Tag Archives: development

She Says… Copy Cat

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Owen’s teachers describe him as a “big personality”. He’s the kid who tells other kids’ parents more about their child’s day than their own child. He’s the kid who shoots his hand up (and shouts out his answer at the same time) the second a question is asked at circle time. And even when it isn’t. He’s the kid who can’t let you get through one page of a book without asking 10 million questions. Everyone he meets knows his name because he won’t let them forget it.

He’s assertive. Creative. Verbose. Outgoing. Hilarious. He loves to be the center of attention. He looks for opportunities to put on a show.

Which is why his recent behavior is… confusing. Peculiar. Sort of frustrating, as a parent. He is currently OBSESSED with copying what other people are doing.

Before choosing a coat to wear, he’ll ask me, “Which coat are YOU going to wear?” and then he’ll only wear his coat that matches mine. Yesterday he had a full-blown tantrum because I was wearing black pants and his black pants were dirty, so we couldn’t wear the same pants. When I ask him what he wants for snack he’ll ask me if I want the same thing that he will have. In an effort to model making my own choices, sometimes I’ll say, “Maybe. But I’m going to pick for myself. You pick for you, and I’ll pick for me.” Still, often he won’t even choose a snack until he’s certain that I’ll have the same thing. Or he’ll change his snack choice based on what I picked for myself.

At home, it’s pretty easy to manage. It’s sweet, actually (except when I REALLY want to wear flip flops for a quick trip to the store but he doesn’t have flip flops that fit and waaaaaah). You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But at school it seems to take on a different flavor. He’s currently focusing all his attention on one particular friend, and will only do what she’s doing in the classroom. He will only wear long-sleeved shirts because SHE wears long-sleeved shirts. He wants to bring a backpack to school everyday instead of our normal bag because SHE brings a backpack to school everyday. It’s like he can’t function without someone to copy.

I get it. Every one of us, every day, is working through what we want and balancing that with what others want. We are learning how people react when we act a certain way, and the social impact of following versus leading. Of going your own way versus following the crowd. We are all doing this dance of copying things that we see other people doing (hello, Pinterest! Facebook!), but we’ve been around the block enough times to know that you kind of have to hide that you’re doing it or you’ll be a copycat. A poser. A wanna-be.

Apparently this lesson starts young.

I guess this irks me because I know that he is a headstrong, confident little boy most of the time. And it makes me a little sad to see him lose himself in someone else. To not even know what he wants because he just wants what SHE wants. I want to see Owen stand up for himself and his opinions. I want him to have opinions. I want him to continue to share those opinions, even if they are not what his friends would do or say. If genders were reversed in this situation, I’d be wondering if I taught my daughter enough about how women don’t need men to make decisions for them. About girl power and confidence and being proud of who you are no matter what anyone else thinks. (Don’t get me wrong — certainly the same messages still apply for boys as well!)

But the truth is that I know this is just one of those social things that everyone has to learn. Striking that delicate balance between where you end and your friends begin. Learning how to make decisions for yourself no matter what your friends are doing. Certainly a lesson he’ll learn over and over and over again throughout his life, though in some cases it will undoubtedly be much bigger and will require him to make harder decisions than wearing long-sleeved shirts and carrying backpacks.

If you had asked me 2 weeks ago if my kid was a leader or a follower, I would have said the former, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind. But now I’m not so sure. I guess the only thing that is certain is that we are all both, and it takes a lot of practice to figure that out for ourselves.

She Says… Brotherly Love

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As one of four kids, I know the joy of outnumbering your parents. I know the silliness that ensues when your parents leave you alone long enough to come up with a hilarious (and likely dangerous) new game. I know the late night giggles and inside jokes and choreographing dances together on the back porch.

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I know the yearning to be bigger and do the “big kid things” my older sister and brother could do before me. I know the pride of getting to do those “big kid things” before my little sister. I know the way good news grows exponentially with each sibling that I tell. I know the way each one can comfort me and support me, in their own way, when I need it the most. And I know the way that sibling relationships can blossom into real friendships in adulthood.

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So I always knew that I wanted to have more than one child.

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In fact, anyone who knows me in real life has probably heard me say that I am one of those crazy women who adores being pregnant and loves the baby stage so much that I would have a million kids. Ok, maybe not a million, but certainly a few more than we have now. (Of course there are lots of things that come into play when planning a family, so our family may very well be complete with these 2 wild and crazy, beautiful boys.)

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Watching Owen and Emmett delight in each other and grow up side by side, hand in hand, for the last 9 months, has been even more powerful than loving each of them individually. They are greater than the sum of their parts. They will have each other in a way that neither Benjamin nor I will ever be able to match.

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Emmett is still a few months from saying any intelligible words, but no words are needed for us to know how he feels about his big brother. His adoring gaze says it all. His little chuckle at everything Owen does. The way his eyes dry and his face brightens when Owen makes a silly face, no matter what caused his tears.

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The way he tolerates (and even enjoys, despite me saying, “Emmett doesn’t like that! Please stop”) Owen’s manhandling and bear hugs and not-always-so-gentle-pats on the head. The way he crawls after Owen, his little diaper butt swaying as quickly as it can, to get all up in his brother’s business. He’s the peanut gallery. The sidekick. The wrestling partner.

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Owen dotes on his little bro in a way I could not have even imagined. I knew there would be love, but I expected frustration and impatience and jealousy. I knew there would be hand-holding and head-kissing, but I expected hitting and pushing too. I knew there would be times that they would play together, but I didn’t expect Owen to ask for Emmett almost all the time. To call for him when he’s crying, because he wants to give him a hug. To proudly pull his friends over to show Emmett off, even though they’ve met him a hundred times before. To comfort Emmett so sweetly and gently when he is sad.

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It nearly bursts my heart.

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Sure, there are surreptitious elbows to move Emmett out of the way and sneaky toy grabs when he thinks I’m not looking. There are times when Owen will plop himself in my lap simply because he can tell that Emmett is headed in that direction and he wants to claim his turf. There are times when a sweet, brotherly hug stealthily turns into a body slam… and not in a good way.

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But those times are fewer and farther between than I ever thought would be the case, especially with an attention-hog like Owen. And hey, those times build character too, right? For both kids.

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There are many things that Owen got that Emmett didn’t. The classic and unavoidable lot of the second child.

But there’s one thing Owen didn’t have until Emmett came along.

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A brother.

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And I’m pretty sure that is the best gift we’ll ever give either one.

She Says… 8 Months

Emmett-y. Bonky Bonks. My smiley little buddy.

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This was a big month for you! All of a sudden, it seems, you are a mover and a shaker. While you used to be content snuggling into my lap, now you are ON! THE! GO! A day before you turned 8 months you figured out how to get your knees under yourself in crawling position (a skill you had been working on for weeks). You straightened your legs and jack rabbited forwards right onto your face. Not to be deterred, you got right back up and did it again. And again. And again. And boom. Now you’re crawling all over the place.

Lookout world. Emmett has arrived.

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It seems that your personality is blossoming right along with your gross motor skills. You are expressing yourself in all different ways now. You coo and gurgle and grunt and shout. You have already figured out how to match your brother’s insane volume level! I think we’re going to need earplugs soon. You will shout, and Owen will imitate you, and then you will imitate Owen, and before I know it we’re all shouting and laughing. You guys are HILARIOUS together. Partners in crime, for sure. But perhaps we should start to learn the difference between an inside voice and an outside voice.

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You blow raspberries like it’s your job. All day long, every day. Blowing raspberries and giggling your little “huh, huh” laugh. Your teacher at school told me that yesterday you were laying on the floor with one of your friends, doing your little Emmett chuckle, and she was cracking up at you. The two of you just sat and laughed, you laughing at her and her laughing at you, for several minutes. Adorable. I hope you always keep your sweet sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself. It will serve you well, my joyful little darling. For there will be many things in your life that will make you want to stop smiling and never laugh again. But the truth is, in those moments, the best thing you can do is keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep your head afloat. And they will pass. They always do.

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Now that you are moving, your relationship with Owen is changing too. You’re no longer the little blob that he pats on the head as he walks by. You are all up in his business — even if I put you across the room, you lock eyes on him and whatever he is playing with and you gather your strength and crawl straight for him. Lately we’ve been saying, “Ahh! Attack of the Giant Baby!” when you start beelining for him, your eyes twinkling with delight. Your favorite game is crashing towers that we have built with blocks, or getting whatever Owen is playing with and putting it right in your mouth. So far I haven’t seen any frustration from Owen regarding your new mobility. Mostly encouragement. When you crawl, he claps his hands and says, “You can do it, Emmett! Crawl!”. When he does something silly now, like put a toy on his head and balance it, he’ll say, “Watch this, Emmett!”. You giggle obediently. You giggle all the time when Owen is around. You are the best audience that little extrovert could have ever asked for. He’ll entertain you and hand you toys and tell me what he thinks you need when you are crying. “I think his teeth hurt, Mommy.”.

And you are always the most engaged little peanut gallery when he dances and sings at the dinner table. You shake your head side to side bobbling along to his crazy songs. You love it. You love him. And we love you.

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Let’s be honest, though. Amidst the brotherly love fest, there are also many times of not-so-gentle touches and accidents. Oh brothers. We have a long road of “accidents” between the two of you. Owen went to the ER last week after falling into the bookshelf at school. The next day (during the photo shoot for this letter!) he tipped you over into the side of your crib and you hit your head. The next day he made a tidal wave in the bathtub and covered your face in water. None of it was on purpose, exactly. You guys are just boys. Rough, tough boys. I love that about you. But let’s try to stay out of the hospital for the most part, mmmkay?

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You have surprised me by preferring to feed yourself rather than me feeding you. Owen could not control his body to feed himself at your age (or just preferred for me to feed him like a baby bird), so I assumed that you wanted to be fed mash as well, just like your big bro. But no. I was wrong. All you want to do is eat what the family is eating, and you want to do it all yourself. So after I wrapped up our appointments with the GI specialist and the allergist, we started giving you little bits of EVERYTHING (except milk — you’re still allergic to milk) on your high chair tray. Your fine motor skills are impressive and you can get just about anything from the tray into your mouth. Little bits, big chunks, long things you hold in your fist and gum into submission. You’re a fantastic eater. Every day I feel like I need to give you more and more and more food. Your favorite foods at the moment are whole peas, green beans, broccoli, green grapes, bananas & oatmeal and Cheerios. Oh you LOVE those Cheerios.

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Oh Emmett. I love watching you grow into yourself. Getting to know who you are under your fuzzy blonde hair, deliciously chubby cheeks and thoughtful blue eyes. I see the twinkle in your eyes and know you are mischievous and daring. I see the way you are insistent and determined, practicing new skills over and over again. I see you exploring your voice and I love every squeak and shout and babble. I see your lip quivering and your brow furrowing when I disappear behind a door. I am always coming back, little one.

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It is quite clear that we delight in you and you delight in us. We love you so much, Emmett-y.

Love,
Mommy

She Says… Track and Field

Owen ran in his first “race” this weekend.

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We live right near the Boston marathon route and people have started to fill the sidewalks on the weekends doing supported runs to train for it. Though I’m not really a runner myself (despite wanting to be), I love seeing the runners prepping for the big race and get chills just thinking about it (especially given what happened last year). So on our way to his race, Owen’s face was all aglow watching the runners and chatting about when he will run the  marathon.

Truth be told Owen’s first race was really a happy accident. We were joining some friends at a fundraiser/fair over the weekend, and unbeknownst to us the event was a Fun Run for kids. Indoor, thankfully, since the temps here are still hovering around 30 degrees. When we arrived, his age group had already run, but they let him get a number and run with a few other little stragglers in between heats of big kid runners.

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Owen was elated.

He stood, toes on the line. Body wiggling with excitement. He eyed up the competition, a huge smile on his face. He knew where the finish line was and he was determined to be the first one there. The guy managing the race said to him “This is your lane. Don’t cross it!”. Owen had never run a race before, so had no idea what that meant. He ended up running the entire race with his legs straddling the line, like he was wearing a big diaper, because he thought he wasn’t supposed to step on the line.

Didn’t matter. He smoked ‘em.

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He beamed with pride as he got his ribbon. Then he asked me if he could do it again, with bigger kids next time. He certainly has the competitive spirit (ahem, but not so much the grace of a good loser yet)!

Dude is FAST and Benjamin and I have often joked about taking him running. I probably could — I’m pretty slow, so it might even out. When the weather gets warmer I’m thinking the track may be the perfect equalizer. We could all run at different paces for different distances but be together. Anyone out there do this with their kids? When did you start? How far/fast can 3 year olds run, on average? He seems to really love it, and Lord knows we could use another outlet for his physical energy.

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After playing every game at the fair, we celebrated his “big win” (and perhaps more importantly his recent great attitude and wonderful sleeping habits!) with ice cream.

Everyone’s favorite reason for running, no?

 

 

She Says… 7 Months

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My sweet baby-who-is-quickly-feeling-like-not-so-much-of-a-baby,

You are SO MUCH FUN right now. Seriously. You’re the best. Your chubby cheeks and toothless grin and sparkly gray-blue eyes make everyone around you smile right along with you — your joy is contagious. You still have your characteristic easygoing way about you, but recently we’ve seen more and more of another side of your personality. You are driven and focused and determined.

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You practice new skills like rolling (which you rock at) and grabbing (everything) and getting food from your fist into your mouth over and over and over again with the determination of an Olympic athlete. You love to pull hair right now. Especially mine. Especially when I leave it curly and I’m giving you a bottle and you gaze into my eyes so sweetly and dribble a little milk out of your mouth so that I let my guard down, and then BAM! you grab a fist full of what you had been twirling so gently a moment before and PULL. HARD. I wrangle my hair out of your clenched fist, and we start that little dance all over again. You’re sneaky. And strong. And you have hilarious timing.

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Speaking of rolling, you are a rolling machine. You’ve actually developed this amazing ability to maneuver yourself all around a room to get your hands on whatever you want. Most kids do this with crawling, but your preferred method is a carefully planned out series of rolls and pivots. It’s quite impressive and I’m so glad I finally got a video to show you one day. I have to imagine that crawling is just around the corner for you, my active little dude!

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The other day Owen and I ran upstairs to get him a pair of socks and came back down to find that you had rolled yourself right out of the living room and into the kitchen, and you gazed up at us, giggling and proud, with one foot in the dog’s water bowl and gnawing on a magazine. Watch out, Mommy.

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You are growing like a little weed these days. And it’s not a wonder — you down over 35 ounces of formula (that’s a LOT) plus three solid meals of food a day. And recently daycare started asking me to pack snacks because you were hungry. HUNGRY? Must be all that rolling you’re doing. Favorite foods at the moment are peas, corn, sweet potatoes, blueberries and bananas. The only thing I’ve found that you really don’t like is butternut squash. You’ll still eat it, but you make a scrunchy face and spit most of it back out.

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Due to your ongoing tummy issues and some weird rashes and hives, we’re seeing an allergist and a GI specialist. Currently my instructions are to introduce you to as many new foods as possible in the next 4 weeks, so here we go! I’ve been on a baby food making extravaganza and our freezer is filled with different concoctions. I love mixing and matching your meals and I’m excited to branch out into different grains and textures and flavors in the coming months. I’m so glad to see that you seem to like food just as much as your brother and Daddy and I.

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Your brother. Oh, Emmett. I can’t even put into words how much you adore your brother. And how much he adores you. The two of you are obsessed with each other. I can already see the incredible connection that the two of you have that has nothing to do with Daddy or I, and it makes my heart sing.

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At dinner Owen loves to entertain you by making silly faces and shaking his head around. Physical comedy seems to be your thing at the moment and just about anything Owen does that involves climbing/jumping/twirling/dancing/running elicits the most delicious belly laughs from you. You also have the uncanny ability to laugh whenever he says something silly. It’s like you can understand every word he says. He’ll tell us a story and make a joke, and you’re ALWAYS the first one laughing. It is precious.

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He can’t get enough of you either. He asks me to bring you up in his bed so we can all “pretend to sleep” together and he loves to hand you toys and make you put them in your mouth (which you do, every time). He shakes your head around and bobbles you so forcefully I’m still constantly saying, “Gentle hands!” and “Owen, Emmett doesn’t like that, please stop” and you are constantly making a liar out of me by laughing your little butt off at whatever he’s doing.

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Though I know there are wonderful things on the horizon for you, I wish I could bottle this age and keep it in my pocket. You are just… delicious. Jolly. Sweet. Easy.

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Every day I look forward to waking you up just because I get to hold you and squeeze your beautiful baby chub and cover you in kisses. I can’t wait to see more and more of your personality as you grow. What you’ll be like. What you’ll do with your life.

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We’re so lucky to have you, Emmetty. Bonky bonks. Blemett (Owen’s favorite). Chubs.

Couldn’t love you any more if I tried,
Mommy

She Says… 6 Months

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Oh Emmett. My jolly little dude. My cuddler. My giggler. You, my darling, are the type of baby that makes people want to have a million more babies.

I mean, really. Just look at that smile. The twinkly eyes. The delicious cheeks. The rubberband-like rolls at your wrists, ankles, knees, thighs. It’s literally hard for me to stop kissing you some days. You are just so smooshable. You are calm and content. Chill, to the max.

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On top of that, 6 months is a magical time.

  • You are sleeping through the night. You still cry out once in a while, and since we almost never hear you cry anymore, Daddy and I sit and watch you on the monitor, wringing our hands over if we should go in and hold you. When Owen was your age, if I went in ONE TIME he would expect me to come in EVERY TIME, ALL THE TIME when he cried. Going in once just to check on him made the whole sleeping process take about ten steps back. But you, you, my flexible little friend, you are totally cool if I come in one night and give you time to try to get yourself together the next night. You wake at different times’ always keeping me on my toes. Sometimes you want my help calming you down, sometimes you don’t. You’re flexible, but you’re also confusing. You are helping me to learn how to roll with it and just follow my gut.

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  • You are rolling and sitting like a champ. It seems like all of a sudden you went from laying down all the time to being able to flip/roll both ways, pivot around on your tummy, inch your way towards toys and sit for really long periods of time without falling over backwards. It’s amazing to watch – you are SO strong. I used to joke about how you were so deliciously, perfectly plump that it was harder for you to flip that body over or hold it up for a long time. Boy was I wrong. You are an Olympic sitting champion these days, and believe me, it’s ALL you want to do.

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  • You eat food and it’s super fun. You are loving exploring food these days. Some days you chow down, some days you just want to chew on something “big”, some days you want nothing to do with what I put in front of you. But generally we’re doing 2 “meals” a day, in addition to the millions of ounces of formula you drink every day (seriously, WHERE do you put those 38 ounces?!). As with many things with you, every day is different and we’re learning to follow your cues. You have tried homemade avocado, sweet potato, broccoli, green beans, peas, pears, butternut squash and some red and green pepper sticks (that you like to gum to death). You kind of like everything, except the squash which you only like mixed with apple. Unfortunately we’ve recently noticed the beginning of eczema on your cheeks, just like your big bro, so we’re avoiding rice cereal and other grains at the moment, and also apples. I’m being very cautious with all other allergens as well. As with your brother, I’ll continue my scientific food experiments to see if we can figure out what your triggers are, but we’re not there yet.

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  • You love toys. Everything we hand you goes right in your mouth. I love to see which ones are your favorites (wooden giraffe, banana toothbrush, the twirly corner of a random burp cloth), as you are beginning to develop opinions and show us your personality. It’s so fun to watch you grab things and maneuver them into your mouth. In contrast to your brother’s frenetic, wild motions at this age, you are controlled and steady. Your fine motor skills are quite impressive and you’re already starting to pick up teeny tiny little things between your pudgy fingers.

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The past month has been punctuated by lots of doctor’s appointments. You seem to have inherited your brother’s tendency toward respiratory bugs, and you’ve had a nasty cough for the last couple of weeks. In addition, you also have quite the glass stomach, as you’ve gotten a tummy bug twice and both times the projectile vomiting has persisted for almost a week. Phew! I thought I knew everything about baby illnesses after Owen, but again, I was wrong. Let’s try to keep those appointments to a minimum from now on, mmkay?

You, my precious one, are so. much. fun. You have this new screechy laugh that you do whenever Owen walks in the room, and you seem to be constantly amused with watching the world go by. Owen still delights in contorting your body into hilarious positions and bopping you on the head (he does it out of love, I promise). You guys are two peas in a pod. Watching you interact makes my heart swell to the point of bursting.

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I love you. Times a million.

Love,
Mommy

 

She Says… Hugging it Out

While we’re on the subject of my 3 year old being, well, “particular”, I’m going to let you in on the tug-of-war I’ve been having inside my head for the last few weeks.

Pulling In vs. Pushing Away

Owen is in the midst of a particularly difficult period. The mitten-based tantrums are one part, but he’s also been struggling to express his frustration in other situations. At school this shows up in uncharacteristically aggressive reactions to friends taking a toy from him, or teary meltdowns over things that didn’t use to bother him at all, like any answer to the question, “What are you makin’ for dinner?”. Being around him is a bit like walking a minefield. You never know when you’re going to step on a bomb.

He didn’t used to be like this. It feels like it’s not really “him”, but I can’t get him to snap out of it.

There are a lot of potential reasons why this behavior might be flaring up right now.

1. He’s 3 1/2. I remember reading somewhere that the “half-years” are often far more challenging than the time surrounding actual birthdays due to developmental leaps and struggles. I remember a chart of a spiral of child development that showed common behaviors for each year/half-year and the year behaviors were often “mastered” and the half-years were “developing”. And, on top of that, there’s the omnipresent dichotomy between being a baby and being a big kid — needing your parents while simultaneously wanting to do everything for yourself. Which is stressful for a kid. So there’s that. And to be honest, maybe I could just stop there. Because 3 1/2 is hard, no matter how you slice it.

2. Emmett. I know he’s been around for 5 1/2 months, but now he’s getting bigger, and cuter, and he’s beginning to do things that Owen does too (like eat food), which might make him seem more like a “threat” to Owen. I almost hesitate to add him to this list because Owen has never, not once, showed any frustration or anger or ill will towards him. He is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest big brother. Even more than I ever thought possible. His bad attitude has never been directed at Emmett. Still, I understand that realizing he is not the center of attention in our family all the time is a long and arduous process for Owen.

3. Increasing/high expectations. Owen recently night potty-training himself. His night pull-up had been dry for 5+ months, but I wasn’t going to pull the plug on the pull-ups just yet, as I’ve read that kids (boys especially) aren’t generally physically ready for night training until 5 or even later. I didn’t want to stress him out. As with the rest of our potty training journey, though, Owen was insistent, and once he decided he wanted to be dry all night, he was. So once we finished up the pull-ups we had in our house, we supported his decision to sleep in underwear. Boom. Done. In the mornings when his magic clock turns green, Owen LOVES getting up by himself, going pee, getting dressed for the day and coming in to our room. It’s glorious, and the best part is that he is so proud of himself. The kid can write letters and wipe his own nose and put his dishes in the sink and work the CD player on his own. He is so capable and eager that we just keep teaching and he just keeps learning. Accepting responsibility. Asking for it. But then sometimes he wants to go backwards. And NOT do all of those things. And it’s confusing for us, and sometimes we push him. “You’ve done it before”, “You know how”, “You’re a big boy”.

4. Illness. Acting out on the outside when he’s feeling bad on the inside has always been a common thread for Owen. It’s generally in retrospect that I can identify that an ear infection was to blame for his whiny tantrum or a brewing virus was behind a hitting rampage. Right before Christmas Owen had a nasty respiratory bug that coincided with the stomach bug. Then he seemed to get better. Then a few days later his fever resurfaced. He complained of stomach pains and a headache. I told myself I would take him to the doctor in the morning, but in the morning his temp was normal and he said he felt fine again. Then over the weekend his temp spiked again, all the way up to 102 even after a dose of Ibuprofen. Doc said if it was still high the next morning to come in. Next morning it was back to normal and he said he felt better. Since then no fever, but he’s still acting under the weather and complaining of his stomach. I know illness can’t account for bad behavior for months upon months, but it’s possible that there’s something going on health-wise that I just haven’t identified yet.

And then of course there’s always the theory that bad behavior is a cry for attention. For love. And that’s probably also the case.

Given that it has felt like these behaviors were getting worse recently, Benjamin and I scheduled a meeting with his teacher and the psychologist on staff at his school. She routinely visits the classrooms and knows the kids and I wanted to get her opinion (reassurance?) on if his behavior was normal or if she thought there was something bigger going on. The bottom line is that both his teacher and the psychologist feel that his behavior is well within the range of normal (which we were relieved to hear). He’s 3. It’s hard being 3.

They both offered solutions for dealing with his behavior, many that I had heard before and that we already use on a daily basis (offer choices, give him power when possible, praise good behavior and don’t give attention to bad behavior, help him verbalize his feelings, etc.). The psychologist also talked a bit about hugging it out, or pulling him in rather than pushing him away when he’s acting out.

It feels uncomfortable to say out loud, but that’s not my knee jerk reaction when my kid is acting like a wild animal. My usual response to that behavior is “I can’t hear you when you talk like that” or “I don’t want to listen to you cry. If you need to cry, go do it in the other room” or “Come back and talk to me when you’ve pulled yourself together”. It’s not necessarily pushing him away, but it’s a general avoidance of his emotional outbursts. To be honest, it’s treating him like an adult who has the capability to pull themselves together without help. Which a 3 year old doesn’t necessarily have. And, while we’re being honest… it’s not really helping. While shutting down and closing the door to him might feel like the right thing to do to me (“I’m teaching him a lesson!”), it might not be what he needs to get through it.

The psychologist made a very strong case for the fact that, during these outbursts, Owen probably wants them to stop as much as I do. He wants to pull himself together. He wants to stop crying. He’s not manipulating me; he’s sad. And he needs help. And when she said it like that… well, then I just felt like a jerk.

So we’ve been trying this tactic recently. Instead of walking away from his tantrum, I take a deep breath and hug him. I just hug. Eventually I talk softly and try to put words to what he’s feeling, but it starts with a hug. (Benjamin is way better at this than I am, but I’m working on it). It’s not all rainbows and unicorns — sometimes Owen REALLY doesn’t want to be hugged. Sometimes it backfires. Sometimes, even when it helps, I feel like I’ve giving attention to bad behavior and it will turn him into a spoiled brat.

So I’m still figuring things out, like when and how to use this. And I’m still learning how to reconcile bringing him in vs. pushing him away. And to make it my instinct rather than something that’s difficult for me to do. But it certainly feels nice to have something in my parenting toolbox other than ignoring my kid until he can get his emotions under control.

She Says… A Solid “Meh”.

A few days after Emmett’s 4 month doctor’s appointment we felt ready for one of my favorite baby milestones. Or, rather, something that was one of my favorite milestones for Owen, so it’s all I’ve ever known. In pure 2nd baby fashion, it went completely differently than what I expected.

FOOD.

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We started playing with solid food on the earlier side (a little over 4 months old) with Emmett for many reasons, not the least of which is that now that he is on gross hypoallergenic formula (another story for another blog post!), I feel strongly that introducing him to some better/more interesting flavors and textures is important. Also, it’s REALLY fun. I love introducing my babies to the tastes and smells and experience of enjoying food.

We were in a similar situation with Owen when he turned 4 months. The minute I put that first bite of avocado in his mouth it was like Christmas morning. His eyes lit up, his lips smacked, his toes curled in happiness. The kid ate like a Hoover from the very first day. And pretty much never stopped (save for some picky eating phases along the way, all of which ebbed and flowed and eventually left again).

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Emmett’s verdict?

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MEH.

I started him with avocado just like his big bro. Lord knows I ate enough avocados while pregnant with/breastfeeding him that he’s practically been eating it since the day he was created. However, that familiarity didn’t seem to help much. He just wasn’t into it.

He tolerated the spoon on his lips. He tolerated me dabbing a little avocado mush onto them. He licked. Scowled. Got full-body shivers. Used his tongue to push it right back out.

Given that he’s still so little (5 months yesterday — another blog post in the works!), I’m totally not sweating it. Or pushing it. After the first time I waited a week before trying again. Since then I’ve been offering a few bites every night when we eat dinner as a family. He sits at the table in his high chair and enjoys the company, if not the food so much. I’ve offered avocado and sweet potato.

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The only time he will really open his mouth and eat? When big brother Owen is doing the feeding.

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Which sort of feels like an accident waiting to happen (I heard myself saying, “Oops! Don’t stick the spoon all the way down his throat!”). But honestly? Both boys love it. Owen loves being the big brother (read: IN CHARGE), and Emmett sits there and giggles nonstop at Owen.

Owen’s new favorite game: Will Emmett swallow or spit his food back out?

So although he’s not exactly Hoovering yet, I’m hoping he’ll warm up to food soon. Yet another reminder of how different 2 kids can be!

She Says… Questions and Answers

My preschooler is in that adorable, filterless 3 year old stage where he asks every question that pops into his hardworking little brain. His questions are innocent, completely free of judgement and uncomplicated by the intricacies of political correctness, what is appropriate and what others might think. They can also be unexpectedly, mindblowingly wise.

A few days ago we unintentionally fell down the rabbit hole of discussing death, dying, burial and the afterlife when we drove past a cemetery. We drive by it all the time, but this particular day, Owen decided to ask a question that in his mind was probably quite simple. Surprise! It really wasn’t simple at all.

What are those stones out there?

It was one of those moments I knew that I should give him the straight answer in as few words as possible. My head was swimming with the right words to say. He had no idea that I wanted to tell him about death and religion and my personal philosophy on life after death and souls vs. bodies… all he asked about were those stones. Of course we will have these conversations some day, but right now he is only 3.

And he was only asking about the stones.

Still, I feel compelled to give him the “truth” (well, my version of the truth at least), and perhaps a glimmer of the larger conversation, for when he is ready to talk about the story behind the stones.

I told him the stones were called gravestones. That they marked a place where a person’s body was put in the ground after they died. And then I waited. I waited for the follow-up questions.

Why are they under there? Under the ground?
Can they breathe under there?
Just Mommies and Daddies, right? Not kids?
What about dogs?
How did they GET there?
Can I see them put someone down there?
Why do some people go under the ground and other people don’t?

I answered each one matter-of-factly. You know, after pausing for a moment to let my heart break into a million pieces when he asked if there were kids buried there as well.

And then, as with so many other things at 3 years old, we turned the corner and the conversation was over. We moved on to talking about what kind of yogurt he wanted to pick out at the grocery store.

Phew. I think I avoided totally screwing up our first conversation about death.

But I know it’s not the last. I also know that the conversation about death almost always boils down to a conversation about religion. My own philosophy about religion is that I’m not going to choose it for my kid. He will have to make his own decision. My plan, if you can call it that, since in some ways it is just a very theoretical game of hot potato, is to educate him about what lots of different people believe, and leave it up to him to decide what he believes once he has all of the information. Benjamin and I will tell him what we believe, but I refuse to tell him what is “the truth”, because in my opinion, truth is in the eye of the beholder. This all sounds well and good, except that it makes some of these tricky conversations even trickier. There are a lot of unknowns.

We recently got into a conversation about church when we wanted to Skype with my sister and her kids, but they couldn’t do it on Sunday morning because they were at church.

What is church? Can I go there? Why do some people go there? What is God?

Tricky.

Unfortunately this is one thing I won’t be able to Google my way out of.

Benjamin and I will have to come up with answers to each of these questions that align with our own beliefs and how we want to bring up our boys. While no one can give me those exact answers, and I’m certain we all approach these questions differently, I’m curious: When did your kids start asking about death/religion/sex/other loaded topics? How did you answer them? Are there any resources out there that address what level of an answer to give to your kid at each age/stage of development?

She Says… Four Months

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My sweet baby boy,

This month whizzed by. It flew. You started daycare and I started back at work in the beginning of November and BAM! it’s Thanksgiving already. And judging by the state of our family calendar, it will be Christmas before we know it. The transition back to work could have been devastating. It could have been rough. It could have been rocky. It’s been busy (and still is), for sure, but thanks to you, my little darling, it has been as painless as possible.

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You, sir, rock. You rock at daycare. You rock at sleeping there. You rock at chugging every drop of all of your bottles. You rock at smiling and charming every one of your teachers. You rock at staying pretty calm in the evenings even after super long days so that we can have dinner as a family. You rock at smiling and splashing and making bathtime my favorite time of the whole day. You rock at snuggling into me while I nurse you at bedtime, holding your tiny, pudgy little fingers and wondering how we made such a perfect little dude.

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I’m beginning to worry that you’re going to grow up thinking your name is “cutie pie”. Because that’s what you hear all day long. I’m sure there’s a lot more to you than just your looks, but it’s the truth. You are DAMN cute. People stop me on the street to say one of three things about you:

  1. You have the most perfect, round head. (I had no idea this was a thing people commented on, but it’s true. You do.)
  2. You are SO smiley. (Mmm hmm, that too. Not stingy with the grins!)
  3. You have the most beautiful eyes. (Sparkly. Dancing. Deep blue like the ocean.)

I may be biased, but I wholeheartedly believe that all 3 things are true.

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This month, unfortunately, I’ve discovered something that’s not so easy breezy about you. As much as I tried to avoid going down the road of thinking you have some sort of food allergy/intolerance like your brother and your Daddy, I’m pretty sure you do. At least for now. This past month has been a roller coaster of hypoallergenic formula and me avoiding certain foods to see what the culprit is. Though you’re far from figured out, my best guess and working hypothesis at the moment is that your tummy does not tolerate when I eat milk or eggs. We’ve got a pretty good thing going while I’m off both of those things as far as I can tell, and although it’s hard for me to avoid yummy things like cheese, yogurt and chocolate (and pretty much anything baked now that eggs are off limits), it is worth it for the time being to heal you. Last night was the worst night I’ve seen — arching, crying, poop issues. Nothing helped. You couldn’t sleep and you couldn’t eat, which just left you awake and paralyzed by your own sadness. Which meant I was too. Daddy and I took turns trying to comfort you but all you really wanted was to rock with me, half-nursing, half-pacifying.

We got through it. We’ll get through this patch and we’ll get through the next one and we’ll get through the one after that. I’ll always be here to hold your hand and help you through, whatever comes. I already ache for the day that you come home with a problem I can’t fix, like a broken heart. But trust me, we’ll get through that too.

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Emmett, you fit like a snug little puzzle piece into our family. Daddy and I fight over who gets to hold you and make you smile. Schnitzel is protective of you and bathes you in kisses. Owen, in the midst his totally-age-appropriate-but-nonetheless-incredibly-frustrating 3 year old ‘tude, is totally enamored with you. His normally wild body becomes calm around you. He dotes on you. Sings to you. Contorts your body in hilarious ways that make us all laugh. Sweetly and softly pats your cheek when you’re crying. Gives me the play-by-play of what you’re doing in the car (“He’s sleeping! No! He’s awake! He’s pukin’ up! He’s looking at his toy!”). Though I know there will be times, likely in our not too distant future, when he’s not so kind to you, you must always know that everything he does comes from a place of love.

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Brothers are like that.

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Owen’s new favorite game is to get the whole family under a blanket on the couch and pretend to sleep. He calls it a “love cage” and no one can get out. Guess who he ALWAYS wants in his love cage? You. So far you’re surprisingly tolerant of being smooshed into a pigpile with all of us and covered with a quilt. You’re pretty easygoing about most of the silly games we play with you. You’re the best baby doll.

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I love you, my beautiful boy. We all do. Even in the middle of the night it melts me to see your bright eyes and kicking legs in the dim light. You are one special little guy.

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Couldn’t love you any more if I tried,
Mama

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