Friday, October 24, 2014

No Mom, No Problem

We're into Day 3, of Mrs. Blackwell's trip to the East Coast. She's off on yet another one of her bourbon-tasting tours, or a conference of some kind, I can't be bothered to remember which. 

The important point is, it's just me and the boy and, so far, so good. 

He's eating well, sleeping well and in general doing a great job of making sure I don't relax for one solid minute. 

The past couple of days have started about a half hour earlier so that I've got every last one of my ducks in a row before the boy rises and shines. 

My approach to waking up is essentially the same every single day in that I wake everyday and act like it's the first time I've had to undergo this awful process of reacquainting myself with the world. 

For his part, the boy has opted for a different approach. 

Blanket clenched firmly around his head, the
boy is obviously ready to get up and at 'em.
Yesterday, he awoke with a flourish. Bounding to his feet, requesting to be portaged downstairs and then ordering his breakfast with aplomb. Maybe it makes me a toady, but I don't mind being ordered around by the boy when he's got an grin big enough to accommodate a frisbee slapped on his face. 

So, while he was asking for Kit Kats and Apple Jacks, I ignored him, continued to smile and, a in voice dripping with glee said, "We're going to have oatmeal, with apples and bananas."

"Buu-nanas?" the boy inquired.

Now, distracted from Apple Jacks and Kit Kats, and with a bottle in hand, our morning was off and running. 

While I finished making breakfast, I handed him two little plastic batons which he promptly began to use as drum sticks. 

The most encouraging element here? He ate. And ate. And ate. The boy stuffing his face is a victory, pure satisfaction. 

He was easy to dress, didn't fight one bit, and before I knew it we were in the car heading to day care, and he was requesting "good rock n roll" — AKA The Rolling Stones — as opposed to the crap I usually play for him. 

Yes sir, this was a practically perfect, prompt and painless start to the day. 

For the sake of having a laugh, I'd like to tell you that the next day was worse and that he was the devil incarnate but, he wasn't. 

So that made it two days in a row he was a happy, chatty little breath of fresh air right from the get go. 

The evenings however, have been a bit of a challenge. 

After leaving the office, I go straight to day care to pick up the boy. I get the daily report from our day care provider which consists of what he ate, how he slept, how many times he pooped and how many of his peers he shoved to the ground. I feel embarrassment, wonder why I'm raising a bully and then get him out of there, fast. 

Once we get home, we run around the house for ten minutes, because that's what he wants to do; then I start making dinner. 

Mac and cheese. Chicken nuggets. Potato smiles. Broccoli. Peas. Chicken enchiladas. Pineapple. Frankly I don't care how unlikely the combination looks on his plate; if it goes in that mouth, we're in business. 

After about four or five bites of dinner he'll stick out his hands, palms up, and exclaim, "All done!" 

Of course, he's not all done. He's got to eat more or he's waking up at 2:30 a.m. hungry and ticked off at the world. 

So, I pull my chair closer to his and find new and interesting ways to make his food seem, well, new and interesting. 

After considerable effort, and once he's eaten what seems to be a reasonable amount, he really is all done, and he's ready to play. 
Tick. Tock. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for Mrs. Blackwell
to cease her never-ending party and return home.

I, on the other hand, am ready to sit and vegetate. To recap, I woke up, got the boy ready, dropped him off, went to work, did work, picked the boy up from day care, made (and coaxed him into eating) dinner. I'm entitled to a respite, right? (That distant noise you're hearing is the hearts of single moms everywhere breaking for me.)

And, while I want nothing more than to plant myself in a chair for 30 minutes, the boy has other designs for his evening. 

Assembling and then throwing plastic building blocks. Being given airplane rides and tossed on the couch. Being chased around the house. Dancing. 

It doesn't really matter. If it involves getting going, he's into it — until he isn't. 

With no warning these games can inexplicably turn into red cheeks and tears in no time. 

This always seems to happen just as I've forgotten how tired I am and am really getting into the action with him. Seems like a perfect time to pull the plug and throw a fit, right?

Meh, as most folks know and, as I am slowly learning, this is the international toddler sign for "I'm tired and it's probably best if I go to bed."

And on that point, we were both fully and completely on the same page.

It's like this for most problems that have crept up — a solution is usually there to be found. Except this morning when I carried the boy downstairs.

He looked around our kitchen, his hair disheveled and eyes still sleepy, and asked, "Where's mom?" 

"She'll be home soon buddy. She'll be home soon."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shove and Shove Alike

We were visiting some great friends of ours recently and because Mrs. Blackwell was out on another one of her drinking binges working, it was just me and the boy at their home. 

Our friends have an adorable — and smart — little girl who happens to be about the same age as Master Blackwell.

She's a friendly lass who asks for the boy by name, so she's also a very aware little one. She actually asked where Mrs. Blackwell was too. Aware. Astute. Brainy. Whatever you call this little girl, she's it.  
We'll find out in about 16 years
if any of this worked.
One might expect that, in the presence of such a child, one's own child would rise to the occasion and up their game. One would be wrong. 

While our friends' daughter engaged, conversed and in general was a positive presence, Master Blackwell adopted the persona of some aloof rock star. 

If there was a toy that had more than a dozen components, he'd pick it up, pull it apart, drop it and move along to the next such toy. 

Because they're cool and hospitable, our friends didn't care — kids are kids right? At first, I didn't care either. Kids are kids but, by the time the boy disassembled his third or fourth such toy, I took note. 

As he meandered through the room, he would invariably zero in on their remote control and attempt to commandeer it. His efforts were thwarted but, I'll give him points for persistence and focus. 

After perhaps an hour of this show, we crossed a line and I was confronted with one of parenting's least enjoyable dilemmas.

It started out as a cute moment. The aforementioned sweet little girl approached my standoffish son and tried to play with him. In exchange for her efforts, my son shoved her to the ground. 

That moment — the one in which you watch your child act not just badly, but badly toward another kid — is a conflicting one.

First, you're embarrassed but you've got to act. That said, what do you do?

If you're me, you grab your kid, try your best to get their attention, make eye contact, and tell them, repeatedly, that shoving is not acceptable. 

And, if you're my son, you look right through your father like he's merely an obstacle between you and that elusive remote control. 

Where's this kid when you need him?
From my end, you have no idea if this resonates — until you find out that it didn't.

Such was the case when I retrieved the boy from day care earlier this week and learned from our provider that the boy shoved each and every kid (five in all) to the ground throughout the day. In response, she put the boy in timeout each time. 

I was hoping that she'd tell me that at least one of these kids retaliated and shoved Master Blackwell back. Yes, yes, yes. I know: two wrongs don't make a right. But one well-timed shove can certainly teach a valuable lesson. (Sorry but, thems the rules of the playground folks.) 

Alas, the boy did not get shoved in return. Maybe the timeouts will work. If not, maybe we'll have track down some mean kids for the boy to play with so he'll appreciate the friendly ones. 

Again, I know: this is not the approach of a sophisticated or even responsible parent. But, we're at that age when communication is staggered, messages are lost and confused. 

We want to be clear but sometimes we can't. Until we can — or until I can locate a 3 year-old thug-for-hire — it'll be time out for Master Blackwell. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Terrible Twos, Terrible Tantrums

Prior to the boy's second birthday last spring, friends and family warned Mrs. Blackwell and I of the terrible twos. 

Two, for some reason, is the age when children morph from cute little toddlers into devious, manipulative, tantrum-throwing, patience testers. 

Up until recently we've been fortunate with our perfect little angel. But, after roughly two weeks of what we're currently observing/enduring, I can safely say that the switch has been flipped and the boy is consistently delving into "terrible" territory. 

To wit: at the end of the couch in our family room we have an end table or, as the boy views it, a platform from which to dive onto the couch. Given my generally lax approach to household safety, it should tell you something that I've drawn a line here. 
To him, he's holding free will. To me — and
the rest of the adult world — it's the P.A.
for an entire grocery store.


While clutching his "drum sticks," two objects that usually consist of a small wood baton and a pen, he'll climb atop the end table then jump onto the couch. Without the pen and baton, this isn't the safest act. With them, it's a trip to the ER waiting to happen. 

So, I say "No," and the boy pauses long enough to make eye contact with me. It's a look that says, "Yes, I understand you don't want me to proceed, on the other hand, watch this!" 

Unless of course I can get to him first. In that event, I grab him and firmly say "No. We don't jump," before lifting him up and setting him down. In my eyes it's strong parenting (pats self on back). 

Judging from his response, the boy views this scenario differently. 

It's a reaction we're seeing more and more frequently any time we dissuade or prevent him from asserting any measure of free will. 

If he wants Mrs. Blackwell's phone to play music and/or Angry Birds, he doesn't always get it. If he wants to watch television, he doesn't always get to. If he wants to go outside, he doesn't always get that either. 

Each of these assertions is different but what follows their denial is roughly the same. 

And it proceeds thusly: 

If you're holding the boy when the tantrum hits, he goes completely limp. It's astonishing how a 30-pound kid suddenly weighs twice that amount merely by loosening every muscle in their body. 

So, we set him down and, whether he's been set down or drops to the ground on his own, he begins a dramatic display of bodily contortions, cries, screams, tears, red cheeks and furious anger. 

Tip for a coping mechanism: when your kid throws a fit, hold
a life-size cutout of your face in front of theirs. It hides the
tears and hilarity occasionally ensues.
I'd say it's Academy Award worthy but, really it's not. In fact it's completely unconvincing. Sometimes he'll pause mid-cry, to gauge our reaction, effectively trying to determine if his current course is having the desired effect.  

Usually he fails, though there was at least one occasion in which Mrs. Blackwell and I weren't on the same page and the boy has exploited the information gap to his advantage. 

Long story short, he managed to get a "No" from Mom and a "Yes" from Dad. Naturally, the "Yes" result was an immediate halt to the tantrum. 

Just as naturally, Mrs. Blackwell and I are learning too. The game has changed. It's not all cuteness and baby babble anymore; we know that and, so far, I think we're adjusting accordingly.

That said, we've been told by many folks that the terrible twos don't really take effect until kids are closer to three years old. 

I wonder then, how much better his acting will be.