Monthly Archives: December 2011

santa deconstructed (just a little bit) + cute photo

We succumbed. We made our way to a mall (the less popular one in our city, on a weekday, as soon as it opened–because we don’t do malls and crowds and crazy), and our son paid a visit to old St. Nick. He first met Santa (as far as he remembers) at a local craft fair a couple of weeks ago. This Santa gave him a candy cane–his first ever–and he may have even given him a high five. These were two major points in his favor. The other factor is that Santa slightly resembles BG’s grandpa, whom he adores and idolizes.

I think there was a time that my wife was unsure about the whole Santa thing, whether we would tell our son about him, whether we would fill him in. I’m honestly glad she’s turned around. Our son is faced with so much reality, but it is so uncommon that we get to lose ourselves in mythology these days. With Santa, we get to indulge in a little myth, and that makes me feel connected to something really old. Humans have always had our gods and goddesses, our saints, our muses. This is part of the wonder of being human–entertaining that imagination, believing in something greater–or at least more interesting–than our everyday lives. Choosing to explore Santa in this way makes this a little more meaningful to me.

But to BG, he’s a cool guy who gives out candy, and as far as he knows, nobody else on earth does that (his moms sure as hell don’t, much to BG’s chagrin), so Santa is pretty fabulous to him. That, however, is all the meaning he has ascribed to him, and isn’t that the joy of being a child?

The wonder I find in this is that BG is not a fan of strangers or even people he doesn’t see often. He’s a bit shy and slow to warm up to people. So when we saw this Santa in the mall, and he walked right up to the guy, it was pretty surprising. At first he wasn’t interested in his lap, but he did sit down next to him. A few moments later, he was fine with sitting on his lap to pose for a few photos. A proper California Santa, this Santa called him “dude” and even said, “Right on!” a few times. Then Santa gave him a candy cane lollipop, and BG was thrilled (although ready to move on once the transaction had taken place). My mom was with us and bought photos. She’s a sucker, but I suppose this year we probably would have done it ourselves because we’ve become suckers too. I’ve become smitten with tradition. Oh, who am I kidding. I’ve always loved ritual and tradition. I get weepy at parades. Seriously.

There’s something very special about seeing a child recognize an icon like this. Santa is an archetype, one that my son already recognizes, even without media exposure.  I find a good deal of joy in watching him fall for this guy. I know people worry about the letdown of learning that Santa is a myth, but if a child is raised with a healthy understanding of mythology, with an understanding of the imaginary, I’m not sure there’s any need for concern. I adored Santa as a child, but as I realized he was not real, I perpetuated the myth–for my parents, for my younger siblings–and it was still special to me. This chance to start all over again with Santa, well, that’s pretty wonderful too.

So here he is: my boy who hasn’t slept in a month or so, and Santa Claus himself:

 

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my little changeling

Well, he slept through the night last night. We may as well have had a damn party today. He got to snuggle with us in our bed after he woke up at a reasonable hour (six-ish, which may seem ridiculous to some, but it’s a great time to wake up when you’ve been starting your days at 5:00). Then later in the morning, we did some baking for J’s secretaries at work, so we baked with lots of real sugar, and not only did he get to lick the mixer paddle, but he also got to eat a whole piece of the super-sweet gingerbread we made with his dinner (and we were reminded once again why his sugar intake is so limited. Wowza!). He got a toy prize and even some money (well, we always give him our change, and today happened to be an empty the coin purse day). We praised him like mad, and we talked all day about what a great job he did sleeping all night. Whether this will ever happen again, I do not know, but I think the different nighttime routine last night, the fact that he had gotten some sleep yesterday, and perhaps a shift in his thinking all worked together to result in better rest.

My son attributes his good night’s sleep to his little buddy Stretch, a sweet, abstract blue giraffe lovey that plays music when you pull its neck. He liked this toy as a baby, but for some reason, he loves it even more now. Yesterday, we took Stretch shopping at Costco and lost him. It was far more devastating than I ever imagined I could be over a stuffed animal. I frantically retraced our steps but to no avail. BG kept looking at me concerned, telling me he wanted to see Stretch. To my utter relief, someone had turned him in to their lost and found, and he and BG were joyfully reunited (seriously cute). Honestly, Stretch had taken a backseat for some time, but now that he has been lost and found, now that he has gone on his very own adventure and returned, BG finds him extraordinarily special and has reattached to him in a whole new way. Therefore, Stretch was very important to his sleep last night, as I’m sure he will be again tonight.

I’m not going to let myself get too comfortable with the idea of him truly sleeping just yet though. (Edited to add that he actually woke up once as I was writing this post. Damn.)

There are other changes in the works too. I think BG might be weaning himself.

We have been down to nursing once before bed (and to sleep) for the past month, and most nights he has nursed for as long as he could, not willing to unlatch even when he’s quite asleep. Last night certainly surprised me when he was ready to stop nursing so quickly and was ready to go to his room. It worked out well, but I didn’t expect the same tonight. It actually wasn’t the same. Tonight, he started nursing, and did so for about thirty seconds. Then he said, “Mommy, close that” (referring to my shirt) and then “Other side.” On the other side, he nursed for less than ten seconds and then told me, “Don’t want to nurse.” I told him that was okay, and I said it was okay if he didn’t want to nurse anymore. He said, “Okay. Sing teapot song, Mommy.” So I sang “I’m a Little Teapot” five thousand times as my son tried to find a new way to fall asleep. I was a little stunned, yet it’s also working out as I had hoped, that we would gradually decrease and eventually easily wean altogether. I had a feeling BG would be far too traumatized by any other method, so if this is the way he wants to go about it, I’m there. More on how this feels when the time comes, but for now, it’s interesting, very interesting indeed.

As insanely hard this past month has been (and were it not for the record of it here, I would swear it’s been more like five months), I am fascinated by what is going on with my son. He’s clearly trying to figure some things out for himself. He’s deciding when and how he wants to detach and how he wants to stay close. I’m so proud of him as I see this, yet I can only wonder what life looks like on the other side of this. For all I know, he could be nursing for an hour tomorrow night before bed or he could be putting on his own pajamas, reading himself a story, and tucking himself in. I think I’ll just hope for the best and continue to be awestruck–because so far, that’s kind of where each stage of his life has left me. It’s not a bad place to be.

 

Bonus photos, because it’s been a long time:

catching raindrops

Pointing out his favorite red KitchenAid mixer in the now-famous "Mixer Book"

 

 

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a little slice of sleep hell

We are still in the midst of sleep hell around here, which explains my radio silence. I’m so sleep-deprived that I’m numb now. Most nights, I’ve been up no fewer than three times. One night last week, it was something like six or seven within the course of three hours between midnight and 3am. This ended with me in tears sitting in the middle of my son’s room begging him to sleep. That night, he would wake, and I would take him back to his room, wait for him to fall asleep (because if I don’t, he’ll follow me), and then sneak out back to my bed and go back to sleep only to be wakened again twenty minutes later to my son standing next to my bed. Several nights in a row, we just let him get in bed with us, and then my wife opted for the guest room so that she could get a few hours of sleep before teaching. My mom came to visit on Thursday, and the boy woke us all up. She offered to have him sleep with her, and she proceeded to chat with him (apparently so that he wouldn’t get upset) resulting in the whole house being wide awake at 3am. He then came to bed with us where he slept across us, occasionally using my skull as a pillow and my wife’s bladder as a kicking bag. Hell, I tell you.

But after a couple of nights of sleep, and a therapy session wherein we focused entirely on our son’s behavior, we have some new plans. He has a pallet on the floor by our bed where he is welcome to lie down, but we’re not inviting him back into our bed. We’re working with a reward system (you sleep in your bed, you get some sort of great thing, be it a trip to the park, an extra book at bedtime, etc.), but are still scoffing at the star chart our therapist insisted we need to use. I don’t know what my beef is with star charts, but I think ultimately, it’s the rewards system I’m having trouble with, the feeling that I’m training a dog. We’re doing it fairly half-heartedly and instead offering a lot of direct praise as well as letting him “overhear” us talk about how great it is when he sleeps in his bed. Ultimately, I think he wants to please us more than he wants a prize, which I think will work to our advantage. Maybe. I hope.

Honestly, I question whether those months of him sleeping all night (or those blessed mornings where he slept until 8am) were even real. Maybe it was a dream. But one would have to have slept to dream such a thing, right?

I just keep reminding myself that eventually this will pass, that things will change. Tonight, instead of nursing to sleep (oh god, I know, but when the alternative is dancing a thirty-pound kid to sleep because his brain is just too busy to put himself to sleep, you do what you have to do), he nursed for a few minutes, then asked me to rock and sing him. A few minutes later, he asked me to take him to his room, and in his words, “Dance goodnight and lay down on pillow.” This meant me dancing him to the song “Good Night” (Laurie Berkner). Normally, it means many iterations of that song and my back straining (and convincing myself that at least it’s a good workout,) and the boy finally falling asleep. Tonight it meant a single iteration of the song, and then he let me know he was ready to lie in his bed. He held my hand, wanted me to rub his head, and then finally rolled over and went to sleep. It took awhile, but he did it, and he has NEVER done this.  I’m sure all of the hardcore sleep trainers out there are shaking their heads, saying “No wonder this family isn’t sleeping,” but as I’ve said before, CIO was never in the cards for us, and putting him down to sleep on his own has always meant a lot of crying.

I don’t know what any of this means. I don’t know if he’ll actually sleep tonight, or if I’ll be up most of the night shivering by his bed, willing him the fuck to sleep.

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where did he go?

We have long played this version of peek-a-boo with our son where he covers himself up with a napkin, a curtain, a blanket, etc., and we say, “Where did BG go? Have you seen him? Where is he?” And then he removes the cloth to reveal that he was, in fact, there the whole time, and we all giggle wildly. We have always loved the game, but it seems that the game and our realities are becoming a little blurred.

With our son’s sleep deprivation (some nights waking up every hour for five hours!), the work he’s doing on his last two two-year molars, his transition into a regular bed, and his other transition away from daytime nursing, it’s as though our smiley, mellow, eager-to-please little boy has hidden himself away, and in his place, we see daily this crabby, irritable, boundary-testing, mom-hitting, book-throwing, tantrum-having child. Occasionally, he peaks out from beneath his hiding place to giggle and snuggle, but then moments later, the two monster comes roaring back to tell me I’m not allowed to sing or wear glasses or cross my legs or say, “I love you.” And then he kicks me.

Having spent a lot of years taking care of toddlers, and several when I cared almost exclusively for two-year-olds, I know this is normal, especially given this specific set of circumstances, but it’s so hard to be the parent of one of these creatures.

Take clothing changes, for example. We used to change clothes with a good deal of ease. He would get dressed after a bath with no problems, and he would gladly have his clothes changed, especially if he had spilled something. Today, he spilled water on himself, and he asked me to change his clothes. We then proceeded to struggle for the next thirty minutes to change his clothes–and these were clothes that he had chosen. Oh, it’s exhausting. Just giving the kid a beverage is mind boggling. He has never fought simply drinking, but now there are like fifty criteria that must be in place before he will not fling the beverage across the room and disintegrate into tears and whining.

And oh, the whining! It’s endless. It’s obnoxious. It’s so frustrating!

I should say, though, that we have a few little glimmers of hope. We have been working hard at getting our cute little monster (did I mention he glares at us and that it’s really hard not to laugh?) to communicate what he’s upset about. A week or so ago, he told me for the first time that something was frustrating him (I believe it was a whisk). Now, he tells us what frustrates him a little more regularly. This week, he has started to tell us when he is mad at us, and in the past few days, he has told us why he is mad. Tonight we were sitting down for his pre-bedtime stories, and he kept hitting my wife. He didn’t want to read. He just wanted to hit her. Finally after a few minutes of us sitting there baffled, waiting for our normal son to return, he told my wife, “BG mad at Mama that bathtime is over!” Aha. She apologized to him for ending his bath and asked him to forgive her. He kissed her, hugged her, and was then ready to read stories, especially once I offered a bath in the morning. This was fairly illustrative of where we are right now, but this I can understand. Until he has the words to express his feelings, he’s going to stew in them, and will grapple with them as any little wild animal would–with physical expressions.

The fact that we’re beginning to talk about feelings is a little mindblowing to me, but I see–or rather hope–that this is going to work in our favor soon, that the outbursts and throwing of objects and kicking and hitting may soon decrease in favor of more verbal expressions of his feelings. I know we’re in for more challenges and tantrums, but to be able to communicate about them, even afterward, makes such a difference.

Whether or not this endless game of peek-a-boo will be over once the teeth come in, and we start sleeping through the night again, and he’s used to his big boy accommodations is something I cannot predict. I can say, however, that I miss my happy little jokester

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