Evie is still loving ballet, and was very excited about her big performance (although possibly not as excited as she was about missing swim class). This being her second year, she was even less phased than last year. I can definitely see her improvement, and the way she does the different moves and poses really starts to look like a ballerina.
If nothing else, she certainly has the smoldering look down:
This year, Sara volunteered me to help out backstage. I was more than a little nervous about this especially since I normally have no involvement with ballet whatsoever, so I had no idea what I was doing. Not to mention the fact that I would undoubtedly be the only daddy involved, so any stupid mistakes would only be magnified. I felt like I was representing my entire gender. My volunteer duties covered both the actual performance and the dress rehearsal, for double the fun.
However, the whole thing was a breeze. The kids pretty much take care of themselves at this point, so we really only needed to help them with their costumes and herd them in the right direction. Sara gave me tissues and lipstick to take in my pocket (I’m told all the best backstage mommies have lipstick in their pocket), and I managed to be Johnny-on-the-spot with both items, impressing several actual backstage mommies (thanks for making me look good Sara!)
For the actual performance, I couldn’t have had a better seat. I was just offstage, maybe 10 feet from the action. It was so much fun to see Evie performing. She just absolutely nails everything, with her usual meticulous attention to detail. You can see in the video that she is exactly on beat with the teacher on every step. One of my favorite parts of the video is right at the start of the free dance, about 2 minutes in, when Evie launches into it before anybody else even moves. I know she’s been thinking about this for a long time and practicing, so it was nice to see all of her hard work pay off.
Evie is such a little ballet teacher. When we were backstage, she was stressing over when we were going to go, warming up, and making sure everybody was lined up properly in the correct order. She was assigned to be the “caboose”, perhaps to make sure everybody in front of her was doing the right thing. Well anyway, that’s the way Evie took it, and she planned to do her job properly.
You’ll see what I mean at exactly 1:02 in the video. When Evie sits down, she catches the eye of the boy across from her, and then quickly demonstrates to him on how he should be holding his arms. This cracked me up so much, because it’s just Evie in a nutshell, knowing every single piece of the performance and “teaching” everyone how to do their part. You’ll also notice at the very end, when they all line up, she quickly corrects her feet to their proper position.
So anyway, without further ado, I give you the Dew Drops:
ETA: Since I wrote this post, Evie has informed me that she’s started a “dance school” for her classmates. She has choreographed a “tulip dance” (because “our arms look a tulip when we do the circle”) and she is teaching her pupils in preparation for a performance she’s arranging on the final day of school. She demonstrated a little bit of the dance for us, and I assure you it is as fully featured as the one performed above.
Ollie’s contrariness has slowly been on the rise, but I think it’s safe to say it has finally arrived in full force. Up is down, black is white, and Oliver absolutely did NOT get dressed this morning, despite what your eyes tell you.
I mostly think of the automatic disagreement as a 2 year old thing, so Ollie is perhaps a little late to the party, though I do specifically remember thinking that 3 was a more difficult age than 2. So maybe I just don’t remember properly. But seriously, who is this surly, disagreeable, grumpy boy and what has he done with my Oliver?
The hardest part about dealing with a kid this age is that it takes *so* *much* *effort*. Aside from Gandhi-esk patience (which I do not possess), you have to have an unlimited store of creative ways to convince him to do things. You simply cannot force him to go to the potty, or get in the bath, or stop goofing around and eat his breakfast. You really can’t. Instead, every event becomes a test, not of your willpower, but on your ability to trick someone.
The main technique is to distract him. This is a surprisingly easy task with a 3 year old. If you just start talking really fast, it usually only takes 30 seconds or so to find a topic fascinating enough that he will forget you are lifting him on to the potty. Stories work too, or doing something goofy to make him laugh. These things are ten times more effective than bribes, which makes them about a hundred times more effective than threats.
Making threats? That is…not so effective. Unfortunately, that’s kind of where your brain goes naturally, so you do spend a lot of time either backpedaling on those, or trying to make good on a lot of ineffective threats.
And in the meantime? Just keep muttering, “It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase.”
Inflation is a term that is usually applied to economics. Merriam-Webster defines inflation as, “a continuing rise in the general price level usually attributed to an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods and services”. In short, inflation refers to the fact that, over time, you need more money to buy the same thing. These days, we pay $5 instead of $0.90 for the same gallon of gas.
However, it seems like more and more I’m seeing a different type of inflation. Let’s call it “happiness inflation”: it takes more “things” to buy the same level of happiness.
Yeah, yeah, so what’s new? Who doesn’t know that?
I know. It’s obvious, right? But like regular, economic inflation, you don’t really think about it all that often, because there’s nothing you can really do about it. Everybody knows gas costs more these days. We don’t dwell on it. We can’t bring down the price of gas, and it’s just a part of life, so on we go.
The important thing to remember is that paying $5 for gas doesn’t mean we are getting more gas. The same goes for happiness inflation; even though we are getting more things, we are still the same amount of happy.
I probably wouldn’t notice happiness inflation either, except for being a parent. It takes on a lot of different aspects when it comes to kids.
There’s present inflation. When we were younger we got a certain number of presents, and we were happy. Now, kids get 10 times that number of presents, and they are about the same amount of happy. It’s not one outfit, it’s 3 outfits. It’s not one playset, it’s the whole line. We feel embarrassed if we only got one book, or only spent $20, or if our present doesn’t have a built in computer chip.
In fact, as a parent you see a lot of birthday inflation in general. Think about birthday parties when you were a kid. Your aunts and uncles and cousins came over and maybe you had a cake. That’s it. But it was exciting, and you looked forward to it. You were happy. Now there are themes, and gift bags, and entertainers, and catering. It takes that much more for a 3 year old to be the same level of happy.
There’s candy inflation: getting 5 pieces of candy thrown to you at a parade isn’t sufficient. You have to have 500 pieces. Or a handful from each house at Halloween instead of one piece, or a full sized candy bar. You can’t have an ice cream cone in the summer as a nice treat, you have to have an ice cream cone every day, with a slice of pie on the side. But wait, you can’t just get an ice cream cone, it has to be dyed some kind of “fun” color, because, you know, ice cream cones just weren’t fun enough by themselves.
Just like economic inflation, it is impossible to fight. If I go to the gas station and say, “I only want $0.90 of gas,” I don’t get a gallon. Similarly, if I throw a birthday party and don’t give out gift bags, I don’t get the same level of happiness that we used to get before people gave out gift bags. Now I have to give the gift bags if I want to obtain a gallon of happiness.
The thing is, each person only sees what they are giving, but only the parents can see the big picture. Other people can’t see how out of control and over the top it is. They want to see a kid’s eyes light up when they hand them some jelly beans on Easter, not realizing that 5 other people gave them a handful already. Each person gives as many gifts or sweets or outfits individually as their own kids got total from everyone when they were little.
People just can’t seem to help themselves.
We’re not immune to this as parents. We want to make our kids as happy as anyone else does, probably more so. But I feel so trapped by the whole thing. Either we go along with it and contribute to the overall rise in inflation, or we deprive ourselves of the joy of making our kids happy, turning ourselves into “mean parents” who never give our kids anything. Just bow out and let everybody else get the satisfaction of seeing their faces light up. Because inflation is everywhere, and there’s so much on all sides, the only way to average it out is to never give anything.
Maybe it’s not the kids who are suffering from inflation, maybe it’s the adults. Maybe our tolerance for making a kid’s face light up has gone up over time. We need more and more “hits” to reach the same level of satisfaction, so we selfishly press that button as often as we can.
I can’t fight inflation. The only way to stem the tide is if everyone, everywhere, all at the same time, tackles the problem. Frankly, that’s not going to happen. All I can say is, look at the obese kids and the debt problems and the selfishness of the world and think about how you personally are contributing to it.
Maybe if we all did that a little more often, we could experience a little bit of “happiness deflation”. Trust me, it’s better than it sounds.
“I don’t understand,” said Evie. “On Easter, the Easter Bunny brings you things, and on Christmas, Santa Claus brings you things. Why don’t the Leprechauns bring you things on St. Patrick’s day?”
She makes a good point. “It doesn’t work that way,” doesn’t seem like a very good answer. Why doesn’t it? If we live in a world where magic creatures have nothing better to do than bring you presents, and this is normal, then is it so crazy that leprechauns should bring you things too?
“It doesn’t work that way,” I said.
“It does for [my friend*]. Leprechauns bring him things all the time.”
(*Her friend with a name so Irish that I would never use it in a story because nobody would believe an Irish person would be named that.)
Eventually she gave up pestering me when she realized I had nothing more to add.
The next morning she told Ollie, “After we’re dressed, let’s go check under our pillows to see if the leprechauns left us anything!” Ollie didn’t really seem interested, but she kept insisting and asking him, “Did you feel anything under your pillow last night?” I had mostly forgotten about the conversation, but she seemed absolutely sure the leprechauns would have left something under there. I braced myself for the inevitable crying to follow.
Instead I was met with excited shouting.
Under Evie’s pillow was a card written in green crayon that said, “I Love Evelyn Lois Halbach The Leprekans”. Ollie was staring rapturously at a tiny card from under his pillow that was mostly green hearts.
Evie looked me in the eyes and dared me to say the cards hadn’t come from leprechauns.
I don’t think that she has connected this back to other things, like the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, but it seems like it can’t be far behind. In duping her brother (and me as far as she knows), she’s seen behind the curtain a little bit. She’s far too bright to not eventually make the connection between how easy it was to orchestrate the leprechaun cards and how easy it would be to fake other things.
On the other hand, she’s already demonstrated a supreme willingness to hold on to her childhood longer than completely necessary. I would not be surprised in the slightest if she ignored all evidence to the contrary, simply because she *wanted* to believe in something. I guess maybe we all do that. I guess that’s called being human.
I want her to resist. Believing in magic is something that I hope she holds on to for a long, long time. Maybe forever.
I don’t know if I’ve ever met a kid as easygoing as Ollie. Everybody always says, “Oh it must be so nice to have such an agreeable child!” Of course it is. But also some times it isn’t.
Ollie, do you want to eat this pickle dipped in sriracha? Sure. Do you want your sister to dress you up in girls clothes and conscript you into whatever game she wants to play? Why not. Did you just run face first in the wall? Honey Badger don’t care. Oliver, did you just pee your pants and sit in the urine for 30 minutes? ::shrug::
The problem with apathy is that if you are generally satisfied with everything, you don’t have much motivation. Sure, it’s nice not having to fight with him about eating veggies, or what clothes he’s going to wear, but it’s also frustrating when he’s happy to have you dress him every day, or doesn’t feel like learning what sounds animals make. He doesn’t have much of a drive to acquire new skills.
It’s often amazing to me that my two children are just the absolute photo-negative of each other. Evie has strong opinions about everything, and is very motivated to practice things until she gets them *exactly right*. She is always interested in doing things on her own and wants to know how to do everything, all the time. On the other hand, I have to fight with her every day because her clothes aren’t “beautiful enough” or “don’t feel right”.
When Oliver is older, I worry about people taking advantage of him. He’s so willing to give up what he has to make other people happy. If he and Evie are fighting over a toy, and they both end up crying, he will give the toy to Evie to help her feel better. He’s just such a big sweet ball of cuddles and self-sacrifice.
It’s not that he never wants to do things by himself, or learn something new, or have a toy all to himself without sharing, but by and large it’s not the norm. And considering he’s just going on 3, he’s probably in a stage where he’s about as selfish as he’s ever going to be.
An easygoing child is an embarrassment of riches, and complaining about it runs the risk of annoying all the other parents out there. I know there are worst problems to have. But it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be.
The kids have been *dying* to make a snowman. There hasn’t been much of an opportunity this year, since the few times there’s been snow, it’s been too cold and powdery for snowman building. In addition, we got a “frosty the snowman” kit for Christmas from Grandma Kathy, which included a hat, homemade scarf, an actual corn-cob pipe*, a button for a nose, and two lumps of coal for eyes. Believe me the kids were itching to use that kit.
*I remember playing with this pipe when I was a kid. Mom, why did we have a corn cob pipe, and were the ’80′s such a different time that we were allowed to pretend to smoke? My how things change.
So finally the conditions were right, and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity.
Not pictured is Evie, who was having a sobbing fit.
Poor Evie. On the days where she goes to school and then has to stay in aftercare until I can pick her up, she is completely wiped. She can barely hold it together for the few hours until she goes to bed. In this case, the snowman was just too much. (And to be fair, I’m not necessarily at my best either at about 6:00 after a hard day of work and a long commute.)
The thing is, I know she really wanted to make a snowman. All winter she’s been asking about it. But first her snowpants didn’t feel right. Then she didn’t know that Sara and Ollie had already made the snowballs, and she was pretty upset about that. We offered to make a second snowman with her, but that wasn’t really good enough. We offered to let her put the accoutrements on the snowman, but that wasn’t good either. She didn’t understand we were trying to help her, trying to make it better, and honestly I don’t think she wanted to be helped. I think she just needed to have an emotional outpouring in the form of an absolute meltdown.
So, instead of a fun little thing to do in the snow, it ended in nobody really having a good time, and Evie being carried inside kicking and screaming and making grand declarations like, “I HATE THE SNOWMAN! I’M GOING TO GO BACK OUTSIDE AND RUIN THE SNOWMAN!” Ollie was just kind of confused by all of this.
::sigh:: This is such a hard situation, and one we haven’t really come up with a good solution for. When a kid is that tired, absolutely nothing is going to go right until they get some sleep. If something fun, like making the snowman you’ve been dying to make all winter, goes this poorly, you can imagine how well something like taking a bath or eating dinner goes. On the other hand, it’s not really appropriate to scream your vocal chords out or hit someone or break something because the snowman didn’t go the way you wanted it to. By nature I am very no-nonsense about this kind of behavior, so even though I know it is the result of over-tiredness, I have trouble going lightly on the poor girl (for anything) (ever).
Unfortunately, this is not such an uncommon way to end the evening at our house these days. I can only imagine what it will be like when she’s going to school 5 day s a week…
I should point out that Nala is the cat.
One of the dangers of having a socially advanced kid is that she came out of the womb adept at using her love as a weapon. I don’t know where she learned this from, since it’s obviously not something she’s learned from example. Sometimes she’s actively trying to see if she can press your buttons, or punishing you for some perceived transgression. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly an attractive trait.
Unfortunately for her, I am completely immune to this, and I have hung the above declaration over my desk at work (oh yeah, and then posted it on the Internet).
My hope has always been that by ignoring these attempts and not making a big deal about them, she will realize that they don’t work and knock it off. The bad news is that she’s already practicing these skills, and will have honed them to a razor’s edge by the time she’s a teenager. But in the meantime, we can all have a good laugh over it.
What’s that? Oh, I guess I just have something in my eye…
Lately, Oliver has decided he is a “big boy”. Like any good parent would, we quickly capitalized on this new attitude and began using it against him.
This has been manifesting in a lot of different ways, some good, some bad. He wants to do everything himself. Sometimes this is good, because he can go occupy himself for 10 minutes and come back with his shoes on (the wrong feet), which saves me from having to do that thing, no matter how small. Sometimes this is bad, because we don’t have 10 minutes to spend on putting shoes on. Sometimes doing it by himself actually results in more work, like when he goes to the bathroom by himself and you have to stand over him and remind him of each step as he does it.
Still, it seems like he has taken a big developmental leap lately, and I think it is primarily because suddenly he himself is motivated to do things, rather than doing them because he is told to do them. In addition to going to the bathroom by himself, he has been learning how to zip his coat, independently doing puzzles, and sometimes “saving his pee pees” at night. He’s also been drawing much more recognizable shapes, as opposed to random scribbles that he would interpret for you after the fact. Sometimes now I can say, “Oh, okay, this is an eye, right?”
I realized that we have been very lax in teaching him his letters. This is the plight of the second child. With Evie we were constantly sitting down with her, teaching her, helping her learn new things. Ollie’s mostly just left to his own devices on this stuff. Now that I am making a conscious effort to teach him letters, he is starting to pick up on them a little bit.
One very, very bad development along these lines, is that Ollie has started skipping his nap several times a week. What a disaster this is. I remember it being the same with Evie; maybe he doesn’t really need a full nap, but he can’t quite make it all the way to bed time without it. So late afternoon / early evening he is just a bear to deal with, especially after dinner during the whole getting ready for bed time.
But the good clearly outweighs the bad, as it’s fun to see him learning new skills and being proud of them.
I don’t know if it is related or not, but that boy sure learned how to talk. Hoo boy! From the minute his eyes open in the morning until the minute they shut at night, he’s got something to say. I remember when Evie used to talk like that (did she ever stop?), and I remember people saying, “Your second child won’t talk, just to make up for it.” Well people, you were wrong, wrong, WRONG.
After I put the kids to bed I just stand outside their door for a minute to savor the silence. And believe me, if I’m the one saying it’s too much talking, you know it’s really too much talking!
You would not even *believe* these people!
They make huge messes and never help to clean up, they eat my food (sometimes right off my plate!), they never chip in for anything, and you would not believe how disgusting they are when they eat. They get up really early and make lots of noise, and one time when I had a friend over, they ran through the house naked.
They just need to grow up. Seriously.
Sara was teaching Evie how to tie shoes. “If you practice, you can probably learn how to tie shoes in a week or so.” It took Evie all of two days to master it. After demonstrating her mastery by tying every set of shoelaces in the entire house, we gave her the okay to get some tie shoes. She needed a new pair anyway.
The first pair of shoes we ordered arrived with Velcro, rather than ties. It turns out they didn’t offer tie shoes in Evie’s size. The second pair were ties, but Evie didn’t like them. She had a lot of trouble tying them (it turns out her laces were shorter than the adult shoes she had learned on), and they had a “bump” in them (otherwise known as “arch support”). It was clear she didn’t like them, and I didn’t feel like forcing her every morning, so we returned them as well.
Finally, there was nothing for it but to take her to the shoe store and let her pick them out herself.
To the shoe store’s credit, they gave Evie the full star treatment, giving her popcorn to munch on as they shuttled back and forth with different shoes, putting them on her feet for approval. (Seriously, when’s the last time you went to a place that actually tried the shoes on your feet for you?) As each pair was carried out, it was summarily rejected.
“No, this one has a bump,” she declared imperiously, waving it way. “This one has two bumps.” “I had another princess and the pea last week,” the saleslady confided to Sara.
Finally, she settled on a pair, and they are the absolute last pair in the world I would have imagined she would pick. They look…orthopedic. Let’s just say, she’s not the first “Evelyn” to own shoes like this.
They’re not bad shoes I suppose, but then again you’ve never tried to pick out clothes for this girl. EVERYTHING has to be “beautiful”; multi-colored and covered in flowers and fake jewels. Anything that is one solid color is absolutely out, especially if that color is something as hideous as brown, black, white, or gray. In other words, this is a girl that has the same sense of style as Mimi from Drew Carey.
So what’s the deal with those shoes? I don’t know, but she loves them, and I guess that’s the only thing that matters. I will never figure that girl out.
The bedroom door slammed open like it was kicked, and light spilled across my face, blinding me. ”The fairies were here last night, I think they ate my grape!” said a small voice. I squinted at the clock and tried to make sense of what was going on. It was 12:34 a.m.
“Tomorrow I’m going to try leaving them a pistachio,” babbled Evie conversationally. Was something the matter? Was she having a dream? Why did she sound so chipper?
“Evie, what are you doing?” I asked. She faltered a little bit. “Getting up. It’s time to get up. The light came on.”
It turns out that Oliver had been messing around with the ghost lights the day before, and had accidentally re-programmed them to come on at 12:34 a.m. Evie, accustomed to it being dark now when she wakes up, and trained so thoroughly by the ghost light system, never questioned for a minute that it wasn’t time to wake up. How is that possible though? I was so tired I couldn’t even remember where I was, and here she is bouncing out of bed and chattering away. Wouldn’t you just know internally that something didn’t seem right? It wasn’t like it was anywhere close to waking-up time.
By the time I got into the bedroom, Oliver was already climbing out of his crib, ready to join his sister. So I had to get them settled back into their cribs, assure them it was, in fact, NOT time to get up, and turn off the lights. And the irony? With no lights to wake them up in the morning, they slept all the way until 7! So they were obviously tired.
I don’t know. It must be nice to be young, and just spring out of your bed at any hour of the day, ready to take on the world. I swear I was never like that, even when I was 5.
Lately, Oliver has been picking up some bad habits from his sister.
Just in general, Ollie is always echoing what Evie says. I don’t think that is specific to him, but more just what two year olds do in general. Usually this is a good thing, because he’s learning about language and socialization. But going through the terrible twos is a lot different when you have an older sister to teach you everything, including how to misbehave.
Evie has a certain way of dealing with situations where she doesn’t get what she wants, where she sort of raises her eyebrows and gets this nonchalant tone of voice, agrees with what you’re saying, but exaggerates it to some ridiculous conclusion as if to say, “Okay, we’ll do it your way, do you see what’s going to happen?”. Something like, ”Fine. Fine. I guess I’m just never going to wear clothes ever again.” It’s actually pretty hilarious; it’s petulant, but it seems like grown up petulant, not 5 year old petulant.
And now Oliver is doing it too. He doesn’t get extra rice like he wants? “Then I’m not going to eat it then.” He just absolutely matches the tone and posture and facial expression *perfectly*, that there’s no doubt where he got it from (and, unfortunately, I think they both ultimately get it more from me than Sara, which is sort of an uncomfortable realization).
There’s a couple of other bad habits he’s picked up from her, mostly about being afraid of things. He won’t go into the basement anymore, or even the living room if we’re at the other end of the house. Sometimes if you leave him alone (and he thinks of it), he’ll come running out screaming, “I’m scared, I’m scared!” I’ve asked him some questions, and I don’t even think he knows what he’s scared of, or even what “being scared” means. He just knows that’s what Evie would do, so he does it too.
Oh well, at least this way we know what to expect…
Anyway, it’s not all bad. It does my heart good to see him gaze at her with adoring eyes and just try to do everything he can to be like his big sis. He copies her because he thinks she’s the most amazing person in the whole wide world. For now, she doesn’t mind too much. It will be sad when she gets old enough to not want her little brother copying her all the time, or when he gets old enough to do it out of a desire to annoy rather than love.
For now, though, it’s actually pretty sweet.
Sara has been letting Evie use the keys to unlock the door. It seemed like a good idea (Evie likes to do it, and it’s one more skill to learn) until the other day.
Quickly, before Sara could react, Evie and Ollie slipped inside and locked the door behind them. Sara was stuck pounding on the door while the kids danced and yelled, “Kids party!!” for a full three minutes. Her threats and bribes were no use, until she finally came up with, “If you don’t open this door right now, I’m not going to share my birthday cake with you!” Suddenly, the door was opened.
Moral of the story, never give your 5 year old and 2 year old the run of the house, but if they manage it anyway, birthday cake is your nuclear option.
If your child falls and hits his head hard enough to pass out and lose control of his bladder, once he’s recovered and the mess is cleaned up, it’s okay to go to another store, right?
The other day, Evie was very, very upset at me. I can’t remember what she was mad about, but she decided to show her displeasure in the form of a picture (after all, it’s worth a thousand words). I saw her working on it before she gave it to me, furiously scribbling with clenched teeth and fire in her eyes. But even that mad, she just couldn’t resist adding little hearts and butterflies:
This is the email I sent to Sara today about how our day was going. I think it provides you with a little slice of life on a typical Friday:
from: Shane to: Sara date: Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 2:45 PM subject: what a day
My oh my.
There’s tons of tie dye stuff left, you can dye to your hearts content tonight. We didn’t do any roving, and there’s that other yarn you had. I’m not so sure about the yarn we did do, so we’ll see how it comes out. I think the 3 main things are going to come out awesome though. Evie really had a good time, Ollie did too but then he got tired of it by the time we were on to socks.
There was an art festival in the park in Oak Park, so we ate lunch and then walked around there. Ollie was getting a little tired, but he had a blast in the toy store. We were there for quite a while. I was a little disappointed in their selection for kids Evie’s age. They specialize in baby toys, and then they had some science kits and stuff for older kids, but not a lot in between. Plus they’re so expensive!! There were a lot of things out of evie’s range, but I thought $25 was pretty good for a toy store! I guess not. There wasn’t really anything that I would have pushed for her to get. There were some cool things for older kids though.
Anyway, I let Evie give them the coupon and everything and they were like, “Is this for your birthday??” and made a big deal about it. So that was nice. She was really proud and she hugged her thing all the way home. She’s working on it now (it’s like a sleeping beauty book that you put sparkly stickers on…lovely, as you can imagine).
Meanwhile, Oliver took a massive smelly dump in his underwear and I had nothing else to put on him.
Ah, a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
For some reason, Evie and Ollie have taken it upon themselves to become the new “driving monitors” for everything I do when we’re in the car. It is not uncommon to hear, “Daddy, are you going the right way?” or “Daddy, aren’t you supposed to turn there?” or “Daddy, why are you turning here?” as if they had any idea where we were going.
In fact, it seems to be stoplights in particular that get heavily monitored. The very millisecond the light turns, Oliver starts yelling, ”It’s green! It’s green!” And then Evie immediately wants to know, “Why aren’t you going daddy?” “Because,” I usually tell her, “if I start going now I’m going to smash into the back of the car in front of me.”
The speed limit is often a topic of discussion as well, despite the fact that neither of them has any idea what the speed limit is, or what the speedometer says. “Dada, we’re going too fast!” shouts Ollie, or Evie questions, “Why are you driving so slow?” My favorite is when Evie casually (and passive aggressively) asks, “Are we on the highway daddy?”
Oliver seems particular concerned that I’m going to jam on the gas the second I’m in the car. He’s constantly admonishing me, “Don’t drive, dada! Don’t drive with the doors open!” or “Don’t drive without Mama!” if she’s not in the car yet. It’s like he’s absolutely certain that he’s the only thing keeping me from taking off with Sara hanging out the door only holding on by his still-unfastened seat belt. As if I’ve ever started going before everybody was ready. Usually, the car’s not even on yet.
However, the one cool thing is when we’re sitting next to a semi which starts driving. “We’re going backwards! We’re going backwards!” squeals Oliver. Oh man, I remember how much I used to love that when I was a kid!
I’ve just been noticing lately that we’re awfully hard on the poor girl. Basically, when it’s Evie’s fault, it’s Evie’s fault, but when it’s not Evie’s fault, it’s still Evie’s fault. We yell at her for hitting her brother, and then we yell at her for not getting out of Ollie’s way when he’s trying to hit her. We yell at her for taking toys from him, but then we yell at her for not finding a way to share when he takes something from her. She tries to help by comforting Ollie when he’s crying, and we yell at her to give him some space. We tell her to wait her turn, not interrupt, and to let Ollie answer his own questions, while simultaneously ignoring him when he does the same, justifying that he gets so few chances to speak. She tries to help, or just gets excited, and we yell at her for bringing things up, such as asking Ollie if he should get pee pee chocolate when we’re trying to end the practice.
I try so hard not to do it, but it’s like I just can’t help it. There are times when you have a strategy as a parent, and a 5 year old just messes that up. Being as she’s older, we do expect her to be the responsible party between the two of them. However, it’s hard on a 5 year old who is constantly being asked to take the high road. Her life sure would be easier without a younger sibling.
However, all this childhood angst we’re creating might not be the worst thing in the world.
I have long been fascinated by the whole “birth order” thing, wherein children have certain personality traits based on the order they were born. To give a few examples, first children tend to do better in school, because they tend to be permanently seeking the approval of adults, and also because they had a little “boost” as a young child being alone around adults, while youngest children tend to be less responsible and have a career in something more exotic but less secure, like being an artist. Youngest children have the security that comes from having a whole group of people taking care of everything before they get there.
Now I don’t believe birth order is the end all be all, but I do anecdotally see evidence of this all over the place. No predictor of personality (or behavior in general) seems to be very accurate, but birth order seems to be the most consistent predictor across cultures, geographic locations, socio-economic standards, etc.
And let’s face it, oldest children are the best! (Says an oldest child who is married to another oldest child)
I can’t help but think that all of this pressure the oldest sibling happens to take is one of the reasons they tend to be more responsible for things. Because we *make* them responsible for things. Overtly, we ask Evie to help her brother, but inadvertently we force her to take responsibility for both her actions and his actions. As parents, we lean on her more, and Ollie gets to skate under the radar a little bit. It’s no wonder then, that after a lifetime of that you just get used to the mantle of responsibility.
All that being said, I do continually feel bad when I realize we aren’t exactly being fair to her. Not only do I not want to be too hard on a 5 year old, I also want my 2 year old to turn into a responsible adult as well, not some free spirit, no-responsibility, must-have-my-way man-baby. I know that’s one extreme, and there’s no real danger of that happening to Ollie, but if it is true that older children consistently score better on tests or are more responsible, then isn’t it our duty to sort of spread that out a little bit?
Since we last spoke about Oliver’s potty training 3 months ago, things have been going very well.
He really never puts up a fuss about going to the potty, and he hasn’t had an accident in I don’t know how long. It doesn’t even occur to me to bring a change of clothes when we leave the house anymore. The only slight hitch is that he always makes us take him to the potty downstairs, but that is manageable I suppose. At least he always goes.
He can sometimes wear underpants for his nap, but it is very unpredictable. He can go for hours without going, so he aught to be able to last through his nap, but even if you have him go right before he goes to bed, he sometimes still goes. If you think he will, he won’t, but if you don’t think he will, he will.
However, the one nut we haven’t been able to crack is poo poo. He *always* goes in his diaper at night (or at least first thing in the morning). It has been very difficult to convince him to go in the potty. He has gone several times in the potty, but it hasn’t quite translated into any sort of desire to go with regularity. Even M&M’s and a prize bucket hasn’t helped.
However, lately he has started to notice when he has to go, by suddenly announcing, “Look at my bottom!”. And I have to admit that, even though I know this is what he always says, it still makes me nervous. I always have to look at his bottom. When you get such a pronouncement (or sometimes just an emphatic “I do not have to go poo poo!” out of nowhere), you grab him and run. And then he goes, just like that.
Of course, he still goes in his diaper at night anyway, but hey, it’s going in the right direction, right?
Ah, that magical moment in every little girl’s life, when she first sees a naked homeless man.
We had only recently arrived at a park we don’t normally go to, when Evie insisted that she needed to go to the bathroom. “Why didn’t you go before we left?” I asked. “Because I didn’t have to go then!” replied every child since the dawn of time. Luckily(?), there was a small stone building of the kind that can only mean ‘Outdoor Public Bathroom that is Semi-Occasionally Cleaned’, so I started in that direction, daughter in tow.
As we got closer, I heard the distinctive noise of a shower. “Hmm, that’s kind of weird, they have showers in the park bathroom?” I thought. In retrospect, this was probably ridiculous, but the bathrooms reminded me of nothing so much as the bathrooms at a campground or state park, which do often have showers. So my brain failed to send up the proper warning flags. “Hmm, that’s kind of weird, there’s shoes and socks in the open doorway?” I wondered. But we find all kinds of clothes all over the place all the time in our neighborhood, so that didn’t jump out at me either. There was a bright pink girls shirt that sat in our parking lot for two weeks until I threw it in the dumpster. There used to be a power line down the street with an entire collection of shoes hanging on it. So again my brain failed to send up the proper warning flags.
“Hmm, that’s kind of weird, there’s a naked man standing in the bathroom even though there is clearly no shower in here, and the door which leads outside to the public park is standing wide open where anybody could walk by or even walk right in holding the hand of a 4 year old girl.”
To give him credit, he seemed more surprised and embarrassed than we did. I find that odd. I mean, if I were taking a shower in the sink completely naked in a public bathroom with the door open, I would probably be nervous and jumpy, expecting someone to walk in at any minute. On the other hand, maybe the people who frequent this park know better than to go into the bathrooms, so maybe he takes a nice relaxing sink-bath every day with no fear of anybody barging in on him. And anyway, I guess I shouldn’t really try to put myself in his mindset, because probably if I were taking a shower in the public bathroom sink, I would probably just remove my shirt or something, and not get completely naked. But that’s just me.
We beat a hasty retreat and found the women’s bathroom instead. Of course this meant I had to wait outside while Evie went in to take her sweet time. You would think this might be the end of the story, but unfortunately the man quickly put on his shorts and then came outside to chat with me, sans shirt.
“I’m really, really sorry about that.”
“Oh, that’s okay, no problem.”
“Well, did she see anything?”
::please tell me I’m not having this conversation::
“No, I think she’s okay.”
“Well, as long as she didn’t see anything.”
::please oh please oh please let this conversation end::
“I think she’s fine.”
I have no idea if she saw anything or not. And I mean really, what’s the worst case scenario? Her life will not be ruined by seeing a naked man. Her mind will not be shattered. Let’s not forget that for the past three quarters of a year there has been a naked boy running around the house every evening, and she’s been able to cope with that.
Suddenly, the man looked at me with deadly seriousness. ”If this were football season, I’d have to have words with you.”
Realization dawned on me that I was wearing a Packer’s shirt and ball cap, and this man did not approve. ”Evie, please hurry it up in there, I do not want to be knifed by a homeless man!!”, I thought. I mean, look, he probably wouldn’t have knifed me. He was barely wearing any clothes, so he probably didn’t have his homemade shiv on him at the moment. Besides, the Bears/Packers rivalry is just good natured fun, right? It’s not like we’re in Philly. On the other hand, this is a man who was standing naked in a public place. He probably isn’t the last word on proper behavior.
(Side note, I would think that if you had a place to watch the Bears’ games, you would have a place to take a shower, no?)
I found some excuse to dart into the women’s bathroom on the pretense of helping Evie (“What’s that honey, you need help reaching the soap?”), physically speeding her out of the bathroom. I gave him a nod as I dragged Evie by the arm back to the safety of the playground as fast as I could go and still maintain my “oh yeah, I’m totally cool with chatting with half-naked dudes I don’t know (who a very short while ago used to be completely-naked dudes I don’t know) outside of public bathrooms about our favorite sports teams” nonchalance.
This is one of those parenting moments they don’t teach you about in books.
Oh boy. It’s that time.
Oliver is in the midst of the most typical terrible twos there ever was. Although I know that the ability to throw down a tantrum and the desire to do exactly the opposite of what you’re told with a twinkle in his eye are normal for this age, it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I would say he is both better and worse than Evie (I was complaining about 15 minute crying fits? Ha!). On one hand, his personality is generally more easy going, and sometimes (very, very occasionally) you can derail him a little bit with distraction, because he’s not as single minded and determinedly furious as she was. (You would laugh at that last sentence if you could see how determinedly furious he has been at least once a day for the past few weeks.) He doesn’t seem to be *quite* as opinionated as Evie is about things. Okay, well, I will say this, at least he has never peed himself in anger just to spite me.
On the other hand, when Evie got really mad, she would always throw up. So it couldn’t go on that long; it had a built in time limit. Oliver can go on, and on, and on, and on no matter how many times you think, “He absolutely cannot keep up this level of anger for long.” Twice now he has kept me up for a solid hour in the middle of the night (believe me, I checked the time), shrieking, crying, sweating, kicking the ground, the whole nine, because I dared to change his dirty diaper. At one point I stopped trying to calm him down and just read a book. He never paused or even slowed down for a second. An hour is a long time to expend that much energy. I know I couldn’t manage it!
(Totally off topic here, by why is WordPress recommending that I tag this post Mitt Romney??? Draw your own conclusions on that one folks, I guess we know which way WordPress leans.)
Although most of the time his typical two year old behavior is frustrating (especially when it involves biting, hitting and kicking, and when it takes three times as long to get out the door), sometimes you can’t help but laugh. It’s just so funny to see someone totally Hulk out over something so trivial, like he would destroy the world with his anger over the fact that you put his dinner plate *there* instead of *right there* where it clearly belongs.
He’s normally such a sweetheart that this new thing is just so incongruous with his usual behavior. It’s really surprising, and then again it’s not. Having gone through this once already, it’s eerie how similar it is to when Evie was a two year old. As with a lot of things with raising Ollie, it’s easier to bear knowing that it’s totally normal, and it’s just a phase that will pass.
Although it’s never easy, parenting is a lot easier the second time around.
People without kids are going to have to deal with the fact that my kids might sometimes ruin their day
On occasion, children have been known to get out of hand. And on occasion, nearby people have been known to remark, or give the stink eye, especially if those nearby people have chosen not to have kids, or have raised their kids so long ago that they’ve completely forgotten the fact that on occasion their kids weren’t the perfect angels they remember them as.
This hasn’t happened to me, mind you, because my children are perfect angels. And also because I have a terrible scowl that is so fierce, judgmental people instinctively know that they can keep their judgement to themselves. And also because judgmental people are usually (but not always) wise enough to save their disapproval for a time when they are safely away from any kind of real confrontation (by which I mean the Internet).
So I have heard some general grousing about children ruining things. Everything. Meals at restaurants, movies, walking in the park, etc. (True story, last weekend Oliver screamed so loud in the bathroom at Meijer that people were forced to flee without washing their hands. My children even ruined hand washing!) And even more than that, I can assure you that I’ve *imagined* more complaining about my kids than all of the actual complaining about kids that has ever taken place put together.
I suppose there might be actual parents out there who really are clueless about what their kids are doing, ignoring them as they run circles around the restaurant, screaming at the top of their lungs, knocking people’s food off their plates, etc. (or at least that’s the way the pearl-clutching old ladies will tell the story to their church group or whatever when they get home) But speaking for the rest of us, I can assure you that we are absolutely mortified by bad behavior, even if we are pretending nonchalance as we hastily wolf down our meal and try to collect our stuff as fast as possible so we can get the hell out of there, crawl into a hole, and die.
As a parent, I try so hard to make sure my kids behave. I feel awful when my kids are awful. I think we do about as well as is physically possible to do, and yet despite our best efforts, on occasion they still cause trouble. Sometimes the kids still shriek at 5 a.m. in a hotel room because they can’t agree on who should get to use the remote like a pretend phone first. Sometimes they still make trouble at a restaurant because they didn’t get the right crayon color, or we forgot to let them order for themselves, or they didn’t have “the right kind of french fries”.
But here’s the thing: all of that is part of learning how to behave.
It could be argued that it’s not fair that my kids are ruining your experience, that my choice to have kids is interfering with your choice to not have kids. I suppose there is some merit to that. However, if you make that argument, then you can’ t complain about how awful kids are these days, or how society is going to hell in a handbasket. Because we’re trying to be good parents, and trying to make our kids into good, respectful people. We’re trying to teach them how to behave. And when you’re learning something, you don’t always get it right the first time (believe it or not, our kids get it right more often then not, and when they don’t, it’s my fault for misjudging the level of tiredness/hungriness/orneriness in the first place).
If we hide in a bunker, never exposing our kids to the real world, then they’re going to end up as weirdo degenerate sub-humans who don’t know how to act in public, or interact with the real world. And ultimately, that’s going to end up disrupting your life a lot more than this one dinner.
Oliver has now had his first injury requiring a trip to the hospital.
Last Wednesday, Oliver was running in the park and tripped over his own feet, falling just so that his chin slammed into a bench, causing him to bite deeply into his lower lip.
Now I wasn’t there, so I’m telling all of this second hand. As you can imagine, a deep lip wound bleeds like a gusher. By the time Sara got to him, his hands were covered with blood. He calmed down pretty quickly, but he wanted to be held. When Sara managed to get a look at it, she was pretty sure it would need stitches. Unfortunately, they were about a mile from the hospital with no car. At least Sara was with a co-worker, so she didn’t have to deal with this all by herself. Sara called me at work, so I left for home, but by the time I got there most of the excitement had died down.
The good news is that Sara has the hospital connections, so we actually avoided a trip to the emergency room. Sara planned to go to the ER, but she wanted her boss to take a look at it first, to get a second opinion. I felt like it was definitely worth having him take a look. A trip to the ER would have been very painful, slow, and expensive and having to sit and wait and have his wound poked and prodded, not to mention having his blood pressure and temperature taken, etc. would most likely be a lot more traumatic for Oliver than the actual stitches.
They managed to have several doctors look at it. It was sort of a borderline case; it wasn’t too deep, but it was right on the lip line. One doctor said, “20 years ago I would have said stitches for sure, but these days I’m not so sure.” Finally, Sara’s boss and one of the doctors applied liquid stitches in his office. For Oliver’s part, he was content to let whomever do whatever they wanted to his lip. He never cried after the initial injury and sat still and quiet while they stretched his lips and applied the glue.
The liquid stitches were kind of gross. They’d probably be okay on your arm or something, but between the glue starting to peel off and bits of food getting caught up into it, it kind of seemed worse than having nothing at all.
When Sara called, my first thought was, “How is Evie taking it?” She worries about Oliver so much, and is so protective over him, and is so sensitive about him getting hurt, that I know she would be absolutely freaked out. She certainly was. Afterwards, she made a card for Sara’s boss that said, “Thank you for saving Oliver’s life.”
Anyway, now the glue is mostly off and everything looks a lot better. I’m not sure if he’ll have a very noticeable scar or not, but it’s definitely going to heal. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped him from running face first into everything he can find like a human bowling ball.
Over the weekend, Evie had her very first ballet recital. She performed the frog dance.
She had a dress rehearsal on Friday, which meant that I was responsible for hair and makeup that day. Eek! You have no idea how stressed out about that I was. I practiced a little, and I have to say, the ballet bun turned out much better than I expected. I didn’t go full on makeup mode, just stuck to a little blush. All in all, not nearly as scary as I thought it would be!
Evie was very excited about the recital. She didn’t seem nervous at all, and I kept wanting to ask her if she was nervous, but I didn’t want to then make her nervous by bringing it up. It seemed like it hadn’t occurred to her to be nervous. But then again, of course it didn’t, because there’s nothing she loves better than performing for a crowd.
In fact, as I mentioned on facebook, that morning she was lying on the floor crying, “I need some attention!” I said to her, “Evie, in an hour you’re going to be on a stage with a whole audience watching you.” She got this slow, luxurious, evil smile on her face that looked exactly like:
It was almost creepy. My brother saw it too, and he said it put goosebumps on his arms.
Her recital was the day of Baconfest (posts to come next week), so my brother and I wore our Baconfest shirts. I wasn’t sure if I was a little *too* dressed down (hey, the shirt was pink!), so I was nervous, but it ended up being okay. At one point I saw a dad in a Captain America tee shirt sitting in the row behind us and marked his location. Always good to know who you can count on in case trouble goes down.
I saw the costumes at the dress rehearsal, but Evie made Sara promise not to look at the pictures so it would be a surprise the day of. I thought the costumes were pretty awesome.
The day of the recital, Sara took care of the makeup and hair preparation, and (not surprisingly) she did a much better job than me. I’m not sure how I feel about requiring makeup for 4 year olds. I know it is part of performing, and part of what makes the whole thing feel special, but it had me feeling a little “Toddlers and Tiaras“, you know?
I was pretty excited to see her, but then something strange happened. Almost immediately, as soon as the first performance began, I started to get a lump in my throat (frog in my throat?). It was very strange, and unexpected. I mean, in retrospect it makes a lot of sense I guess, but it really had never occurred to me that I would get choked up. And it wasn’t even Evie performing yet, the girls on stage were like 15. Next up was a group 3 year olds and I totally lost it. I was taken completely by surprise! I looked over at Sara and she was wiping tears from her eyes too. “Are you crying?” I mouthed. Sara nodded. “Me too,” I said. The extra funny part was that I apparently got it all out of my system, because I didn’t get choked up during Evie’s actual performance.
I was pretty impressed that, through the entire performance, none of the kids freaked out or froze. Considering parents aren’t even allowed to sit in during practice, I thought an entire auditorium full might throw at least the 3 year olds. Not so. Kudos to the dance teachers!
Oliver was so proud of his big sis. He’s really excited to do ballet when he gets old enough. Evie was really on cloud nine afterwards. I bought her a flower from the farmer’s market, and she got another from her teacher. She seemed so old, with her flowers and congratulatory hugs and pictures with her friends. All in all, it was pretty awesome, and I’m glad she did an activity that she really enjoyed. It really seemed like the performance was one of the highlights in her life thus far.