Archive for the ‘toddlers’ Category

In defense of the overshare


Oh God, the sweetness of that picture just slays me every time. Look at those two — they get along as well today as they did then, all lovey-dovey and kisses, all the time.


Actually, when Rowan first met his baby brother, the morning after Isaac’s tumultuous arrival into the world, he said, “I take her downstairs. I read her a book.” And Rachel and I melted from All The Cute. That’s part of our family lore, which I discuss in this week’s post on Today’

To do

I’m back. I haven’t spent more than four consecutive nights in the same bed since July 21, a feat of bed-hopping I don’t think I have matched since, perhaps, fourth-year university  (joking!) the summer I travelled around Europe in 1993 with my friend Julie.

(Coincidently, in this recent spate of bed-hopping, I spent two nights on Julie’s pull-out couch in the lovely borough of Queens, New York, where I slept quite well. Julie, however, did not, poor thing: her 15-month-old daughter, it seems, has some very strong ideas about exactly when and where she will and won’t sleep, and it seems that the hours between 2 and 4 AM are currently designated Not Sleeping Time.)

But. Now. I am home, from journeys that took me from Thunder Bay to Toronto and back again, to Bushwick, Brooklyn, and then Queens and then South Orange, New Jersey, and then the Manhattan Hilton and BlogHer ‘12 and then back to South Orange, and then Toronto (and another not-sleeping toddler), and then Thunder Bay to wash my clothes and pick up my family and then to a tent in the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and home, and then to Duluth, Minnesota, and then to the Wisconsin Dells (oh Lord, the Wisconsin Dells — where Vegas meets water. And a vengeful God. And Republicans. And bumper stickers that say things like “I don’t believe the liberal media.”) and then Minneapolis and then Duluth again and then home, where I intend to stay put for a good long time if I have any say in the matter.

Because, frankly, I have things to do.

Chief of which is to make a to-do list.

I am a list maker. I like lists. I need lists. I feel unmoored without one, purposeless. I need to know that there’s a place where I can record every single task, books to read, movies to watch, blog posts and pitches to write, client jobs, phone calls to make, things to renovate. I scribble things down on scrap paper, cross them off, add new pieces of paper, consolidate the items onto fresh sheets, clip the lot together on the clipboard I’ve had since I was 13. This last spate of travel ended Saturday night with me furiously scribbling items onto four different sheets of paper, collating things I had typed into my phone, going through old to-do lists, X-ing out outdated or done items, running through the house with a toothbrush in my mouth to add just one more thing. And then one more.

(Do I count as the liberal media? Just wondering.)

The idea is that I will eventually dictate the entire list into a Word document and print it out, and there it will be: a blueprint of my life, the plan, perfect, just like in Getting Things Done. In reality, it rarely if ever works that way, and I end up with my various scraps of paper, written with different pens, half outdated, never completed. And while I continue to hold on to the fantasy of the finished to-do list, the ordered life, I may also be starting to let go of it, the idea that I can capture it all in one place, that for even one brief shining moment I will know what it is I have to do with this one perfect life, line item by line item until I am done.

(How do you to do?)



Dear Isaac,

Pretty much every other morning for the past year, I have woken up well before 7 AM to the sound of your voice. Sometimes, if it’s really early, I can cajole you into cuddling with me for a little while, but we always eventually end up downstairs in the kitchen, because you’re hungry, and you want your breakfast.

And, pretty much every other morning for the past year, I have fixed precisely the same thing for you, in quantities that would make a trucker blanch: oatmeal with cinnamon and yogurt and applesauce and — this is key — brown sugar on top. I don’t know how many conversations we’ve had in the past year about brown sugar, but I will say this: you’re very passionate about the subject. You’re generally a little bit anxious each day that I might somehow forget the brown sugar, and you take great pains to remind me, and increasingly higher pitches, not to forget it. In fact, you’d like to put it on your oatmeal yourself. And then you very carefully carry your brimful bowl to the table, and demolish it in about 30 seconds flat. Sometimes, you have seconds.

And then, generally, it’s hit or miss as to whether you eat anything else for the rest of the day until snack time before bed, when you put back more yogurt and applesauce.

Lately, however, you’ve been eating lots: big breakfasts, followed by genuine lunches and dinners to boot. Which can only mean one thing: you’re going to grow. Maybe by the end of the summer you’ll break 30 pounds. I suppose this is a calculated effort on the part of time and nature to ensure that Rachel and I stop carrying you around so much. Because we do. Because you’re just so little, and so light, and so sweet up there in our arms with your sooky thumb and your blankie. More often than not, I just swing you up onto my hip and tote you downstairs, or down the street, or to the car, when you could easily walk on your own two feet — and we both know it. But I pick you up anyway, because I like how you feel in my arms, because I can.

But not for long. You may not weigh much, but you get longer, lankier, by the minute. Your tastes (thumb and blanket aside) are morphing into those of a little kid, not those of a baby. For your third birthday, for example, your other mommy and I plan to get you a flashlight. And maybe a Swiffer. If we cared nothing for your personal safety — not to mention the windows — we would get you a full-sized hammer, because hammers are your favourite things in the entire world. You sneak into my office and check out my tool box, cadging open the latches like a lovesick fool, and I have to pry hammers and screwdrivers and drills out of your passionate little hands while you screech and flail. Rachel recently — and possibly unwisely — purchased a child-sized croquet set for the backyard, and you have misappropriated the mallets for use as hammers. You like to whack the top of the turtle sandbox, the deck stairs, the fence, the swing set, the windows, and each time you whack something I say your name until, tired of giving warnings, I eventually confiscate the mallets, and you tell me that I am mean. I will be in the middle of telling you a story, or discussing what everyone did today around the kitchen table, and you will interject, “And there was a hammer…” Your favourite song is “I’ve been working on the railroad,” but, occasionally, you will ask me to substitute the word “hammer,” repeated over and over, for the regular lyrics. And then you gaze at me, eyes shining, as I do.

Perhaps as a foil to your hammer obsession, or perhaps merely as a complement to it, you also enjoy a good session of “playing princesses,” revelling in a twirly-skirted velvet dress that we picked up at a thrift store. For your birthday, you have already received from your Rob a princess hat and sparkly shoes, which you insisted on wearing to bed, even thought they cut off circulation to your feet. Aside from the occasional kid on the playground, no one has ever told you that boys “don’t wear dresses,” and, if I have my way, no one will for as long as possible.

You have a new-to-you purple bike with training wheels, and a new helmet, and you tell pretty much everyone you meet about them. You’re still figuring out the art of pedalling; I manipulate your tiny feet and ankles so that you get the hang of forward propulsion, and although you’re quickly improving, you’re still impatient, swatting my hands away from the handlebars when I attempt to correct your steering, keep you on the sidewalk.

After you tell people about your bike, you like to tell them your two favourite jokes. “Hello,” you say: “my nose is on fire.” And then you say, “Banana split!” You also like to tell long, complex stories, generally involving lions biting you and robots throwing things out the window. And hammers. When you are unhappy with me, you tell me that you are going to throw me out the window. Or into the garbage. Lately, after six months or so of these threats, I have taken to responding, “Okay, pick me up and throw me out the window. Pick me up and throw me in the garbage.” To which you respond, “I can’t pick you up.” And I say, “I see,” and you say, “I not talking to you any more.” And I can tell you that very little is as heartbreaking as the snub of an almost three-year-old sprite of a boy, but the good news is that your snubs never last long. Apropos of nothing, you will suddenly announce, “Mommy, if you are stuck in a machine I will pull you out.” “Mommy,” you say, “if you fall out of your bed tonight you can come and sleep in my bed with me and I will keep you safe.” “Mommy,” you say, “when I am big and you are little, you can ride my bike.” And I say, “Thank you.”

You are (mostly) in love with your brother, and the feeling is (mostly) mutual. You seek each other out, literally fall upon each other, and Rachel and I are still learning to back off, to watch you wrestle and tussle and laugh and occasionally go too far with each other — often, if we stay out of things, you figure them out on your own. Rowan, nearly double your size, generally has the upper hand physically, but you make up for your stature in scrappiness and perseverance. He is occasionally indulgent with you, lying spreadeagled on your bed and giggling as you body slam him over and over, with a zeal that forces me to turn my head away. Later in the evening, the two of you will snuggle up again in your bed as he reads stories to you before you hug and kiss goodnight. Those times are some of the most enchanted of my life.

People adore you. Everywhere you go, you talk to people, telling them your jokes, about your bike, the lions. Your babysitter takes you regularly to visit an assisted-living facility, and little old ladies hobble out of their rooms to say hello to you as you trundle by. You have a “lady friend” there, a one legged woman in a wheelchair who, unbidden, buys you presents: books, stuffed dogs, a sparkly reindeer. “Please,” we have said to the lady friend via the babysitter, “you don’t need to buy him things.” And she has responded that you are the highlight of her life and she will spend her own money how she pleases.

People adore you, and you adore people. A few nights ago, before bed, you came to me, then Rachel, then Rowan, for “a hug and a kiss.” And then you wrapped your arms tight around your own self and kissed your right shoulder before tumbling up the stairs to your bedroom. And I wished for you to always have exactly what you had in that moment.

And, as much as I wish that I could keep you exactly as you are, as you were in that moment, the truth is right there in those uber-bowls of oatmeal: you’re growing. You’re changing. “He’s leaving me,” I wail to Rachel, and she nods sagely. You’re leaving me, but, mostly, you’re coming into your own.

Happy third birthday, little guy.

How to break a witness

Overheard Sunday morning in the front hall:

Isaac (to Rachel): “Your pants broken?”

Rachel: “Well, there’s a hole in the knee.”

Isaac: “Why you have a hole in your knee?”

Rachel: “Well, because my knee has a pointy bone in it, and it rubbed and rubbed on my pants until it made a hole.”

Isaac: “A lion eat it?”

Rachel: “No, no lions. See? My knee has a pointy bone, and it rubbed and rubbed on my pants until it made a hole. See?”

Isaac: “A lion eat it?”

Rachel: “No, just my knee.”

Isaac: “A lion eat it?”

Rachel: “Sure, a lion ate it.”

Isaac: “Why?”

Rachel: (silence)

Isaac: “At the zoo.”

Four hours

On Wednesday, I committed the act of flagrant hope and suspension of all parenting values otherwise known as Taking Small Children on International Flights.

Admittedly, the “international” bit meant flying, via Minneapolis, from Fort Lauderdale to Thunder Bay, but still. Ten hours spent in transit with a five-year-old and his toddler sidekick requires concessions to M&M cookies, portable DVD players, rolling around on the floors of public spaces, and an all-you-can-drink apple-juice bar. (Sidenote: is Isaac, at two and a half, still technically a toddler? Is there a name for this age?)

Every time we get on a plane, the nice people in first class smile at the children as they march on board and make jokey comments to us about how we’ve got “some good little travellers there!” And I smile back and say, “Well, we’re planning on leaving them up here with you, if you don’t mind.” And they smile and laugh some more and then we leave them to their quiet, amenities-laden, seats while we go find ours in coach, children in tow.

In absolute truth, the kids are getting easier and easier to travel with. Or maybe it’s that Rachel and I are getting better and better at travelling with them. Or some combination thereof. Whatever it is, Rowan and Isaac are fairly easy to placate with cartoons and a regular supply of treats, and the adults can be fairly certain of at least skimming a magazine article or two (me) or completing a Sudoku (Rachel) in between fielding requests for blankets and escorting small people to washrooms and reading stories and filling sippy cups and explaining why it’s not good to kick the seat in front of you and retrieving dropped Bakugans and making pillows of laps and turning the overhead lights on and off and on and on and on and off. And on.

And off.

So, we get on our first flight of the day, which coincides precisely with Isaac’s naptime, and we have three seats on one side of the plane, and a fourth across the aisle. And it is my turn to sit with the kids. Which I do. Because it is my turn. And I am one of their mothers. And they’re all excited to turn on the DVD player even though they know they have to wait for it and so I spend a half-hour preflight repeating brightly, over and over, “No, not yet! Not until the lady tells us!”

And then I am paged. Passenger Goldberg is paged. And I press my call button, and not one but two flight attendants come to let me know that I have been selected for an upgrade to first class.

FIRST CLASS! With all the people I threatened to leave my kids with. Except, without my kids. But with free booze. Even though it goes against all my principles, I adore first class. The two times in my life I’ve flown it.

And I can’t do it. I mean, even if it wasn’t my turn to sit with the kids, even if I was snugly ensconced across the aisle, I still couldn’t have done it. In my heart of hearts, I know that I would have never in a hundred years forgiven Rachel if she went off to sit in first class and left me with the kids. I know all that, but that doesn’t stop me from harbouring a brief and utterly unrequited longing that she will look up from her Sudoku and smile and wave me off, saying, “Oh, go for it! Have a great time! We’ll be just fine here — no really, go!”

And so I turn down my upgrade to first class for four hours of Flying with Children. Four hours during which Isaac does not nap, not even for a moment, but instead becomes increasingly cranky and winds up screaming, “I want milk! I WANT MILK! You go away!” for the flight’s final half-hour. (When he finally sleeps, it is as the landing gear is released on the runway as we touch down in Thunder Bay; the bump as we hit the tarmac lulls him into an ever deeper slumber that lasts all the way through customs, where we have to explain to the official how, exactly, we are family, but I digress.)

Four hours. Four full hours of my life that I could’ve been in first class. For hours that I will never get back. Not that I’m not trying.

I. am. a. gar-page head!


Sometimes, these things just write themselves, you know?

Update: It’s a trend! From a friend:

Send me your garpage head photos!

Oops, we did it again!

(No, nobody’s pregnant.)
It’s happening again. I realized this last night when I found myself setting out a blueberry-banana muffin on the kitchen counter and pouring a small glass of milk, which I then stored inside the refrigerator. For easy access. For Isaac’s 5 a.m. attack of the munchies.
Yeah, we’re doing it again: segueing out of one ridiculous sleep (or lack thereof) situation into a different, also ridiculous, one, which I am sure we will maintain until we can no longer delude ourselves that it’s “okay for now,” followed by a week or so of strategizing and the imposition of said strategy, for better or for worse. Whether it’s walking around the basement with Isaac in a sling, or coming up with reward charts for Rowan, or me and Rachel alternating nights in the basement, or playing musical beds, it’s always something. Something ridiculous.
Right now, it’s this: boys have bedtime together, cuddled up for stories in Rowan’s double bed. Then Rowan decamps for our bed, where he starts the night while Isaac “settles” in his single bed (with its safety rail) in the brother room. This practice started when Rachel and I decided that we could no longer lie next to Isaac for an hour and a half each night while he took his sweet time going to sleep and screamed if we left. Four days later, we had broken him of that habit, but in the process engrained a new one in Rowan, who is still starting the night off in our bed because, as he puts it, “I don’t like toddlers sleeping in my room with me.”
Which is fine. I mean, me neither, mostly. We just move Rowan to the bed in what used to be Isaac’s room before we go to sleep. Why not back to his own bed? Because Isaac, although he now goes to sleep beautifully, has taken to waking up at 4:30 or five in the morning and screaming, “Mufffffffffin! Miiilllllllllllllllllk!” I’ve discovered that if you take him downstairs, feed him said quick snack, and keep all the lights off, he will sometimes consent to being taken back up stairs and cuddled with you in Rowan’s bed for half an hour or so. Come over! Try it! If you’re really lucky, he will actually fall back asleep, and if you are astonishingly lucky, blessed by the stars and fortune, Rowan won’t wake up only moments after that.
This is dumb.
I mean, it’s dumb because it’s just a dumb system, in the sense that in the larger scheme of things Isaac — and everyone else in the family — needs more sleep than a 4:30 wakeup call allows for. But it’s also dumb because we are repeating our own history, caught up in this seemingly endless treadmill of almost-solutions out of which spiral new problems. And new almost-solutions. Welcome to parenting, I suppose.
Do I sound bleak? I think it’s more that I’m weary: a summer cold plus seasonal allergies have added to my general fatigue. At least I’m not so far gone that I don’t take some pleasure in snuggling with the boy, who has now taken to singing “Twinkle twinkle” quietly in bed as the sun comes up. If you have to be awake at 5:30, I suppose there are worse ways to be awake.
Radical acceptance? Denial? You decide.

The end of an era

These things are so much harder to put together than to take apart, aren’t they? Or maybe I’ve got that the wrong way around.

Sleeping around

Field study notes: The sleeping habits of the suburban queer family

Location: Detached, two-story family home in northwestern Ontario.

Subjects: Occupants of house: Two adult women (codenames: Buttercup and Sausage), parents of one four-year-old boy (codename: Quiggy Quoggy Quoo), one toddler (codename: Pwink).


March 2009: Buttercup and Sausage have alternated sleeping on the futon in the basement in order to slow their child-induced, sleep-deprived descent into hell.

April 2009: In an effort to make bed- and night-times smoother, Buttercup and Sausage set up a single bed in Quiggy Quoggy Quoo’s room (hereinafter referred to, with varying degrees of success, as “The Brother Room”) for the thrilled Pwink, who has been longing to share in the bedtime festivities. After some initial bumps, the new system takes hold and all four family members resume sleeping through the night, on one level.

Buttercup, in a flurry of optimism and determination, hauls the double futon up from the basement to Pwink’s former room and declares it “The Spare Room.”

Nothing lasts.

Some highlights:

Wednesday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.: Pwink yells, “Love you!” over and over as Buttercup descends the stairs at bedtime. QQQ complains that Pwink is too loud and decides to sleep in Buttercup and Sausage’s bed. They will transfer him back to his own bed later on in the evening.

4:10 a.m.: Pwink wakes up and announces, “Mama, cuddle!” As a result, QQQ also wakes up and requests cuddles. Sausage climbs in with QQQ and Buttercup hauls the duvet off the parental bed and bunks down with Pwink. She must have slept, because she knows she dreamed (of weddings), but it doesn’t really feel like it. Sausage, whose bed is now duvet-less, sneaks out of QQQ’s bed and goes to sleep in the spare room.

Thursday, April 23, 12:40 p.m.: Pwink goes down for his afternoon nap. Spurns his single bed in the “brother room” in favour of QQQ’s bed. Two minutes in, decides that the futon in the spare room would be best and traipses across the hall to sleep there, exhorting Buttercup to join him. They settle down, he sticks thumb in mouth, and 10 minutes later he is asleep. Buttercup leaves. Later, she may regret not napping with him. But regrets are for the weak. She is not weak. No.

Thursday evening, 8:22 p.m.: Buttercup finds herself lying next to Pwink for 45 minutes until he is completely and utterly asleep. Each time she tries to leave, he wakes up and says, “Mama, night night!”, patting the bed beside him. If she continues to tiptoe out of the room, he starts to cry, forcing her back in so as not to wake up QQQ. Pwink has Buttercup’s number.

Friday morning, 3:30 a.m.: Buttercup wakes because her right arm is COMPLETELY ASLEEP and numb to the touch. This happens more and more frequently of late, and while it has nothing directly to do with the children, it never happened before they arrived and so must somehow be their fault. She turns over and uses her left arm to haul her right arm into a less compromising position and wonders, as she always does, whether the recurrent pins and needles are doing permanent damage, and what would happen if she didn’t wake up: amputation? She goes back to sleep.

5:22 a.m.: Pwink wakes up. Calls out, and in so doing wakes up QQQ. Sausage attempts damage control by bringing Pwink to sleep with Buttercup, except that QQQ follows them both into the parental bed and cannot be persuaded to cuddle up in his own bed with Sausage. All four lie down. Much squirming ensues.

5:32 a.m.: Just as everyone relaxes enough to make Buttercup think that just maybe, sleep might just occur, someone snores. Pwink sits bolt upright and announces, “Noise!” QQQ grumbles about Pwink being awake. Sausage absconds with Pwink to QQQ’s bed to stave off the possibility of all four having to get up. Pwink cries.

5:35 a.m.: Buttercup tells QQQ she will be “right back — don’t move!” and delivers lost blankie to Pwink and Sausage. Pwink continues to cry

5:42 a.m.: Buttercup tells QQQ she will be “right back — don’t move!” But she is lying. She instead climbs into QQQ’s bed with Pwink and Sausage, who immediately stops crying and snuggles. Sausage leaves that ungrateful Pwink and climbs into bed with QQQ. Buttercup, her arm trapped beneath Pwink’s head, stares at the open door and tries to will it closed with her eyes. It doesn’t work.

5:46 a.m.: Pwink asks for water.

6:10 a.m.: QQQ decides it’s time to get up. Buttercup is fairly certain — based on previous experience — that Sausage has coached him on keeping his mouth closed (“Like this!” and mimes buttoning her lips together) and being extra quiet as they descend the stairs. By virtue of the open door and his hawklike hearing, Pwink hears them anyway. Insists on getting up. Insists that Buttercup come with him down the stairs. Buttercup delivers Pwink to Sausage in the kitchen and returns to sleep in her own bed, because it is officially her morning to “sleep in.”

Friday evening, 7:23 p.m.: Sausage finds herself lying next to Pwink until he is completely and utterly asleep. Each time she tries to leave, he wakes up and says, “Mama, night night!”, patting the bed beside him. If she continues to tiptoe out of the room, he starts to cry, forcing her back in so as not to wake up QQQ. Pwink has Sausage’s number. Sausage fall asleep next to Pwink and stumbles downstairs two hours later.

Saturday morning, 2:11 a.m.: QQQ appears in the parental bedroom because he is cold, and insists there is room for all three of them in Sausage and Buttercup’s bed. He climbs in. Buttercup decamps for the spare room.

6:12 a.m.: Pwink wakes up, ready for the day. Buttercup gets up too.

1:04 p.m.: Pwink goes down for a nap. Buttercup who is tired and oddly besotted, take him upstairs and lays him down in QQQ’s bed. When he says, “Mama, cuddle,” she lies down. One day, they will have to break him out this habit, but right now the thing she wants to do most is snuggle up with her baby boy. She’s a sucker. He has her number.

Tuesday night: For a variety of reasons too tedious to detail here, Buttercup spends the night on the futon with Pwink’s feet tap dancing in the small of her back. She does Not Sleep Well.

Wednesday morning, 2:13 a.m.: Pwink appears in the parental bed.

Wednesday morning, 5:15 a.m.: Pwink wakes up, hysterical. Sausage suggests to Buttercup that she should just suck it up and get up with him. Buttercup counters that Pwink will indeed go back to sleep in a few minutes. Sausage decamps for the futon, but is waylaid by QQQ, who has woken up because of all the screaming. Sausage bunks down with QQQ.

Wednesday morning, 5:23 a.m.: Buttercup sucks it up.

And so it goes. I haven’t bed hopped this much since … aaaaaaaaand, you know? I’m not gonna finish that sentence.

Heads you win, tails I lose

Isaac in 100 words or less: Asks for water, but does not want the water in his glass. The water in his class must be poured into my empty glass before judged acceptable. Then proceeds, repeatedly, increasingly aggressively, to offer me his water, holding the cup to my lips and refusing to be fooled by my pretend sips. Finally, to placate him, I drink some. Whereupon he screeches, “My water! Mine!” Whereupon I tickle him.