorite. I do go along with it as long as he isn't actually hurting me -- at least until I have HAD ENOUGH and have to walk away -- because it makes him happy and he seems to need the physical contact even though he can't be still enough to snuggle. But it's frustrating. John and I both love cuddling, and we ended up with a kid who won't cuddle. Every time I try to suggest that Marko sit on my lap, he hurls himself sideways to suspend himself upside-down by one arm. (But despite appearances, he does not actually want to get down. He will cry when told that I can't actually hold him like that.) If I sit next to him on the couch, first he leans on my belly with his elbows, and then he starts to lie across my lap, and then he crawls back and forth over me. If I sit on the floor -- which he loves -- he likes to stand on my shins and ankles. It's a constant balance, trying to give him a bit of what he needs (touch, without sitting still) and me what I need (NOT being hurt, plus some limits on how long I have to put up with it).

As a result, bedtime takes longer than it used to. Not that he isn't cooperating -- he's been great at bedtime lately. I have learned to keep reading together till we hear a yawn. Once he yawns, I finish the book and take him into the bedroom, and by that point he is almost always willing to sit quietly in my lap while I sing to him. He's usually out within ten minutes. No, the reason it takes a long time is that once he's still and snuggly and quiet, there's no way I can put him down. A certain amount of Marko snuggles are necessary for me to be a good mother. If I only ever interact with him when he's climbing all over me and fiddling with my hair, I lose patience. (This is why cosleeping always worked so well for us, I think. I definitely notice having more patience after a nap with him -- which I don't have when I nap without him.) (I miss naps.)

Because of this, I've decided not to tinker with his bedtime routine any more. I originally planned to try to teach him to fall asleep in his own bed before the baby came, so I could hold the baby while singing to Marko and getting him to sleep. But now I'm thinking that bedtime can be Marko's special time with Mama. We both really treasure that time. So the baby can sit in the bouncer, or be held by Daddy, or lie in the Moses basket, but that can be my time to hold Marko. There may be some nights, especially when John is away, that this is a hassle, and maybe even results in bedtime being later than I would like, but I think it's worth it. Marko's already going to be displaced enough; I don't want to cut out bedtime snuggles too.

Now that I've said that, though, I must say that once in awhile Marko is really uncooperative at bedtime and does the climbing and hanging thing in the hopes that I will give up and let him go back to playing. Usually that's my fault because I didn't wait till he was nice and tired. But I had to put some limits there or else he was going to start thinking bedtime is optional, which it isn't. So I would ask him, "Do you want to lie on your bed instead? You don't have to be in my arms, you can lie on your bed by yourself." Once he said yes, since then he says no. But if he keeps wiggling, I say, "You're too wiggly for Mama's lap. You have to be still and quiet on Mama's lap." So I lay him down in his bed. I tried lying down with him once, but that generally just means getting kicked in the stomach, so now I leave the room and shut the door. Invariably it's only a minute or so before Marko starts screaming, so I come back in and pick him up again. I tell him, "To be in my arms, you have to be still and quiet so I can sing to you." And he does. I haven't had to leave the room in at least two weeks, because when I remind him, he always settles down. (Of course, this is after months of constructing a bedtime routine that leaves him really sleepy at the end ... so all I need is for him to lie quietly in my arms for two minutes before he starts being too sleepy to protest anyway.)

Is that a punishment, a logical consequence, or what? I'm not sure, but it feels right to me. I am not trying to hurt him or upset him because he did the wrong thing. I'm just trying to show him that to get what he wants (rocking and singing) he has to do what I want (be still and quiet). He also has the option to stay in his bed and go to sleep without me ... though that's not what happens generally. (There actually have been two or three times when he has, usually when there's been something unusual going on and he's not as tired as usual. Out of desperation, we've left him in his bed after rocking him for an hour, only to find that he actually did fall asleep after a lot of talking to himself.)

In the realm of "what the heck is going on in my kid's brain?" here's something that happened yesterday. I was washing the kitchen floor when he came barrelling in, dashed across the kitchen, and went sliding on the wet floor. He landed flat on his back and cried just a tad. I picked him up and told him, "The floor is slippery in here, you can't run or you will fall." So he carefully walked out of the kitchen. Two minutes later he came barrelling back. I put up my arm and stopped him from running, reminding him again that the floor was wet and slippery and he would fall. He walked very carefully across the floor, turned around ... and tried to run out. Of course he slipped and fell again, and this time he cried a lot. I reminded him again that the floor was slippery and he would fall on it if he tried to run. Once he'd calmed down, he spent some time experimenting. He would run right up to the kitchen and then switch to a careful walk. Then a less careful walk. He'd slip with his feet a bit to see how slippery it was. But he didn't fall again.

I think he had to test the theory a few times just to see if it was true what I had said, "If you run, you will fall." How much running? How badly will the falling hurt? The feeling of slipping is pretty thrilling, is it worth it? What if I walk quickly? What if I tiptoe? I mostly just let him figure it out. It's so neat to watch him learn.

Less of a parenting "win" is this one: He's not allowed to stand up or walk on the bed, because he could fall and hurt himself pretty badly. So I would tell him, "No standing on the bed." But he clearly didn't get it, probably because it's a negative statement and he's not good with those. So I changed to "You must sit on the bed." That worked better. When I said that, he would sit down. I'd give him a big smile. Then he would start crawling around and glance at me. I'd smile at that, too. Then he'd stand up and give me a big smile -- and I'd get him down because he is not allowed to stand. He would be completely shocked, every time, and cry. This went on for weeks, and I couldn't figure it out.

Have you? It seems so obvious now that I think of it. I never told him crawling was okay. So when I said sitting, he would sit. But then he would "break the rule" and start crawling, and I was okay with that. So clearly I didn't mean what I'd said, so he could stand, too. Now I tell him, "Sitting, crawling, or lying down on the bed only. If you stand, you have to get down." And that pretty much does it. He does still test this limit often, but finally he seems to get it and we're making some progress.

This is such a fascinating age. Hard to believe that he'll be two in a month and a half!

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