Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Taking the Leap

Today I learned two things:

1. Amari's little two-year old body is perfectly designed to survive an unintentional, inelegant roll down our flight of stairs.

2. Be it in writing, words, or even thoughts, one should never tempt the universe with over-confidence in that which one knows is ever-changing and always fleeting.

The second lesson actually began last night. I had one of the best days I've ever had as a parent. Amari woke up in a good mood and hit the ground running. She didn't complain about transitions, put her shoes on by herself, pooped in the potty - things were looking up. When we hit the sometimes crowded, often unpredictable local playground it was completely empty except for the two kids we were meeting there. Could it get any better? Yes, it could. Fifteen minutes later, Amari was taking her first solo trips down the big kid slides she'd always been afraid of. What was going on here?

Next up, toddler yoga. Hit or miss up 'til this point - one week Amari was all about the tree pose, the next one she stuck with shivasana (the corpse pose) across my lap for thirty minutes. This week, she was like I'd never seen - except occasionally on way too much sugar or way to little sleep. She was out-going, funny, doing poses, making noises, rolling on the ground, giggling, dancing. It was so great to see her enjoying herself so much. She's like that at home a lot, but I hadn't seen her cut loose like that in a social setting.

I loved it.

After yoga, we had lunch with Mama at the high school, then went home for a nap that was long enough and deep enough that I could put on the monitor, get an hour of exercise in and still have some time to relax. This was unbelievable. Post-nap the good vibrations continued. We built a fort, picked up mom, and had a yummy picnic dinner on the living room floor. That was when I made my fatal mistake.

Sitting on the couch by our blazing wood stove, listening to the lilting sounds of the bathtub filling over a chorus of Amari chattering and music playing, I reflected on the day and thought to myself, "This is awesome. What a great age. I totally have this parenting thing dialed." I may have even gone on to toot my own horn even more and wonder how on earth I would be able to relate to other parents at the next bitch session.

Big mistake. Huge. Next thing I know it's taking an hour for Amari to fall asleep, while I lay there cursing myself for even thinking such stupid thoughts.

Today, and I'll hyphenate as I've learned to do with almost everything, was an F-ing N-mare. The details aren't important, as I'm sure everyone has had a day like this in one of its insundry forms. Mine came in the shape of a moody two year-old and a mother-in-law. It was a day of spills and falls and bad timing. Even when I tried to go with flow, breathe in the bad day and breathe out acceptance, it backfired.

The first incident was the staircase. I have a rule I try to enforce where Amari is not allowed to carry things up or down the stairs. I feel like she has enough to focus on as it is. Recently she has taken to sliding down the (carpeted) stairs backwards on her stomach. It's fast and fun and safe and I don't mind at all. Today she wanted to try going head-first. I said, "I don't think that's a good idea." She tried anyway and got stuck on the first stair.

Later on, despite my rules and suggestions, Amari carried two "Little People" (small plastic toys) up the stairs. I can only imagine that she then tried to roll down the stairs with them, because the next thing I heard was "" By the time I got to the landing, she was bouncing off the second to last step into my outstretched arms. I did dramatize it a bit - a la Grady Sizemore - and dive unnecessarily after the catch. Amari was red-faced and in tears, burying her face in my chest, saying some incoherent things between sobs, and all the while clutching firmly to the "Little People" she had obviously saved from injury.


The day went on...and on...and I can't even remember why it sucked so much at this point. Like childhood amnesia spares children from the horrific memories of birth and teething and lousy parenting, we parents have a similar mechanism that allows us to block out the hard days and continue to love and adore our children the next.

Later on, the days of adolescence are too vivid to repress and we look forward to them going off to college, getting a job, joining a cult, or whatever else will get them out of the house. So in this moment, I humbly think, write, and say out loud, "I have nothing dialed." Like my recovery from alcoholism. All I have is today.

Amari with her various Homies

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coming of Age

Amari will be two and a third in early March. That's right, we've moved on from weeks and months to fractions. I'm really looking forward to mid-April when she's two and six-thirteenths. I hear it's an awesome time in a toddlers life.

In all seriousness, this is the age I imagined writing about when Jen suggested I write a blog of my parenting experiences. Sure, babies are cute and ever-changing, novel and priceless, and the milestones of rolling, crawling, walking, and talking are note-worthy (I took many notes), but now that Amari's stringing together sentences, putting the pieces together, and dare I say cultivating a world-view (sort of), I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what she might say next. Reminds me of that old Bill Cosby TV show, "Kids Say the Cutest Fucking Shit." 

Just the other morning I woke up and toyed with the idea of getting out of bed. Amari was still asleep next to me, tossing and turning, probably contemplating the same thing. Finally she noticed my eyes were open and she lift her weary head and said (with more enthusiasm than I ever say it), "Amari need coffee." That's my girl. The interesting thing is that she still doesn't use the pronoun "I." Early on I read in a parenting book that we should avoid "I" and "you" and instead use more concrete pronouns, "Dada loves Amari," and I took it to heart. As a result - for now - everything is "Amari..." 

Here are a few episodes of my own, home-version, of that funny, old Cosby show.

 --While cutting Amari's hair the other day, evening up a few stray pieces, she asked me, "Can Amari cut Dada's hair?" to which I replied, "Sure. When you're older." She paused for about five seconds and then asked, "Am I older now?"

--Although the two's have come with the whole-hearted development of the word "mine," I recently discovered a couple of advantages. The first is during moment of resistance - PJs and bedtime. When I claim it's time to put on my PJs and drink my bottle, Amari will let down her guard and claim her ownership. "My PJs, my bottle," and it's off to bed. The other advantage came during an apology. I can't remember the details, but when I said, "I'm sorry Amari. That was my fault," she was immediately up in arms saying, "No Dada, my fault." I'll enjoy this stage for a while.

--I brief truth-telling about potty training. Several months ago Amari took toe pee-pee-ing on the potty at home and we thought we were free and clear of diapers. I was excited, but the excitement quickly wore off for Amari and it became hit or miss - and there was certainly no training going on outside the house. I got lots of feedback from other parents including one who said, "When she's ready, she'll tell you." When I heard that I thought, "That's ridiculous."

Sure enough, after the quick and successful training of her friend Hunter, Amari was putting up her normal diaper-changing fuss, complete with kicking and whining, when I finally said, "Listen, if you don't want to wear diapers anymore then you have to potty train like Hunter. If that's something you want, then tell me." Silence. Diaper on. End of conversation. Three hours later, rolling around on the floor and playing with something or other, Amari paused, looked up at me and said, "Dada, Amari want to potty train." That was the beginning. An accident a day for the first three days, and since then she's been pretty solid. Except for the solids. Poop has been an issue, which appears to be resolving itself, but pretty traumatic for a while. Really traumatic for a while after that. We had to model making grunting noises/faces and helping her push them out, and I think she's getting better at letting go. A therapist friends says it's a very existential experience for some kids, but who knows.

--An indication that she is getting the poop idea came when I was trying to get a sticker off a page for her. "What's wrong, Dada?" Amari asked.
"It's really stuck," I said.
"You have to Mmmmmm (grunting poop noise with accompanied face) like poo-poo."
I obliged and the sticker came right off.

--And finally, the other night at dinner, Amari passed something to her mom and said, "There you go, babe." We definitely are watching what we say more closely, and I'm really grateful she didn't say, "There you go you ungrateful bitch."

More cute fucking shit soon.