Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Restraint

Sean shows a great deal of restraint.  When I gave him a snack to eat "while watching Sesame Street," he sat there staring at the TV, watching the end of the previous show.

me: Sean, do you like your snack?

Sean:  huh? Oh, yeah.

me:  Are you going to eat it?

Sean: (nodding his head, as if teaching me a point) Yes, Mama. I am just waiting to eat until Sesame Street comes on.

Five minutes later, when I hear the Sesame Street song start, I see Sean reach into his bowl to eat his snack.  Clearly he's gotten this trait from the Bushlack side of the family.  Similarly, just the other day, he showed amazing restraint concerning a napkin.  After taking a bite of his PB&J, he looked down at his sticky hands, ran to the dining room, grabbed a napkin and brought it back to his stool-by-counter set up (some days there's no sitting for lunch.  Don't ask me why).  As he continued eating his sandwich, he chose to wipe his mouth with his sleeves - both of them, alternating left and right to equally mess each sleeve, I'm sure - thereby exercising restraint in using the very nice cloth napkin he had retrieved just moments before.

me: Oh, hey, that's a great idea: you got a napkin!

Sean: Yeah. Thanks.

me:  Are you going to use it?

Sean:  Yeah: my hands were sticky so I wiped them off.

Clearly, the napkin is only for wiping the sticky fingers and not the face.  I am being schooled in the art of restraint.

His restraint reached all new heights in the past couple weeks in the form of a hunger strike.  This is not just any hunger strike, but specifically a dinner hunger strike.  We had pleaded with him and gave him incentives (like watching a movie or having ice cream for dessert, IF he ate dinner), but nothing seemed to work.  We were apt to let this go on, but Sean started waking up in the middle of the night... multiple times.  In my mind, I began to think that he was waking up because he was hungry.  The hunger strike morphed into sleep-deprivation-torture enacted upon his parents.  That's when we came out swinging.  The waking at night needed to stop! 

Wikipedia, the bastion of all knowledge, states that a hunger strike is "a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Most hunger strikers will take liquids but not solid food.  In cases where an entity (usually the state) has or is able to obtain custody of the hunger striker (such as a prisoner), the hunger strike is often terminated by the custodial entity through the use of force-feeding."

The other night, Sean's hunger strike was terminated.  We, as his parents, instituted a force-feeding.  It did not go as planned.  After telling Sean that he had to eat his dinner, that he could not get up out of his chair, that he could not leave the table, until his meal was done, Sean cried, screamed, whimpered and did NOT eat.  Then we struck a bargain with him: he could sit on Tom's lap and eat his food (this is usually a no-no.  When Sean was a baby he only wanted to eat dinner on our laps, so we had to ease him into his high chair or his own chair for his eating.  Since then, we've made a rule that there's no sitting in our laps while he is eating or while we are eating.  But we were desperate!)  So he eventually ate while sitting on Tom's lap.  He stuffed some tofu in his mouth (tofu: he eats it all the time.  He likes it.  He likes to dip it in ketchup), and even choked down some Risotto (who doesn't like Risotto??).  Within moments of the food going into his mouth (maybe 90 seconds?), Sean silently vomited all over his shirt, lap, plate, Tom's lap, the chair, the table, etc.

Tom:  You've got to be kidding me.

silent vomit.  silent vomit.

Tom: You've GOT to be KIDDING me!

The scene looked like this:  Tom carried a pile of vomit-laden clothes and napkins down to the washer, I started a bath with Audrey seated next to me in the bathroom.  Sean ran around naked screaming, "I want to watch a movie!" (because this was the lost incentive for the evening).  After what felt like 5 seconds of looking away from Audrey, I drew my eyes back towards her to see toddler-sized Bob the Builder underwear in her mouth.  She was chewing.

me: Yuck!  Audrey!  No, yuck, those are yucky!

Audrey begins crying as I steal the underwear away, and Sean takes a break from his tantrum long enough to see that Audrey was chewing on his underwear.

Sean: Noooo, Audrey!!  Don't chew on my underwear!!

me: Sean, who is in charge of Audrey?

Sean: Huh?

me: Who is in charge of Audrey? Me or you? (this question is a gamble, because I'm sure in his world there's more than one correct answer.)

Sean: You.

me: That's right, so let me handle Audrey.

Sean: But it's my underwear!

Touche.


We all went to bed disgruntled that night.  Sean missed his chance to watch a movie, Tom and I felt that the force-feeding went terribly, terribly wrong, and poor Audrey was still teething with no clothy, dirty underwear in sight (disgusting).

The next day at the YMCA, I picked up a parenting magazine to skim while I worked out.  I did not skim.  Instead my eyes were drawn to an article about picky eaters and children who refuse to eat.  The article went through tons of different scenarios of why children don't eat and what parents hypothesize might be the cause.  I have restrained myself from reading a lot of books, magazines and articles about parenting.  Why?  Because reading all of these things actually increases my anxiety.  The thought of all these different parents doing things differently frequently leaves me feeling like there's no path for me to take.  I'm overwhelmed with so many options.  I end up second guessing myself and doubting all of my choices as a parent.  Yet, this day, after a frustrating evening, I pored over this article searching for a clue, an answer, to Sean's hunger strike.

What I found was something that increased my anxiety tenfold (go figure - did I not just write a whole paragraph about that above?  What was I thinking??  Damn you, parenting magazines, and the ways you lure me in!).  The article lightly said something to the effect of (and I paraphrase) "of course not all picky eaters have a diagnosable condition BUT [and this is what got me] parents should not take picky eating lightly."

me: (to myself, of course, I'm at the gym) I'm not taking this lightly - just tell me what to do. Tell me what's wrong with him? With me? With our parenting??

NEOPHOBIA - the fear of new things or new experiences.  FOOD NEOPHOBIA - the fear of foods because of the potential of poisoning themselves.   WHAT???  I HAD NO IDEA THIS EXISTED!  THIS IS TERRIBLE! AWFUL! OH MY GOD!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY SON?  HE HATES EATING! HE HATES ME!

The article went on to suggest that some children - extreme cases, but nonetheless, SOME - need psychiatric attention.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

Throughout the rest of my workout all I could think about was taking Sean to a frickin' psychiatrist and discussing these dinner-refusal-habits.  I spiraled downward to thinking that perhaps he's underweight (he has a huge belly - he looks like he drinks beer for a living.  The child is not underweight, but in my anxiety-ridden-parent-magazine-reading-mind, he was emaciated).  When I went to pick up both kids from the childcare area, I was envisioning food therapy, and dreaming (or was it a nightmare?) of encouraging him to just take one bite of a vegetable or fruit.

I had to back myself out of this anxiety for the rest of the day, and because of this, I was incredibly nice to Sean.  I went out of my way to give him lots of choices, allowed him to close the garage door on his own, taking his own sweet time.  I took it easy on the potty training questions, allowed him to guide his own needs for the peeing, and if he pooped in his pants, so be it.  Thinking my child might be neophobic, I treated him like he was just diagnosed with cancer: I appreciated the small moments with him, saw through his stubbornness and allowed his humor to come out.  I re-thought how we would approach dinner that night, and if he didn't want to eat, well, I would just back off.  No use cramming it down his throat - so to speak (pun intended).

Turns out: we had a great day.  Sean guided his own lunch making and asked for a sandwich with protein, asked for vegetables on the side (he never does that) and even had some fruit.  Right before my eyes, the boy who I'd written off as emaciated and neophobic had a well-balanced lunch.  He had such a great meal that he asked for seconds, and then we washed it all down with some cookies and milk afterwards.  Sean thought it was the best day of his life.

I'm not arguing that I should treat the kid like royalty or a dying cancer patient every day.  However, the lesson I took from all this was restraint.  Right? Isn't this what he's been teaching me all along?  As I battled with him to instill (enforce?) my own values and structure onto his eating behaviors, he fought back with the only bit of control he had: he refused to eat.  As I've seen displayed in so many other arenas, he has a strong will that can keep him from eating his snacks too soon (heaven forbid he eats it 5 minutes before Sesame Street), so why not keep himself from eating a meal if his parents are coming down too hard?  I know as a parent there are times when I need to be stern.  I realize there are times when I must enforce a code of conduct to keep him safe, to keep others safe, and to keep him aware of healthy boundaries and limits.  But the other night, after the vomiting scene, we learned as parents that sometimes we need to exercise restraint.  After discussing it with my mom, she gave me her usual, born-on-a-sunny-day advice.

mom: He's a great eater!  I bet if you just back off and ignore it, it will resolve itself.

Way to go, Mom!  You always have the best ideas.  Most of the time, I find it more helpful to discuss parenting with my parents than reading parenting magazines.  Not because my parents have all the answers or did everything right (let's not get carried away here), but because they are willing to dialogue with me.  They are able to see the places where I need to give a little or practice restraint.  The one-sided nature of the neophobe article kicked me into an anxious spot, but it also kick-started my restraint.  As I've learned this past week, sometimes I need not battle against Sean and his actions while trying to impose my own.  Sometimes, practicing the very same principles that he is espousing - non-action, hunger strike, political protest, restraint - is the best course of action for me, too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Logic

Building up to Sean's surgery last week, we had a number of busy days planned with some fun activities to make the week exciting and keep him distracted.  One day we made sugar cookie dough, rolled it out, cut cookies into fun shapes, baked them, and then the next day we decorated them.  A big hit.  We had movie nights, a special jello breakfast before his surgery (code word: clear liquid diet), and I even tried to make his pre-op physical at the doctor seem fun (that was a huge failure, though we succeeded in getting the physical - a blog for another time).  Last Wednesday, we planned a trip to the Minnesota Zoo. We were venturing out with my friend Kate and her daughter, Charlotte, who is roughly Sean's age.  Kate explained to me that the highlight of the trip to the zoo would be the dolphin show, so when I began talking this up to Sean last week, he quickly glommed onto the dolphin show idea.  On the car ride down to the zoo, Sean remembered other zoo trips he's made in the past, and he began a series of logical questions:

Sean: Will a lion and tiger be there?

me: Maybe.

Sean: Because I get scared of the lion and the tiger.

me: I know you do.  But maybe you could look at them this time and see if you can be brave.

Sean: I get scared of the lion and the tiger.

me: That's true, but they are always in cages.

Sean: Why are the animals in cages?

This question stopped me, because I have my own issues with animals in cages.  I ask this same question every time I visit a zoo.  Why DO we put animals in cages?

me: Well, we need to have the animals in cages, because they are wild animals.  If they weren't in cages, then they could get hurt or we could get hurt.

Sean: Why would we get hurt?

Mmmmmm.... yeeeessss.... Why would we get hurt?  Because we live on this wild, wild earth, and we are not really in control of the animals, we just have the illusion of control?  Because that's what this whole life is about: an illusion of control.  That's just it: an illusion!

I didn't say that.  Instead I came up with something that felt more appropriate for my nearly 3-year-old son.

me:  Well, these animals are strong, powerful animals, and if they were not in their cages, they might be able to hurt somebody.  That's why we keep them in their cages.

Sean: Why do they put the animals in the cages?

me: I already answered that question.

Sean: But why?

me: Why not?

Sean: No, don't say why not!

To lure Sean out of the car and get him moving fast towards the zoo entrance, we talked about the dolphin show: what did he think we would see there: would the dolphins dance? would the dolphins flip?  would the dolphins talk?  He was still moving slow as molasses when we finally hit the zoo entrance.  At the front desk, there was a sign posted saying:  THE DOLPHIN EXHIBIT IS CLOSED.  THERE WILL BE NO DOLPHIN SHOW TODAY.

WHAT?  That's the whole reason we came!  When Kate and Charlotte arrived, Kate inquired about the reason for the dolphin show being canceled.  Turns out the 19-month-old baby dolphin had died the day before, and they closed the exhibit to give the mother and father dolphins some privacy.  This of course opened a whole new can of worms, and a whole new string of logical questions.

Sean: Why did the baby dolphin die?

me: I don't know.

Sean: But I want to see the dolphin show! (the subtext his little mind could not articulate was: YOU TOLD ME I COULD SEE A DOLPHIN SHOW TODAY!)

me: I know you do, buddy, but the mom and dad dolphin are sad, so the zookeepers are giving them some quiet time.

Sean: Why are they sad?

me: Because their baby died.

Sean: Why did the baby dolphin die?

me: I don't know, Seancito, they are going to figure that out.

Sean: But I want to see the dolphin show!

me: I know, I heard you.  We are not going to see it today, but maybe we can come back another time and see the dolphins.

Instead we saw the bird show, which was great fun... for me, Audrey, Kate, and Charlotte.  Sean was not impressed.  Or if he was, he hid his excitement because he was still upset about the lack of dolphin show.  (That, and the fact that it was randomly German Day at the zoo (no idea that this even existed), so the bird show was almost entirely in German, there were high school and middle school students strewn about the zoo's exhibits with displays and skits in German, and there was a man walking around with an accordion playing German music for the crowds The man was dressed in full lederhosen.  I didn't blame Sean for feeling a little strange about the whole trip.)  So on the car ride back home, I tried to ease the disappointment.

me: What was your favorite part of the zoo, Seancito?

Sean: I don't know.

me: Was it the bird show?

Sean: NO! I didn't want to see the bird show, I wanted to see the dolphin show!

Smooth move.  Instead of inspiring a positive memory, I reinforced a negative one.

me: (non-nonchalantly) Yeah, that was a bummer.  But we did get to see a bird show!  (I refused to give into the negativity.)

Sean: Why did the baby dolphin die?

me: I think maybe it was sick...

Sean: Why couldn't they make the baby dolphin better?

And on and on for the whole 25 minute drive home.  The strangest thing for me was that I felt sad and disturbed by the dolphin's death.  Similarly to the questions of why do we put animals in cages, I felt ill prepared to answer the questions about why the dolphin died.  The answer is... well, there is no answer in my mind.  This just happens.  It's part of life.  And yet, that's not a satisfying answer to a 2.5 year old.

This feeling reminded me of when Sean was born: I had this crazy existential moment where I saw myself fully in the circle of life.  Cheesy? Maybe.  Real? Very much so.  With his birth I suddenly joined the ranks of "those with children" and thus became a part of an older generation.  Compared with the generation that my son just joined, I was the parent who would journey ahead of this child.  God willing, I would leave the earth before he would.

Tangentially: I sing Audrey a lullaby each night before bed: Billy Joel's Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel).  He wrote the song for his daughter.

Good night, my angel, time to close your eyes
And leave these quetsions for another day.
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say.
I promised I would never leave you,
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away.

Then at the closing of the song:

Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on.
They never die
That's how you and I will be.

**If you're laughing at me right now, (Sean Agniel) then I suggest you look up this song on youtube and listen to it.  I dare you to judge me after you've understood it's beauty.  Or you can call me before YOU go to bed tonight and I'll sing it to you - then perhaps you won't find it so funny.**

His words get at the heart of a feeling that creeps up on me pretty frequently: we are only mortal.  This life is but fleeting, and these moments - not just with our children, but with everyone we love - pass quickly.  It never feels logical to me, because this life is all I know, but in the end we all will die - that's pretty depressing!

Yet with this dolphin, it didn't seem logical that the baby would go first.  Sean kept asking questions about the dolphin and why the parents were sad.  I finally came to this reasoning:

me: Sean, if something happened to you or Audrey, dad and I would be really sad.

Sean: Why?

me: Because you are our kids and we love you.

Sean: Just like I love Audrey? And I love dad?

me: Right. (STILL I'm sanctioned to a lower class of citizen - an untouchable.  Or should I say an unmentionable?  Tom swears that when I'm not around, Sean always includes me in these loving thoughts spoken aloud.  Tom believes Sean is aware of how much it gets under my skin, and therefore purposefully leaves me out.  If this is true, I'm blaming his godfather - SEAN AGNIEL.)

Sean: But why did the baby dolphin die?

Again, I felt the subtext of all his questions hinting at something deeper.  What is death?  What is the meaning of this life?  Why can it be cut so short?  What do we make of these precious relationships we build here on earth, and what comes of them when we pass on to the afterlife?  Is that baby dolphin in heaven?  I hope so. 

me: I don't know why the dolphin died.  They are trying to figure that out.  The mom and dad dolphin were sad so they needed some quiet time.  Maybe the next time we go to the zoo we can see the dolphin show.

Sean continued to think about this while gently pushing on the left-side of his lip (a common idiosyncratic gesture for him). I thought perhaps he was having an existential moment.  I wondered if he felt scared at all about his upcoming surgery, his second lip revision.  Or was he considering his own mortality?   I pondered my mortal existence as a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend to all these amazing people in my life.  I thought of Billy Joel's words to his own daughter, grasping at an explanation of how they will always be connected, how he'll never truly leave her, but he may not always be physically there.  Then, quietly from my logical son:

Sean: I wasn't sad, I just really wanted to see the dolphin show.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Multi-factorial

When Sean was born and we discovered he had a cleft lip, the medical professionals explained that the reasons he was born with a cleft lip were 'multi-factorial.'  One nurse explained that multi-factorial was a fancy way of saying "we really don't know the cause."  As I've pondered the recent events in my life, this word keeps coming to mind.  For example, a month ago why did Sean run through the dining area of a restaurant screaming, "I HAVE A BUTT RASH!!" when he did not, in fact, have a butt rash?  The reasons are multi-factorial.  In a juvenile and impulsive move recently, why did I, a 30 year old woman, rip a sticker off the front of Sean's fleece during his tantrum and throw it in the trash can? Multi-factorial. (not my proudest moment as a parent... one in which I felt myself become a toddler again, frustrated with a fellow child, instead of acting like an adult.)   Or why was I woken this morning to the sound of Sean screaming in my ear "I DON'T WANT THE LIGHT TURNED OFF"? Need I say more?

Yet the most puzzling of moves occurred a couple days ago.

Before divulging the story, though, I must state this disclaimer:  the following story smacks of details surrounding poop (sorry, Dad, I know you're uncomfortable with that), AND the defecation of the lime-green carpet is not meant to be of any offense to my cousins in the Herbert clan (sorry, Herberts!) whose grandparents owned and lived in this house for 30+ years.  They loved this carpet, and we do, too.  The mixture of poop and carpet is purely coincidental (though in my frustrated motherly moment to follow, I do question the purposeful nature of my son's choices...)

*a-hem*

We are still potty-training in our house.  It's actually going quite well - lots of stickers, lots of treats, lots of peeing.  Pooping on the other hand is a rare commodity... in the toilet, that is.  Pooping happens, but just not in the places I would like.  Yesterday, I was not feeling well (recovering from a minor surgery. Laproscopy.  Ovarian cyst.  All went well, I'm healing, and just sore and uncomfortable.  And cranky.  Hence the story:) so I decided to re-live my high-school-studying-for-physics-days and put a little Enya on the Grooveshark.  Imagine, if you will, the sound of Enya floating around the dining room.  Audrey sitting in her high chair peacefully eating some lasagna (great pincher-grasp going on there for a 9.5 month old), and Sean playing in the living room.  Because we'd been awake since 6:15am, we were all a little tired by lunchtime.  I tried to back off questioning Sean about his need to go potty... tried, but clearly did not fully succeed.

me: Sean, do you need to go potty?

Sean: no.

me: Are you sure?

Sean: no.

me: So you need to go potty?

Sean: no.

me:  It looks like you need to go potty.

He's dancing around, pressing his legs together, obviously holding in the onslaught.

Sean: no

me: Why are you hiding behind the chair?  Are you pooping?

Sean: NO.

So I let him play.  I'm still feeding Audrey, and thinking about how much Enya's peaceful music helped me focus on physics problems.  Then, moments later, I hear the whining and whimpering start.

Sean: My pants are wet!  My pants are all wet!

me: Why?  (One might question the need for me to ask, but I always feel compelled to have him take responsibility for his wet pants.  Am I a terrible parent?  Probably.)

Sean: I don't know!

me: Why are your pants wet, Seancito?

Sean: Because I peed!  Because I peed!  And I pooped!

This gets my attention immediately.  I leave a couple extra pieces of lasagna for Audrey on her tray knowing that I will be gone for awhile and she may get hungry.

me: That's okay, buddy, let's go in the bathroom and clean you up.

Sean. NOOOOOooooooo!  I want to stay out here!

Really?  He wants to stay out in the living room?  Why does this make any sense?  Multi-factorial.

me: No, if your pants are wet and dirty, then we need to go in the bathroom so that I can help you clean up.

Sean: (quietly) no.

He pauses in the middle of the living room, and he has his hands on his hips.  Is he thinking? Is he pooping again?  I'm about to ask another question, to begin luring him into the bathroom, to continue reasoning with him.  This is the game we play, right?  I attempt to get him to agree with whatever I want him to do.  I try to lead him to believe that what I want him to do is actually what he also wants to do.  In my mind, this is easier than just picking him up and carrying him wherever I want him to go.  Plus, who wants to pick up at 30 lb. child who's just wet and pooped himself?  Not me.

me: Okay, well I will go get some clean underwear -

Sean begins pulling down his pants in the middle of the living room.  Now - most things I've heard about potty training focus on the parent being supportive and encouraging of their child.  I have been as supportive and encouraging as I can be, but the threat of a poop explosion in the living room throws all ideas of support and encouragement out the window.

me: NOOOOO - do not pull down your pants!  Yuck! No!  That will make a huge mess!  No!  Stop!

I am yelling.  Audrey starts crying from her high chair.  Sean is clearly upset.  I force his pants back up around his waist, pushing feces around his waistband and shirt, and I lead him (push him?) towards the bathroom.  When safely in the confines of a tiled floor, we begin the process of disassembling the pants/underwear/poop combination that has enmeshed itself around my son.  As I clean him up, I realize that a bath is in order - I will spare the reader (Dad) the details of why the bath is necessary.  I am so upset about him nearly flinging his feces all over the living room that I'm very clear about the rules of the bath.

me:  Sean, this is not a bath where you get to play.  This is only a bath to clean you off.

Sean: why?

me: Because you have pooped in your pants, we now need to clean up your clothes, get you dressed and I need to get back to Audrey (who is crying) to finish feeding her lunch.

Sean: why?

me: You know why.

Sean: why?

me:  Why not?

Sean: No don't say 'why not'!

This has been my new tactic for confronting the 'why' barrage head-on.  When he continues to ask 'why' I ask 'why not' and he gets angry.  Soon he's so angry that either he's forgotten all about asking 'why' OR he's throwing a tantrum.  It's a 50/50 gamble, but I risk it... frequently.  He asks 'why' frequently.  At this point in our story, though, I think Sean senses how upset I am so he does not continue asking why.  He does not ask to stay in the bath any longer.  He allows me to clean him up and he gets out of the bath without much rigamarole. I get him dressed and I am just about to clean up his dirtied clothes on the floor of the bathroom when I see it.  Down the long corridor of our hall, through the living room, I see two huge brown turds.  TWO HUGE BROWN TURDS?!?  How did they escape??

I walk immediately back into the bathroom, grab toilet paper, and I am stomping over to the poop about to pick it up.  However, I stop myself short. (Enya is still playing, Audrey is still crying, and Sean is beginning to insist it is time to take a nap.  This is a sure sign he's thrown in the towel on the 1st portion of the day).  Then a thought occurs to me:

me: Sean, this is your poop, so you are going to help me pick it up.

I put the toilet paper in his hands, and together, hand over hand, protected by a wad of toilet paper, we pick up the poop.  It takes two trips to the bathroom, and Sean goes along with this plan without much fuss at all.  Again, I think he senses how upset I am.  I then insist that he flushes the toilet.  He refuses.  I insist.  He refuses.  I insist.  Then I force his hand over to the handle while he fake-cries.  I know it's a fake cry because there are no tears.  And then when the toilet begins flushing he stops the "crying" long enough to curiously watch his poop (and WADS of toilet paper -who wants to feel that poop?? Not me!) go down the drain.  Once gone Sean resumes fake-crying.  He then again insists it's time to take a nap.

me: Well, Sean, I would love to help you get into bed right now, (the frustration is not at all hidden in my voice) but I need to rinse out your dirty clothes, and then I need to clean the bathtub, and then I need to start a load of laundry with your dirty clothes in it.  THEN I need to get back to Audrey and finish feeding her (Audrey is at a full wail by now), and then, maybe then, I will be able to come tell stories and say prayers. 

Sean starts crying for real now.  He takes himself into his room.  By the time I finish the cleaning up, I get back to Audrey's high chair and discover she has pooped.  A two-fer.  GREAT.

When both kids are clean, and clothes are in the laundry, and the bathroom has been wiped down with Lysol, I am sitting on Sean and Audrey's bedroom floor telling a story to Sean about Pauncito the Elephant (long story, but it's basically Sean's alter ego).  In the story, Pauncito had to poop and he was afraid of pooping on the potty.  However, he was a brave elephant, and he told his mom that he had to poop, and then he pooped on the potty.  Frequently, Pauncito is living out the very same adventures that our Seancito has lived out during the day.  OR Pauncito is going after the very same goals that our Seancito is trying to achieve.  I always like to drive my points home in multiple ways:)  When the story is finished, Sean is thinking hard.

Sean: Mama, I want to say a prayer for you.

You heard it hear: the boy is thinking of me.  He wants to take a quiet moment and say a little prayer.  He sees how frustrated I am, he sees how hard my job is as a mom, he wants to be compassionate in his little 2.5 year old way.  He seizes this opportunity: where things could go sour for us at this juncture, he decides to pick up the slack.  He is reaching out to his mother through the offering of saying a prayer.  It does my heart proud!

me: Aw, Seancito, that is so nice.  I would love for you to say a prayer for me.

And what mother doesn't want that?  Amidst doing absolutely EVERYTHING for my children, this was a light through the clouds moment.  This was a moment where I could let Sean lead.  This was a moment where I could receive a little something back instead of constantly just giving to him.

Sean: No, Mama.  I can't say it.  You say it.

me:  Well, if you're going to say a prayer for me, you can go ahead and say it, then I'll say a prayer.

Sean:  NOOOOO, Mama.  I can't say it!  You say it!

Let me get this straight: now I will be saying a prayer for my son who is saying a prayer for me?!?  Why?  That doesn't make any sense!  Or as Sean has taken to saying lately, "No, that's not right!"  Why would he say that he wants to say a prayer for me and then make me say it?  The reasons for that would be multi-factorial.