Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Fit, Fit for a King

My folks are in town visiting for about a week. 

We don't get together as often as we'd all like but I suppose that's what happens when you live about 1,000 miles apart. 

So, under the circumstances one wants to make the most of it. 

The house was tidied upon their arrival. The guest room was ready for use. Groceries were bought and some beer too. 

My folks don't require much preparation and they go to great pains to ensure that we don't make a fuss for them. Their idea of a "fuss" includes turning on the heat. For what it's worth, Mrs. Blackwell's folks are the same way when they visit. 

Easy. Peazy. 

The boy's tantrum really bothered my dad too.
And that 's what it should be. But, we've had an exception, a definitive fuss to our muss. One person who is not on board with the plan. That would be the boy.

I will qualify all that follows by saying that 95 percent of the time, he's been great. He's been a smiling, chuckling little gentleman who has my parents convinced Mrs. Blackwell and I are parents of the year — or at least the recipients of an absurd amount of good luck in the form of a well-behaved little boy.

It's that other 5 percent of the time that rankles.

On a recent trip to bed he threw a tantrum like few before it.

There was flailing, flopping, dropping, tripping, twisting, turning and contortions the likes of which I've never seen from him.

And throughout it all there was wailing and tears. The volume was inescapable and there seemed to be no fix.

The boy was in no pain. No discomfort that we could identify. He'd been fed and coddled throughout an evening spent mostly with his mom and grandmother.

It was just time for bed, a circumstance which, apparently, can trigger the delirium described above.

In the midst of this spectacle Mrs. Blackwell sought to stick with the program — that would be a bath, teeth brushing, baby powder, PJs, reading a book and bed.

The first part of this routine went out the window when the boy, immediately attempted to climb out of the bathtub. 

He did, and promptly made a b-line for his room. 
Mom and dad's dog was out of sorts too.

I'll pause here to say that, even in the midst of being at the end of your rope, patience literally frayed to an extent you've never imagined, it's funny to watch your child run down the hallway, angry, naked and yelling.

At this point, I removed myself from the proceedings. Mrs. Blackwell and I were now arguing with each other because, naturally, each of us knew exactly what to do and, just as naturally, the other one did not. 

So I went downstairs and listened as the circus slowly subsided, the boy calmed and eventually, asked for a bath and the rest of his routine.

Throughout this process, my mom stayed busy by working on the boy's Halloween costume while dad got better acquainted with my recliner and television, though I don't know that he could have heard much over the boy's deafening protestations.

The evening that opened with a roar, closed with a whimper as the boy asked to be laid in his crib.

Grandmothers can find the silver lining in just about any of their grandkids' behavior. My mom is no different.

The boy, my mom said, has a strong will and we won't have to worry about him standing up for himself.

True. Very true. But it'll be a relief when he becomes a bit more discriminating about picking his battles.

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.