How is He Mine?

 

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I mentioned we took Bear to the library the other day, but had to cut is short; I had a headache, we had to go grocery shopping, and I needed to go home and cook.  I honestly wanted to skip the library all together, but I can’t deny Bear that simple pleasure.  He adores the library, and the last thing I want to do is discourage him from that love in any way.

I’m thrilled that Bear is developing a love of books, and excited that he’s already starting to sound out words (pretty successfully!) months before his fourth birthday, but I also love watching him interact with the other kids.  It’s both a joy and a complete and utter mystery to me.

I have several people in my life with kids around Bear’s age; friends, acquaintances, coworkers.  Almost without fail, they are all sweet kids, but most of them have the typical shyness I always associated with small children; the coy, peeking-out-behind-mom’s-legs sort of shyness that people fawn over as being “sweet.”

I was one of those kids, except I never really grew out of it. I present, I think, as a pretty friendly person, and I feel like that’s what most people see; but from the other side, I spend a lot of time in my own head second guessing everything I do, hyper-critical of everything I say, overly anxious and worried about how to navigate socially.  I definitely have good (even great!) days and bad days, but being social and interacting (broadly) with people will always feel draining and slightly uncomfortable to me.

Then there is my son.

My son is like local celebrity at our library; the librarians know him by name, and he likes to ask them about all the stuff on their desk, and the new displays at the front of the children’s room.  Being that he sees them every week (and we’ve been going there for a couple of years now), I’m not totally shocked that he’s gotten comfortable with them.

But then there are the other kids.  This past visit, we walked in and he noticed two other kids, both slightly older than him, sitting at one of the tables coloring.  Immediately he smiled and walked over.

“Hiiii!  What is your name?  What are you doing?  Are you coloring?  What’s a contest?  I would like to do a contest.  Can I sit and color with you?  I would like to sit and share crayons with you.  Can I have a pink and a blue crayon, please?  Thanks.  Are you coloring a ghost?  What is your ghost’s name?  Is he Casper?  Casper is from a show.  It is called, ‘Casper, the Friendly Ghost!’  He is not a spooky ghost.  What are you reading?”

To my son, the idea of not going up to a person and trying to make friends with them is unthinkable.  His instinct upon meeting anyone new is to try to engage them; to greet them and ask them questions about themselves.  He doesn’t understand other children’s reticence to open up to him; he isn’t mean-spirited about it, but he can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t want to try to make friends with him.

It’s fascinating to watch, as a person who was very much unlike that for the vast majority of my life.  It’s enviable, that level of absolute comfort he must have in himself.  It’s also a little scary.

Because when I say he wants to make friends with everyone, I mean everyone.  Little kids, big kids, the cashiers at the supermarket, people on the train, people waiting for the bus.  Once in Florida, we got off the tram at MCO, and when I turned to look at my son (whose hand I was holding), he was also holding the hand of a strange woman who had been seated near us during the ride.  She was kind and amused at his antics, but while I laughed it off, it gave me pause.

I don’t want to shut my son down.  I don’t want to instill fear into his heart, or make him afraid of talking to people he doesn’t know, or reaching out to befriend others.  But I also need to teach him – in a way that won’t do those things – how to be cautious around strangers, and how not everyone you meet is a kind or friendly person.

The world needs more people like my son, people who go out of their way to try to include and befriend people, and I need my son to be both happy and safe, without depriving the world of his vivacity.  As someone whose native language is, in so many ways, social fear, I’m not totally sure how to do that.

But, as has been the case with literally every other aspect of parenthood, I’m sure I’ll learn.  For now, I’m just going to enjoy watching my son do his thing, wherever we go.

So Long Luvs: The Last Diaper

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Tonight, I put our last diaper on my son.

He’s been using the potty successfully for weeks now; since the end of May, more or less, though I’ve been hesitant to write about it because, hey, I don’t tempt fate – the second I get too cocky about it is the second he turns around and decides he actually kind of misses not having to get up to use the potty and missing the end of Peppa Pig, and boom, he’s made a liar out of me and we’re back to square one.

But it’s been long enough now that I feel confident saying it – our son is potty trained.  He can tell us he needs to use the potty, he can hold it a reasonable amount of time (should we be out and about, away from an immediately viable toilet), and he can wash and dry his hands more-or-less independently afterwards.

In fact, he recently started peeing “like a MAN!” (his words), which has been great, in that lifting him up and having to basically hold him on the toilet when were are anywhere other than home (and away from his Elmo potty adapter seat) has gotten increasingly difficult as he’s gotten increasingly bigger.  It’s also a disaster that has resulted in a lot of internal screaming as I watch him touch public toilet seats to steady himself mid-stream, and one bathroom at home that just, like, has a sheen of pee on it.  Just, a fine misting of pee, airbrushed on the walls.  You know, for a gloss effect.

While he’s actually been night-dry for longer than he’s been day-dry, last week saw a run of three or four night where he had nightmares, two of which resulted in a wet bed, so we decided, more to give our washer a rest than anything else, we’d put him in diapers at night.  I mean, we still had some left – not enough to be a viable gift or donation, but far too many to throw away – so we might as well use them.

And tonight I used the last one.

There was a long stretch of time where I was terrified I was never going to get Bear potty-trained- I was honestly afraid he’d be walking into first grade still in pull-ups.  And I felt like it was going to be my fault.

I have trouble regulating my own needs – I forget to eat, forget to shower, stay up way later than I should because I get sucked into these rabbit holes of Special Interests and General Bullcrap and totally lose track of time – and here I was reading articles about how to potty train your kids by literally taking sitting them on the potty every fifteen minutes essentially around the clock (with a scheduled night-time potty trip where I’d have to wake my child up, are you friggin kidding me??)

But even barring my neuro issues, and even barring the super intense three-day potty training regime, I didn’t know how I would ever be able to implement a regular enough schedule to successfully train him.  I work, as does my husband.  My mom, who watches my son while my husband and I work, wanted to support our potty training efforts, but she’s physically impaired, and also cares for between two and four other kids during the day.  She’s capable of caring for my son and keeping him safe, but there was no way she’d be able to devote the time needed to keep up whatever potty-training regime we conjured up.

But you know what we could do, and did do?  We made the potty accessible – it was in the corner of the kitchen when we started, so he could get to it himself, without having to alert us or try to open the bathroom door by himself.  We checked in with him every  20 or 30 or 45 minutes or so – we didn’t time it, just when it seemed to make sense – and offered him the potty.  And in the morning, every morning, we sat him on it.

And what do you know?  At some point it clicked.  At some point, he started telling us, albeit it generally as pee trickled down his leg, that he needed the potty.  I mean, there was a learning curve, but hey, it was progress.  He was getting somewhere.

And after that, it was almost like a switch flipped.  Suddenly, he was sick of sitting in wet, dirty diapers – he wanted to use the potty.  That’s something that was so, so key – he wanted to make this change, and when he wanted it, all we had to do was make it accessible for him and encourage and praise him for it.  Our actual, direct involvement, was quite minimal, honestly.

And so tonight we put him in our last diaper.  Probably the last great milestone of the pre-school years – he can already walk and talk, he can dress himself (more or less),  he grabs and totally unpeels his own Babybel cheeses, and he opens and inserts the straw into his own juice boxes.  My husband and I will soon be rendered obsolete.

It’s a sweet moment.  I spend so, so much time marveling how this amazing little person could possibly be the same tiny potato I brought home from the hospital less than four years ago who relied on me for literally everything  – everything – just to survive.

But right now, I’m mostly marveling at not having to scrape poop off a screaming pre-schooler’s butt anymore.  That’s pretty sweet, too.