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The Terrible Twos?

OR: A LOVE SONG FOR MY TODDLER

When people find out I have a two-year-old, they often shudder and say, “Oh, the terrible twos.” Then they deluge me with horror stories about children they either raised or knew, and the demonic lengths they went to in order to ensure the gradual erosion of their parents’ sanity.

For example, the two year old who threw a screaming tantrum in the middle of the grocery store every single time they went shopping, unless they bought her a treat. (That one is almost cliche, and even became a pro-condom ad.) 

Or the two year old who, when sent for a time out, took a can of Pledge with him and emptied it into the wall, permanently staining the paint and drywall beneath. The oil kept leaching out, no matter how often they repainted.

Or the two year old who announced that she had put her jam crackers into one of mommy’s books, but forgot which one. (Variations of that scenario still gives Nathan heart palpitations.)

Or the two year old who started refusing to pee when she didn’t get her way, and by the age of five was in kidney failure and on the list for a transplant.

When Tristan turned two, I was terrified. I kept waiting for my sweet little boy to be swapped for a screaming, manipulative, conniving monster –  one that I would be hard-pressed to love until his third birthday and he turned back into a person.

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Tristan keeping Cora and I company at the park.

But so far that hasn’t happened. Tristan continues to be a delight. He is kind to his sister, generous with his toys, patient when I’m too busy to play, and hilarious every single day. I can count the number of real tantrums he’s had on one hand. He has his moments and meltdowns, certainly, but he can usually be jollied out of them pretty easily. Even this last week, when he’s been dealing with soother withdrawal and a head cold, he’s been a champ.

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I know, it’s a post about Tristan, but look how cute she is eating grass!

He’s especially cute with his sister. If Cora is left alone in the playroom and starts to cry, Tristan runs back in where she can see him and says, “Don’t worry, Baby Cora. You’re not abandoned.” If he’s having a snack and she starts to fuss, he asks me to bring her some puffies. And whenever we go in the car, he grabs a toy for himself and two for his sister. I have yet to see him get angry at her or be violent in any way.

Siblings having a tent party. I wasn't invited.

Siblings having a tent party. I wasn’t invited.

And as proof of hilarity, here’s a recent exchange during diaper change…
Tristan: “I have don’t have to peepee right now.”
Me: “Good, I don’t want to get peepeed on.”
Tristan: “Peepee comes out of my penis. My mighty penis.”
Me, stifling laughter: “Did you say your mighty penis?!”
Tristan: “Yep!”
Me: “Who told you that?”
Tristan: “I did!”

With only two more months until Tristan’s birthday, I feel pretty confidant that we’ve  bypassed the terrible twos. And I’m going to pretend I never read the recent article in Today’s Parent that talked about how the Terrible Twos are a myth, and in reality it’s the Terrible Threes.

But you might be reading a completely different blog post a year from now.

Friday Fives: How Cora is different from Tristan

  1. She sucks her toes. I was promised that all babies went through a toe sucking stage, but Tristan never did. But Cora does enough cute toe-sucking to make up for his lack. See video evidence here.
  2. She’s less mobile. By this stage Tristan was already crawling (see refresher video evidence here), but Cora isn’t even rolling over yet. But she’s sitting like a pro!
  3. 20130822_075302She’s more smiley. Tristan was, and is, more serious, more of an observer. But Cora will smile at anything and anyone. I constantly get comments when I’m out with her because she’s such a flirt.
  4. She’s a worse sleeper. It seems to me that Tristan was only getting up once a night to feed, and he was napping like a pro by this age. Cora is still up and down with going to sleep. She’s up 1-3 times a night, and often doesn’t nap at all, but will just scream for a half hour until I get her up. But it’s possible that I’m just not remembering…that happens.
  5. She’s more chatty. Cora has lots of consonant sounds – she makes mumumum and bababa type babbling. Tristan didn’t start with most consonant sounds until after he was 1. At this age he was still just cooing and making little bird noises. It will be interesting to see if she talks sooner than he did.

But one thing that’s the same – they’re both the cutest babies in all the land!

Give me a break

In the last several weeks, a recurring theme has emerged in conversations I’ve been having with my other mommy friends. A few examples…

1.  My sister recently visited for 10 days from Halifax. Somebody said to me, “It’s so great your sister is staying with you, it must be giving you a real break.”

2. The other day my friend’s sister put her two toddlers to bed while she ran out and got some groceries. Her mother-in-law said to her, “That was so nice of your sister – it must have been a nice break from the kids.”

3. When another friend complained about being burned out and wanting some time away from the kids, her husband said, “What are you talking about? Your mom was just here for the long weekend, and now you need another break?”

I’m sure you noticed the word that all these scenarios  have in common. It’s funny how often people throw that word around  moms with small children. As if any slight change in routine or extra pair of hands on deck is automatically a break.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the above examples were  helpful. It’s absolutely helpful to get the grocery shopping done without having to haul Cora around in the sling and have Tristan trying to play hide-and-seek in the freezer section. But is it a break? No. It’s awesome to have company help with the kids, to entertain them, to bathe them, to read them stories. It’s helpful, but it’s not a break. Going to my mom’s for dinner so I don’t have to cook or clean? Wonderful! A break? Nope.

The thing is, parenting, especially part-time single-parenting, isn’t just taking care of the kids. It’s the kids, the groceries, the laundry (by gods, the laundry), the cooking, and the cleaning. Oh, the cleaning. It’s keeping the floors and carpets in some semblance of cleanliness because little hands and feet and faces are all over them. It’s keeping the tub reasonably clean because there are two baths a day in it and they drink the bathwater, even if they’ve just peed in it – especially if they’ve just peed in it. It’s having to clean the toilet every damn day because Tristan needs to empty his potty into it himself, and his hands are all over the seat and the bowl, and try catching him for a handwash before he runs to the fridge to get his reward of a yogurt raisin. It’s not having 5 minutes for a morning shower without playing peek-a-boo around the shower curtain. It’s the crazy hours from 5-8 when I have to bath Cora, nurse her, put her to bed, get Tristan’s dinner ready, eat with him, bath him, put him to bed, read stories, sing a song and kiss him goodnight. It’s the dozen little jobs that have been on my mind for six months, and I think maybe I’ll be able to check one of them off tonight but by the time I close his door, all I have the energy for is a half hour of something brainless and an early night. Because I’ll be up 2-3 times with Cora, plus 1-3 times with Tristan to fetch his soother, and 5:30 is going to come around awfully damn early. 

So if somebody is around and helps me with one or two of those things, that’s great, it’s helpful, and I’m thankful, I really am. But unless I’m either a) out of the house, sans children, not doing chores; b) in the bath with a glass of wine and a book; or c) asleep, then it’s not a break. And by that criteria, I can count the number of breaks I’ve had since Cora was born on one hand. And still have a finger or two left over.

Okay, I’ve cleared the air and the pity party is now over. But while I think of it, does anybody want to babysit this weekend? I could really use a break.

Soother Fairy

When you talk about soothers with new moms, the subject can get very heated. Some believe that sucking is the best way to soothe a baby, and therefore a soother is the only thing that makes sense. Others believe it causes all sorts of problems, from dependence, insecurity to things like bad teeth.

IMG_7701When I was pregnant with Tristan, I swore up and down that he’d never have a soother. I wasn’t going to have one of those kids who had a soother in his mouth all the time. Then, just before he was born, my mom bought me a couple, “just in case”. I was actually pretty angry, as I’d made my anti-soother stance clear. However, I put them in a drawer, determined never to use them.

When Tristan was two weeks old, the colic began. My angel was replaced by a non-stop screaming demon. We tried everything to get him to stop crying. I read books, blogs, watched helpful DVDs. All the experts said that sucking helped to soothe babies. And he was too little to suck his thumb.

BEFORE

BEFORE

I think he was about 4 weeks old the first time I put a soother in his mouth, and I actually cried a little. I felt like I had failed him already. But it worked. When he was upset, sleepy, angry, whatever – just pop that baby in his mouth and he’d suck on it happily.

AFTER

AFTER

 

He was just over a year old when we made the soother-only-at-bedtime rule, and that worked pretty well. Occasionally if he was very upset he’d get it during the day, but mostly it stayed in the crib.

The main trouble was that sometimes he’d lose it in the night. We had to put up bumpers in his crib to keep the soother from falling on the floor. Even that wasn’t good enough – invariably it would fall down the edge of the mattress. Soon we had two soothers in the crib, then three. Anything to keep from having to get up in the night and hunt them down.

0R4A3611-001Then came the switch to the big boy bed. That brought a whole new level of  problems, because now the soother could fall down between the headboard and the mattress, and the only way to retrieve it was to move the whole bed. We needed a bevy of emergency backup soothers on the bookshelf, so if he lost one in the night we could grab a spare, pop it in his mouth, and go back to bed.

pod_4That worked okay until the last few months. Tristan has become not so much of a soother-sucker as a soother-chewer. When it’s in his mouth, he’s holding onto it and chewing on the rubber piece. Which turns the sanity-saving pacifier into a sanity-degrading choking hazard. We’ve had to buy 4 new soothers in the last 3 months; he chews holes in them faster than I can keep track of them.

A few days ago I had to throw out two of the remaining three soothers, leaving only one. Which means when he loses it in the night, I have to turn on the light and hunt that sucker down. This on top of getting up 3-4 times a night with a sick Cora. So I decided enough is enough. Enter the soother fairy.

fairyThis magical creature is related to the tooth fairy, but instead of taking teeth she takes soothers. In exchange, she leaves a toy. I got the idea from a friend, and it worked well for her little guy. So Tristan and I have been talking about the soother fairy for a while, and finally he decided he was old enough to leave his soother out for her.

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The note, the soother, and a cookie for the fairy.

After talking about it, telling stories about it, and making a plan, it was decided we’d write her a note today, and ask for a puzzle in exchange. So it should have come as no surprise that today Tristan came down with a head cold. Surely not the best time to attempt soother removal. However, he was keen to get the new puzzle. (“Maybe the yoother fairy will bring a BIG puzzle!”)  We wrote the note, but by the time I put him to bed he was pretty miserable. I lay down with him, but he just tossed and turned and kept bringing his hand to his mouth, as if to tug on the missing soother. After a full hour of this he started to whimper, murmuring that he wasn’t a big boy yet. Finally he broke down and asked for it, and I gave in. I guess we’ll try for the puzzle another day,  when he’s feeling better. In the mean time, I guess I just have to be resigned to a few soother-retrieval trips every night. Sigh…

To be continued, hopefully soon.

Friday Fives: Funny Phrases

Now that Tristan is talking so much, it’s hard to remember what it was like before he was verbal. He’s always been hilarious, and talking just adds a whole other layer of funniness to him. Here’s a few of his most recent gems.

  1. The other day he held out a kinderegg and said, “Mommy, open it.” We’re working on saying please, so I said, “Excuse me? Is there a better way to ask that?” So he chucked it hard at my leg and said, “Open it UP!”
  2. Nathan and I were discussing pregnancy, and I mentioned peeing on a stick (no, we’re not pregnant nor will we be trying!). About 2 minutes later, after the conversation had moved on, Tristan said, “Pee on a stick? That sounds awful!”
  3. I was asking what he wanted for breakfast, and said, “You have two options, cereal or waffles.” He considered it, then said, “How about THREE options?”
  4. Still on the option topic, it was time to clean up and I said he had the option to pick up his puzzles or put away his cars. He lay down on the toy chest and said, “Those aren’t good options. They bad options. They mean options. I have no options.”
  5. Apparently he listens too closely to me, because after doing an inadequate job of washing his hands the other day, he said, “Good enough. That means not perfect, but all that I feel like doing.”

Halifax HO!

On Friday the 10th, Tristan and I are going to Halifax to visit Auntie Sarah and Uncle Corey. Tristan is very excited about the trip, and is helping me to pack. If only I could actually send him in the suitcase!

Happy half-birthday, sweet one.

Dear Tristan,

Last week you turned one-and-a-half. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how much you’ve grown. Physically, you still top the charts; at 31.5 lbs and 86 cm, you are still in the 95th percentile. But though you have a Budda belly, and a few rolls in your thighs, you’re not a fat kid. Your eyes have settled into a rich shade of brown, and your hair is almost blonde, with that cute little curl at the nape of your neck.

You’re sturdy and solid, but light on your feet. You climb like a pro, love to dance and jog on the spot, and still flap your arms when you’re excited. You have an easy smile and a contagious grin, but you don’t lose yourself in laughter over every little thing. But when something does strike you as funny, you’ll laugh until you’re breathless. However, you’re just as likely to have a frown of concentration or determination on your face.

As you have been all along, you’re a watcher and a thinker. In any new environment, you take in everything around you, pointing out both the new and the familiar. You’ve recently become very social, losing your old shyness. You hug random kids at the playground (sometimes a little too enthusiastically), and will sit on any adult’s lap who will take you. You’re happy to share your toys, and don’t get upset when other kids take what you were playing with.

Right now, your favorite toys are Frank the rabbit, your kitty, the plastic T-Rex that Grampa gave you (which loves to drink milk and eat cheerios), mega blocks, and trains. In fact, trains and trucks have become an obsession with you. You sign every time you see a truck or bus, and squeal in excitement. You also love animals, and point out every one we see, be it mammal, bird, fish or bug. Recently at Grampa’s you tamed the rabbits in two days by bringing them greens to eat, and delighted in looking for worms under a stump. You also spent a day at the beach communicating with a crowing rooster – perhaps we should have given you the middle name Doolittle.

Your favorite foods are bread and jam, yogurt, fruit of almost any sort, but especially berries, oranges and mango. You also love graham crackers and granola bars. You’ve stopped eating most veggies, but still love carrot muffins. You’ve also gone off bananas, which was a surprise. But you like spicy food, and sushi is still always a hit. As long as the California Roll has cucumber in it, and not the dreaded avocado.

Other stats – you have 12 teeth (4 each front top and bottom, one molar on each side, no eyeteeth), you know about 60 signs (mostly food, animals, toys and trucks), you only have a few words (no, woof, meow, moo and maybe mama?), and you love wearing hats.

In every way, you are an absolute delight. You are thoughtful, funny, goofy, determined, incredibly patient, persistent, friendly and easy-going. Everybody who knows you is madly in love with you, and your extended family hates that we live so far away. It might only be across the straight, but for your adoring Omi, Gramma and Grampa, it might as well be the moon. Never mind poor Auntie Sarah, who hasn’t seen you in nearly a year. Hopefully we’ll remedy that this summer. Though, it must be admitted, I’m apprehensive about a 7 hour flight with you. Hopefully you’ll sleep as easily as you do in the car.

This isn’t a new sentiment coming from a mother, but it’s true. You bring wonder, delight and joy into my life in a way I never thought possible. It’s been a privilege getting to know you, and I look forward to watching you develop into the boy you’ll become. I love you with all my heart and soul.

Your momma.