Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Room at the Haunted Inn

124 Weeks

Be impeccable with your word. 
Don't take anything personally. 
Don't make assumptions. 
Always do your best. 
     -The Four Agreements 

Greg introduced me to this Toltec wisdom years ago. He loaned my father a book about it and since then, you cannot have a conversation with my dad without hearing the utterance of at least one agreement. PERFECT stuff of granddad lessons alongside standing up to bullies and the fine art of finger pulling.

When Greg isn't traveling for work, we alternate nights tucking Ren in bed. One evening, it was my turn and Greg happened to arrive home from a journey in the middle of Ren's evening ritual. In the darkness, Ren asked for his daddy. I told him Greg had come home, but that he would see his Daddy in the morning because Daddy was going to go to sleep too.

This is our staple explanation to assure Ren we aren't abandoning him for mysterious grown-up all-nighters, and also to enforce that "nights are for sleeping, days are for playing." Of course, our household doesn't actually shut down at 8:00 p.m. every night. The adult-on-duty sits in our room next to Ren's until we're sure Ren is asleep and won't be woken by the stairs made of wood that actually scream.

I tuck Ren back in, sit on our bed in the next room, stare quietly at a book, the ceiling, the laundry basket I know I should be emptying but am afraid creaking floor boards will keep Ren from dozing. A few minutes later Ren calls out asking for another hug. Something is on his mind. He mentions his father and again, I assure him they will reunite in the morning. Ren settles. I go back to zombie sitting.

"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, I need you!" Another hug. Another reassurance. 

"Good night my Bug. I'll see you in the morning."

"And Daddy too."

"Yes. Daddy too."

"Mommy... Daddy isn't in bed."

"Oh. Yes. You're right. Did he wake you up?"

"Daddy is downstairs. He's looking for a place to sleep."

I comfort our thoughtful little wonder by explain Daddy has a few things to do before he comes up to bed and tuck him in one last time. Sitting in our room, I listen to the monitor and wait for Ren's gravid breathing to signal my decent down the staircase that also serves as intimidation for provincial wildlife. As Greg and I greet, I tell him it's time to give Ren the truth as impeccably as possible for a 2-year-old brain. We can't have Ren thinking Daddy has to sleep in the neighbor's stable when he gets home after dark. There's plenty of places to sleep in our house, as long as no one moves once they lay down.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Back to the Future

123 Weeks

While Greg and I seem to be only slightly older than the parents we meet, I hail from a place where most of my friends' kids are becoming teenagers. They send warnings from the future. I remind them the future is now.

I have always thought I'd be good during the teen years. My own maturity level and tastes stopped developing in 1989. I've had almost thirty years practice honing tedious dramas and expressions of angst. I catch myself saying I look forward to being around my little rebel in ten years, except, it only recently occurred to me, he won't be looking forward to being around me. I keep forgetting I'm the one he will be rebelling against.

Good. I can take it, and every kid needs a mom who can. No matter how many times Ren shouts, "Go away Mommy! I'm NOT pooping!" I'll be here for him with badly written poetry and unlimited Erasure ballads.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Freaky Fridays

122 Weeks

On occasion Ren and I will call Daddy while he's traveling, or his Gigi and Papa-son on FaceTime. What an amazing tool—to be able to get to know your family by seeing them in real time as they sit in their lives across the country. Since Ren has picked up on the fact that many important things happen on that device we call a "phone," he's excited to FaceTime people because it means he gets to use the almighty, special, instrument that is "NOT A TOY." We have a pretty strict no-screen policy, however, we let Ren look at a few pictures on Greg's phone for a few minutes every Friday. We feel it will be a good transition into moving images, like "Sesame Street" or age appropriate cartoons. There is a particular favorite photo of Spider-Man on which Ren practices zooming to see his favorite superhero's feet. For some reason. It is frightening how powerful a pull that small screen contains. We're all addicted. Why would it be any different with a new mind? Ren absolutely loves his once-a-week with Greg's phone. Every morning he wakes up and tells us it's Friday.

Tonight we got a double dose of FaceTime. Daddy in a car from Boston and then Gigi and Papa-son enjoying an afterwork cocktail. Both conversations were lively and fun. Ren insisted on seeing everyone's feet in both conversations and then the evening ended in a bizarre melt down over a puzzle piece with an image of Count Von Count's feet being shoved at the camera so he could see them on the screen. I don't think I could type that sentence any more clearly. It was as strange as it reads.

Children get obsessed, I know. I remember. I'm still grateful to be free of my sticker collection habit. Every single day was about my next sticker. Hell, I'm glad to be free of last week's obsession with yogurt. It's human to desire. But I'm not even sure what is developing here with Ren. I look forward to looking back on this and seeing the seed of wherever it goes. I just hope its more like a career in imaging technology and podiatry for Olympic athletes, not foot fetish cosplay films. I think I actually know people who do the latter. I need more friends in the medical industry.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Suffering the Fools on the Hill

121 Weeks

"He's very smart. Very aware. It's just that when he doesn't want to do something, he tunes me out."

"Yeah. He does. Ignores us."

"OK. Maybe we can work on that at home."

"When we finish an activity, he doesn't want clean up."

"Yeah, he doesn't."

"OK. We'll have him clean up more at home."

"He gets very focused. Very involved in what he's doing and he doesn't want to stop."

"Yeah, he won't stop. The other kids stop. He won't stop."

"Right. OK. We will make that more of a priority. To listen. Right, honey? Honey?"


Ren can read my mind. He reads his father's too. He's a kind soul, though. He doesn't use his superpowers for evil.

For the most part, Ren makes informed choices. I wouldn't describe him as a leap-before-you-look kind of kid. Fear of the unknown is the only card we hold. That, and cookies. He trusts our true desire is to keep him safe... mainly because we are constantly averting our dialogue to reflect this. "Let's see if you can put the fork on the table. It will hurt the inside of your nose. Please put the fork on the table so we can keep you and your nose safe. Let's not... We shouldn't... Mommy and Daddy's job is to kkeeeeeePPPPPP YYYOOOOUUUU SSSAAAAAFFFFEEEEENNNNOOOOO NOOOO NOOOTTTT IN YOUR NOSE!!"

The books told us not to say "NO!" Do you know how difficult that is? Whether or not you have a toddler, spend one day, one hour spinning a negative thought, much less, dialogue toward the positive in any conversation. You turn into a slow-talking, high-pitched, condescending robot that makes a pageant contestant sound like a TED speaker.

The twos aren't terrible for the two-year-olds. They find all of this very amusing. In every new teaching moment, we are choking on our emotional instincts while searching for simple, friendly-yet-assertive words. Our negotiations have Greg and I looking like we're dismantling an explosive while only being able to speak the words, "bathroom?" and "change for a twenty?" We are tourists in a foreign land. There is no reasoning when you don't know the language. There is only luck. Distraction and luck. And kindness. On Ren's part. He has to let us win every so often. We can reach the cookies.