So apparently, parents don’t need sleep. No one tells you this. It’s not in books. It is not common knowledge and, the other parents that could tell you about it, are too damn tired to bring it up in casual conversation.
With that said, three year olds don’t sleep either. At least, not when you want them to. And especially with no kind of consistent pattern. They also, all of a sudden, have all of these new rules about sleeping. For example, a certain three year old in my home (who, let me say, previously went to bed on a very standard schedule, needed a dark room, and always slept a minimum of 10 hours at a time) has suddenly decided that he needs 2 night-lights, the hall light on, the bedroom door open, and one of his parents on the floor next to his bed in order to even consider going to sleep. And, even then, might just flat-out refuse.
Now, (and I want to make this perfectly clear) when I am on the floor, I do NOT sleep. I also have a very strict rule about putting Noah in the bed with us. [Mommy and daddy’s bed is not for kids.] So Matt, being the amazing and selfless individual that he is, has been sleeping on the floor with Noah for the past month since Noah has decided that he is afraid of everything in his room. I keep trying to think of an alternative option and Matt says, “No big deal. I can sleep where ever.”
This horrible situation has been working for us for the past few weeks. However, I can’t sleep on the floor and Matt can’t keep sleeping on the floor forever.
Well, last week, Matt had to go out of town for work and I was left to be a single parent of a toddler for 4 days. This meant, of course, that I would take over “sleeping on the floor” duties while he was away. The thought of this made me cringe so, without any hesitation, I headed directly to the mattress store, dropped $300 on a very nice twin mattress set, and made a “Mommy bed” in Noah’s room. I bet you can probably guess what happened next…
Me- “Okay, Noah. It’s time for you to get in your bed and mommy will get in the bigger bed.”
Noah- “NOOOO! I want the new, big bed!!!”
Me- “No. You can sleep in your bed and I can sleep in the big bed. Or you can sleep in the big bed and I can sleep in my room. You choose.”
Noah- “But, I’m scared. [Insert super sad Noah face here.]
Me- “If we put your mattress directly on the floor next to my mattress, will that help?”
Noah- “I think so.”
Both of us got a full night’s sleep.
Nights 2 & 3:
Me- “Okay, Noah. It’s time for you to get in your bed and mommy will get in the bigger bed.”
Noah- “NOOOO! I want the big bed!!!”
Me- “No. You can sleep in your bed and I can sleep in the big bed. Or you can sleep in the big bed and I can sleep in my room. You choose.”
Noah then runs around his room, playing with toys, pulling the covers off of me, asking for milk, asking to go to the bathroom, and then finally settling down in his bed.
After learning from his teachers that he had several tantrums throughout the day at school, thrown a toy truck at a kid in his class, stolen a prize out of the surprise box, drenched me in gallons and gallons of water during his bath, refused to eat any of his supper, and kicked me more times than I could count, it was finally time for bed.
Me- “Get in your damn bed!”
Noah- “NOOOO! I want the big bed!!!”
And now, this is my life.
While I completely understand that dogs are not kids, and kids are not dogs (although there was this one time that Noah stripped down naked and ran his butt across the carpet), I first became a mom 10 years ago when we adopted Kenan.
I didn’t grow up with dogs. Mom was always a cat person and, turns out, I am severely allergic to cats so I never really got all that attached. But the summer before my senior year in college, Matt moved to Chapel Hill, we got our own apartment, and, long before Noah was even a possibility, we decided to head over to the Orange County animal shelter and become parents.
There was nothing amazing about the little brown and white puppy at the shelter. He was tiny, had a swollen belly, and he walked as though his back legs were a little shorter than his front ones. My mom even said later, “Of all the cute puppies there, why did you pick that one?” (Thanks mom- sarcastic tone intended) But he was mine. I knew it the minute I saw him. Kenan was my first dog and I was his mom.
Now, the first few years were interesting. We learned that Kenan is not like other dogs. In fact, I have begun to refer to him as a special needs dog. He just has some very peculiar quirks that only a mother could love. For example, Kenan talks. And when he talks, he has inflection and emotion. You know exactly what he is saying to you even if you don’t understand the words. And sometimes, he yells at you. If you are in his seat on the couch, he will lay his head on your knee and howl and bellow at you until you finally get tired of it and get up.
We have to give him sedatives to go to the vet because he really hates it there. We actually left our last vet because they labeled his file as “vicious dog.” Now, we have an amazing vet who takes her lab coat and stethoscope off before she comes in the room. Then she slathers one hand in peanut butter, gets down on the floor with him so he can lick it off, and then examines him without him even knowing it.
All his quirkiness aside, he has been there for Matt and me through thick and thin. He has challenged us, comforted us, protected us, and scared us half to death. One time, we were visiting family in Asheville for the holidays and Kenan managed to escape out of the car and run across a major highway (3 times!). Fortunately, it was Christmas day and the road was somewhat empty but I nearly had a heart attack.
He moved with us from Chapel Hill to Cincinnati and lived in the tiniest apartment you could imagine. We finally got him into a bigger house when we moved back to North Carolina and he had his own fenced in back yard (which he protects and guards 24/7). We have walked hundreds of miles with him right beside us and he has peed on every tree and fire hydrant at every park in Greensboro. And he has comforted me in times of deep sadness and fear with those same sparkly eyes that I fell in love with so long ago in the animal shelter.
Well, last winter, we noticed that Kenan was starting to walk a little funny- almost as though his back hips hurt a little. We took him to the vet and, because the vet is such a horrible experience for him, she gave him some anti-inflammatory meds for what seemed to be a little arthritis. It seemed to work a little and then all of the stress from the holidays distracted us and pulled our thoughts in different directions.
In February of this year, we noticed that Kenan was starting to curl his back toes a little when he walked which caused him to drag one of his legs slightly. We assumed it was the arthritis getting worse and took him back to the vet for confirmation. She agreed, prescribed some more meds, and asked us to keep an eye on him for any progression.
We took him and Poplar (his little sister who is a black lab mix) to the beach in late May and it became very evident to us that something was seriously wrong. His foot prints in the sand looked as if he was dragging rolling luggage behind him. His back end started to drop if he stood too long and Matt had to carry him up and down the stairs.
The crazy part is that it seemed as though the front half of him had no idea that the back half didn’t work anymore. He ran down to the ocean, chased seagulls, and protected the beach house from potential threats just as he always had. He was just much slower. And when we got back home, he would still take off running out to the back yard and, on occasion, his back legs would go flying off to the side and bang into the sliding glass door.
His condition had progressed so quickly that, when we took him to the vet when we got back, she immediately referred us to a neurologist. She suspected and later confirmed with a blood test that Kenan has Degenerative Myelopathy which has an incredibly sad prognosis (the disease can be compared to ALS in humans).
Fortunately, there is not a lot of pain associated with the disease and, it doesn’t appear as though Kenan is even aware that something is wrong. But, at the end of the day, he is my first baby. The joy that I have gotten in watching Kenan and Noah interact and play has been tremendous. I truly don’t think Kenan knowsthat he is not a human as he and Noah play and bicker like brothers. Noah shares his snacks, pets him on the head, and talks to Kenan in a way that you would talk to your best friend.
The idea of saying goodbye to Kenan when he is still so vibrant and enthusiastic breaks my heart in a way that I never knew was possible. And, even though I am a counselor and I am trained to help others cope, I suck at grief. Just as you change when you have a child, you change when you adopt a dog. I didn’t choose Kenan that day in Chapel Hill; he chose me. And, while I truly do hope that I have so much more time with him to show him how much he has given to me, I would like to think that he would choose to be part of our family all over again.
I really wish I hadn’t taken for granted the days, long ago, when Matt and I could go to the beach, bathe in the sun, drink beer while we relax in the sand, and totally zone out/nap while we wait for the waves to roll up on our toes.
Now… we have Noah.
The beach is a very different experience with an almost 3 year old boy. First, if we want to enjoy our vacation as well as bring Noah along on our trip, we have to bring reinforcements. No more do we get romantic getaways. We get family vacations with parents and in-laws because, as we have learned in Noah’s short life, there can never be too many adult eyes on him.
Our beach vacation started each day with Noah waking up at 6am asking to “go see the ocean.” By this he means, wake everyone up in the house, screw putting on a bathing suit or eating breakfast, let’s go, now!
Matt and I would spend an hour convincing him that the “ocean didn’t open until 9am” and Granny and Grampy aren’t allowed to get up before 7am. We were forced to watch horrible television like Little Einsteins (which makes me want to poke my eyes out) while Noah asked every 30 seconds, “Is it 7 yet?”
Once Noah was finally allowed to wake everyone up, we shoved breakfast in him, I chugged a cup of coffee, and the long process of getting ready begins.
First, Matt and I get our bathing suits and sunscreen on while Noah shouts, “Hey! Watch me!” and then he does some awkward jump or dance or something that he thinks is amazing.
Second, once we are totally, 100% ready (as we know we have to be because as soon as Noah is ready, there will be very little time before a meltdown ensues), we get Noah’s suit on. He is very particular about his clothes so this process probably takes much longer than it should as he only has 3 or 4 suits to choose from (Dinosaurs or sharks? Green or orange? I don’t like this one, change it. This one pulls funny. This one has a weird tag. Etc.).
Third, here comes the sunscreen. And even though we put sunscreen on this child every single morning before school, and school puts sunscreen on him every single afternoon after nap, this is a fight. Noah is lucky enough to have the whitest of white genes from his mother. Noah’s skin is so incredibly fair that it is almost translucent. I don’t trust the spray for the initial application so Matt has to hold him down while I lather him with 50+ sensitive skin sunscreen. I get kicked in the face a few times, he yanks and pulls my hair and my bathing suit (exposing more than my in-laws care to see I am sure), and then he complains for 5 minutes that I got sunscreen in his eyes. I do use the spray sunscreen for the cowlick on his head. I put a hat on him and rummage around for his beach flip flops.
Are we ready to go to the beach yet? Of course not. Now, I have to get the cooler ready. Is it full of beer and tequila? Of course not. It has juice boxes, popsicles, bottled water, and fruit snacks. I then make a separate bag with crackers, pretzels, chips, cookies, and anything else I think he may have an instant craving for (I really don’t want to risk having to go back to the house just for a granola bar). I then shove a diaper in there (because he still refuses to poop in the potty), lots of wash cloths, towels, more sunscreen, sunglasses, and another hat in case the one he is wearing gets wet or lost.
Are we ready to go to the beach yet? Well, Noah and I are. Matt still has to carry all of the beach chairs down (that we won’t sit in until Noah takes a nap back at the house), beach blankets, shovels, rakes, buckets, dinosaur shapes, shark toys, umbrellas, and toy trucks.
Now- we are all at the beach! If you could possibly close your eyes and imagine what pure happiness looks like, it would be Noah playing on the beach.
He dug holes.
He threw sand.
He ran, and ran, and ran.
He dug more holes.
He went on missions to find other places to dig holes.
He jumped in puddles (so much that his suit would get loose and little chubby butt-cheeks would poke out… then I’d have to put sunscreen on them).
He fought the ocean. And I mean punched, kicked, stomped every wave that came up to him. As the waves would start to break he would yell, “Come on ocean! Let’s fight!” Then he would handle business.
And then we would start all over again. For 7 days straight.
We live in a great little neighborhood with amazing neighbors. We are also very fortunate that our next door neighbors have a son that is only a couple months older than Noah. His name is Gus.
Well, a few weeks ago, while the boys were playing and riding bikes in the neighborhood cul-de-sac, Gus was wearing a Lightning McQueen helmet handed down to him from his big brother. He looked super cute and, of course, Noah just had to have a helmet too.
We don’t have a helmet. And thus, the drama ensued…
Noah had to have a hat (which is obviously second place to a Lightning McQueen helmet). We run all the way back to the house, search for his hat, panic a little when we can’t find it, Matt finds it, and I run back out to give Noah the hat. Well, by this time, Gus is tired of wearing the helmet. He takes it off, sets it on the ground next to his juice box, and continues riding his bike.
This is Noah’s opportunity. Noah sneaks over and, very quietly and gently so that no one would notice, puts the helmet on. Well, if you have boys, I am sure that you are aware that there is some kind of hormonal signal that goes off when another kid wants to play with your toys. Gus immediately stops everything that he is doing, jumps off of his bike, and demands that Noah takes the helmet off. So, Gus’s mother and I rush over to intervene. We offer suggestion after suggestion about sharing, taking turns, you weren’t wearing it, you have a hat instead, etc…
At this point, there is no sharing, no learning opportunity to be had, no calming Noah down as tears are flowing and wails can be heard 3 blocks away. Gus doesn’t want to wear the helmet but he sure as heck doesn’t want Noah to wear it either. Matt takes Noah inside, kicking and screaming, and I am left to gather Noah’s toys and head home.
[Side note: As I am gathering the bike and the scooter and the other toys, Gus comes up to me with a very sly smile and says, “Can I wear Noah’s hat?” I looked at Gus and then I looked at his mother. I said, “Really kid? After all that? No, sweetie. You can’t wear Noah’s hat. Put on your helmet.” And then his mom and I just giggled.]
And, this brings us to this past weekend- the weekend of the helmet.
Saturday morning, my wonderful husband decides that, in order to prevent another “helmet incident” that we should go and buy Noah his own helmet. We needed some other things at Target so, why not?! Let’s go get the kid his very own helmet.
We stroll into the store, buy the random odds and ends that were on my list, and head over to the sporting goods area. Noah picks out a helmet with Dusty the crop-duster on it. Everyone is very excited. We also just absolutely had to have a new Superman T-shirt with a cape and mommy was tired so she caved.
After paying for everything, the moment I put my wallet back into my purse, Noah demanded that he put on the Superman cape right away. So, as mentioned before, mommy was tired. I pulled Noah’s dinosaur shirt off, ripped the tags off of the Superman shirt, and put it on him. Now he was excited!
We ran a couple other errands while he insisted the entire time that I get the helmet out so he could wear it. The tags and wrapping of the helmet required a little more effort than the t-shirt so he had to wait until we got home.
The minute we walked in the door, “Mommy, can I wear my helmet?”
“Of course you can. Let me get it out.”
“Mommy, I need my helmet!”
“Matt, I can’t get this stupid helmet open. Help!”
“Mommy, I need my helmet NOW!!!”
“Fine! Here is your helmet. Put it on!”
So, we venture outside to work in the yard. Noah helps me water my plants.
Before his nap, I convince him that little boys are not allowed to wear helmets to bed. But he had to sleep with it in his room.
After his nap, it was a little too hot to go outside right away so we finally watched Frozen for the first time.
Then we ate dinner.
The next day, we actually wore the helmet to ride our bike. This time, we also needed our Dusty sunglasses.
We got tired of riding our bike.
So Daddy had to carry the bike home.
That evening, I hid the helmet.
Do you ever have those nights when you just have a gut feeling that you should go to bed early because the night might just be a little more than usual? Well, last night was one of those nights.
We put Noah down around 8:30pm (in his new toddler-bed, might I add). Matt and I discussed staying up and watching a movie or one of the many shows on the DVR that we haven’t gotten around to yet. But, finally, after finishing the dishes and putting a load of clothes in the dryer, decided we were just too tired and got in bed around 9:30pm.
At 11:30pm, I hear that sound come over the baby monitor that every mother knows. It is the shrill scream/cry that bellows “Come and get me right now! I don’t know exactly what is wrong but something is wrong with me!”
After assessing the situation, Matt decides he can handle it alone (he is the designated nighttime respondent after all) and I go back to sleep. About 30 minutes later, Matt screams up from downstairs, “I need a little help down here!”
I get down there to find my sobbing baby boy, completely non-responsive to any regular means of comforting, just moaning and groaning about his tummy-ache, just rubbing his belly and saying, in the saddest and most pitiful voice you can imagine, “It hurts, mommy. My tummy hurts so bad.”
Well, we tried everything. We got him ice cubes- it didn’t help. We got in the bath tub- it didn’t help. He asked me to hold him (except he says, “Mommy, I want to hold you” and it is the cutest thing in the world)- it didn’t help. We got into mommy and daddy’s bed- it didn’t help.
I finally offered to go back to his room and lay down in his bed with him until he could fall asleep. That seemed to sound like a good idea to him so we left Matt in the big bed and headed to Noah’s room. Keep in mind that it is now 2:30am.
When we get to his room, he asked me to sit on the floor first because he wanted to sit in my lap. (Whatever he wants at this point, right?) I get down on the floor, he looks me straight in the face, and just as he is opening his mouth to ask me a question, the vomit comes shooting out at, what seems like, lightning speed. Of course, I do the only instinctual thing that I know every mother does, I put my hands out in front of him, forming a “hand bucket” of sorts, and try to catch the vomit before it gets all over me.
Of course, my hands can only catch a fraction of the vomit. Also, I am screaming to Matt, “Get in here and bring towels- lots of towels!” The vomit- full of hot dog chunks, cream cheese and wheat thins, and blueberries- is everywhere. It is on my feet, all over my shirt, and somehow it made it like 6 feet across the room. It smells worse than any smell I have smelled in a very long time. And, within seconds, it is overflowing my “hand bucket” and spilling out onto the rug.
Then, hearing my calls of desperation, Matt shows up with the smallest hand towel I have ever seen. (Seriously!? A hand towel?!) He cleans up Noah and starts to wipe up the floor. All the while, I am sitting on the floor, hands full of vomit, unable to move for fear that the minute I try to stand up, I will spill the entire contents of my “hand bucket” onto the rug, even further tainting my baby’s room with that rancid hot dog vomit smell.
So I say in a very impatient voice, “Matt, help me!”
He realizes my predicament, wraps my hands up with a towel (only slightly larger than the first hand towel he brought in), and helps me up off of the floor. I walk down the hallway to the guest bathroom only to realize that the toilet seats are down, my hands, full of vomit, are wrapped tightly in a towel, and I have to figure out how to get the vomit from my “hand bucket” into the toilet without spilling it everywhere in the bathroom and without dumping the towel into the toilet (I did not want anyone to have to figure out how to clean that up later).
Being the incredibly flexible person that I am (please note the extreme sarcasm intended here), I lean far enough over to the side so that I can lift the toilet seats up with my feet, careful not to spill the vomit. I then shimmy the towel off of my hands into the bathroom sink, only spilling a few small chunks into the sink. Next, I shake my hands with a ferocity never seen before, getting every last chunk of vomit into the toilet, because all I want to do at this point is get as far away from the vomit as possible.
I scrub my hands about 6 times with every kind of soap I can get my hands on. I then jump in the shower and quickly scrub my legs and feet. I realize I can still smell the vomit on my hands so I scrub them with way too much hand sanitizer. I change my clothes, and go get Noah who is still very sad and pitiful and complaining about his tummy. Now he is also upset that he got his “carpet all messy.”
We go downstairs and curl up on the couch. We turn on Jake and the Neverland Pirates while he sucks his thumb and rubs his belly. Matt stays upstairs to scrub the carpet, Lysol the crap out of the room, and put everything into the washing machine (I can hear him gag several times because, trust me, this stuff was rank).
He looks directly at me, takes the latex gloves off, and says, “Next time, don’t scream for a towel. Tell me to get a bucket.”
I would characterize myself as a bit of a “psycho” about respecting and understanding the appropriate developmental stages that Noah is stumbling through as I don’t want to be the person that screws him up by forcing him into something that he’s not quite ready for. As a result, we have waited on him to tell us when he is ready to start potty training. Well, apparently, he made that very clear at preschool because, a week ago, his teachers told us, “He’s ready. Bring lots of extra clothes and put that boy in underwear.”
Well, we were excited. We spent that weekend picking out big boy underwear, practiced asking to go to the potty, talked about what it feels like to be a big boy. You name it. We were ready.
We have a little children’s potty that looks like a frog. We set it up in the bathroom and made sure it was where Noah wanted it. Saturday morning, first thing when I got him up out of bed, he tells me, “Mommy, I need to pee.” I pick him up, I rush him downstairs, he stands in front of the potty, and his pee shoots completely past the potty, over the frog, and lands about 4 feet beyond where it is supposed to land. It shocked me to the point that I squealed a bit, which caused him to turn and look at me, causing the pee to cover the walls and floor of the bathroom. I then had to get past the fact that my bathroom is covered in pee (and it was that first-thing-in-the-morning really pungent smelling pee too) and celebrate and high-five and make a huge deal about how proud I am of him. And, don’t get me wrong, I am unbelievably proud of his amazingly quick processing of the idea of potty training. And I know he is so proud of himself too. I just don’t quite understand how a 3 foot tall human being can pee 4 feet past the potty.
He had done so well throughout the week and his teachers were so proud of him. Every day they sent home notes about how great he had done. We had 2 days where he only had 1 accident and 1 day where he actually came home in the same outfit that I sent him to school in. Amazing! Well, by Friday, laundry hadn’t gotten done and he hadn’t been wearing his extra clothes all that much anyways, so I only sent 3 extra pairs of shorts and 3 extra pairs of underwear to school. (Previously, I had been sending 5 shirts, 5 shorts, 5 underwear, and 3 pairs of socks.)
I am on my way home from work on Friday and Matt texts me, “You won’t believe what your son is wearing.” Well, I know it is going to either be really bad or really funny. I pull up to the house and go to open the door from the garage into our laundry room, and the door won’t budge. I hear Noah scream on the other side. He has pinned himself up against the door, screaming in a tantrum because Daddy wants him to change his clothes. During the day, he had had several accidents and had gone through all of his extra clothes. His last accident involved pooping some on the playground and pooping a little bit more on himself while his teacher tried to rush him inside to the potty. Since he had gone through all of his clothes, they had to rummage through their stash of extra clothing. He was wearing bright pink and white checked shorts, size 5T. They were huge and baggy and he loved them! He finally let us change him out of them at bath time.
Noah has always liked to take his sweet time when it came to pooping (as many men do). He requires that everyone else leave the room to give him some privacy. He doesn’t want anyone to watch him and he likes to stop gradually throughout the process to play with some toys or watch TV. Well, this has made the pooping-portion of the potty training rather difficult. He absolutely refuses to sit on the potty to poop. He makes us take his big boy underwear off, put his diaper on, leave him alone to poop, and then put his underwear back on after he’s done.
His teachers suggested to us that we either force him on to the potty or buy cheap underwear and throw them away (but be sure to point out that he is making us throw his bog boy underwear in the trash). Well, he screams bloody-murder if you try to put him on the potty and I don’t like the idea of shaming him when we throw away his underwear so I am a bit stuck. I have resigned myself to just deal with it until he has mastered the peeing portion.
However, this weekend, we went with some friends to a spring football game. Before the game, we all met at an outside cookout that had very sub-par bathrooms. Well, of course, Noah announces that he has to poop. So, I leave the cookout and walk to the Caribou Coffee next door. I had to get the key to use the bathroom. I try to get Noah to sit on the potty but, of course, he screams. I don’t want to get arrested for child abuse so I put a diaper on him. He makes me leave the bathroom. I stand outside the bathroom door (checking on him about every 3 minutes), a line of college girls is forming outside the door as I apologize profusely. These 19 year old girls don’t understand and don’t give a crap about my 2 year old’s pooping issues.
Finally, he handles his business. Matt and I later discussed how many more fun things he and I are going to miss out on because we are hanging out in the bathroom while Noah is pooping.
Well, by yesterday (10 days in to potty training), we could finally tell that Noah was doing really well and he was starting to figure out how to manipulate mommy and daddy throughout this potty training process. He had been doing so well and we weren’t constantly asking him if he needed to pee. Well, the minute we let our guard down, he comes in to the kitchen while I’m cooking supper, with a huge smile on his face and says, “Mommy, I peed in my shoes!”
At some point in the evening, he had taken his socks off and put his shoes back on without socks. When he peed in his pants, the pee ran down his legs and filled his sneakers up with pee. Now, if you have read my posts in the past, you know that Noah is very picky about shoes and, therefore, only has one pair of sneakers that he will wear. That pair of sneakers was currently swimming in pee.
I immediately try to figure out what the heck I am supposed to do with these shoes that will get them clean and ready for school the next day. As cleaning is not an innate thing for me, I do the only thing I know how to do, I scrub them in the sink with Dawn dish soap (it cleans everything, right?) and throw them in the dryer. This morning, the shoes are clean, the shoes are dry, and the shoes don’t smell anymore. Problem solved, right? Noah puts the shoes on and immediately starts complaining, “These shoes are too tight!!”
The damn shoes shrunk!! He went to school in crocs today and I will figure it out later.
I will be the first one to tell you that I am not perfect, Matt and I are not perfect parents, and Noah is certainly not a perfect child. He’s pretty awesome, but far from perfect. Currently, as all two year olds do, he is testing his boundaries, exploring his world, and learning how to relate to others and communicate by watching and mimicking the other kids and adults in his life.
With that said, Matt and I have had to learn to be super conscious about our behaviors and our words at all times. And, while we have failed many, many times, I think we are doing a pretty good job at modeling good behaviors, using our words to communicate emotions and needs, and practicing lots of appropriate behaviors in hopes that Noah will mimic the good stuff.
[At least I thought we were doing a pretty good job.]
This morning, we were running a little late and, when Noah asked for seconds of his breakfast, we just didn’t have time to make that happen. So, after he was dressed and ready for school, I asked him if he would like a cup of cereal to have in the car. Here is the gist of the conversation that followed.
Me: “Noah, do you want Cheerios in a cup to eat in the car?”
Noah: “No Mrs. Mommy! Teddy Grahams!”
Me: “Okay. Teddy Grahams it is.”
Noah: “TEDDY GRAAAAAAHAMS!!!”
Me: “Okay, okay… here are your Teddy Grahams. Just be sure not to let the doggies get them.”
Noah immediately and (I am assuming) accidentally drops one on the floor. Poplar, our voraciously hungry Black Lab, dives in and gobbles it up without even chewing. And then it happened…
Noah: “Oh Shit!”
Matt: “Did he just say what I think he said?!”
Me: “Yeah I think so. What do we do??”
Matt: “I think we should ignore it and just hope it doesn’t happen again. But I think I have heard him say it before.”
Me: “What!? We’ve been working so hard at not saying that.”
Matt: “Apparently not hard enough.”
[But wait… this amazing morning couldn’t possibly get worse or make me feel more like a terrible parent could it???]
I get to Noah’s classroom, give him a big hug and kiss, and wave good-bye as he runs off to grab a toy and play next to his best friend Abigail.
One of his teachers comes up to me and, in a whisper tone, asks me if she can have a word with me. She informs me that Noah has been saying “shit” quite a bit for the last week or so when he gets frustrated. She said he will even clinch his fat little fists and stomp around in a circle saying, “shit, shit, shit.”
Seriously!? My precious little Noah?? He’s the kid that cusses??
When she tells me this, my emotions go from totally ashamed and embarrassed (How could we have done this to my sweet little baby? We try so hard to model good behavior and look at what is happening!)…
…To shear concern (What do you do when he does this? What advice do you have so that we can appropriately address this behavior without making a big deal out of it?)…
…To angry and defensive (How long has this been going on? Why are you just now telling me about it? I am sure there is some other kid in here who is teaching him this word? Are you calling me a bad parent?).
When I leave daycare, I immediately call Matt to let him know that I was just called out by a 21 year-old about what a bad parent I am. He goes immediately to angry and defensive (skipping emotional levels 1 and 2).
Matt: “Every day, they all tell me about what a great day Noah has had. They go on and on about how well he plays, how well he eats, how much he learns and sings. Now, we are bad parents?!”
Me: “Well, we did hear him say it this morning. We know that he is actually doing it.“
Matt: “I don’t care. That’s not the point.”
We then went on to make a plan about changing the movies and TV shows he is watching and what disciplinary approach we were going to take to address the foul language in the future.
But man, not feeling too great about modeling good behavior right about now.
Also, if you happen to have a child in Noah’s class and he or she begins to mimic Noah and say not-so-nice words, I’m sorry. We’re working on it.
Throughout my life, I have consistently heard my mother discuss the importance of choosing your battles wisely. She seemed to always be referring to my selection of clothing (which if I recall correctly, my fashion sense at 6 years old was trendy and fashion forward— side pony tails and stirrup pants were cool, right?).
And, as a parent of a 2 year old, I have lots (and lots) of opportunities to choose my battles on a daily basis. This morning, for instance, Noah refused to eat his breakfast and stood in the kitchen pouting and stomping his feet. Currently, Matt and I are fully engrossed in the “ignore the tantrum” phase of discipline but, when you’re trying to get him ready for preschool and yourself ready for work, there is only so much time you can “ignore the tantrum.”
After about 5 minutes of ignoring the pouting and stomping, I walked calmly in the kitchen, knelt down on my knees, and asked him if he was ready to eat his breakfast. He looked up with tear-filled eyes and said, “Mommy, I need poons.” I tried to hide my giggles as I opened the silverware drawer and watched him gather all 9 of the baby spoons in his tiny, fat fist and run into the living room yelling, “Look Daddy! Poons!”
We then spent about 15 minutes longer than usual watching him eat his french toast sticks with 9 different rubber-tipped spoons. This was not a battle I wanted to fight. And, not fighting this battle (although time consuming and covered in syrup) made for some really cute and really developmentally friendly conversation with a toddler. He was proud of himself for figuring out how to do it. I was proud of him for knowing what he wanted and making it happen. And the dogs were more than happy to clean up the syrupy mess.
This was the battle this morning. The past few weeks, I have chosen not to worry about the fact that sometimes, he wants to wear socks (and often, more than 1 pair at a time) with his sandals to school. If he sees a hat, he has to put it on. Even if it is 90 degrees outside and he finds a winter toboggan in the drawer, it goes on his head for the rest of the day. The child sometimes goes a week without getting his hair washed because he cries to the point of vomiting when a little water gets in his eyes. He insists on wearing at least 2 Batman Band-Aids on his legs at all times and we have to watch Pitch Perfect at least once a day, sometimes more (I think we have probably seen it 42 times- and counting).
But, he eats his vegetables, he uses his words (most of the time) when he wants something, he hugs and snuggles, and he plays and plays until his head gets sweaty. Yes, he refuses to let us brush his teeth for more than like 5 seconds, but he is one happy little boy.
So what if he’s the smelly kid every now and then!?
I am going to save up my battles for when they count. Not sure which battles I’ll choose. We stand firm on a few- holding mommy or daddy’s hand in the parking lot, staying buckled in the cart at the grocery store, you know, safety stuff.
But everything else is just Noah trying to figure out how to be Noah. Yes, tonight I will have to wash 9 spoons, cue up Pitch Perfect on the DVR, and get out 2 new Batman Band-Aids, but, in the long run, who cares. Plus, it is really funny to watch him dance and sing to “Turn the Beat Around”—especially when he’s wearing 3 pairs of socks.