Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Meaning of "Uh-Oh" and "I need a little help here..."

My children never cease to amaze me.  Mostly in their ability to be as different as possible so that I can continue to feel like an absolute clueless novice about parenting.  Currently, Elizabeth is the master of understatement, while William is having to learn the "keep your reaction appropriate to the situation" lesson.

Let's start with little Miss Elizabeth.  I have realized over the past few days that she has chosen "uh oh" as her catch-all phrase for everything and that I now dread those words as I often find them an understatement for the situation that prompted it.

Case in Point: gross situations that would, for me, necessitate a squeal, a cry, an "eeeeww yuck!" or something with a little more oomph than her very nonchalant "uh oh".  These past few weeks uh-oh has signaled a teething ring dropped into the toilet that she had already proudly gone potty in (REALLY?!), peeing on the carpet (potty training is going great, can you tell?), her intention to vomit and getting her Kermit doll's foot in poop. Jeez!  Is this seriously my life now?!

And worse, since she also applies that phrase to non-panic-inducing situations, I find my heart leaping with the mere utterance of the words because I just never know what situation I'm about to walk in on.  While uh-oh can signal a poop accident or her teetering precariously on the edge of something so high I can't fathom how she got there in the first place, it can also signal her dropping the Thor action figure just out of her reach, "accidentally" (riiiiiight) throwing her blanket from her crib, smooshing Playdough into the carpet, christening one of the dogs with yogurt, ripping a book or playing the "wrong" song on her CD player. She doesn't even change her inflection for crying out loud.  The "uh oh" I get when she can't get her baby doll in the stroller is the exact same "uh oh" I get before she goes depositing foreign objects in the toilet (which to date has included a piece of her training potty, a page of a book and a brush in addition to the aforementioned teething ring).  Seriously!  Can't she at least have a calm uh-oh and an urgent one so I don't go running like the crazed mother that I am in the direction of her voice fearing the worst of bodily functions gone wrong?

And then there's William.  I think he'd better start brushing up on his Oscar speeches right now or plan to play soccer, because BOY can this kid act!  We keep having to coach him on keeping his reactions appropriate because he screams like he's having an amputation sans anesthesia when he's merely bumped his leg on the table.  He folds like a soccer player taking a dive in front of a ref, rolling around like it will earn him something, while we look on in a combination of frustration and amusement.  Today he hurt his leg and the scream he emitted, I'm pretty sure, was worse than when he cut his chin open.  "Did your leg fall off?" I found myself asking.  "Do we need to take you to the hospital?"  He laughed and said, "No!".  So Mike and I said, "Then calm down and keep your reactions appropriate dude!  Don't go screaming like you've lost a limb when you've had a minor bump!"

The best is that he, like his sister, has a go-to phrase.  His favorite is "Um... Need some help here!"  Only, unlike his sister, it is not said calmly nor in anything resembling a nonchalant manner.  It is often shouted with the urgency of one who has just been bitten by a poisonous snake and is calling quickly for the only available antidote.  So I find myself RUSHING to his aid only to be asked to put his Star Wars figure back on the speeder bike or supply him with a clean napkin because his current one contains a miniscule swipe of yogurt.  I find myself constantly saying "Dude, SERIOUSLY?!  Calm down."  Applying too much cinnamon to one's applesauce or dropping a ball down the stairs just does not require the same urgency as, oh say, your little sister courting death with one of her antics.

Why then, do you ask, do I continue to run to his aid?  Why haven't I learned my lesson?  Because, dear readers, EVERY once in a great while, he actually applies it to a real problem.  Like his sister locking herself in the bathroom or nearly choking on something.  So now he has me JUUUUST insecure enough that the phrase "um... need some help here!" gets me running because I'm afraid that this will be the one-in-ten times that something is on fire rather than merely being a case of his inability to put together a satisfactory Lincoln Logs cabin.

I find myself asking every day, "seriously?  where do these kids come from?"  I know , I know, from me.  If you asked my folks I'm sure they would tell you that I too was a drama queen or lacked the ability to adequately convey a TRUE need for help.  I think their favorite go-to phrase is becoming, "Yeeeeeaaah, I don't know ANYONE who was like that."

I think that's why I'm keeping this blog.  Someday when William complains about his melodramatic child or Elizabeth frets over her kid's lack of appropriate disgust, I will show them this entry and say, "yeeeeaah, I don't know ANYONE who was like that."  However, my future joy as a grandparent is little comfort to me right now as I navigate these parental waters constantly feeling like I'm up the proverbial creek without a paddle. 

Anyone got a paddle?  An instruction manual?  Whiskey?  Anyone... anyone...?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Of Bodily Fluids and Sexual Politics

Now I know that a certain amount of bodily fluids accompany the choice to parent two children while owning two dogs... I know this.  I'm not stupid kids.  I consider myself a relatively intelligent lady.  I expected the poop scooping (dogs) and the poop wiping (kids).  I expected the occasional stray whiz by my little boy that would strike walls, floors, me and the occasional innocent passerby should a diaper not be closed quickly enough or (after potty training) when my son lost focus and turned while still having penis in hand.  I expected a nervous piddle or two from an excited young dog or a scared old one on the Fourth of July.  What I was NOT prepared for was for God, in His infinite wisdom, to make me the f@#!ing Job of bodily functions, particularly my nemesis, Vomit.  Ugh. 

God has seen fit to do most of the work in what I shall call my bodily-fluid-immersion-therapy through my darling little daughter Elizabeth.  She's deceptively cute, kids.  She has long blonde curls and ridiculously long eyelashes and the kind of cheeks that make strangers call her a "little angel" and make me roll my eyes in response.  This "ANGEL" must be dressed at all times because, if she is not, she will promptly strip off her diaper and alert us to her current bodily function with a loudly-spoken "uh oh."  To save her from sweating to death in her crib at nap time, I have tried twice to let her sleep in a diaper.  No more, folks.  Not unless I'm prepared to bathe her and wash all her bedding when she wakes because she will strip off her diaper and soak her mattress as though she had a gallon of water prior to the nap.  She is the queen of the "stealth poop," stealing away to a corner and playing with some toy until the stench wafts in my direction (or William of the much better nose yells, "mommy she stinks!"), doing her best to frustrate my current efforts to begin potty training.  I'm trying to learn the tricks of the stealth poop, but this wily creature will change the time of day, location and manner of the stealth poop as frequently as paranoid people change their passwords so that I cannot catch on.  I have now begun putting her on the toilet immediately upon waking, eating, etc. and leaving her there for an EXTENDED period of time with many books and have finally found some success in getting her to poop in the potty.  I know she has to poop when I hand her the books and she looks up at me and says "go away."

The worst of the bodily functions, for me however, is vomit.  I am a sympathetic vomiter and, worse, when I vomit I become a child again.  I cry, slobber, want my mother, etc.  It's not pretty.  I know lots of calm vomiters and they just piss me off, quite frankly. 

Here's the problem - of all the bodily functions, this one seems to be a particular problem with Elizabeth.  It's like the girl is constantly ingesting Ipecac or something.  And it's not just a little folks.  OH NO.  It's projectile and seems to consist of everything ingested in the last 48 hours.  We're talking exorcist baby here.  We even took her to eating therapy because vomiting has now ensued for the following reasons with our little angel: eating too much, not liking a texture, having too much liquid, crying too much, coughing too hard, being too anxious, taking too large a bite and (I'm not making this up), sticking her own fingers down her throat.  I mean, shit, what is this?  Can Bulemia start at 18 months?!  Argh!!!

Last night was the kicker.  Elizabeth is going through some weird sleep thing where she is no longer easy to put to bed.  Her bedtime routine used to be one quick story, put in crib, turn on lullabyes and walk away.  I'm not kidding.  It took maybe 5 minutes to put this kid to bed.  Last night, however, she panicked and did not want me to put her down.  This is the 3rd night of this so I figure, I've been through this with William, let her cry it out.  She'll stop.  Well, absolute SCREAMING ensued, but I held strong. MISTAKE.  This morning I opened her door and was nearly blown back by a familiar, gut-turning, stench.  "Oh God," I thought (calculating how much time it would take to clean her and the room when it's a school morning for William) and turned on the light.  I had to hold my nose and get her out of the crib while she cried accusingly at me.  The only blessing in this... this strange child managed to ONLY hit her sheets.  Somehow in this torrent she missed the two stuffed animals in her crib, her pajamas and (get this), herself!!!  She even left one corner clean and slept RIGHT in that corner.  (such a girl)  I washed her off just in case and got all the linens in the laundry while yelling "wake up" at William since I no longer had time to wake him nicely.  I'm now wondering how on earth I'm going to get past this "I don't want you to leave me in my crib" phase with Elizabeth without having to worry about her showering herself or her room in vomit every night.  Really?  Is this fair?

Now, to make matters worse, God (again I believe he's enrolled me in bodily-fluid-immersion-therapy) makes sure that I don't get to handle just one thing at a time.  Inevitably in our house, when the children begin having issues, the dogs (not to be outdone) begin having their own issues.  Late last week, before Elizabeth's current vomit-mania began (she also puked on Mike two days ago) I walked past our staircase late at night right before bed and caught a HORRIBLE scent.  Shit. Literally.  I walked up to the playroom to discover that Yukon (he of the most nervous dog belly ever) had pooped right by Elizbeth's play kitchen.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  It's 1:00 in the morning and there I am with towels, Oxi-Clean and my heaving stomach, swearing as quietly as possible because the playroom is bordered on each side by the kids' rooms.  Of course.  Why not.  Now this whole week, while managing stealth poops, potty training and vomit, I find myself jumping whenever I hear the familiar dog-tag-jingle of Yukon climbing the stairs because I'm paranoid that he's up there making more deposits.  Laugh if you will, but that freakin' dog has done so many stealth-pees (he's particularly fond of christening Elizabeth's room) and now the nervous poop that I'm putting up baby gates not to keep Elizabeth from the stairs, but to keep that damn dog from the playroom!  Argh!!!!  I sure hope Elizabeth (and the dogs) outgrow this soon before I run out of "bodily fluid" towels, patience and sanity.

Unlike his sister, William is presenting a new challenge for me that is, thankfully, bodily fluid free, BUT it is a harbinger of great conversations (read sarcasm) to come.  The other week I noticed that whenever William talks about school, particularly the coveted "sharing bag" (each child gets to take it home and put something to share in it for the next class day), he is all cute and fun until he mentions "Serena."  There is a certain vitriol with which he spits her name.  As in, "I hope SER-EEENA doesn't get the sharing bag," or "it was nice when the other kids helped me clean up the blocks but I wish SER-EEENA wouldn't help me." 

Amused, I asked, "what is it with you and Serena?  Do you not like her?"
"Huh, NO!" he fairly snorts and rolls his eyes as if this should be obvious to me.
"Why not?" I stupidly ask.  He looks at me incredulously as if I've suddenly sprouted tentacles.
"Be-CAAAAUSE," he sighs exasperatedly, "she's a GIRL."
"Okay, " I reason, "but you never talk about any of the other girls, just Serena.  Does she particularly bother you?  Do you guys fight?"  He looks ready to give up on his mother's obvious lack of knowledge.
"No, MO-OM," he explains patiently, "I hate ALL the girls.  Girls are NOT cool.  The boys are cooler than the girls."
"Really," I'm stifling a giggle, "ALL girls, eh?"
"I'm a girl," I point out.
"You don't count, you're my mom."
"Holly (babysitter he is IN LOVE with) is a girl."
"MO-OM.  She's a grown up."
"Aha!" I say, pointing out his cognitive disonance, "so not ALL girls are bad!"
"All the ones in my CLASS are Mom," he says as though I should know this.
"Why?" I ask.
"The boys are cooler than they are, that's why."  I'm skeptical of his reasoning.
"Why are the boys cooler?"
"We wear cooler clothes, mom.  The girls wear dumb clothes."

So there we have it kids.  It begins at 4 years old.  I thought it would be more like 6 or 7 years old.  But here it is.  Sexual politics begins in preschool.  Next it will cooties, teasing, girls being sissies, girls crying too much, girls playing with stupid dolls, girls talking about dumb stuff like hair and clothes, girls being know-it-alls and, much later, girls being a mystery and breaking his heart.  I'm not ready for this.  I'm not.  I don't want to have conversations about how dumb girls are (even if I often agree... I had mostly male friends for a reason!) and I certainly don't want to have to point out that someday, he won't think girls are so bad.  I'd rather talk super heroes, comic books, Star Wars, football, baseball, lady bug and snake hunting and ANYTHING, but the burgeoning sexual politics that forced co-ed socialization leads to. But here we are.

I was so thankful today when I asked William about school and he said, "it was a good day mom.  James and I didn't fight.  We played nicely together.  We got to play with the rice table.  We learned about the letter P."  Phew, I thought, we can converse about how to get along nicely (he & James fight sometimes).  Then came the little voice...

"Oh, and SER-REEEENA and Mitchell got the sharing bags.  I hate Serena..."  Of course.