Unruly

I remember very clearly a certain moment from my first day of kindergarten. We were all assembled on the rug and the teacher was explaining how the year would go. I wasn’t really listening and sensing this, the kid next to me leaned over and whispered “they have a lot of toys back there, you want to go play with them?” I didn’t see why not, so we politely slipped away from the circle and were vrooming around on some plastic trucks when the teacher appeared, and gave us to understand that this was absolutely shocking behavior in its complete lack of regard for social norms and timing. I hadn’t been trying to be difficult; I had assumed that the toys wouldn’t be there if they weren’t for us to play with them, and I had assumed that all the other kids were sitting quietly because they wanted to. (Which is funny, because I now am especially annoyed by those people who assume that those of us who do boring or unpleasant shit do it because we like it, or at least don’t mind it as much as they do, but I digress.)

That was the start of a long and difficult schooling for me.

Baby gym has some segments where all the kids sit in a circle and do exercises or play games or watch a puppet show and Edith is not into any of this circle work at all. I mostly physically restrain her, which is increasingly difficult, but sometimes I just let her go, and today as I was watching her climb to the top of a ramp thingy in the corner while the other kids sat watching a stuffed penguin, it occurred to me that she’s going to have a lot of the same struggles I did. It’s for different reasons, though: I just didn’t understand that there were rules in most situations, and that I wasn’t specially exempt from them, but I was extremely good at sitting and focusing on things when I wanted to. I had no trouble being still or quiet if it happened to suit my purposes. Whereas Edith is so physical that she simply cannot sit still for very long (never a problem I had).

Anyway, this is one example of several ways in which I’ve noticed that Edith and I are similar in aspects of our outward behavior, but I can tell that our internal motivations for it are very different, which I find interesting.

Cups

Edith is off formula, but she still drinks milk out of a bottle at least twice a day. I am trying to wean her off of this, but it’s complicated by her refusal to hold her own vessel. She can perfectly well, but she will not. She wants it to be held for her, up to her mouth, and ideally she would like me to jog along with her as she goes about her business, holding her cup next to her mouth for whenever she’d like a sip on the run.

This doesn’t happen, but I do hold it for her from a sitting position. I’m not tackling the bedtime bottle yet, and I don’t know what she does mid-day. I’m just working on morning cups. We do a straw cup because she won’t both raise her arms and tip her head back to drink, so the most passive drinking experience is most likely to entice her. I also cut the valve out of the straw so she doesn’t have to suck too hard. If I do all that, she’ll occasionally pick the cup up and drink it herself, but far more often, she hands the cups to me. There are two in her playroom every morning: water and milk.

She wants to drink some of the milk right away, in my lap (which she throws herself into with a delighted little scream laugh), because she wants me to hold and cuddle her while she has her morning milk, and frankly as long as she keeps doing this, I will oblige her. I would be happy to hold her while she has her morning coffee when she’s 25; I’m not going to be the one to curtail this behavior.

But after she’s had a few mouthfuls and is off playing, it’s as if the very presence of the cups is annoying to her, so she continually hands them to me. I don’t know what she wants me to do with them. If I put them away, she asks for more milk, but if I try to leave them anywhere at all, she hands them to me again. I think she just wants me to….hold them until she wants them again?

It’s hard to describe and sounds kind of weird, but her handing me these cups is extremely annoying. Like SO IRRITATING. Probably ten times a morning, I say “I swear to god, if you hand me those cups one more time…” to which she immediately replies, “oh, here’s these cups, found them again, can you take?”

What I want to happen is for the cups to sit peacefully on a corner of the rug, and when she wants to have a drink, she simply helps herself. This seems unlikely ever to happen at this point.

Mornings

5:20am: Toddler shouts to be released from pack-n-play, I put her in my bed. She immediately begins to dance on my head and step on my hair.

5:22am: Place toddler on floor, lie prone as she retrieves and hands me every available object in bedroom. Collect on bed: iPad, dirty laundry, multiple pacifiers, diapers, giant bottle of lotion, hairbrushes and so on.

5:35am: Foot race to the bathroom. I win and so get to pee as fingers scrabble beneath the door.

5:36am: Hysterical sobbing as I change her diaper instead of proceed directly to getting her breakfast.

5:38am: Breakfast is ready, but she is now busy emptying all the dresser drawers into a small mountain in the bedroom, and taking some into the shower and others into the other rooms of the house according to some precise but unclear system of distribution.

5:50am: In high chair, flinging Cheerios. All other presented food is roundly rejected, only Cheerios are acceptable and they are mostly acceptable when airborne.

5:55am: Released from high chair, eating Cheerios off floor.

5:58am: Emptying the recycling, moving the high chair to the other side of the kitchen.

6:00am: All noise-making toys turned on for the day. Kitchen dancing and singing, Cheerios crushing into dust beneath her triumphant feet.

6:05am: I am sitting on the playroom floor and am now being handed everything else in the house: sippy cups of water and milk, multiple books, everyone’s shoes, my car keys, wallet, floor Cheerios, toys, items from the recycling. I begin to look like this:

6:10am: She is momentarily distracted, I hide on the couch. This works!

6:11am: It did not work, now she would like to be on the couch also.

6:12am: Frantic couch laps, hysterical laughter. Pride goes before a fall, and I warn her.

6:13am: She has fallen off the couch. Screaming beyond anything imaginable.

6:15am: She would like back on the couch again. I issue another warning.

6:16am: She has fallen off the couch again.

6:20am: Disappears into the bedroom, all is quiet.

6:25am: Too quiet.

6:26am: She has figured out how to open the tupperware drawers under the sink and is investigating a cardboard box of replacement razors.

6:30am: I am interrupted from shocked contemplation of my horrible parenting and the fragility of skin by her crawling sweetly into my lap and cuddling. Momentarily touched, then realize she has taken her epic morning shit.

6:31am: Attempt to change diaper while she flings herself about and grabs at her befouled diaper to throw it at the wall.

6:33am: Closet time. She would like to empty my dirty laundry from the bin and spread it throughout the house and she begins to scream because she cannot get it open. I oblige her.

6:40am: At some point I left my coffee cup sitting on the carpet, discover it now, a small lake.

6:41am: Sop coffee from carpet while being handed cups, shoes, keys, books, dirty laundry, clean laundry, recycling, chunks of fruit unearthed from somewhere, etc. Handing goes on and on, I retreat to various rooms, and am still handed things, eventually I wind up cowering in a corner pleading to not be handed anything else. My boundaries are not respected.

6:45am: She would like to be picked up and held at the window to suck on the blind chords. It takes us a lot of hot-and-cold screaming to establish that this is what she wants.

6:50-7:10am: Holding a 22 lb. toddler in my quavering arms as she blissfully sucks on the small knob at the end of the blind chord.

7:11am: She is suddenly starving, emergency! But now deeply hates every possible food, including Cheerios.

7:25am: Dancing and crowing atop my prone form.

7:45am: The nanny’s key turns in the door. Edith prances happily down the hall squealing in delight. I run into my office and shut the door firmly.

Outmatched

Um, so when a pre-verbal toddler becomes physically stronger than you, how do you change their diaper and clip their nails and brush their teeth and make them go to bed and get their shoes on and etc?

I can’t find this covered in the parenting books and it’s rapidly becoming the situation around here.

Hair

Edith’s hair is growing out and it now comes thickly down over her forehead to a point that I periodically sweep sideways out of her eyes, and it also kicks out over her ears and at the back of her neck.

I was trying to figure out who her current hairstyle reminded me of, and then all at once I had it:

Staff Area

At Baby Gym, there is a swinging door in the back corner where the staff members bring the toys in and out. Edith recently spotted the swinging door entry to the staff area, and that is now ALL SHE IS INTERESTED IN. Yesterday she broke for the door (and I had to chase after her and drag her away from it, kicking) THREE TIMES in 45 minutes.

If you have been following along, here are some previous things Edith has been single-mindedly interested in at Baby Gym: pulling the colored masking tape off of the carpet, sucking on a staff member’s cell phone charger plugged in behind a bunch of play equipment, studiously inspecting the logo on the trampoline for seriously fifteen minutes at a time, following around one particular Dad.

Here are all the things available for her to be interested in at Baby Gym should she ever desire: multiple trampolines, mats, climbing equipment, ball pits, bubble machines, sports balls and hoops, cars, musical instruments, pom poms, puppets, jungle gyms, swings, trapezes, other children, etc. etc.

Similarly at home we have every toy known to man, and all Edith wants to do is make a giant pile of dirty laundry and shoes in the windowless master closet and then sit atop it, crowing.

Cacophony

At current count, Edith has three toys that make noise (well, she has more, but these are the three big ones): her toy piano, about which I have written before, a wheeled camping cart that sings and giggles, and an impressively ugly singing rolling unicorn from Grammy which I have named Atrocity. Edith has finally figured out how to press the buttons on all of them, and now what she likes to do is get them all going at once. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s worse.

Poop

One of my mother’s boundaries is that she does not change poop diapers. Her position is that offer extended to one generation and one generation only (not transferrable or extendable). Which is fair enough.

This means that if Mom is babysitting for a bit and I am hiding in my room, occasionally she will come in, holding a prancing, grinning Edith by the hand. “Moommmmy,” Mom will sing while Edith dances back and forth. “We’ve brought you a poooooop!”

And it’s another bit of proof that motherhood really does alter your brain and makes you a gross moron, because I genuinely find this adorable.

Angry Clown

It’s becoming hard to take Edith seriously. She’s so funny all the time now that she’s a toddler — her little proportions are funny just to look at, and the way she reels around, either flinging her legs out before her in a silly walk or mincing about with her arms up by her face T-rex style, makes me giggle every time she goes by. Her tummy is usually sticking out under her T-shirt and she’s always surprising herself with her own clumsiness or by trying to use an object in a way that it isn’t made for, or misjudging a distance.

When Edith was an infant and she cried, it was as if someone had grabbed my heart and squeezed it, but now when she cries, it’s mostly just hilarious. She only ever cries when she’s been thwarted on something that she wants, and she’s able to go from 0 to 100 and back again on a dime. Like, I will close the pantry door right when Edith thought she was going to get to go in there and pull a seltzer can on her foot, and as if a button has been pressed, she is IMMEDIATELY weeping as if her dearest love had been killed at sea, her eyes and nose fully streaming. If I open the pantry door again, it all stops just as quick and she laughs merrily to herself as she pulls everything off the shelf.

Yesterday I moved my full coffee cup from one side of me to the other as she tried to get at it, which resulted in her running in fast, tight, furious loops all around me, howling in rage. It was the funniest fucking thing I’d ever seen.

I remember how horrible it felt to be a little kid and be genuinely upset about something and for all the surrounding adults to be openly amused at your anger (as an only child, this happened to me fairly frequently). I’m going to try not to do this to Edith, but it’s really hard to remember that she’s not mature enough to understand how ridiculous she’s being.

Indepedence

Today an incredible thing happened. Edith and I got up at 5 and she threw Cheerios around for ten minutes to indulge me, and then we went into the playroom. So far, like every morning. And then she immediately ran back out of the playroom and started throwing her toys up and down the hall, again like every morning. And then she went into the living room, and I prepared myself to be summoned shortly to attend to something or other. And then….

She didn’t summon me. All was quiet. I peeked around the corner and saw her in her playpen stacking plastic cups onto a box lid, pretty absorbed, so I tiptoed back again. And waited some more. And nothing happened, so I sat down in an actual chair with my coffee and my book and I read for probably 20 minutes while she played contentedly in the next room.

It was incredible! It felt so restorative, I felt like an ENTIRELY new person, like the way I felt the first time Edith slept through the night.

Later I took her to the playground and she ran all over the place, and only tried to put stuff in her mouth once or twice. I had to be pretty much right on top of her anyhow because she can and does crawl to the top of the play equipment, which has no sides, and even when she stays on the ground, she periodically falls flat out and smacks her face on a curb or something and needs to be comforted. But the fact that she’s independently mobile and not 100% focused on choking on a wood chip makes the entire thing so much more enjoyable and doable than it was three months ago.

It was a great day! And then my friend visited, who I haven’t seen since before the pandemic, so that was lovely too. A very nice Saturday overall!