One more minute

We say ‘one more minute’ a hell of a lot around here. One more minute, and we will be leaving the playground. One more minute and we will be changing your diaper. One more minute and we will be going out. One more minute and we will be coming back. Mama texted to say she will be home in one more minute. We are staying in the bath for one more minute. We are reading for one more minute and then it will be bedtime. I will stay here for one minute to help you fall asleep. When you wake up and repeatedly shout, ‘Mama come in here right now,’ you will need to wait one more minute for me to get the almond milk from the refrigerator, put it in your sippy cup, and bring it to you.

With all this talk of one more minute, you’d think that kids would become excellent timekeepers. Well, they certainly value each moment, expanding a walk around the neighborhood that takes 10 minutes into a 45-minute adventure where everything is examined and everything commented upon, especially if it is a fire truck. Most of the time, however, they are at war with time. There’s no other explanation for the tears that flow when that ‘one minute’ is up. When it is time to go, if you are two, you fight it, even if you have been given a one-minute warning. When it is time to sleep, to eat, to clean up, to put away, to wash off, to change clothes, to come inside, to go outside, to leave, to stay, you fight it. You fight it all.

We say ‘one more minute’ so much because it is our clueless way to negotiate with master negotiators who will not budge. Therefore, they are not really negotiators at all, are they? We refuse to see that. In our parental wisdom and with boundless compassion, we think our timekeeping smooths the path, wedging an inch of reason into the toddler mind. What we fail to apprehend is that the toddler mind is pissed off, really pissed off, because the toddler has been passed over for the position of running the household. Their intractability is sharper than our compassion. There is no negotiation that will work. The only tool we have is time. Not one more minute, of course, but patience for a longer time, until they are older and can be reasoned with, at least a little.

For now, the best unit of measurement we can offer is ‘one more minute.’

Below, a recording of our toddler practicing his negotiation skills a few weeks ago. He goes to school with a few German-speaking children, so he is working through his ‘nein.’

The Registry: Free Stuff Never Felt So Hard

Lee Schneider:

All the ‘stuff’ is confusing. The writer of the blog below has done a good job here of sorting it out. Just imagine what it’s like a few years in, when you have a house full of stuff. This Christmas we made a point of putting a few toys away ‘for later’ before bringing out the new ones.

Originally posted on HypeDad:

Having trouble comprehending the gravity of having a child? The largeness of it? The overwhelming magnitude of it all? Start your registry. Then let’s talk.

Yes, it’s a bit of a wakeup call. All that stuff. The bottles, the bottle warmer, the car seat, the infant converter, the stroller, the crib, the humidifier, the baby monitor, diapers, diaper bags, and endlessly on into Buy Buy Baby oblivion.

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When walking home, everything merits further study

When walking home on our quiet streets, everything merits further study. Every blade of grass is worth picking, every plant identified, every post-rain mushroom examined.

The child’s dialogue goes like this: ‘That’s a fire hydrant. That’s agave. That’s a crescent moon. That’s dog poop. That’s a mail truck. That’s a mailman. That’s a U-Haul. That’s a big truck. What’s that sound? That’s a fire engine. That’s a car. That’s a car coming this way. That’s a doggie. The dog says woof. That’s a bird. That’s a fountain. That’s a driveway. Where did mommy go? What’s that over there?’

The parent’s dialogue goes like this: ’Stay on the sidewalk, that’s dog poop, or is it a pine cone? No, it is a mushroom, but don’t touch it, and don’t eat it. Those look like blueberries, you can touch them, but don’t eat them, they are probably poisonous. What’s poisonous? It means don’t eat it. Yes, we sometimes eat mushrooms, but they are the right kind. Stay on the sidewalk. Hold my hand when we cross the street. That’s an alley, you have to hold my hand. If you wipe your hand along that dirty car, you hand will get greasy.  Okay, I will wash it when we get home.  Stay on the sidewalk. Stay close to me. Your hand is dirty, but we will clean it off when we get home. Mommy is waiting for us when we get home. Don’t walk in the neighbor’s plants. Stay on the sidewalk.’

For a child, I suppose, there is great comfort in hearing one’s father say ‘stay on the sidewalk.’ Why else would he make me repeat it often? Surely a child’s memory is not short. I know precisely the opposite to be the case: Like his vision and hearing, his memory is sharp and flawless.  Tell him what kind of plant is an agave, and he always remembers. Point out a crescent moon, and he remembers. Tell him that is a telephone line repair truck, and he remembers. Skip a page In a book accidently, and he makes you go back. Tell him mommy is waiting for us when we get home, and he asks, ‘Where did mommy go?’ six or eight times during a 40-minute walk.

The puzzle is solved with this, I think:  With a two-and-a-half year old, fact-memory is strong. He is amassing facts every moment, focusing on a mastery of things. He is building a catalogue to describe the outward workings of the world.

When it comes to emotional memory, however, the opposite is true. Emotional memory is slippery. It is porous. The answer to ‘Where did mommy go?’ always changes. It therefore merits endless asking. A mail truck is a mail truck. There is a fact to be absorbed and there is nothing to be worried about. Where mommy is merits further study, is worth worrying about, is worth refreshing your knowledge about, is worth hitting reset on until you see mommy and verify that she is indeed waiting for us at home.

Ideas for Halloween Costume

Kind of rushed today, but wanted to jot down a few ideas for a Halloween costume.

Fire chief. I already have the hat, the red chief overcoat, and I have visited a fire station and rang the bell.

Burt Reynolds. Grow mustache. Take off clothes. Pose like centerfold. Bit of a stretch. Does anybody remember that photo shoot?

A German speaker. I am learning German at school. Vocabulary so far: nein. Just the one word.

A Tiger.  It’s what I was last year.  I still have the costume, so it’s the low-friction choice. Costume a bit stuffy.  Digging deep into the archives (from last year) here’s what it was like.  Wait for the roar at the end, but try not to get too frightened.

Nudity is OK, as Long as it’s Tasteful

I was reading an article in the New York Times the other day about nudist colonies in Croatia, and it struck me. I am getting more comfortable being naked. I decided to test this out the other day. When my parents came in my room to get me at 6:30 in the morning, I had taken off my shirt and was leering proudly at them from my crib half naked. It was liberating. I saw something of the future in it.

When I was very small I didn’t know what the heck was going on, so being naked was the same as wearing clothes. But as I matured, even a few months in, I started not liking the idea of getting my diaper changed in public. It’s so exposed with everything flapping around as your parent works quickly to strap you up again. Also, it’s drafty. I can think of lots of better things to do than having your diaper changed when you are crammed in an airplane lavatory, or as you dangle off a car tailgate, or as you roll around in the grass in the shady part of a sun-drenched public park.

The nudist colony piece in the Times got me thinking, however, that what I didn’t like about nudity had nothing to do with nakedness. It had everything to do with nakedness as a necessary condition of having a wet diaper changed. It was nakedness endured, not chosen. That morning in my crib, I chose my own nakedness, and it rocked.

What good are clothes anyway? You can go swimming without clothes and I have a lot of fun while swimming. You take a bath without clothes and I look forward to that. You can take a shower, which is slightly scary, but it’s good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes, especially in water. My cat doesn’t wear clothes, and most dogs I see don’t wear them either, and they seem happy.

There is only one reason to have clothes on your body that I can see. They are to catch food when you miss your mouth. Therefore the only necessary article of clothing for anyone is a bib. Bibs come in many stylish colors and shapes to satisfy the most discerning fashionista/o. I have a truck bib, an owl bib, and a blue one with concentric circles on it that reminds me of Wassily Kandinsky’s work from 1922-1932. I am going to start recommending adult bibs as a fashion statement on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and maybe somebody will pick up on it for a crowdfunding campaign.

The new thing I am doing with my mommy lately is a daily Sarasvati puja in the mornings. It goes quite smoothly with my cooperation, and only one time have we nearly burned a hole in the floor with our ceremonial candle.

sarasvati

The Satisfaction of No

There is something really satisfying about flushing a toilet over and over, especially when there is somebody in authority standing close by, telling you not to do it.

There is something great about running around the apartment, turning on all the lights, closing all the doors, closing all the windows I can reach, and watching the temperature climb until my dad’s head turns red and explodes. That’s nice.

There’s something gratifying about asking for bananas over and over again in a commanding voice, and then, when they arrive, not eating a single one of them. It works even better if you say ‘all done’ and toss the plate.

There is personal enrichment in saying no to everything, even things I really want. I can always say I want them later, because if you use a loud voice, your parents will give you anything, I’ve learned.

It’s great to be two and two months. I can taste the power.

Oh, I have to go now. Some men have arrived with a straitjacket they want my father to try on. I think I might have to stop this, before they cart him away.  All I have to do is say NO NO NO in a loud voice.  I have a lot of practice, so I know this plan will work.

Editor’s note: Child development experts write ‘The better the parent, the more the child dares to disagree.’ This sounds good, but it makes you wonder if these child development experts have a quart-sized jar of serotonin reuptake inhibitors always close at hand, or are faithful consumers of bulk, box wine in the evenings when trying to unwind. 

Synchronicity and Whiskey

I needed to complain to my wife. I walked into the bathroom as she was getting ready for the morning.

‘This is all just so stressful,’ I said to her. My tone was whiny. Normally compassionate, she glanced at me with a ‘so-what-else-is-new’ expression. The toddler-in-residence was saying no to everything, running around the apartment turning on all the lights and slamming doors. He was throwing some toys, falling over others, and rolling a big red exercise ball into my path wherever I went. I couldn’t do any yoga and meditation was beyond my ability to focus within chaos.  It was 8:30. The day had hardly started and I was ready for a cocktail.

Just then the doorbell rang. It was a man delivering a bottle of Japanese whiskey and a dry California Riesling. These gifts appeared like magic.  My wife and I broke out laughing. The cat, thrilled, jumped into the new box.

Of course, I had ordered those gifts, but their timing was perfect. It was as though that delivery was scripted and stagehands hustled the man into position to meet his cue. We’d never had a delivery at that time of the morning before and probably never will again.

I guess you can have synchronicity with whiskey. I waited till Friday to fix the cocktails. They were good.

I enjoyed the playground today

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Don’t tell my mommy that I decided to stay in my pajama top all day. It was comfortable, and my daddy let me do it.

Pajama Top Decisions

Editor’s note: I’ve become a bit inhibited about writing this blog; it’s become formalized and overly structured and I have become too aware of the (large) number of people now reading it. I can sense your expectations that I should be funny and deep always. But I am often quite tired and distracted. The problem with the funny-deep expectation is that blogs are made for thinking out loud. They are life’s first draft. So this one will be sketch-like, and fragmented. Sorry. You can skip it if you like. My writing partner will have plenty of entries coming, and they will be better written. 


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I think teaching compassion must be the hardest thing. I am thinking this as I stand at the bottom of our three flights of stairs, weighed down by four bags of groceries, watching Bodhi scamper around testing the life force of the plants in the flower beds. He is stepping on them methodically. Do they spring back? Yes. Experiment complete. Now he is closing the gate so nobody else can enter the apartment complex. Now he is balancing on the part of the brick that means he can fall into the cactus garden. Now he is running toward the driveway and circling back when I call for him.

He knows I’m waiting and wilting in the 90-degree September heat. He knows I have compassion for him because I am waiting here holding bags of groceries, calling out instructions for his safety and security, and I have waited for him to dawdle his way out of the car, and earlier, for him to refuse food I cooked to instead eat a portion of watermelon the size of a man’s head. I have compassion for him; he displays little for me.

He is two. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

The reason I need to keep reminding myself is that he has a large personality. Physically, of course, he is small. Oh, he is huge for a two year old, very tall, and forceful and strong, and he can scream loudly, and he is a vociferous conversationalist, an omnivore of words, machine-gunning out identifications of palm trees, yoga mats, jeep trucks, fire trucks, his mother’s complete first and last name, status reports on whether cars are going fast or slow, whether lights are on or off, whether it is daytime or nighttime, whether it is snack time or what kind of sippy cup his water shall be served in, how his dinner shall be served, whether a sound is loud. This morning I asked him if he wanted watermelon and his response was “Daddy, get the orange circle plate now.”

Viewed like this, close up, his personality is huge. Viewed across the playground, he quickly becomes the small child that he really is.

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He is making his own decisions now, his own man. This weekend he decided that he was going to wear his pajama top all day without changing into a shirt. I let him do it. I figure it worked for Vincent Gigante on Sullivan Street. Gigante was a big-time Mob boss who went around on Sullivan Street in New York all day in his pajamas, pretending to be insane in order to avoid arrest and prison. Because of this behavior they called him the Oddfather. I saw him many days, his unshaven silvery stubble catching the afternoon light, a gray, foggy look in his eye, the (faked) unsteady walk. The pajamas. Eventually the cops stopped buying the act and he was locked up in the federal pen, served a sentence for racketeering and conspiring to murder a few rival mobsters, and died there when not all the way through his 12-year stretch.

It seems odd to even have those kinds of thoughts and make those kinds of associations when you’re around an innocent little kid.  But just because I’m around an innocent little kid doesn’t mean my mind stops. I live in both worlds. Somehow. I realize that Bodhi likes the feel of a warm pajama top against his skin in the morning and doesn’t want to give it up. Even when he goes to work on his construction site.

excavation-IMAG1781-1-1

Sitting in the Back Seat Calling Things Out

I have a new skill. It’s called ‘identifying things.’ I sit in the back seat, snugly buckled into my car seat, holding on to Augie Dogie, and I identify things as they go past. I call them out, like this:

red light
green light
jeep truck
octagon
bicycle

I can tell you that I am driving around in a silver Prius, but it comes out more like silverpriuscar.

dump truck
jeep truck
motorcycle
trees

When I get home I expect a snack, and I like to turn on all the lights, every one I can reach, because I can reach them now. I will cry hard if you tell me not to turn on the lights, even if you explain that it’s a waste of energy, that it gets hot when all the lights are on, or any other reason. I want those lights on, get it? All of them. All the lights go ON, dad. (In case my father is reading this.)

grass
crane
dog
flowers

When I walk down the stairs to go out of our apartment there is a large window. Originally, when I first saw it, I called out ‘octagon!’ But I was mistaken. It is a hexagon. I don’t make that mistake any more.

hexagon

I have started reading my stories back to my parents. Goodnight moon. The light is on. The old lady is whispering hush. Gus plants a seed. Clifford has a field day. I ask for books by name. I know the names of shapes, not just hexagons and windows.

circle
oval
rectangle

I have started telling the cat what to do. Because I can.

Kitty, no!
Off the couch!

It doesn’t matter if he is really doing anything. He appears to listen to me even when he is not on the couch.

Bopie
Christopher
Colin
Timmy
Unclepeter
Unclecritter
Nancy
Janice
Granddaddy

I know other names too, people I met after I flew on the airplane. But most of all I think I like calling out names of things when we drive. We listen to music, too, and I know what kind.

jazzmusic
classicalmusic

I know things in books and also colors.

blimp
fire engine
steamroller

red light
green light
yellow light
purple
orange
blue

Check back soon. I will know even more words. You can read me a story and I will tell you a story. But you have to sit still. Don’t spill any almond milk on me.