I think that when you have two children, they end up being a sort of behavioral teeter-totter. Is one of them being angelically delightful? Prepare for the other one to be in one of those phases.
Grey is being angelically delightful. I think you know what that means.
But first, let’s talk about that delight. It’s really amazing to watch your infant become a little person. The astonishing thing to me is how long a path it is to being a completely independent person (or having your mom able to see you as such). Let’s see, some of the awesome things Grey’s been doing include:
Banana cow eating milk
Banana cow eating milk who?
Banana cow eating milk with bread and jam in its nose (riotious laughing)
I’m trying to teach him to say “Non-sequitur cow” for the who’s there bit, because it would make his truly da-da-esque punchlines actually funny.
-Red Spiderman socks
-Blue sweatpants with a red stripe
-A yellow Spongebob shirt where Spongebob is has Groucho glasses on that says “Incognito”.
He declared himself awesomely attired for the day.
So Grey is largely awesome.
And then Thane. Oh Thane. Oh my sweet son, my joy and my delight. I hope we all survive this stage. I remember this stage. This is the stage I hate. With passion. And prejudice. This is the throwing food and screaming phase, the I-want-to-open-the-kitchen-cabinets phase, the everything-goes-straight-in-the-mouth phase.
First, the good. After a month-long pause, Thane is acquiring and using new words again. I think I’ve figured out why I’m having such trouble tracking his language (well, other than the other person talking non-stop about “Banana cows with milk in their noses”). When Grey was this age, I’d get down at eye-height and say, “Grey, can you say nose? Nose? Can you say nose?” and Grey obliging would say “no”. Thane, on the other hand, is having none of that. I’ll get down and point at his protuberance and say, “Thane, can you say nose? Nose? Can you say nose?” Thane will give me a look of utter disgust, attempt to wrench my mouth open with his fingers so he can find out what’s in there, and say very distinctly and clearly, “Ma ma”. I don’t know how to interpret this. Does he not know what a nose is? Is he confused about the difference between HIS nose and MY nose? Or does he totally know what a nose is and how to say it, but lacks the dramatic motivation to deliver his line? Or is “ma ma” his way of telling me, uh, something? Anyway, the key is to listen in context for appropriate words. I have several witnesses who will vouch to the fact that when they gave Thane something (like a bit of turkey), he clearly said “Thank you”. (Or, you know, “day do” which is practically the same thing in 12 month old).
But language and lack there-of plays a huge role in why he’s so frustrating. He can’t tell me what he wants. It’s much harder for him to grab my full attention, in competition with his brother, when one person is saying something fascinating about “Banana cows moo coffee” and the other one is simply screeching unpleasantly. I have a sneaking suspicion that the solution to this might be baby sign, but I’m not really sure when we’d have time to teach it to him. It might be faster just to wait until he starts talking more.
The hard part about this stage is the screeching. He’s on the floor and screeching because he wants to be picked up. He’s happily conducting investigations into the pot cupboard and screeching because I remove him. He’s bored with Cheerios and screeching as he flings them with great prejudice to the floor. (This is the stage where having a dog is awfully handy!) He’s still hungry and screeching for some as-yet unknown desired food, which he then proceeds to discover has an interesting texture and squishes in his hand before flinging to join the cheerios. In his car seat, he flings aside his toys and screeches protest at his confinement. In my arms being held, he screeches and flings himself down with his considerable weight because he sees something he wants to play with. He hits my face, and screeches when I correct him. He sees his brother playing with something cool and screeches with desire. Changing his diaper or attempting to put clothes on him is a complete nightmare. He twists and writhes without ceasing. He’s REALLY STRONG and you have to apply considerable force if you’re going to physically control him. And he’s 12 months old, which means there’s no way to verbally control him. And he’s very focused, which means distraction techniques are not particularly effective with him. He turns and turns and turns (and screeches) as you try to strap him into his car seat. It’s completely exhausting.
By the time I hand him over to Rubertina in the morning (his new favorite thing is closing the door on my face because he loooooooves Abuela), I’m not particularly sad to be parting.
The worst part is that his investigative and easily frustrated current stage make it very difficult to do things. Invite to a friend’s house? Grey will be lovely and behaved, but Thane is a small, destructive tornado. Trip to a museum? How will we deal with Thane? Playdate? Grey can go but I won’t inflict Thane on anyone. For example, I’d like to take Grey to the grocery store to buy the things our church is providing for the Thanksgiving food baskets. But I lack the courage and energy to take Thane too. This might mean it doesn’t happen.
When I was in labor with Thane, I found that prior experience was actually a hindrance. As I went into transition, I knew how much hurt and hard work was ahead of me, instead of simply going with the flow and taking each moment as it comes. I suspect I’m doing a similar thing now. If I recall, this difficult pre-verbal stage lasts nearly a year. Grey started getting awesome to do things with about the time of his third birthday. That’s two years from now. So instead of taking Thane as he is, I keep looking ahead to post-screeching phases. I think that doesn’t help me be a great parent to him now.
Writing this all out, I’m starting to think that we need to provide Thane with some more physical activities. Maybe that screeching is just excess energy that doesn’t have a good direction. The other thing is that maybe I SHOULD work with him with sign. I know a lot of people who have sworn by the calming effects of giving a child a way to communicate before they can coordinate their lips and tongue to the efforts. At worst, it might give us some one on one time that can be hard for him to acquire.
I love my curly-haired, crinkly-nosed Thane-boy. I’d like to enjoy spending time with him. One of my delights is when he’s both loving and playing. He’ll play with a toy, come over for a hug leaning his curly head into my chest, and then after a calm moment go back to his play. What a joy!
Well, now that you’ve gotten through all this (ah, how you wish I had an editor!), I have a reward for you. Here are some pictures of our family this Fall!