Mad [little] Man

Finding a way to live with Gabriel Keats is not unlike the business philosophy adhered to by the associates of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce: make him think it’s his idea. He will not be bulldozed. He is the bulldozer.

And like those wily Mad Men, you must use your cunning to ensure that those “great” ideas of his are also the best ideas. There is your reputation to consider, and, in the case of the human being you are attempting to “train up in the way he should go”—a passionate, independent, smart-as-a-whip little imp who could just as likely end up in juvie as the White House (Are the two really that different? Sorry. Been watching too much Scandal.)

Between toliet and church training, my endurance has been tested. We crossed a major hurdle this week regarding the former. He no longer rolls around on the playroom floor, clearly in pain, trying to hold in his BM and chanting “hummy hummy hummy,” the shrillness of his tone increasing as the pressure to relieve himself bears down. In this response to his body’s obvious need to function as it was made to function you get a sense of how far he’s willing to go in order to do what he wants when he wants to do it. When he realized he could shut the door to the bathroom, shouting “Privacy!” as the door slammed, things started to turn around.

As for the latter (church training—by which I mean at least a semblance of respect and rule following), there’s definitely room for improvement. He manages to walk/trot up to the icons at the front of the church for veneration, but it’s a full-on sprint down the side aisle to the back. I have some sympathy for his compulsion to run in church; looked at a certain way, all those aisles and rows are like a race track or obstacle course. He certainly would have at it if I let him.

He is still almost completely incapable of speaking in a quiet voice, unless we are playing the secret game, and that only lasts about 30 seconds. In the midst of Fr. Nicholas’ homily last Sunday, G became enamored again of the giant stain glass window/icon of John the Baptist, complete with his head on a platter in the bottom left corner.

“Where the rest of his body?” he clamored.

His body is gone, I answered. See his wings? He turned into an angel (a simplistic explanation, but all I could come up with at the time).

“Where the blood?” he loudly continued.

And here Jonah joined the conversation: “Yeah, why isn’t the blood gushing?”

Somehow I managed to shut the inquiry down here. Jonah is very good at heeding my “let’s talk about this another time” directive, and Gabriel had grown tired of the topic and had started chanting again, “I don’t want to be at church. I want to go home.”

We don’t take our kids out much. As in we’ve gone as a family out to supper maybe twice since we moved to Canton. Just stating a fact. So when we decided to let G attend J’s spring school musical (Stone Soup), we knew it’d be tough. But it was in a church, and G and I have been practicing on that front. It went about as we expected (much chasing and shushing, one ultimatum involving leaving without cookies or being able to reenter the sanctuary) with a very rough patch at the end. He kept nabbing cookies off the refreshment table after John had said enough several times. Rather than return the cookie or simply split it with his father, G threw it to the ground and went into full-blown hysterics. It took almost an hour to pull him back from the edge.

As this Slate article (by Melinda Wenner Moyer) puts it, being a three-year-old isn’t all bubbles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on demand:

But 2-year-olds [I adamantly interject 3-year-olds here too] are also going through a hellish personal crisis: They have just learned how to walk and use tools, so they really want to explore the world; at the same time, they are terrified of what that world contains and constantly fearful that their parents, whom they love and trust to a terrifying degree, will suddenly abandon them. Oh, and those same parents? They’re suddenly barking “no” all the time, seemingly just for fun. What the hell?

It’s no coincidence that kids start having tantrums around the time that parents start enforcing rules. When you say no, sweetie, you can’t have that butcher knife, your 20-month-old has no idea that you are depriving her of this awesomely shiny contraption for her own safety. “Since it’s the parent, whom they rely on for everything, who is taking it away, it’s perceived as a withdrawal of love, essentially,” says Alicia Lieberman, a professor of Infant Mental Health at the University of California-San Francisco and author of The Emotional Life of the Toddler. “They don’t know your reasoning. They just know that something they were getting great pleasure from, all of a sudden, you are taking away.” The pain that this causes, Lieberman says, is similar to what we might feel if our spouse betrays or cheats on us.

Ouch.

The article also talks about under stimulation. I’ve had the same thought, minus the caveman analogy.

If it sounds like I’m characterizing your beautiful, special, way-above-average toddler as animal-like, that’s because I am. Pediatrician Harvey Karp calls toddlers “little cavemen”…“It takes years to socialize our little toddlers, so it’s important for parents to cut themselves some slack. Don’t feel you’re a terrible parent because they smeared jam all over the walls”…

The caveman analogy helps to explain yet another issue plaguing toddlers, Karp says: They are very understimulated. Little cavemen (and here I’m talking about the real ones) spent their days very differently than kids do today. “It was a sensory-rich environment: smells, the fresh air, shadows, birds, grass under your feet. Today, we put our little kids in houses and apartments with flat floors, flat walls, ceilings, and not too many chickens, and we think that’s normal,” Karp explains. “It is hard to spend all day with a 2-year-old, and they don’t really want to spend all day with you anyway.”

Which is yet another reason to rejoice at the coming of spring. G’s out before breakfast, then back in, then back out. He can’t wait to play with Jonah outside after school. He wants to go on trips. He’s also resumed his jailbreak ways. I warned our babysitter last night that he’d been professing the need to “go for a walk by myself.” But as I’ve mentioned before, he can be a sly and fast little stinker. By the time she realized he was gone (it was bedtime, she was reading to J), he had already headed out the back door. When asked where he was going, G matter-of-factly replied, “Traveling.”

dandelion lick     stinker 2

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