Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Playground Culture

Aaron and Jeff are now old enough to go to the playground and enjoy more and more of the equipment.  We've been going to the park for a while and they can do more than just sit in the swing.  While we were in New York we went to the park once or even twice a day.  I have to talk a little bit about what I call "Playground Culture."

I am a little saddened by some of the encounters I have had on the playground.  My boys are only 18 months old and don't understand what they can and can't touch.  Sometimes they look at another child's toy and point to it or try to touch it.  On many occassions a young child yells "No!  That's MINE!"  I tell the boys that the toy isn't ours and explain to the older kids that my children are little and don't understand.  The other kids sometimes give me a dirty look or run away to get away from my kids. 

I know that children at the playground often don't want to share their toys with strangers.  I get it.  That's part of their development.  What makes me sad is that their parents don't ever step in and tell the child not to yell at an 18 month old for just looking at their toy.  I feel like that's a good time to teach kids it's OK to share and to be nice to kids who are younger.

In Chicago we did meet a wonderful mom and her daughter who was probably about two or three years old.  My kids were fascinated by a little pail and shovel and the mom let my kids use the toys.  She even walked away to play in another area of the playground and trusted us with her toys.  In New York my boys were playing on a playground when a four and a half year old came along who was patient as my kids hesitated at the top of a big slide.  The little boy waited, patiently, while my boys decided if they could conquer the twisty slide and was careful as he ran by them on the bridges.  I got to talking with his mother and told her how respectful he was playing around two little boys.

As my kids grow up and become the bigger, rowdier, wilder kids I hope that I teach them to be kind to babies, share their toys with other children, and apologize if they mistreat someone.   I can't expect them to be perfect all of the time, but I can try to teach them some lessons while on the playground. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Derek, Jeff, Aaron and I recently flew to the east coast to visit my family.  This was the boys' second plane ride.  I never wrote about the first one because it was during the holidays and life was so crazy so let me take you back to a simpler time, nine months ago, before the boys were mobile. 

The first plane trip was to the west coast for Christmas.  The boys were about nine months old.  Traveling with them was a lot of work just due to the fact that we had blankets, diapers, formula, bottles, strollers, car seats, extra clothes, pacifiers, toys, snacks, etc.  Nevertheless, the flights went pretty smoothly.  Both boys slept a good deal of the time, pooped/peed a little (changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom really does look like a contortionist act!), and made friends with the sweet flight attendants.  I was with Jeff on the way out and the cutest thing was that he fell asleep during the descent with his hand wrapped around a couple of my fingers.

This recent plane trip was a little -- ok, a lot -- more chaotic.  There was less poop which was good.   There was more screaming and wriggling around and the boys were pretty antsy too.  (Ba dum bum.)  Now that the boys are mobile and more energetic, sitting for a few hours is practically impossible.  Most of my pictures these days are blurry because they never stop moving.  

Back to the September plane ride now. 

We arrived in NYC about 7:00 p.m. and the boys, who hadn't slept for at least six hours or so, were due for bed.  By the time we got to my parents' place we were sure they would want to sleep, although we gave them a little time to get used to the new environment and people..  After a little while we tried to do our nightly routine of low lights, pajamas, a bottle and maybe a book or a song before bed.  We gave them pacifiers and put them into their pack-and-plays.


That's pretty much all I remember from that first night because it was so chaotic after that.  My boys have never really liked going to bed and going to bed in a strange place with a strange bed made it so much harder.

So, long story short, throughout the week they did better and better with their new "beds" but still fought going to sleep quite a bit.  Towards the end of the week they started to realize that a pacifier meant it was time for bed.  As we would put them in their pack-and-plays, they would rip the pacifiers from their mouths and throw them to the ground as a show of 17 month old defiance.  (Aren't baby protests kind of cute in a way?)  We would return the pacifier but after a several times we just let them throw it away and finally had to just leave the room.  Derek and I noticed, though, that each night, after throwing out their pacifiers, the screams lasted less and less time.

When we got back to Chicago we decided this was our opportunity.  The boys had spent the last few days without pacifiers and it was now or never to break the habit.  So we did it.  We stopped giving them pacifiers for their naps and overnight sleeps.

The first night wasn't bad.  The second night I put Jeff in his bed while Derek put Aaron down.  Aaron screamed his head off (he's Aaron -- have you met him?  He likes to use his lungs).   Jeff wasn't crying at all.  He let me lay him down, peacefully, in his crib and then signed "pacifier" to me.

My heart broke.  I had to tell him that the pacifiers were "all done."  He just looked at me, a little dejected.  I kissed him, told him I loved him, gave Aaron a kiss, told him I loved him, and left the room.  Then Jeff started to cry.  I can't tell you how hard that was.

It has now been close to a week since we got home and the no pacifier rule has been going well.  The boys seem OK with the new world order and have asked for a pacifier a few times but always manage to fall asleep without one as long as we do our new favorite song, "Pease Porridge Hot" with lots of clapping, about 73 times before bed. 

On Tuesday, however, I caught Jeff sucking his thumb while I was changing his diaper.

Uh oh...

There might be a new habit to break.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I'm One Of Those Parents

Every parent thinks his or her child is special and smart and amazing, right?  Everyone else rolls his or her eyes and thinks, "Suuuuuure" but will actually respond with, "Yes!  The fact that Johnny is sticking his feet in his mouth does mean he is interested in anatomy and will become a podiatrist."  Then that person posts something on Facebook saying how he or she is sick of parents bragging about their "brilliant" kids.  I have a little more humility than these crazy parents, but I do want to share a cool story with you.

On Thursday I got my boys into their cribs but it wasn't quite naptime yet.  I didn't want to take them out of their cribs and risk a fight to get them back in, so I decided to vamp for 10-15 minutes before starting the naptime routine.  My kids still aren't really into storytime.  After I read two or three pages of a book one will inevitably ask for the book.  I will give it to him and he will usually take it from my hand and then toss it aside as if to say, "How dare you read to us!!!  I do all the reading around here!"

With storytime being nixed I decided to focus on the animal decals.  I do point out the animals from time to time.  I tell the boys the names in English, American Sign Language, and Spanish (the ones I know...what the heck is the Spanish word for ibex???) but I never really emphasize learning the animals like I do when we read a book.

That's why I was totally shocked when I saw how well the boys could identify the animals on the wall near their cribs!  In the take you didn't see, each boy was three for three.  In the video, they got five out of six.  I think "jellyfish" was too hard because there's no good sign for it and I don't know the Spanish word for it so we don't practice that one very much.

I also have the most amazing nanny in the world who loves to do art with my boys and she recently showed me that they are little Picassos in the making.  Here they are having fun with paint for the first time with our awesome nanny.

I know that just because my kids know a few animals or get paint on paper it doesn't mean I believe they will be the Doogie Howser of the vet world or the next Pablo Picasso.  I admit that they still have a lot (of the basics) to learn. For example, Jeff likes to bang his head against the wall.  When Derek or I say, "Don't knock your head on the wall!" all he seems to hear is "Knock your head on the wall."  He laughs the first couple of times but then hits it just hard enough that he has that look of "Why does my head hurt?"  Aaron is no better.  He enjoys drinking bathwater.  He has a cup that he fills with water and tries to drink from it.  The problem is it's a big cup and all he does is douse his face with water.  He scares himself after water splashes his face.  Six seconds later he does it all over again. 

So while I'm proud of my kids for learning animals and trying art, I know that doesn't make them the smartest kids on earth.

Wait a minute.  Now that I think about their behaviors I think Jeff banging his head on a wall is like an engineer testing the strength of his supporting beams.  Aaron getting wet shows he is going to be an underwater explorer like Jacques Cousteau. kids really are geniuses!!!

OK...go post a message on Facebook about a crazy dad.