The Texture Of Things

Long Memory

July 11th, 2008

As I read Hedra’s recent post, I was reminded of something. It wasn’t the main point of the post at all – far from it – but her mention of her son remembering a hurt, a broken promise, from two years ago made me remember something the tot told me a month ago.

We were driving to see my mom in the hospital. It was a week or so before the tot’s birthday. I knew at this point that there would be no big family/friend birthday party for the tot because the logistics of it were just too difficult with my mom in the hospital for an indefinite stay. (Turns out it was short, but we couldn’t predict at that point.) I rationalized that hey, she’s four. She had a big party last year for her third birthday where we rented a pony party place owned by the family of a friend of mine. She doesn’t need a big party every year, especially with a sibling on the way. How on earth would we afford that for two kids, let alone just one? So, I chose to let her daycare caregiver have a little lunch party for her at day care on the day after her birthday.

FWIW, even in hindsight, I think this was the right choice, and that’s saying something for me. I often overthink, rethink, and regret the way my choices played out. It’s the doubter and the perfectionist in me. But this worked. She had fun, she had several friends with her, she got presents, and she had a regular “Happy Birthday” cake, song, and dance. She had the birthday experience.

But I’m skipping ahead. What I was reminded of came before the party.

We were driving to the hospital and we were talking about the party, which would take place the following week. I had been telling her about it, narrative style, so she’d know what to expect. “On Thursday, the day after your birthday, you’re going to go to L’s.”

“And I’m gonna have a party?”

“Right. You’ll get there, and you’ll hang out with your buddies, and –”

“And I’ll get presents?”

“–and your party will be at lunch time. I don’t know what you’ll do first. Maybe you’ll have some lunch –”

“And cupcakes!”

“– and cupcakes, and they’ll sing you ‘Happy Birthday’ –”

“Ooh! Can I wear my tiara?”

“Absolutely you get to wear the birthday tiara!”

“And I’ll get presents!”

“There might be some presents for you. It is entirely possible.”

And there was much smiling and happy wiggly dancing from the booster in the back seat.

She got quiet for a second and then she said, “When I was at my party and there was a pony there and I felled off.”

What happened in my head went a little like this:

Uncertainty: What? [Replaying the sounds in my head. I hear Matter of Fact, not Distress.]
Fact-check: She’s right!
Realization: Holy crap, she remembers falling off the pony at last year’s birthday party, when she was THREE.

ALERT! ALERT! RESPOND! SAY SOMETHING OUT LOUD!

“That’s right, tot. You did. Do you remember what else happened?”

Work the narrative, work the narrative.

“I had a party and there was a pony and I felled off.”

It was all I could get from her, but I had the hunch she remembered more than that, so I offered up some narrative to see if she’d fill in any gaps.

“You had a party at K’s grandma’s farm and everyone got to ride on a pony.”

“And I falled off!”

“Daddy put you on the pony and you sat in the saddle. A lady walked the pony and you rode it!”

“And then I slipped and I falled off.”

“You slipped and Daddy was there and he shouted and the lady turned around and caught you.”

“She catched me and I didn’t get hurt!”

Oh good, she did remember that part, but boy, what a long memory for a four-year-old.

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I let this conversation roll around in my head for a while and then I guess I forgot about it until I read about Hedra’s son. When it came back to me, it came as a flash, complete with sensory and emotional information – how warm it was in the car, how bright it was that afternoon, how it was mostly quiet with the windows only cracked and the sunroof open, how tired I felt and how I wished I could just be driving home from picking her up from daycare.

It came with a further-back memory, one from her infancy, when I was fascinated and a little obsessed with what would be the tot’s first memory. When she is older, what will she remember about being little? How far back will her memory go? Would it be happy, sad, or matter-of-fact? Tied to this is my memory of a conversation with the director of the daycare center I first took the tot to when she was 14 months old. I had been concerned about how well she would nap there, how long it would take her to adapt to the disparate sets of rules and expectations, and how hard that would be if she was only there two days a week. The director laughed me off. She said, “She’ll do fine! They can remember so much!”

This intrigued me, naturally, because of my interest in memory. “Really? You think so?”

“Oh, they remember everything!”

This, actually, was not what I needed to hear. For me, having a daughter has made me replay memories from my childhood and it’s driven me to share and grow closer with my mom, but it seems like every time I have shared with my mom a childhood memory involving her, she puts a negative spin on it or is aghast that I would remember her “as such a horrible person!” Which is strange to me because I have never deliberately shared memories that I felt portrayed her in a bad light. They exist, I just didn’t share them. Still, I tend to leave these interactions with my mom with a heaviness in my heart. This pattern with my mom was just developing when my conversation with the daycare director happened, and my core reaction was “Oh no! She [the tot] will remember every mistake I make!”

Of course I overreacted. The tot will surely remember mistakes I make, but not every one. And she will remember good stuff, too, things that I don’t even realize are settling with her as happy moments. Moveover, unlike three years ago, I know this is how it is supposed to be. Every human makes mistakes and wonders at some point if that’s one that’s gonna come back to rear its ugly head later. And every human gets stuff right that means more to someone else than they will ever fully know. The hard part for me when I was feeling too incapable to be an adult in charge of raising a little lump of mush was letting go and being okay with making mistakes.

The lesson I work to integrate into every day is that I cannot always be consumed with my child’s future memory of me because if I am, I will miss the now. I will miss her childhood and my parenthood. I will never be able to enjoy the incredible life that is right in front of me. As a doubter and a perfectionist, this is really, really hard. Thank goodness I have such good motivation.

She picked that swimsuit out, not me. So if she comes back in 10 years complaining about how I dressed her, I would like it known that I tried to redirect her several times but she would NOT budge. She HAD to have THIS suit.

This Week in Buzzwords: Empowerment

July 8th, 2008

Yesterday morning the tot and I were on a timeline. We reached the point on the clock when I needed to get into the shower, but I faced a potential problem. I had neglected to intercept the upcoming television show. (The tot and I have a deal: she can watch a show while I shower as long as she has pottied and is generally amiable, and such.) As soon as I saw the story’s set up, I knew this episode would be too emotional for her, but I was unable to convince her that another show would be better. She was determined to watch this particular episode – the story of a young Hispanic girl and her primate sidekick as they struggle through obstacles to return a sad, fallen star to its home.

I knew what would happen if I didn’t come up with something – she would come barrelling in to my bathroom crying, wanting me to get out and change the channel, and that so totally wasn’t happening because every fortnight or so Mama’s gotta shave, ya know?

Now, I often struggle with on-the-spot problem solving, but I saw that I needed to come up with something. The only thing I could think of was that she needed to be in charge of finding another show when this one went inevitably bad. But how to do this in absentia?

Ah, the “LAST” button. Good ol’ Lasty. How could I forget you?

I skimmed the descriptions of the other shows, located one that was more or less safe, and changed the channel there and back. Then I showed her the remote and we spent a quick moment sounding out and reading the word “LAST”. Fortunately the LAST button is easy to find on our remote. I explained how it would take her to the other show if she decided she didn’t want to watch the current show any longer. (She’s had enough experience sitting on and activating other buttons on the remote that I trusted she understood the pointing and pressing aspects involved.) When she seemed to either understand or want me gone or both, I reminded her where she could find me if she needed me, and I was off to sharpen and employ the blades.

For the record, I didn’t actually expect it to work, especially on the first try, but it was worth a go.

Imagine my delight at being nearly done in the shower when in came the tot, not crying but cheering for herself at her great accomplishment. “Mama! Mama! I’m watching [Safe Show Title]! [Insert plot description here]!”

Holy crap. What a lovely shower for me, what a lovely take-charge moment for the tot.

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I wanted to put that story here for a couple of reasons. The first is because I hope for it to be a reminder that my assessment of the tot as “usually sensitive” is based on a pattern of behavior. It’s not like that show is particularly scary or sad or violent; the tot’s threshold just seems to be set a little lower than other kids her age. That’s fine because it’s who she is. So, “sensitive” is not a label she needs to know. When I’m talking to her or about her in public, I try to use less permanent wording, like “Are you feeling shy?” or “When you’re ready you can go play with so-and-so on the teeter-totter.” That said, when it comes down to it, she tends to be a cautious, sometimes reluctant child. (And let’s be honest here, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, and all. I am also sensitive, so whether it is her inherent nature or learned behavior or a blend is not an answerable question. It simply is, so we just live as we are.)

The second is because I also want to remember a related story from my composition classroom that I might otherwise forget.

I tell this story as a part of the idea generation phase of an expository writing assignment called “Explaining an Abstract Concept.” My students usually have a hard time coming up with an idea – I think the word “abstract” confuses them. Add to that the instruction that they must explain one way of understanding the abstract concept in concrete terms and they feel like tarring and feathering me tomorrow at high noon. So we try to come up with abstract words and then we try to talk through examples of experiences that lead us to certain ways of seeing the terms. Their initial ideas are almost always too complicated and not nearly concrete enough, so I offer them a story about how my daughter (the tot) taught me about what it means to have or not have power.

HG and I agreed early on that we were going to restrict the tot’s early access to the remote controls. How we came to this, I don’t know, but it made sense to us and we were happy with that. The tot, however, reached an age (14 months, maybe?) when she became driven to get ahold of the remote. What she wanted to do with it, I cannot say, but she wanted it soooooo much.

HG and I found ourselves pressured by (especially) our mothers to either let the tot have it or to provide the tot with one that was okay to play with. My mother even went out of her way to ask my extended family members if anyone had one from an old TV set that they didn’t have anymore, specifically so she could give it to the tot.

Something about this didn’t set right with me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just knew I did not want it: no, I didn’t care if it had no batteries; no, I didn’t care if any potential choking hazard buttons had been removed – the tot simply would not be allowed to have access to a remote control until she was older.

I found myself one evening at school, getting ready to teach my night class and sharing my frustration with a colleague, who had just had her second child four months before I had the tot. When I got to the part about my puzzlement over what my hunch was trying to tell me, she laughed a big, out loud laugh.

“It’s because you know it won’t work anyway!”

I stared, blankly I’m sure.

“Well, it would work for a while,” she said, “until your daughter realizes that it doesn’t do anything. If it has no power (batteries or buttons), then it has no power.”

I continued to stare, blankly I’m sure.

“Why else would she want the remote to begin with?”

Of course. At fourteen months, she had no idea what the remote control did; she only cared about what it stood for: power. And what else is a toddler after but power?

What else are any of us after but power?

As I drove home that night after class, I thought about power – the power in my home, the power in my family (immediate and extended), the power in my world. I remembered what one of my earliest graduate professors had said about power – that it’s transient, it shifts, it’s like energy in that it changes shape and location but is never destroyed.

In the beginning of our family, HG and I held most of the power. (Not all of it, though. A newborn has a lot of power, if you think about it. We offer it up to a baby when we agree to feed on demand, when we begrudgingly stay awake with a little one in the wee hours of the night, and so on.) We made the rules about what she could play with, about when we would leave the house or stay in, about what food was offered, about what she wore, etc. Most of these things she didn’t have an opinion on for a long time, and her drive to get the remote was the emergence of her desire to have a say in the decisions that governed her life.

I realized something that I often forget since that night. If we are going to raise a child to feel comfortable in her own skin, in her world, we have to be aware of the way power shifts between us. We have to be reasonable about letting her have power when the time is right, or close to right, like yesterday. And the shift can come in steps and stages. She’s not going to go from being a kid with little to no power and/or little to no desire for power to an adult prepared to wield it if she doesn’t have some practice first. Letting her practice, get it right and mess it up is a cornerstone of parenting.

Needless to say, of course, is that releasing power is hard, even when you know it’s the right thing to do. It wasn’t hard to hand the tot the remote yesterday, though, because she was more than ready and I was finally there, too. When she figures out how to change it from the Weather Channel to anime or teenage soap operas, well, that’ll be the real test, won’t it?

Remembering and Misremembering
(a Baby Book entry for the Tot)

June 22nd, 2008

We are gutting our house of months and months of filth and years and years of disorganization, and hopefully when we are done, the tot will have her own room and Dos will have a room and those rooms will be clean.

Shut up. A girl can dream.

Along the way to utopia, we decided to buy the tot a new chest of drawers, except we can’t find anything we like that is not made of fiberboard, which I do not (NOT!) want. So, the old dresser needed to go into the new room (yellow) until we can find something and until HG gets Dos’ room painted.

And because I can’t just move a dresser without cleaning and rearranging the drawer contents (Hey – I’m nesting. Back off.), I found a lovely little prize in the back of the sock drawer. It was the page of notes that I put together to take to the doctor for the tot’s 12-months well-child check up.

Seeing as how I don’t really keep a baby book, like, at all, I thought I’d put the info here. As I find more of these gems, I’ll add them as well. Hidden gems, because this is exactly how I kept all my notes about the tot – jot them down, shove the paper somewhere where I won’t lose it.
A ha ha, ha ha, hm.

On this page of notes, I had included a blended list of gross motor, fine motor, and social skills to date; the list of words the tot could say; a layout of her ideal/daily diet; and questions I’m sure I didn’t ask because there are no answers listed.

“cruises, crawls, points, pulls self to standing, wants to climb higher, tantrums, walks with your hands for balance, claps hands, can sit down from standing, stands briefly, has taken steps.”

What’s interesting to me is that I could swear up and down that the tot never crawled until after she walked, and we certainly don’t have any video of her crawling, but I wouldn’t have written that if she didn’t ever do it. Also, tantrums? That’s adorable. She’s four now – whatever I thought when she was putting up her miniature protests at 12 months, I don’t know, but my definition of “tantrum” is seriously different now.

“Hi
Duck
Dada
Wow
Mama
So
Bal. ([for] Balloon)
No
Sock ([pronunciation] ~sahz or ~sha)
Baby ([pronunciation] ~bebe)
Shoe ([pronunciation] ~shets or ~sha)
That ([pronunciation] ~dat)
Got it
Did it”

As soon as I saw this list, I remembered two things.
1. Although the list is in no particular order, “Hi” was her first word and “Duck” was her second. For a while, “Duck” meant “Toy” and gradually became just “duck”.
2. When she said “Wow”, she used her whole face. It was a big sound and her face matched the connotation. “WOW.”

“Bfast bottle 6 oz.
Bfast II:
1/2 serving cereal
1/2 jar fruit (incl. iron)
follow-up bottle 4 oz.

Lunch:
1 – 1.5 jars veggies
follow-up bottle 4 oz.

*occasionally a snack 1/2 serv. cereal

Dinner:
1/2 – 1 jar veggie
1/2 – 1 jar fruit (incl. iron)
follow-up bottle 4 oz.

*occasionally a snack 1/2 serv. cereal

Bedtime bottle 6 oz.

**Doesn’t take all the milk I offer in a day”

And I’m sure that, like the milk, the food amounts shown were what I offered – not necessarily what she consumed.

What I want to remember from this is that at 12 months, she was still on iron supplements twice a day, and I thought by 12 months she was down to once a day. I guess that wasn’t until 15 months. The iron supplements were in response to her severe anemia, discovered at her 9-month well-child check up. When they do a CBC, the hemoglobin number should be between either 9 and 11 or 10 and 12 – I can’t remember. The tot’s was 6.4. The specialists said if it had been 6 even or below, they’d have transfused her instead of putting her on oral supplements.

While no parents wish for their child to be sicker than s/he actually is, I do wish that I would have asked them to consider a transfusion anyway. I know, though, that I never would have pressed for a transfusion because it sounded too scary to me at the time. I couldn’t allow myself to think of my wee baby going through something that I imagined would be like the vivisection scenes from The Island of Dr. Moreau.

And, of course, I couldn’t know at the time how trying months and months of delivering and coercing the consumption of supplements that taste like a mouthful of rusty nails would be, nor could I know at the time what potential influence those iron supplements at the same time we were finally getting somewhere with the introduction of solid foods would be. In short, if it happens with Dos, I am determined to research transfusions before just jumping in with oral supplements.

Srsly.

I’m going to leave off the questions, mostly because they are cryptic, but I will add that the other day I was going through baby clothes, and I found the outfit the tot wore on her first birthday. I mis-remembered that as well. Whereas I had thought it was a size 9-12 months outfit, it was not. It was a size 6-9 months, and it was baggy. Size 6-9 months. Thinking about it now, that sounds about right.

Wheels

May 6th, 2008

This week, the tot has gone from not pedaling her trike to pedaling her trike everywhere. She has had this trike for over a year – what the hell happened this week that triggered the change?

In the beginning I thought she didn’t pedal because she didn’t get how it worked and/or her legs were too short to reach. In some ways that was true, but she grew and still she didn’t pedal.

A couple of weeks ago, HG chased us outside, put the tot on her trike (complete with parent handle bar), and we went for a walk around the neighborhood. The tot was clearly excited, so I blew off the fact that she cannot steer. She just does not get it, which surprised me since she knows left from right. Watching her that day, I thought the missing piece of that puzzle seemed to be hand-eye coordination.

The next week, I took her with me to a local camping and hiking store so that I could buy into the hysteria. We were just barely through the door when the tot saw the bicycles and insisted on riding one. I took her to a miniature bike (12″ wheel, with training wheels), and she climbed on. She desparately wanted to ride this bike, but she could barely get the pedals to turn. She simply didn’t have enough mass or strength to make it move, so I pushed her around the aisle, much to her delight. In that moment, I thought maybe the missing piece was not hand-eye, but power, and perhaps the struggle for forward motion interfered with her ability to steer.

BTW, she had her first in-store, public crying tantrum fit when I told her (for the fiftieth time, as we were leaving) that no, we were not taking the bike home with us, but maybe she’ll get one for her birthday. She really wanted that bike. She still reminds me of it any time we talk about bikes.

So then yesterday, actually, the day before yesterday, I took her for a short walk and on the way up the driveway, she started pedaling – really pedaling. What she figured out that day escapes me. Was it the coordination or simply the knowledge that she can do it – she can make her body do it?

Whatever it was, yesterday something clicked in both her head and body. We were at the Occupational Therapy Center for an evaluation (more on that in another post), and at the start of the session, she was encouraged to play in the indoor playground. One of the things they offer there is a path and a huge choice of wheeled things to ride on. The tot hopped on and tooled through the place like she’s been doing it for a year. First a strange two-footed pedaling device, then a trike, then a two-wheeler with training wheels. What’s more is she steered. Accurately. Without crashing.

WTF? Where is my daughter and what have you done with the pod?

We got home, and she started up on her trike like she’s preparing for a cross-county ride. The transformation is amazing and awesome, but weird.

I foresee a lot of outdoor time this summer, don’t you?

At the very least, this experience is a good reminder that whenever I get frustrated with the tot being stuck at a level of competence in something, or when I completely give up and say something like “So she’ll go to college in pull ups – I’m fine with that”, she bursts through it. Her pace is not my pace, and I need to remember that. She’ll get it, by and by.

Bullets of Busy-ness

April 28th, 2008

Right now I should be:
*putting together final grades for my students
*showering
*making a doctor’s appointment
*doing something about my heartburn
*grocery shopping, including taking our mountain of coins to the C0in St@r
*finishing the cleaning of the tot’s room (a task started yesterday at 11 a.m., if that gives you any freakin’ idea how bad it was)
*mounting a large-scale revolt against The Wonder Pets
*drinking water
*writing a better blog post

…but I’m not.

Stuff going on right now/these days:
*17 weeks yesterday.
*We have been cleaning house to make up for all those weeks when I was lying on the sofa instead of doing, say, anything. (Thanks, Nausea!)
*It got warm and now it’s chilly again, so in less than 18 hours, I’ve spotted two little, yellow, house spiders. (HG evicted one last night, but I couldn’t reach this morning’s interloper.)
*I got a new laptop. (woo hoo!)
*I’m getting ready to have a garage sale this weekend, and as usual, I have no idea how to price anything, particularly the furniture.
*I have pulled the tot out of the preschool daycare in favor of the home-based daycare, and she seems happy overall.
*The tot is having pee accidents like crazy lately, though, so what’s up with that?
*On the topic of “what’s up with that?”, two weeks ago, she had her first poop accident ever – out of the house, of course, and I had no back up clothes.
*The tot continues to act excited about numero dos, but how much of that is an act?
*I’ve been shopping for a dress for the wedding I’m reading in this summer. In short, shopping for clothes is dumb, and I hate it.
*Okay, I don’t hate it, but I am mad at it. Shopping for plus-size dresses that are wedding-appropriate is one thing, shopping for maternity dresses that are wedding-appropriate is one thing, shopping for plus-size maternity dresses that are wedding-appropriate is another thing entirely. I’m such a stingy, cheap old lady that it pains me to have to order several dresses online, knowing I’ll have to pay to ship some or all back after trying them on, but there are no brick-mortar stores anywhere near me for plus-size maternity gear.
*Sporadic insomnia sucks as much as regular insomnia.
*I’m staring down the barrel of Gestational Diabetes again, this time complete with insulin, and that sucks.
*We finished our meetings with S., our Food Friend. She took another job, and since the tot was getting ready to graduate out of the program due to age, we opted not to take a new clinician.
*In a week, I’m taking the tot to an Occupational Therapist’s office (one we’ve been seen at before, when she was evaluated for Sensory Integration Dysfunction – have I written about that? Not sure.)
*Anyway, I think we exhausted about everything we could do with S., so we’ll give this a shot for a bit to see if there’s any progress to be made there. If there is, great; if not, I guess we’re on our own.
*I bought a new slow cooker, and I’m itching to try it, but we haven’t had a good day for it yet. It might be Thursday this week before I get a chance.

Um, I think that’s about it. Yeah, that looks about right.

Gah, I’m so bad at decisions

April 15th, 2008

I just got off the phone with HG a bit ago. I’m in the process of waffling on a decision regarding the tot and childcare for the first half of summer (while I’m still working). After I hung up with him, I decided that I need to quantify the things that are bugging me, so I will put it here and torture you all with it.

Babysitting Day Care Pros:
*caregiver, L., knows how to deal with feeding issues, including when to be tough
*field trips – berry picking, swimming
*easy drop off and pick up
*both the tot and I like L.
*L. likes the tot and me
*tot has several friends there
*tot gets along with all the kids there
*communication journal
*kids play outside every day, weather permitting, including sprinklers when hot
*some diversity – mostly cultural, but also exposure to special needs, sibling pairs, wide range of ages

Preschool Day Care Pros:
*more structure
*circle time every day
*art every day
*cultural and ethnic diversity
*located at my school
*better ratio of adults to kids
*playground
*cheaper by $1.25 per hour
*the tot is ready for the challenge of preschool (even though it’s not really preschool as much as it’s child care with a preschool structure in the morning)

Babysitting Day Care Cons:
*tot comes home speaking like L.’s son – who cannot say the letters “L” or “R”
*L. does not offer messy experiences daily, like messy art things
*not as structured
*not as challenging because, hey, it’s not preschool
*the tot bitches about going in the morning

Preschool Day Care Cons:
*tot comes home speaking baby talk
*fewer kids overall (weird, but I think this is true based on when I pick up and drop off)
*different kids from day to day
*about half the adults seem apathetic or disinterested in being around kids – not outright annoyed or hostile, just blase
*the bathroom has adult-sized toilets (not that big of a deal) but no step stool, so the tot has to scale them like a mountain-climber because she is small and the adults don’t help the kids in the stalls
*both boys and girls use the girls’ bathroom (I guess because all of the caregivers are women?), so twice now at pick up I have seen the tot come out of the stall with pee-splotched pants because of having to climb through messes left by previous users (both times boys, though girls have the capacity to pee everywhere, too)
*the lunchtime caregivers don’t like the lunches I pack, so they micromanage the tot’s eating. Case in point: I had been sending a handful of baby carrots each day. The tot does not eat them, but she’s been known to gnaw on one. I thought some exposure to the food outside the home and my influence might yield a breakthrough, as in ‘if it’s just there in a neutral territory, maybe she’ll develop new associations.’ One day, one of the apathetics told me that she had been telling the tot that she couldn’t have the other parts of her lunch until she ate a carrot. I guess that would explain why her lunch box was coming home full all those days.
*when we switch to the summer, we’ll be later in the day, so the tot won’t be there for the preschool portion
*the tot fights going a lot more than she fights going to babysitting
EDITED TO ADD:
*OMG, how could I forget this?! After a semester at the preschool, at least one caregiver (I believe two) still gets the tot’s name wrong

So where I am is that I don’t know. I don’t think that each item on the list can be weighted the same, so simply counting up the items is not an accurate method. Whichever I choose, I feel that after a semester of doing one day a week at preschool and one day a week at babysitting, the tot needs to be both days at the same place.

Personally, today I feel like sending her to babysitting this summer because of how late I was this morning getting to preschool. I got the tot up earlier than usual and we were later than ever. If we had been going to babysitting, I could have called her stalling bluff by loading her in the car in her pull-up and jammies and said, “I don’t care if you won’t get ready – you’re going anyway.” L. wouldn’t have cared; in fact, she encourages it. Could I do this with preschool? Probably, but I just don’t feel comfortable enough with the staff there to do it yet.

I need to make this choice by the end of the week, ideally, but I simply don’t feel inspired. I thought writing this out would help, but I’m not sure it did. I think I will give it a day and come back to this to look for patterns and an answer.

Reason #1,298,458 I Love My Daughter

April 9th, 2008

Or,
“How to Make an English Teacher Proud”

The college I teach at has a Culinary Institute, and the program requires each Culinary student to take one semester of Cafe. In other words, the school has a restaurant – open to the public for lunch, two days a week – and the Culinary suckers students run it. One of the days it happens to be open is a day I teach and a day I take the tot to the on-site childcare center.

A couple of weeks ago, the tot and I found ourselves sitting at a large round table having lunch – me with some gourmet-yummy something-or-other, the tot with her leftovers from her lunch box. A colleague of mine from the English department (C) walked up to say hello. Our paths don’t cross often, so it was a lovely surprise, to say the least.

The conversation was pretty generic. Pleasantries, small talk with preschooler, etc. At one point, C asked the tot how old she is, and the tot answered.

C: Oh wow, you’re getting big! I have a daughter named E who just turned 4.
Tot: Do I know her?
C: No, I don’t think you’ve ever met her. Your mommy met her, I think, when she was a baby.
Tot: When my mommy was a baby?
C (laughing): No, when E was a baby!
C (to me): Well, she gets pronoun confusion! She’ll be an English teacher yet!

OMG, I love this kid – whether or not she teaches English when she grows up.

The Age of Mystery

March 12th, 2008

We have hit it. We were never quite far from it, probably, but now we are diving headlong into the deep. Let me explain.

The tot has been going to a home-based day care for the past year and a half. One of my many gripes about the day care center she had been at before that was that none of the workers really knew my child. Every day I’d pick her up and she’d be visibly miserable, yet the green photocopied “My Day Today” sheet in her bag would invariably say “Today’s Mood: Happy.” Happy? On what planet?

Anyway, at the home day care I moved her to, the caregiver keeps a communication journal for every child. This is her idea. I had never heard of it, but I swear it has been the best thing ever for two reasons:
1. I know what goes on during the tot’s day there.
2. In order to write anything, the caregiver must observe my child, which has facilitated her getting to know the tot in a meaningful way.

So every day that the tot goes to day care, I write a little note in the book. Something like: “She’s eating cereal for bfast and drinking juice. She hasn’t pooped in two days, so watch out.” Or: “OMG, the pee accidents are all day long lately! Please tell me she does better when she’s there.” Or: “She hasn’t eaten lately, and she’s been whiny. Not sure if she’s coming down with something or if she’s just off.” Or some combination of all of them.

And every day the caregiver writes back with details about what she ate, what she did, any funny things she said, any discipline that had to be dealt out, and if/when she pooped. She’s offered potty training ideas and food ideas and coupons and goodies through this journal. She’s told me who the tot’s buddies are. She’s told me about the times when the tot is having a rough day but pulls out of it. She’s like my spy when I can’t be there.

The journal has been priceless because, for some reason, my normally chatty, verbal daughter has ALWAYS replied “nothing” when asked what she did during the day. Or, and I can’t tell if this is funny or not, she’ll make up something completely false. Usually it’s not that far off from the truth or it would have been true three days ago, but it’s still not what she did that day. So on day care days, the journal provided me the answer in spite of my child.

Then comes preschool. There is a childcare center at my school, and now that the tot appears to be potty trained (everywhere but home, ladies and gentlemen – good lord what is taking so long?), I have started taking her there one of the two days a week I teach. Soon, I’ll bump her up to both days, but I thought a transition in would be nice, at least for me since it involves getting up even earlier.

Dear readers, can you guess what happens when I pick her up after class?

I ask her how her day was.
“Fine.”
I ask her to show me the project she made.
“Okay.” or “I don’t want to.” (I’m not sure what variables effect the different answers.)
I ask her what she did that day.
“Nothing.”
Didn’t she play with her friends?
“No.”
Did she play alone?
“…..”
Did they sing songs? (Trick question – I know they sing songs during circle time.)
“No.”
Did she have fun?
“Let’s go home.”
(At this point, a worker comes over and tells me she had a good day and I weigh in my mind whether I should believe her or not. Probably I will because when I arrived I saw the tot playing happily in the gross motor area.)

And so it begins. The mystery, I mean. As we walked to the car yesterday, I thought, “I may never again know anything about her day,” and it made me a little sad.* I realize this is a step in the separation that every child must go through, but still. It would be cool to know if she cracked any good jokes that day.

.

*HG – I know this sort of thing bugs you about some parents (*cough*mainlywomen*cough*), so you don’t need to get after me about it.

Bursts of Progress

March 7th, 2008

Over the time we’ve been working with S., our Food Friend, we’ve worked gently toward several goals. The list has evolved, and some of the early goals fell off the list and some have stayed. For instance, one early goal that we retired was noodles because – sweet jeebus – what child doesn’t like pasta? Mine, it turns out. It’s too wet, too wobbly. It was too far-fetched a goal, so we put it on a back, back burner and turned toward some goals we thought were more achievable, like finger painting, self-feeding with utensils, and (target food) breads.

For most kids, time is an all-important ingredient in working through sensory issues, and this is true for the tot. Maybe it’s because the passage of time also brings with it a maturation of her body and brain. Maybe it’s because during this time, HG and I have altered our approaches to food and feeding the tot, as well as our reactions to her reactions. Maybe it’s because these past almost-two years have seen her exposed to so many textures and tactile sensory experiences that she is becoming desensitized – which is what we wanted. Probably it’s a combination of all of these things, and that’s fine, except when people ask me what’s working. (My stock answer, BTW, is “Hell if I know.”)

So here we are. Time has passed. Progress has happened. What I am constantly re-learning is that the tot’s predominant pattern is burst-lull, lull-lull-lull-burst-lull. It’s not just in therapy areas – she did this when she was learning to walk, too. She started to walk. She walked for a few days. Then she wasn’t interested in it anymore. Then a week later, I go in to her bedroom to see just exactly what all this supposed-to-be-naptime ruckus was, and it was the tot. She was staggering back and forth, the length of her crib, with the wildest grin ever. She was practicing in a controlled space.

Of course, you know the words that went through my mind after days of plying her to walk and meeting only resistance: “Why you little shit.” On the outside, I was all wild grins too.

So let’s talk about some bursts.

I’m not sure when it happened (I can say it happened slowly), but the tot is now kind of digging finger painting. She asks to paint almost every day now. I don’t let her, that’s me being Mean Mommy, but the point is that she wants to. And even when I provide brushes and sponges, she always asks to get paint on her hands to make hand prints. This is huge.

The therapeutic point of working on finger painting is for the tactile sensation and the desensitization to mess (for me and her, people) with the hopes that she would tolerate messier foods on her hands as well as art products. On the whole, it is working, particularly in the area of anxiety management. When she reaches tolerance capacity with either paint or wet something on her hand or fingers, she no longer immediately flips out. She uses words to ask me to wipe it off. I, by request of S., dilly dally and talk about gosh, what could we use to wipe it up? Oh, a napkin? Great idea! Now, where can we find one of those? And by this time, she is no longer worried about the paint/food/liquid. She still wants it gone, but she is coping by focusing on solving the problem rather than being overwhelmed by it.

I can’t say that there is any therapeutic reason for working on self-feeding with utensils. That seems to me to be pretty straightforward, so I’ll just share some of my thoughts, bullet-style.

*Honestly, I don’t care how she gets food to her mouth. Certainly she needs to know how to use a fork without putting an eye out (what on earth would you tell the ER doc? “Yes, Doctor, my 15-year-old is just learning to use a fork. What? That’s wrong?”), but when we’re home, I couldn’t care less. If she wants to scoop food up in her fingers and then smack her lips while she licks the mess off her fingers, well dammit, more power to her.
*She doesn’t really like to use utensils, but she almost always wants her own set. I think that is funny. Except when we’re at a restaurant and they only gave us two sets.
*It seems like she should be better at using them because her fine motor skill is pretty good, but really she’s pretty awful still. And the spilling of food off a fork or spoon pisses her off. More practice necessary, I guess.

Lastly, breads. Ah, breads. S. wanted to work toward breads since they presented a medium challenge. The bread group includes bread, toast, waffles, cake-type products, pancakes, breadsticks, etc. Bread is a challenge because it is soft and sometimes chewy. The challenge, S. and I agreed, was not so so great because bread is not (barring the application of another food product) wet, overly sloppy, or squishy (like noodles). Bread is an important target food because it is everywhere. I mean, what does a kid eat for lunch if they won’t touch sandwiches or pizza? And don’t say mac and cheese.

We tried a lot of things, again and again. We tried involving her in prep by playing with bread dough, making shapes, and baking it together. Even once she started touching the bread dough, it was still not enough investment for her to do more than pick up the baked bread and set it down without putting it to her mouth.

One thing that did get her manipulating pancakes, though, has been to make letters for her to play with. She’s into the alphabet and reading right now, and I’ve been using that to at least get her handling the soft pancakes. I don’t think she’s done more than put one to her lips, just to touch, but that is progress too, so we’ll count it.

Then, three or four weeks ago, on a single weekend, she dove headlong into the bread category. Boom. Burst.

That Sunday evening, I wrote an email to S.
“Here is what she ate this weekend:
puppy chow* – chowed the remaining with help of daddy
wheat toast (with butter) (at a restaurant)- three bites
blueberry muffin (gigantic) (at the same restaurant) – many many bites, with a fork
Lego eggo waffle – at least two bites the first time; one or two again last night
Mickey Mouse cheese shape – put teeth marks in the first time; took one small bite, chewed it, swallowed it last night
banana nut muffins (mini muffins from grocery bakery) – she’s had three now: the first she shied away from, the second she picked at, the third (today) she ate the top off of
chocolate no-bake cookies (from grocery bakery) – she really wanted them and managed to push through the texture factor to eat them
oatmeal raisin cookies (soft, from grocery bakery) – she took 1/2 of [HG’s] and wouldn’t give it back
burger king nuggets and fries (slightly more bendy than McD’s) – she’s working on these right now”

(Normally, I don’t send a record of what she eats to S., but holy cow – what a burst! I had to share.)

Since then, well, she’s picked at some toast, eating a bite or two at most. She has picked at a muffin again, but she’s also pushed many away. No more cheese, and we haven’t had the cookies or the puppy chow in the house again since.

It’s hard to know where to go from here. Well, that’s not true. I know that I need to keep presenting her with these foods so that they become familiar, and she’ll start eating them again. But. We’re in the lull phase now, and that is so frustrating. I think that I am like most parents in that I hate to waste food, and that is exactly what happens in the lull phase. The food goes in the trash. But there’s no guaranteed timetable for when the next burst comes, and I sure don’t want to miss it.

*Puppy Chow – we had made it a couple of days before for the first time. She didn’t want it at first, but then… and she’s asked for it twice since then.
Here is the version we made:
1 stick butter
12 oz. jar peanut butter
12 oz. pkg. butterscotch chips
melt these three things together in microwave

stir in large box rice chex
mix well
put in a large paper grocery bag with 1 lb. of powdered sugar and shake well
eat, eat, eat.

Someone promise me there really will be a day when she keeps a single pair of underpants dry all day.

March 3rd, 2008

This is our life right now, except for the “should you be asleep?” part. The tot hasn’t picked up on the bedtime-delaying strategy of potty-demanding. Also, add in a dash of “Do you feel like changing underpants for no good reason? Y–> Soil self.”

2007_11_29_potty_training_manual

Doodle by Lee. The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles.

Many thanks to Lee’s Doodles for speaking the truth.

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