Tuesday, 5 November 2013

November is the darkest month

November is the darkest month. And I don’t just mean the dwindling amount of daylight. It’s a drag, every year. It’s getting colder, the days are short and the sniffles are omnipresent. Halloween is over and Christmas is still a long way off, and being Canadian, we don’t even have Thanksgiving to look forward to anymore. 

Furthermore, the end of Daylight Savings Time has brought a pall upon our home. In the grand tradition of toddlers everywhere my son has gone completely haywire with the time change. He’s waking up too damn early; he’s grumpy and tired but wants to party anyway. Oh wait. He’s like that every day. No, I’ve come to realize that he’s just being himself. 

It’s me that’s struggling here. I’m the one who is grumpy and tired and hating this dark and hideous month. And my energy reserves are decreasing rapidly. It’s hard to be a good parent in the month of November. 

In this dark and dreary month, all I want to do is hunker down on my couch under a thick blanket and eat Cheetos. I want to block out the world and watch bad television while playing Words with Friends. I don’t want to play hockey in the basement with my kid. I don’t want to endure endless games of play fighting like pirates. I don’t want to deal with bedtime routines and potty training. I don’t want to hear whining. I don’t care what he eats for dinner. It’s entirely possible he’s watching too much television at this particular juncture. I just want to slack off for awhile. 

I’m fairly certain that once we adjust to darkness at 4 pm and our skin thickens from constant exposure to the cold, I will start to feel more like myself. I will throw myself headfirst into planning for Christmas and spend hours inspiring myself from Pinterest. We will write a beautiful letter to Santa Claus, telling him all the reasons that my son has been good this year, and conveniently forgetting to include the bad behaviour. We’ll decorate our tree and wrap presents and wear cozy sweaters. I will bake and make batches of wholesome soup that warms the soul. And when it snows, we’ll make a snowman and snow angels and drink hot chocolate together. Our memories will be captured in beautiful photographs that we will look at for years to come. It will be beautiful. 

But for now, I just want to go back to bed. And be grumpy. And stare resentfully at the 3 feet of leaves that continue to pile up in my backyard, mocking me and reminding me of the back-breaking labour that needs to happen to make them disappear. I hate November.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Cry Baby Cry

Jack o' lanterns are apparently scary after all!
I have a confession to make. I enjoy seeing my son cry. Now, before you get all uppity and start accusing me of being a terrible mother, let me qualify that. I don’t like to see him crying because he’s hurt or truly sad. I certainly don’t like to see him cry when he’s having a full-blown tantrum. It’s a very specific type of cry that makes me laugh. And I bet I’m not the only one out there who feels this way. 

It’s the kind of crying that happens when a baby is placed upon the knee of Santa Claus for the first time. Or (for my fellow Greeks out there) when a baby is baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church and they get dunked in the baptismal font by a scary looking bearded priest. 

It’s cute because it’s harmless. The way their little faces crumple up is just adorable and makes me want to smile. Sometimes that kind of crying comes at an unexpected moment and you just can’t help but laugh. 

For us, it happened this week when we carved our Halloween pumpkins into jack o’ lanterns. We finished the job, popped candles into the pumpkins and turned out the lights to see how they would look in the dark on Halloween night. Suddenly, my son freaked out and started crying. I was really taken aback because quite frankly, I didn’t think that jack o’ lanterns actually scared anyone. Apparently they do. 

Is it wrong that I grabbed the camera and snapped a few pictures of him crying in front of the pumpkins? 

Okay, I know it sounds cruel and heartless. Maybe it is. But to be fair, I immediately turned the lights on, gave him a hug and distanced him from the offending pumpkins. I’m not that terrible a parent. 

Maybe it’s just because my son is just such a rough and tough fearless kid who spent the last month watching Halloween themed videos on YouTube. Nothing seems to truly scare this kid – until something does and then it’s just such a surprise, I can’t help but laugh. 

The funny thing is, after looking forward to Halloween for the past month, he has suddenly announced that he doesn’t want to go out trick or treating and that he wants to stay home. I must admit that I’m surprised – isn’t the whole appeal of Halloween to go out in your costume and collect treats? He’s still young, though, and our intention was to visit just a few houses on our block and then come home. But I guess we’ll see how he feels come trick or treating time! As cute and funny as it was to see him cry with the pumpkins, I don’t really feel like forcing a scared child to walk the streets and cry as he goes trick or treating.

I guess maybe I’m not such a bad mom after all.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Sales Job

I consider my son to be a good eater. He’s not truly picky except for a few things that he won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, a feeling to which I concede most people are entitled. But the fact remains that he is two and a half years old. So being very particular about certain things, especially food, has become par for the course. 

At daycare, I’m regularly floored when I hear that he ate foods like kafta and couscous salad or an omelette with feta cheese. Really? Seriously? I have come to realize that groupthink and peer pressure goes a long way in reinforcing good behaviour too! If all the kids are eating the omelette, so will my little guy. Thank goodness for this amazing phenomenon which also pushed my son to start napping like a civilized child. 

But at home? Things are a little different. If something on his plate just doesn’t look quite right, he pushes away the plate and proclaims “I don’t like it.” 

This has induced much frustration on our part, which often includes conceding to feeding him kid-friendly staples like chicken nuggets, fish sticks, frozen peas and/or corn and grilled cheese sandwiches. But lately, we decided there had to be a better way. Why shouldn’t we all eat the same, healthy, homemade meals? I know very well that he’ll like what we’re eating…if only he would try the damn thing! 

So we have tapped into our inner marketers and gotten creative. Now, many meals we eat have a very special name, like “Pirate Pie” (chicken pot pie, or shepherd’s pie…or anything that involves some kind of pie) or “Spiderman Souvlaki” or “Dragon-Fighter Soup” (that one is named for recent obsession with dragons). 

The first time I did this, the idea came to me on the drive home from daycare. I began talking about our special dinner and hyping it up all the way home. By the time we got to the dinner table, he was so excited he devoured his Pirate Pie and asked for more. 

Presentation is the other thing that really helps. If food is on any kind of stick, for example, it’s automatically more interesting. If there’s ketchup involved, all the better. Of course, we try to limit the ketchup, but occasionally we have managed to convince him that there’s ketchup in some meal, even if there was none, and he ate it up. Both literally and figuratively. 

I will admit that it’s exhausting giving my kid a sales job every time we sit down to have a meal together. But when pickiness strikes, the only defense is creativity! And melted cheese on top. But mostly creativity.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

So long sucka!

It's put down the pacifier day in my house. After 30 months of obsession with his beloved "sucie" (I.e. his entire life) my son will say goodbye and goodnight to his pacifier tonight. 

It's gotten out of hand. He wants to suck on that thing all day and night. It's his comfort, his security and it calms him down whenever he's upset. However, it's also a breeding ground for bacteria and its extensive usage has created ugly patches of eczema on his cheeks and chin (from all that drooling that goes with the pacifier). This past week, he developed impetigo, a skin infection which tends to happen more easily in children who have eczema. After battling with this ugly bacterial infection, I decided that the pacifier's gotta go.

My husband and I have discussed various strategies for getting rid of the paci, including :
- cutting the tip, filling it with pepper and telling our son that bugs are eating it
- cutting off the edge of the tip and telling him "that's just how they make them now" and
- cold turkey, the heartless act of simply removing the offending pacifier from our home

But we just haven't had the heart to take away his sucie. I was a thumb-sucker for more of my childhood than I care to admit, and my husband was a pacifier kid until his sisters (twins) were born when he was three. Family legend has it that my mother-in-law once caught him taking his sisters' pacifiers out of their mouths and giving them a suck, just for a moment, before replacing each one in his baby sisters' mouths. So deep down, we both understand the deep feeling of comfort that comes with self-soothing with a pacifier or thumb. 

So we're going to try the gentler, more humane approach of leaving his pacifiers for the Pacifier Fairy. She belongs to the same union as the Tooth Fairy if you know what I mean. This morning, we wrote a letter to the fairy and told we're ready to give the pacifiers to her so she can bring them to babies who need them. We asked the fairy for a special present in exchange for the pacifiers. Tonight before bed, we will place his pacifiers under the pillow and tomorrow they will be gone. 

What special present did my son ask for? A crocodile or alligator toy. I know, I know... Weird.  But I ran into the Pacifier Fairy this morning at Toys r Us and she was looking for an alligator with the determined will of one of the Swamp People. I have it on good authority she found what she was looking for.

So long sucie and thanks for the memories!

PS - here's a link to a good series of Elmo videos that are helping: 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Discipline Dilemma

When you’re a parent, especially the parent of a young child, every moment is a teaching moment. Which is a real pain in the derriere, if you know what I mean. The fact is that there’s never really a time when you can just let go and ease up on your kid. At least, not for very long.  
A few months ago, I was all about discipline and trying to teach my son about manners and good behaviour. I had created a sticker chart and we were actively teaching him at any chance that we got. If he misbehaved, he was put in time out. If he did something great, he was rewarded with stickers and praise. It worked great. He was behaving nicely, and the discipline appeared to function. As things were going well, we eased up on him.
Like many things in life, the novelty wore off for my son, as it did for us. The stickers were being awarded less and less and the time outs were being met with whining and escape attempts. I began enforcing fewer time outs and my attempts to teach my son came across as nagging, at least to my ears. The nagging was filled with empty threats that I didn’t act upon. I started resorting to yelling at my son.  Let’s face it; it’s hard to always be “on.”   
We’ve also loosened up a bit on scheduling. Bedtimes have gotten later and sometimes much later on weekends. It’s summer, the sun is out longer and it’s harder to get him to sleep as early as we used to. Naptimes are often shorter or taken in the car or his stroller. So the little guy is more tired and crankier.
Bad behaviour has started to creep back into his daily life. He is more vocal now when he wants to do something so he whines loudly or has tantrums. Or else finds a way to do what he wants despite what he is told. We’re getting more reports of misbehaving at daycare. Yesterday he even bit a friend – twice!
So it’s time to get back on top of disciplining and enforcing a regular schedule. Unfortunately, you can’t just say “job done” and move on to the next thing. As parents we must be consistent and as they say, “keep on keeping on.”  
Groan…here we go again.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Mischief Defined

The dictionary defines the word “mischief” as “able or tending to cause annoyance, trouble, or minor injury” or “irresponsibly playful.” Both definitions are very accurate but I recently learned a new way to define mischief, only not in words.

The new definition of mischief in my life is a facial expression. It’s a very specific look that my son gets in his eyes when he’s about to do something he shouldn’t and he knows it. He will purposely watch me with that look on his face and very slowly begin to engage in the misbehaviour at hand.

Example: I’ve told my son repeatedly not to eat crayons or play-doh. He does it anyway, because he seems to know instinctively that while doing so is not exactly acceptable, it’s not exactly dangerous either. And the taste, texture and smell of crayons and play-doh are somewhat intriguing to the unsophisticated palette of a two-year-old. Plus he knows it annoys me and I usually react in a way that is satisfying and amusing to him.
So when the urge strikes him, he will take a piece of play-doh and without taking his eyes off me, will very slowly raise the offending object to his mouth with slight smirk and a twinkle in his eyes. 

Now I know I’m biased but my son is cute. He has a pair of big blue eyes are just perfect for twinkling with mischief and when he’s up to no good, his smile is mirthful and contagious.

So it takes every bit of willpower that I have not to laugh at him when he starts to misbehave. Unless what he is doing is really pissing me off and then that look triggers a whole other set of emotions, namely rage so powerful it makes me scream and yell.

However, when the action is pretty benign, but as a parent you just know you have to be the enforcer and say “no” it takes a lot to hold back from laughing. And oddly, I get a certain sense of pride when I see him pushing the limits. For the life of me, I can’t understand why but something about seeing him behave mischievously makes me feel a little proud of him.

Recently, we were working in the backyard and my son was helping my husband out. In doing so, he discovered how to use the spray gun on the hose. It was a revelation to him. He couldn’t get enough! But when he was soaked and it was time to go inside for a bath, we turned off the hose and he started to cry “More waterrrrrrr!” When we said no, he just gave us a look and decided to figure it out on his own. He grabbed a nearby bucket, dragged it to the faucet, stepped on the bucket and proceeded to turn the hose back on. Satisfied with himself, he returned to the spray gun and resumed his activities.

I know that action only complicated things for me, but I couldn’t help but smile and feel just a bit proud of him for taking matters into his own hands and solving the problem on his own. So I let him spray for another two minutes and then hauled him kicking and screaming into the house. Fortunately, he couldn’t see my face, because I was grinning all the way to the bathtub.

Is he mischievous? Yes indeed. But I kinda like it.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Party on! It's potty time!

Okay, so I know I promised I would never blog about potty training...but I say a lot of things that I later regret. And the reason I have to write about this is that I'm not actually potty training...at least I wasn't until today.

For the past few weeks, "Buddy" my son's bestie at daycare, has been starting to use the potty. Naturally, if Buddy's doing it, my son is intrigued. So any time the other little guy would go do his business in the bathroom, it was "me too" for my son. He experimented for awhile, sitting down, getting a feel for having the porcelain breeze under his bum. But he never did anything. Every time his daycare teacher would report this to me, I would ask if we should start doing anything at home. She said no, that he wasn't really ready yet. So I did nothing. And I mean nothing.

Sure, I bought all the paraphernalia months ago. I have two potties (one which sings and flushes), a sticker chart and a boatload of stickers, two different Elmo potty books and of course, Elmo's Potty Time DVD. I have have a book about potty training in Greek! You know, just in case he didn't understand in English. While the books and DVD have been explored and the potties have been sat upon and test driven, I never once actually tried to start officially training my son. I figured when the time was right, we would start.

The thing is, I've been dreading it a bit. Of course I don't love changing diapers, especially the stinky ones, but I must admit that I enjoy the relative freedom that comes with diapers. It's just so easy and effortless. Plus everyone always says that boys are slow to potty train and that he could even be 3 years old before it happens. So we have been in no rush to actually start.

Well, that all changed today because the daycare told me that he used the potty. Twice! Woohoo, it's potty time!

Part of me is ecstatic that he did it, and on his own, to boot. The other part of me dreading what comes next. Lots of wet clothes, venturing into public washrooms with him, the unpredictability of when he will need to go and where will we be? We have a road trip next weekend...what do I do about that?!

The other thing that's freaking me out is that I have no idea how to do this. I'm a planner. I like to read up on how to do things and prepare mentally. I have read nothing on the subject of potty training. In my state of denial, I blindly procrastinated about reading how to potty train. Maybe it's for the best though... Reading about how to do things never once helped me before. Certainly not when it came to sleep training! Maybe I'm not the best at following instructions anyway.

And what about Pull Ups? Some say yes to them, others say no... I don't even know why!

So many questions, my head is spinning. Wish me luck, it's time for me to start Googling "potty training."