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This Job

CornIt's a good thing he's so cute, or I'd be sorely tempted to install padded walls in Gabe's room and keep him confined there, at least until he's three. Two is not fun with this child, to extents that I never, ever experienced with Sam; I want to go back in time to meet the woman I was when I was the mother of two-year-old Sam and laugh in her face when she expresses frustration over the piddling little tantrums that he threw. Compared to his younger brother, Sam's tantrums were positively courteous. It's like comparing Thoreau-style protestations to...well, I just can't come up with anyone to whom I can compare this child. He's like a ticking time-bomb whose timer is on the fritz; there's no telling where, when, or how he's going to erupt next, but you know that he will and that it will be bad.

Grabbing Gabe and trying to talk him down is worse than ineffectual; it usually winds up making him even madder and less coherent in his rage. Time-outs only "work" if I put him somewhere from where he can't easily escape - a countertop with my hands on his legs, for example - but frequently all that does if afford the rest of us a chance to breathe, not calm Gabe down in any way. Only time does that, and much more of it than I can keep him constrained on the counter.

But at another time, he'll spin around and throw you a cheeky, dimply grin, holding out a toy to you and trying hard to share what he has. He'll make you laugh until your stomach hurts, and he'll be laughing even harder right along with you. He refuses to let a day be boring, and that makes up, sometimes, for the methods he employs to do it on occasion.

Of course he's my child, and he'll be my baby forever. Just for now, let me illustrate with handy visual aids the little balance that my second son walks these days, swinging us back and forth between wanting to squish him with hugs and just...squish him, period.


He loves his brother desperately, and Sam loves him. About 3:30 every afternoon, he starts asking if Sam is coming, and when Sam finally comes trotting through the door after school, the reunion is intensely joyful. He copies Sam's words, his play, and his actions. He's Sam's happy little echo.

He wants Sam's things. All of Sam's things, starting with whatever object is currently in Sam's hands. Out of nowhere, I'll hear Sam yelp, "Hey!" and Gabe holler, "Mine!", and the next thing I know, Gabe is chasing Sam all over the house, red-faced and screaming at the top of his lungs.

His love of food makes us all giggle. He eats like a horse, going into the kitchen over and over throughout the day to ask for snacks: "Eat a banana? Eat ham? Eat pretzels? Eat a hot dog?" He hollers, "Yay!" when I announce it to be lunchtime, which always cracks me up.

He only eats certain foods, and trying to get him to eat anything not on his "list" ends in screams, thrown food, and gagging. Trying to persuade him to eat something new before he can have something loved is met with firm resistance; he's willing to go without food entirely before eating something unknown. He hates almost all vegetables, and suggestions of having him dip them in sauces are laughable, as he hates all dips, including ketchup.

He sleeps very well, starting out each night in his own bed and even managing to stay there most of the night about half the time; Sam didn't manage this until he was three.

He is very, very resistant to the idea of bedtime lately, screaming and trying to escape the bed by any means necessary. He doesn't want to nurse; he doesn't want a lullaby. He wants to go downstairs and play! Flailing, kicking, and shrieking are par for the course most nights, even when he's exhausted; all anybody can do is wait for him to get the message that it's not going to work, which seems to take forever.

He sings little songs to himself, which warms our hearts; sometimes he'll even request snacks with song ("I wike eat, eat, eat apple-bananas!"). He tells (unfunny, but still) knock-knock jokes, laughing uproariously at his own humor, and his belly laughs make us laugh where the jokes fail. He acts out little scenes from stories and TV shows, which is sort of like baby charades for the rest of us: "What's he doing? Is he a monkey? No, he's a monster!" "I a marching band!"

Keeping up with him is exhausting. It's not just a game of charades; it's a twenty-four hour lightning round, and he just keeps going and going and going, rushing from one activity to the next with no slowing down. True, he come up with them on his own and doesn't require help with finding things to do, but there's no telling when a happy game of pushing trains around a track will suddenly turn into pitching trains at the TV, so one has to stay on one's toes constantly.

He loves big words, which makes everybody's jaws drop in surprise and amusement. He found an old flashlight, which is now his "teh-scope" (telescope). Just now, he brought me a pair of "Nock-wurs" (binoculars). He eschews "red" in favor of "sil-bur" (silver). And like his brother, he likes being a Dalek from "Doctor Who," shouting, "Eh-ter-nate!" (exterminate) at the world.

Decoding his words is a tough job in itself some days, and he's not really patient with us while we try.

He's finally reached a point where he doesn't fuss about being left in his Sunday School class or with a sitter.

He may be willing to stay, but that doesn't mean he's about to cooperate with the caregiver, especially if it means making crafts or listening to lessons. On a good day, he might humor them with a few hasty crayon scribbles before running away; on most days, he refuses to sit down at all and makes a disgusted face at the thought of touching clay, paint, or glue.

He is his own person, certainly. When he was born, he looked nothing like his big brother to me, despite what other people saw, and he's only grown into more of an individual with each day in the meantime. They're like night and day, but not just in the fact that they're so different. Like night and day, they cooperate with each other and fill the spaces left by the other. It's good in that way, and as it probably should be, but it means that my energy is completely tapped as I try to deal with them both. I can't just use crowd-control techniques; that only works on a group mentality, and we don't have one of those around here on most days.

The hardest part is that I don't even have that doe-eyed optimism that first-time mothers have, clinging to the hope that just around the bend is relief. I know darn well that age three is no better than two - that it's actually much harder and more relentless. I know that it's not going to get easier as he gets more verbal. I've given up on the notion that all will be well once he learns to use the potty. Each stage brings with it its own challenges, and the "worst part" is usually the one in which you're currently standing.

CheckersYet even so, I recall the not-so-comforting, yet pretty darn wise, words that Alysia once gave me when I asked if things were going to get easier soon; Sam is a bit younger than her Zach, so I had hope that she'd give me words of encouragement. All she'd say, though, is, "It changes!" And do you know what? She's right. It's may be the difference a triathlete experiences when he trades leg cramps for aching arms, but it's a change nonetheless, and it at least allows parts of your psyche to rest while other parts get to work. Someday I may look back on these ear-shattering, shin-bruising fits with fond remembrance as a sullen-faced teenage Gabe slams doors and tunes me out entirely. All I can do is keep trying to parent the best way I can and hope that in the end, when I'm standing face to face with my adult son (perhaps face to chest, at the rate he's growing), my entire mind will finally get the peace it's been chasing.

At least until he, you know, informs me that he's joining the military, or taking up stunt driving, or moving to Antarctica to study penguins...

Sometimes when I read old entries, I feel like lately my writing has been sounding tired and less joyful. It's true of my life, actually; I remember feeling much more relaxed and cheerful when I was writing those words of years ago. Now I look around and I see a much more disorganized life with more complaints and stress than I had then. (No diagnosis on my health issues, and now that the attacks have stopped, the doctors are all saying it would "probably" be okay to wait until I have more symptoms appear.) My desk, even, just epitomizes that, covered with receipts and little scraps of paper, junk mail, and random clutter. How can I feel happy and joyful when I write if my mind is screaming and feeling overwhelmed? When I clean it, I can manage about two days, on average, before the clutter is back again, and the desk is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sometimes I want to just whip through my house and my world with trashbags, throwing it all away until I'm left with just the bare essentials.


previous one year ago:
As long as it's not a problem for me, then it's not technically a problem, right?
two years ago:
Footnote to the previous section of this entry: may Sam potty-train quickly so that this journal doesn't turn into The Chronicle of My Son's Bladder Development.
three years ago:
It's getting harder by the day, though; I'm getting impatient with Sam on a far more regular basis than usual.
four years ago:
As much as my world revolved, and continues to revolve, around breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping, those aren't the things that make me an attachment parent.
five years ago:
A positive outlook seems to create its own luck.
six years ago:
I need my mother. As much as this little baby inside of me needs me, I need her.
seven years ago:
Simply because the library supplies all the forms and booklets, people seem to think I'm a certified bloody accountant.
In the ears:
"Big World"

On the Bookshelf:
The Price of Paradise

Photos, old and new,
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©1999-2006 C. Richmond.