My kid lost a tooth.
It had been dangling precariously for a few days before our six month dental visit. The dentist remarked "wow, that's kinda early", but then again this is the kid who had six teeth in her mouth by her 4 month pediatric checkup. Her teeth don't mess around with concepts like "average age".
Somehow the tech managed to get my kid to sit for two x-rays, which is half of a complete set, but knowing my kid, the woman must be a miracle worker. I can't even get a finger near her teeth, let alone convince her to put anything in her mouth. We tried to spark her curiosity by telling her she was gonna get a photograph of her teeth on the inside. "Isn't that neat?" I kept proclaiming, as if I had never heard of dental X-rays before. Surely enough, just under the gum line, there's two teeth pushing their way up.
Of course, her mouth was even more off limits after the dentist's visit. I'd be begging to touch the loose tooth. "C'mon, I'm just gonna touch it gently...". No dice. Don't blame her. I also refused to have my teeth touched as a kid (my kid cries at the dentist, but it's nothing compared to my dentist's visits as a kid: I would kick and scream on the chair, and usually the dentist would give up waaaay before the exam was supposed to be over). I did mention that we'd need to save the tooth for the tooth fairy. "I think she's gonna visit soon, and I just want to get to see the tooth one more time before she takes it!".
No dice. Thursday night, as I'm getting kiddo ready for bed (bath, vitamins, tooth brushing, flossing, then PJs and bedtime books*), I put toothpaste on her toothbrush, turn around and ask her to open her mouth and... a tooth missing.
"Did you know you are missing a tooth?"
"When did it fall?"
"Did you still have it before dinner?"
She ate the tooth. I wasn't upset, more wondering "Can you really swallow a baby tooth and not notice???" (apparently so: one of her Pre-K teachers remarked on Friday "I used to do that too!"). No matter. We brushed, went through the nightly routine, and during flossing I said "Giada, the tooth fairy is gonna come tonight! She's been waiting to visit!". Confused stares follow. "Well, you did lose a tooth. For this once, I'm gonna leave the tooth fairy a note vouching for your tooth. But next time, let's try to take the tooth out of your mouth when it dangles, so the tooth fairy can get a tooth. She needs a tooth to leave a present, you know..."
Later, when I was absolutely sure kid was asleep, I left a little bejeweled box on the floor in her room, with a shiny half dollar inside (let's face it, she has no concept of money, it might have as well been a million dollars). The tooth fairy was way too chicken to try the pillow. You really can't sneak up on this kid, she sneaks up on you. We didn't nickname her "the ninja" during my pregnancy on a lark.
The next morning, she gets up and runs out of her room with a box, which she shows dad. I'm not sure if she told him about the tooth fairy. I was upstairs, fighting to make myself get out of bed (I'll never be used to being up before 9 AM, as long as I live). Once I made my way down, I asked the kid if the tooth fairy had come.
"What did she bring?"
"Was it... the box you're holding?"
"Was there anything in the box?"
"Are you sure?"
As near as I have it, she was enthralled with the box, took the coin out, and replaced it with her own beloved trinkets. I retrieved the half dollar later and said
"Wait, was this coin in the box? I've never seen this one before."
"Why didn't you say so?"
We put the coin in her favorite drawer. I told her that by the next time the tooth fairy comes again ("Hopefully not soon. She's very busy, you know. You don't happen to have any more loose teeth, do you?" "Nope". "Good"), we'll get a piggy bank so she can save up her tooth fairy money to buy a prize.
It barely registered. Four is just too young for the tooth fairy. My mom (who's visiting) told me I was even younger when I started losing my teeth (being that my brother is only a year older than me, it's more likely that we were both losing teeth around 4-5 years old respectively, and it got hard to keep track of it), and that she mostly stuck to consoling me because I was sad, so she kept reminding me my baby teeth were coming loose to make space for some new friends. I wonder how weird it sounded to me. Then again, the tooth fairy would have probably been a fuzzy concept too.
But damn. Four and a half is too young for the tooth fairy. It seemed like only yesterday I held her, a red faced, fuzzy headed bundle who was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me.
* On a good night, I only have to read three medium length books. On a bad one, we read for a half hour plus because someone is trying to put off sleep.
I've been getting a lot of exercise lately. I wish it would be through my gym membership, which I am still paying even though I've only gone to the gym once since ye old pulmonary event. My exercise these days comes from chasing a 19 month old who loves to take off running in the opposite direction than mommy is walking, and who thinks it's funny when I chase him down and pick him up. There's giggles and everything, and even if I say "This is not funny" when picking him up, he still does it.
Eventually I get fed up with it, because it means it takes us up to 10 minutes to walk a simple block, and I try to carry my 26 lbs. hellion. The weight of this kid himself is kind of a pain. But while his always humongous for her age big sister used to just lay against me and whine when I would take the same tactic with her (let's face it, toddlers just have a phase when they start testing their newfound freedom from adults), kid #2 is not taking it as diplomatically.
Imagine if you will, carrying a giant octopus who's very much trying to get away from your grip so they can return to their natural habitat. It should give you an idea of what it's like to carry this kid. There's kicking, screaming (very loud, in my ears, possibly on purpose), and a move I like to call "the elbow to the windpipe". It can be quite painful, and I'm not gonna lie, I've cursed like a sailor around the kid as a result sometimes. Worse, since the husband's torso is way huger than mine, he has no inkling what it's like to get elbowed in the windpipe, so he usually tells me "ow, c'mon, he's not that strong". :(
In short: the good news is that if anyone ever tries to abduct this kid, he'll put up quite a fight; the not-so-good news is that he might willingly go with a stranger just to play a prank on mom.
But at least he's keeping me from getting fat again.
Lately, when I go get kiddo from school (her old PreK, which she still goes to on afternoons and Fridays), I am greeted by a kid who says "Mama, I don't want to go home. I want to stay with my friends." Her teachers have also confirmed she's being much more interactive with other kids her age. In fact, a couple of them also pipe up and say "Oh, Giada! See you later!", when before they were "Eh" about her comings and goings. She even has a couple of friends who reliably play with her in the kitchen area during free play time (she's been obsessed with playing house, lately).
I am thrilled about this. Not long ago we had her tested to see if she was on the spectrum, and we were told that she probably wasn't, but to have retested once she started receiving regular speech interventions. After less than a month at her developmental program, we're seeing a lot more interactivity. I'm not sure if getting more personal attention from teachers (her group there is a lot smaller than the group at her afternoon PreK) is doing it, or if it's just having someone who works with her about specific communication issues (they've been having her focus on expressing her feelings more), or if it's just a developmental spurt on her part.
Her communication is far from ideal, as she's still having trouble with certain speech construct (how to ask questions), and she still seems to have some avoidance issues (we've noticed she won't or can't stand on one foot for more than one second, which is something we're going to address with an OT specialist soon), but by far she's been more expressive, and even, I daresay, happier.
There's a flip side to all that.
Last Friday we left both kids at their daycare for Parents' Night Out. Three or so hours of child free human interaction with a significant other during the evening? Sold! We've done this once or twice before as opportunity has arisen. What has changed is that my daughter, who would usually cry and get worried around 6 when she was told she was staying didn't make a peep this time around.
The director told me when we went to pick her up: "She insisted she wanted to wear pajamas because it was a slumber party, so we changed her in her spare clothes as a compromise". When I went to her classroom about a half hour before 9, her face fell immediately upon seeing me.
"No! NO! I want to stay and sleep here with my friends. Go away mama!"
"Honey, everyone else is also going home"
"No, no, no!"
... And then the screaming started. Lately, when she doesn't want to do something, she starts screaming "OooooOoooOoooOooo" louder and louder, in an attempt to get me to fold*. Sometimes there is room to negotiate things, but sometimes there's not.
I tried to soften her up by saying "Baby, it's late, your friends will also be going home soon, and there's a cupcake waiting for you at home"
Didn't soften her one bit. She cried all the way home, and when we got home she said "But I want to stay there". I reminded her she gets to see her friends again after the weekend. I didn't have the heart to mention that we have a three day weekend (Presidents' Day). We'll get through it, somehow.
* The narrative is very unreliable, but apparently she has a friend at her "Big Girl" school who "screams a lot when he's frustrated". I'd ask her PreK teacher, but it really isn't any of my business to inquire about other children's speech problems. I just remind my daughter that "We don't do that when we can use words instead". It suffices for now.
Sometimes, I wonder just what it is exactly that has stuck with me from my years living in the South. Politics? Not really. Being able to survive it being hotter than hell outside? Nope. I fold here when it's in the 70s (granted, Seattle=no air conditioning, so you feel the high 70s). How to diss people while sounding polite? I wish. No really, it's a surprisingly useful life skill.
Nope. It's dropping Gs. It comes out randomly.
Like this morning, when looking over at the toddler eating.
"How's it goin' darlin'?"
My children will probably grow up thinking I believe ending Gs don't exist.
I can't believe people are still dealing with these shenanigans. In fact, it's getting worse. There's an outbreak of pertussis the next county over from where I live, as well as several measles cases in a handful of states. The reality is that parents are still up in arms over what is proven outright quackery. "Oh no, my precious child might catch autism from a vaccine! I will never vaccinate my child!"
You may believe me or not, but vaccines do not cause autism. The happenstance of pinpointing a before and after the onset of autism is due to the fact that autism is a developmental disorder. Autism diagnoses are prevalent between 9 and 36 months not because your children are being bombarded with vaccines, but because in order to diagnose a developmental delay, disorder or issue, milestones have to either be unmet or be met outside the norm. What happens around the same time? We try to vaccinate kids to get them ready for the onslaught of disease that occurs when people gather in group settings (i.e., schools). Causation? Nope. Correlation, i.e., when two loosely related or unrelated events occur within the same time span, or are observed occurring together. I may stub my toe and eat a bad hot dog within the span of an hour, but only one likely caused me to puke for the rest of the day.
Moreover, let me dispel the myth that you can "cure" autism. Nor that you can "grow out" of autism. The child that was miraculously cured by some quack therapy or who all of a sudden became more neurotypical likely never had autism in the first place. There are plenty of developmental disorders a child can suffer from, with autism being only one of them. Language disorders, sensory disorders, even early onset ADHD present in ways that are very similar to autism, at least at first.
The last six months, we've been on the autism diagnosis path, not because my kid has autism, but because her specific developmental delay could be indicative of being on the spectrum. After all, she has bouts of avoiding social interactions with other kids, and she is very set in her ways. We've done case histories for her, we've had her evaluated by a school district and a neurologist. In her case, it was possible to rule out autism in a few months. For some kids where the delays are more pervasive and less domain specific, it can take years to pinpoint the true problem. They didn't "grow out" of ASD, they finally found someone with enough experience in specific delays who was able to pinpoint that that child's delays were more specific, and therefore not fitting of that initial autistic label.
Autism is probably genetic, which is to say, in a sense it's part of the normal range of variability. It's all about random sequences of genes not being quite conforming to what constitutes "neurotypical". It's the result of small, slight variations that occur over the course of generations, just like other developmental delays. Again, that I know of, there aren't any people in my extended family who had a language disorder. That said, there are genes for depression, ADHD, Alzheimers and MS in my own gene pool. Not everyone in my family history has suffered from all of them, only those whom chance has made more susceptible to gene expression. Look up epigenetics, if you don't believe it. There might be an "autism" variable in all of us, for all we know (and we'll certainly never know if we keep expending money and effort on disseminating quackery rather than pushing for and demanding more funding for factual, sound scientific studies on the neurobiological causes of autism).
Which brings me to the last point I want to make: let's stop treating autistic diagnoses as some sort of death sentence, or (worse) as something worse than death. I'll admit that when our pediatrician pushed for an autism evaluation, or said she didn't feel it was wise to rule out autism just because my daughter's delays seem to only be verbal, I was nervous. Upset, even. But it wasn't because I didn't want my daughter to be autistic. It was because of what being autistic would bring: judgment that my daughter is less than the amazing miracle every child is. Pity that my child was not "normal", while forgetting that many people who have contributed more to the world than you and I ever will were not, strictly speaking, normal.
Consider Einstein: post mortem dissection of his brain revealed that the areas for temporal-spatial thinking in his brain were larger than "normal", and that his language areas were somewhat smaller as a result. The scientific consensus is that Einstein's famous inability to succeed in school growing up, and all of a sudden improving and flourishing when enrolled in an alternative school setting right before adolescence suggests that he had developmental delays that led to compensatory growth in certain areas of his brain. Eintein might have had a language and math disability by today's standards. Yet, these "deficits" or "differences" led to the same brain uniqueness that was responsible for his revolutionary approach to physics. Simply put: (a) Einstein might have been diagnosed as autistic or at least developmentally delayed in our century, only to later be pronounced as "improved" or "cured" and; (b) his neural differences made him who he was, and that was a genius.
This isn't to say my kid's a genius (once you get past the language issue, current signs suggest that she is of "normal" intelligence), or that autistic kids are necessarily all geniuses (some are, some aren't). Rather it is to say that genetic variability is not necessarily always a bad thing, and not being "normal" is what ensures genetic variability for us as a species, which in turn ensures geniuses exist in the first place.
If nothing else, let's keep in mind that being autistic is not "having a light taken out of you". Being autistic is being as uniquely human as the next person, which comes with its own set of challenges. Wouldn't we be better off focusing on ways to ameliorate those challenges than considering autism worse than death?
Premise: I don't get to see a lot of movies aimed at the over 5 crowd any given year. Just the thought of finding a sitter, paying that person enough cash to cover a four star hotel stay for the length of dinner and a movie, plus the actual cost of those, and a kid old enough to play the guilt card the next morning is too much work.
That being the case, I've mostly lost the will to keep up with recent movie releases or the like. Didn't even realize the Golden Globes were on this past Sunday until the internet exploded with the whole "Golden Globe Winner News" the next day. Hope this gives you enough context for the following...
Scene: the TV is blathering on about something or other, and all of a sudden they mention "Birdman"
Me: "That movie's existence is such a disappointment to me!"
Me: "I expected something else."
Me: "I wanted a Birdman movie, not the whole washed out actor makes good cliché movie"
Chris: "Huh? You do realize it's a parody about the original Batman franchise with Michael Keaton in it? That's genial!"
Me: "I do, and I'm sure it is, but it's not a real Birdman movie!"
Chris: "The heck are you talking about?"
Me: "You know, 'Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law'?"
Chris: *understanding dawning* "Yeah, that would be cool too!"
Me: "Yeah, but of course I got my hopes up for an actual Birdman movie, only to read the coverage on the movie and be disappointed. Still bummed."
...And yes, I realize that maybe it is for the best that I don't get out much these days.
I used to judge parents who lost their patience with their children. Then karma had me become a parent.
"Hush! Hush! Hush! The world does not revolve around you!" I yell at my 4 year old this morning as I close her car door. I have to go around the car to fix the 1 year old's carseat latch that accidentally came unbuckled while I was bucking the daughter in.
I fix it as quickly as possible over the vociferous protests of both kids, and as I enter the car I ask my four year old "Do you want your brother to die? Because that's what's going to happen if his car seat is not properly buckled and we get into a car accident! We couldn't leave if that wasn't fixed". While I'm saying this, the daughter blurts out "Noooo!". We glare at each other and drive in silence.
The car ride calms both of us, but arriving at school, where she vociferously has indicated she wants to be all morning long, there's zero parking spots in sight. I drive around the block to find a spot, and to defuse tantrum one of many I say "Don't start. I know you want to go to school. I want to get you there. We'll find a parking spot, but it means we'll be driving around the block, ok? Please be patient with me!"
"Frustrated" my daughter tells me later, as she gets out of the car.
"Yes, I am." I say apologetically. "I'm sorry I got so frustrated. I know you're frustrated too. I know that's why you yell at me. It makes me feel like it's all my fault, and sometimes it's not all my fault we can't go where you want to go when you want us to go, so I get extra upset".
Nothing further is said, so I leave it hoping my daughter has accepted the apology. It's the best I can do after yet another morning of waking up feeling vaguely sick, wanting more sleep, being climbed on and kicked around even before I get out of bed (even if out of love, it still hurts when you're feeling run down).
We're at the park. I carried my toddler the block it takes to get to the intersection, plus half the lenght of the playground. No stroller for us, since we've noticed our son tends to prefer being strolled around rather than walk. At 16 1/2 months, he only walks sporadically. We know he can walk. He's done it every once in a while. He just doesn't seem to want to, for the most part.
Per the pediatrician, we've taken away any motorized or wheeled "push toys" so he has to do the work of moving himself. There's nothing physically wrong with him, as far as the pediatrician can see. But if he doesn't start walking consistently in a month or so, we're going to have to get OT services for him. I don't really want it to come to that (as if I get a choice).
Arriving at the park, I put my toddler down and try to encourage him to walk. He throws himself on the floor and just sits there. Is he tired? Probably not. Just took a nap. Is he hungry? Probably not. Does he want to be held? Yes. Always. Sometimes I joke I will have to carry him to college. The joke is getting less funny as time goes on.
I stand there, offering a hand, waiting for him to take me up on it. He just lies there looking at me. We do this for 5-10 minutes, until I scoop him up, tell him there's no point whatsoever to being at the park, and carry him home in silence. At home, I give him toys and leave the room in spite of his protests. I know there is no malice in his refusal to walk independently right now, or to have me leave the room, but sometimes it gets to be too much. A time out is needed, and the person that needs it is me.
I know that if I had looked at my performance as a parent in either circumstance as a bystander, I would have judged the hell out of that person. It isn't to say that I don't judge myself at all. I am constantly aware of how it doesn't matter if 9 out of 10 times (the reality) or 99 out of 100 times (the current goal) I can keep my cool with my children. That one time I fail, I know I've failed at it right away, just as soon as the words leave my mouth. The voice of pre-parent me is right in my head reminding me the many ways in which I've failed that child in the moment, and speculates on how aggregate mistakes like that might conceivably impact my child's emotional well being in the long run.
There's not much I can do about that inner critic. The only thing to be done is to have a newfound understanding for parents who raise their voice in public, or ignore their tantruming child, or who look like they just don't want to be there at the moment. I'm trying to view them in terms of "there but for the grace of God go I" moments.* We all have them, and when I see one in public now, I remind myself that I don't know what kind of day they've had thus far, I just know that this is by far not their best parenting moment, so why judge based just on one negative instance? I doubt it will make me feel better about my own shortcomings, and it wouldn't be good if it did.
*Caveat: I'm still drawing a line at physical abuse. If you're striking your children in public, lord knows what happens when no one is around, and that is JUST NOT OKAY.
Let me preface this with: I love my child. I do. I just wish he wasn't driving me insane from fragmented sleep.
Maybe it was my being gone a few nights (it's not like I was living it up, kid) before Christmas, maybe it was being a little less structured around Christmas, maybe it was the goddamn three months this kid has been drooling to birth a tooth (that we've yet to see), maybe it's learning to walk (another late bloomer), or the bonus ear infection... Likely, it's all of the above. The bottom line is, my toddler is officially refusing to sleep at night unless his head is resting on randomly assorted tender bits o' mine. Since his head is roughly half of his weight (nearing 13 lbs), it often results in my being uncomfortable, and/or awake at night.
Most nights this week have started out with a 7 -9 PM cry fest in the crib (yes, we do check on him, change diapers, offer liquids, reassure him every 5-10 minutes throughout this), followed by two hours of sleep, and defeated random parent just scooping kid up, putting him in our bed, and hoping for the best.
Said best, as it turns out, is:
11-1 fitful sleep resting head on mom's lap
1- 1:30 throwing a fit for about a blanket/wanting a bottle of milk/water
1:30-3 more fitful sleep resting head on mom's neck or chest, causing cramps due to loss of circulation
3 - 3:30 "MOM MOVED" crying jag
3:30 - 4 "I need help falling asleep, let me claw at you with my fingers"
4 - 8 sleep, finally
Of course, getting back to sleep for me is not as easy. This is why, at 3:51 AM, I am typing this out. Tonight was the worst, as kid decided to skip the 9-11 "nap" in crib. There was sobbing. It was mostly mine, as these shenanigans are just adding stress on top of other stress of the graduate school variety. There was calling the child a little monster, because he is kinda being a little beast (in the "unthinking pre-logical" sense of that turn of phrase, rather than "malicious monster", of course).
Now you might say: But he needs you! He'll only stay little for a while longer, and then you'll miss how close he wants to be now. It'll get better. I'll try to keep that all in mind next time I have high blood pressure/ glucose/tryglicerides at my next regular check up. Or when the NPR station blasting in the mom mobile to keep me awake touts the latest study on how lack of sleep is a risk diabetes/cancer/heart disease.
Who wants to live to see kid #2 graduate college anyway? Besides, he'd probably insist on being carried to the podium anyway, and weigh roughly 200+ pounds to boot. I'd be doomed anyway.