This morning, the unthinkable happened. Ted woke up quietly.
It was unthinkable, because he has never been a morning person. Yes, he’d wake up early and be ready to do something (as long as that something wasn’t getting dressed), but his first reaction to being awake has always been to cry.
It was getting old.
It was also unpredictable. He’d wake up at any point between 5 and 7am, and scream. Frustrated, a few weeks ago I started consistently pointing out his clock to him, and refusing to do anything until 7. He’s got a late bedtime, so it seemed reasonable.
"What time is it?" I’d ask, and he’d look at me suspiciously. "It’s 5 in the morning, honey. It’s not breakfast time yet. Call me when this is pointing here, to 7."
Then, I’d walk away and crawl back into my bed. A few more seconds of screaming would ensue, after which he’d slam his door and go back to sleep.
Today, I woke up to a tentative, “Mommy? It’s seven!”
He sounded really proud of himself. I scampered over to his door and, just to make sure he wasn’t bluffing, asked him to show me on the clock. He pointed to the right number, jumping with excitement and mumbling something about the short arm. It was, indeed, seven.
"Breakfast time!" I said, and a starter gun wouldn’t have worked better. He raced up the stairs like we were running out of crumpets.
It was bliss, for once, to be woken up by something else than ear-splitting wails. Here’s hoping Ted’s newfound morning restraint is here to stay.
My newest parenting venture - gasp! - is not backed by any research (that I know of). I simply saw something I wanted and built a belief system around it.
A few days ago, in preparation for a total of at least 12 hours to be spent on planes, I took Ted to a toy store to pick out new distractions. Staggered opening of toys worked well on our journey to and from London, so I was placing a lot of faith in it still working nearly half a year later. (Half a year is eons to a two-year-old. For Ted, it’s the difference between a bubbly preverbal early walker, and a running, leaping, stream-of-consciousness roiling cauldron of questions and wants.)
We were about to leave the store when Ted got excited about a comic-book wallet. It was very cool, and I liked the look of it myself. So instead of saying, “You don’t even have money to put into that,” I said, “Certainly,” and snuck in a $2.50 inside as I was packing it that night.
In that first moment, I thought it might be useful in teaching him early math or maybe how to save, but in the end I settled on the use that served me best: saying “no.”
We were sightseeing a lot, and visiting a lot of toddler-friendly places, so the temptations were a legion, and my jet-lagged willpower low.
But then there was the wallet. Whenever Ted asked for something entirely superfluous (like a light-up rotating mini galaxy, $9.99), I would pull out that wallet and say,
"Let’s see if you’ve got enough money. One… Two… I’m sorry, sweetheart. There’s not enough here to buy this toy."
For some reason, that pacified his consumerism every time. And when finally he asked for something he could afford, he had far more fun with it than I’d expect him to have otherwise.
Overall, he spent $1.50 on two commemorative pennies, and hasn’t asked for anything since. While it works, I’m keeping this one in my arsenal.
Another year, another trip to Boston, same enthusiasm.
Never mind positive discipline. At least a few times a day, we end up using straight-up threats to get the desired behavior. It’s amazing what works.
"You don’t want to go to school today? That’s fine. I wanted some time to read a book."
"Keep up or it’s the stroller for the rest of the day."
"Stay where I can see you or you’re going in the cart."
"Of course you don’t have to clean up and wash your hands. I’ll get you a slice of bread when we’ve finished our dinner."
"If you leave your plate on the table, it’s what you’re having for your next meal."
"In the bath or I’m taking it myself."
"Bed or I’m confiscating your blankets."
There have been many more, but those are the ones I’ve used more often. Most of the time, they work like a charm and I don’t have to follow through. He did have dry bread for dinner once. He’s been picking up his toys without a peep since.
We’ve been working on some more numbers, and slowly Ted’s getting used to the teens. He’s got something against 15 (which - if he does say it - he only says as “fiveteen”), and keeps coming back to 11 in place of 20, but apart from that he’s doing all right.
Yesterday in the car, he started counting to himself. He whizzed through 1 to 10, then embarked on the slow slog up.
"11, 12, 13, 14… 16, 17… 18… 19… Wooooh!… So… Many… Numbers!"
He sounded genuinely amazed. Hundreds are going to blow his mind.
Missing Daddy. Asleep with a recordable book DH left him a week ago.
I’ve started the “challenge" today. Not so much because I need reminding to be happy, but because I like the idea of having to pick one moment each day, of stopping for a moment to say, "This. This right here. This is it."
And then Instagramming it.
I didn’t want it to be all about Ted right off the bat, so I snapped a pic of the pantry the moment it was finally clean, after three days of solid shovelling. Yup, it was that overfilled and messy. Yup, it made me that deliriously happy.
By the end of the day, however, Ted had a moment of his own to rival mine:
We missed our bus coming back from the beach. Ted was tired and hungry, so was in no position to cope with the disappointment in a mature way. Somehow, I talked him off the meltdown ledge by promising there might be another bus nearby. We started walking. Sure enough, a bus came from around the corner I was aiming for, and I panicked. I scooped Ted up and started running back to the stop we left. Some people crossing the road slowed the bus down, and we made it. I planted Ted inside and climbed on. The driver asked where we were headed. I told him. He said that was no problem. He was done for the day and was heading back to the base, but our stop was still on his way. We had the bus all to ourselves. Ted was so excited, he even remembered to say “thank you” as we left!
A hundred happy moments right there.
He didn’t want to get in the car just yet. We’d just finished running all the errands, the weather turned stunningly spring-like, so I didn’t mind.
"Let’s go for a walk, then," I offered.
"What’s a walk?" he asked. The question took me by surprise.
"Well, it’s when you put one foot in front of the other, and let them take you wherever they may. If you want to, you stop to look at the flowers, and you can say, ‘Look, how beautiful those flowers are!’ Or you look at the sky and you say, ‘Look, how brilliantly blue the sky is today!’ Or you feel the breeze on your face, and you laugh and say, ‘I like it very much when the wind is so warm and gentle, and messes up my hair just so!’" I tousled his blond mop, and he giggled, precisely placing his feet. He really took this "one foot in front of the other" to heart.
"You’ve got it!"
We turned a corner and ran up and down church steps. The nearby school finished for the day, and uniformed children streamed down the sidewalks, chattering. A straggler ran up the church stairs as well and, finding us on the other side, said hello to Ted. Ted pretended not to notice him. The boy asked if Ted would like to help him blow some bubbles. He pulled out a bottle from his pocket, and instantly Ted was there. The breeze would snatch the bubbles and push them up the church’s facade, and the two of them stood on the steps, looking up and squealing with joy.
And just like that, we’ve wasted a perfectly good afternoon.
I have deliberately avoided calling any of Ted’s playmates his “friends.”
I’m particular this way. I’m very slow to warm up to people and don’t throw the word around lightly. Heck, I’ve got a whole rating system: friends, mates, acquaintances… When you’re an introvert, those things matter - that’s how you decide how to spend your limited socializing stamina.
It doesn’t help that I’m also perversely literal. When one of the other moms at our preschool pulled her child away saying, “We don’t hit our friends!” my first thought was, “But it’s okay to annihilate your enemies?”
Still, I made sure to tell Ted when I was going to spend time with my friends. I told him how good it felt, and that it was okay to like more than one person, and to like them differently.
There were a few times other children, following their parents’ example, called Ted a friend, but he never paid much attention to it.
Today at preschool all this changed. At snack time, a girl joined our table telling her mom she was going to sit down next to her friend. For the first time, I could tell Ted noticed. He didn’t look up, however, just kept on eating his pear.
Later at home, after lunch, I told him it was nap time. He jumped up and objected. First, he said, he had to gather his friends.
Ready for their nap in the corner of the room. The big dump truck helped the mixer get there.
You may think this is sweet, but there are friends and there are cliques. I’m afraid the trucks belong to the latter.
Two puzzle trucks bullying a double decker.
Ted’s all about social interaction today. Alas, all his friends are plastic.
In the car, looking out of the window, matter-of-factly apropos nothing:
"I love fries."
His first unsolicited profession of devotion.