Thursday, April 26, 2012

There's a First Time for Everything

Tom and I were both up in the middle of the night with Audrey.  She was running a fever and couldn't get comfortable.  This means we are all pretty tired today.  Of course, the night before last we were up with Sean in the middle of the night. He awoke screaming from his room. When I went in there, he refused to let me help him with anything saying he wanted Dad.  Typical.  Tom took over, and I went back to bed livid.  When Tom returned 10 minutes later, I asked if everything was okay.  I assumed Sean had had a bad dream.

Tom: His covers were off and he needed help getting them back on.  It was a four alarm fire.

Let the record show that I've had two nights of broken sleep and crying children.  Proceed.

This morning I was reminding Sean that we needed to make another thank you note for people who had given him birthday presents. I also told him that we needed to take some pictures of him and Audrey holding Happy Birthday signs so we could email them to Grandpa whose birthday is this coming Sunday.

Sean: Why?

me: Because Grandpa and GG are in Italy, so we need to send the pictures so they can see us wishing him a Happy Birthday.

Sean: Why are they in Italy?

me: Because they are on an adventure.  I hope you get to go on an adventure like that someday.  Maybe in Italy, wouldn't that be fun?

Sean: No, I don't want to go on an adventure there.

me: Fine, Sean. Don't.

Sean: Well... There's always a first time for everything.

This is a line from a Berenstain Bears book he just got as a present.  I'm glad to see he's using the phrase accurately.  Little did I know that this phrase would symbolize a turning point in my day.

We had a pretty good morning.  We went to storytime at the Red Balloon bookshop in St. Paul.  Every Thursday is Toddler storytime at 10:30am.  Though we're not there every Thursday, it's a frequent stop for us.  The atmosphere is great - a locally run, independent book seller.  The woman who does the storytime is stellar: she keeps the kids attention for 30 minutes, and both Sean and Audrey love it.  There's singing, dancing, puppets, books; I'm not sure whether I have more fun or the kids do.  After storytime, we headed to the pharmacy and grocery store.  Because Audrey was still running a fever, I put her in the stroller in the hopes she would sleep through the errand running.  Not so much.  She was awake and paying attention the whole time.  If she had long term memory, I'm sure she would retain this one for the books.

Walking to Walgreens, a man getting out of his car looked directly at us.  I was pushing the stroller with two bags hanging from my arm.  Sean was walking with one hand on the stroller and we were talking about the need to look both ways before walking into the parking lot.  The man had a smile on his face, but for once, it was not Audrey getting the smile.

man: He has a new way of wearing his sunglasses.

Sean looked up.  He looked at the man.  He kept walking.

me: Yes, he does.  He insists upon wearing them that way.

Sean wears his sunglasses upside down.  If someone asks if it's more comfortable, he says yes.  If someone asks if he knows that his sunglasses are upside down, he says yes.  If someone asks if he wants to turn them right-side up, he says no.  Go figure.  He's starting a new fashion trend.

While in Walgreens, I could see Sean starting to do a little dance.  The side-step, legs together, side-step, legs together dance.  You probably know this dance yourself when you've held in your urine for too long.  I can recognize it well now from Sean.

me: Sean do you need to go potty?

Sean: No.

me: Are you sure?

Sean: No. (He thinks he means "yes" but he says "no."  I've not tackled the intricacies of why the answer to this question is incorrect.  I've tried telling him that he really wants to answer "yes" but he thinks it's some kind of trap.  As in, if he says "yes" in response to the "are you sure?" then I've trapped him into having to go potty.  He must believe that by saying "no" to this question, he's firming up the fact that he does NOT need to go potty.  When in fact he's highlighting for me that he really is not sure of when he has to go.  Or he's avoiding it.  I just keep asking the question of him to amuse myself.  It's the little things.)

I began to lay the groundwork for getting him to go potty at our next stop.

me: Sean, when we get to Byerly's, we are going to the restroom before we shop for food.  Okay?

Nothing.  It's as if the sunglasses block out the possibility of hearing me clearly.

me: Sean - we will go to the restroom at Byerly's before doing anything else.  Do you understand?

Sean: Yes.

And I have it!  The confirmation!  The agreement!  At least if there's a struggle I have something to fall back on.  How foolish I am.

Upon entering Byerly's we went directly back to the restroom and wheeled the stroller into the largest stall.  (I will side-step a tangent about how I feel guilty for taking the wheelchair accessible stall with the kids.)  We get into the stall, Sean helps to lock the door, Audrey is quietly watching, and then I make a wrong move.

me: Okay, Sean, are you ready to go potty?

Sean: NO!

Clearly not ready.

me: (already pulling down his pants and getting ready to place him on the toilet) Well, Sean we already talked about this (see exchange above - my confirmation!  I already have it! Ha ha!), and you said okay.

Sean: (bucking his pelvis so as to avoid sitting on the seat) No! NO! I don't want to go potty!  NO!  I don't need to go potty.

me: (trying to remain calm) Sean, I would at least like you to try.  Please just empty your bladder and then we can go shop for food.


Sean has both hands on the seat, but he continues bucking his pelvis away from the toilet.

me: (pulling out my final ace in the whole) If you sit and go potty then we can go look for a treat in the grocery store.

He stops for one millisecond.  I should have seen this flash across his face.  He wanted the treat.  He knew what he had to do to get it.  But he didn't want to give up his fight.  So while thinking, "yes, I will go potty for a treat" he continued using his body to say, "Not on your life, lady!"

Then he peed on me.  And the floor.  And his pants.  I'm going to say that again.  Then he PEED on me.  HE PEED ON ME.  Not only did he pee, but he peed on me in the exact location that would later look to the outside world like I peed on myself.  I had a wet spot...of PEE...ON MY CROTCH.  Brilliant!

me: UGH - SEAN! No!

I pushed his penis down between his legs (something that parents potty training young boys must know well.), and he continued peeing into the toilet.  His face spelled relief.  Clearly he needed to let that go.  His face also had a hint of guilt in it.  He could tell I was angry.  Livid even.  Sean looked down at the droplets of pee on the ground.

Sean: How are we going to clean that up, Mama?

I was speechless.  I couldn't say anything, because what I wanted to say was Well, Sean, I am going to clean it up.  Me.  Your MOTHER.  I am going to wipe your pee off the dirty bathroom floor, because God knows if I have you do it, I'll feel terrible, and I'll dream that there are security cameras in here, and then they'll haul me away for child labor/abuse laws that I'm SURE exist somewhere, which state that no child is allowed to wipe up his own pee off this dirty God Forsaken floor.  This speech would be followed by a full body shake and fist pumping, hand waving, maniacal wiggle directed at God, the Universe, my son, and Audrey, just for any future wrongdoings she has planned.

Instead I said nothing.  I was so angry.  And I had PEE in my CROTCH that was not my OWN.

I was finally able to muster a couple choice words.

me: (through clenched teeth and trying to stay quiet) I am very frustrated with you.  Do you know why?

There are people coming in and out of the stalls around us, flushing toilets, washing hands.  Though we are behind stall doors, I feel like we are on full display.

Sean: (whining) Yeeeesss. (?)

Is he asking a question?

Sean: (quiet, almost whining) Because I peed.

me: It's not that you peed, Sean.  Because if you had peed in the toilet, we would be all good.  It's that you were refusing to pee, and then you decided to start peeing without sitting down or pointing your penis down.  And because of that ... (gesturing all around: the floor, me, his own pants) you peed everywhere.

I had to keep telling myself to breathe.  I could feel the anger rising as the wetness around my crotch sunk in.  I had packed the diaper bag with changes of clothes for both kids, but I had not ever thought to pack of change of clothes for me.  I AM THE MOM.  I'm not supposed to end up with WET PANTS!  DO YOU HEAR ME, GOD?!  (More fist shaking would happen here.)

Audrey remained quiet.  She was just taking it all in.  That or her fever had the better of her and she was just so sleepy.  Then, as I wiped the floor with toilet paper and helped Sean get his pants back on, he had the audacity to remind me of a promise from earlier.

Sean: Can I have a treat now?

I have nothing to say.  I was still fuming.  I could still sense all the people in the bathroom, imagining they were hanging on every word being said as this drama unfolded.  Of course, I don't think any person was in there long enough to know the full story, but that's the way I felt.  Still through clenched teeth, I grabbed our bags and pushed Audrey's stroller towards the sink.  I didn't have a response.  Yes, he had used the potty, so technically he should get the promised treat.  HOWEVER, he had also peed on me, and I was utterly offended.  In my mind, he would get NOTHING.  I would later allow him to get a granola bar: not quite a treat, and not quite a stalk of celery, but something to keep him quiet while I picked up a few necessities.  I could not imagine any more tantrums with Sean while we walked around the grocery store.  Mainly because I did not want people looking at us.  Why?  Because they would see a beautiful young family... arguing.  As they would look closer they would see a toddler, a young sickly-looking baby girl, and a 30-something mom.  And upon closer inspection they might see that the mom's pants were wet.  There's a first time for everything.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous... or Subliminally Ridiculous

The other night we walked to the park after dinner to give Tom some quiet at home to grade papers.  Sean asked repeatedly why Tom wasn't coming to the park with us.

me: I already answered that question.

Sean: But why, Mama?

me: You know why.  Why isn't Dad coming with us?

Sean: No, you tell me!


Sean: (quietly defeated) Because he has to grade the newspapers.

Close enough.  It was beautiful outside: mid-50s, sunny, and a light breeze.  We arrived on the baseball diamond and Sean asked if we could play.  We ran the bases, pretended to pitch the ball and swing the bat.  It was glorious.  The moment was sublime.

Sean: Do we live on the earth?

me: Yes.  Yes we do.

Sean: Where is the earth?

me: The earth is all around us.  The earth is in front of us all the time.  It's beneath our feet.

Sean: Do Beckie and Brent and Jonathan live on the earth?

me: Yes.

Sean: Do Todd and Steve live on the earth?

me: Yes, they do, too.

Sean: Does Greta live on the earth?

me: Yes, Sean, all of our neighbors live on the earth. So do our family and friends.  And a lot of other people.

I have many sublime moments: rocking Audrey to sleep and snuggling with the kids while reading books.  Sublime.  When both kids are in the grocery cart, no one is crying, no one is poopy, and they are distracting each other.  That moment is sublime.  Watching Audrey find a thin marker, put it between her teeth like a woman doing the tango, and then crawl around the house.  When Sean dances around after his bath and calls himself a Happy Donkey.  That's sublime. (And perplexing, because where in the heyhey did he get that?)

Speaking of sublime has made me think of the word subliminal.  For example our friend and neighbor, Beckie, was in a rough car accident 10 days ago.  She broke her wrist and collarbone and had to be taken to the hospital via ambulance.  Sean has seen Beckie many times since the accident, and we have talked about how lucky she is that she was not hurt worse.  Now when getting in his carseat and Sean complains that his seatbelt is too tight, I call upon Beckie's unlucky circumstance.

Sean: (whining) It's too tight!

me: Do you remember when Beckie was in her car accident?

Sean: Yeah.

me: And what happened?

Sean: She hurt her arm and her shoulder.

me: That's right.  If we are in a car accident, we need your seatbelt to be tight.  Not loose.  Tight.

It's my subliminal way of saying, "stop whining!" or "No, I will not adjust your seatbelt for the 37th time."  Subliminal and effective.

Sean was running a low grade fever the other day, and he was going back and forth between chills and sweats.  During a sweaty moment he refused to wear his jacket when going outside.  I rolled my eyes to myself, tried to explain why he might want the coat in the 40 degree weather, and then gave up the fight.  It was not worth a tantrum.  However, while in the grocery store, I could see that his feverish chills were setting in.  He was whining and telling me how cold he was.  Though I could have chalked it up to his being sick, I decided to subliminally get my point across.

me: Do you remember when I told you to bring your coat?

Sean: (still whining) yeah.

me: Do you remember when I told you it was cold outside and you might want your coat to keep you warm?

Sean: yeah.

me: Well then next time maybe you will think twice before refusing to wear your coat.

Granted, I did feel a little guilty later. The boy was sick.  Perhaps not the best time to drive my point home.  It was, however, effective, because as soon as we got in the car, he sure did put his coat on.

We also encounter times that are neither sublime or ridiculous, respectively, but rather subliminally ridiculous.  The moment when the post-bath Happy Donkey dance turns into Sean slapping-his-naked-butt-dance. 

Don't get me wrong: I was laughing at the slapping-butt-dance.  Yet, I seem to be more afraid than Tom of when that dance might raise it's ugly head in public.  I am aware that Sean does not know how to censor himself around mixed company (and that he's not even aware of what mixed company is).  Tom and I seem to have slightly different views on flatulence and the like.  The subliminally ridiculous moment is harder to pin down.  It's harder to reprimand, and harder to describe why exactly it might be off-kilter.  The subliminally ridiculous moment is not necessarily a "bad" or "good" moment, but is fraught with humor, awkwardness, social tactless-ness, and embarrassment.  Well, the embarrassment is usually only felt by me.  The mother.  Because Tom is usually reveling in the humor of it all.

I'll give you an example. We were at the park a couple weeks ago and Sean was on a see-saw all by himself.  He figured out that if he used all of his weight and force, he could see-saw on his own.  His announcement of this achievement, though, brought different words.

Sean: Look, Mama!  I can bump my butt each time I go.


Or today, walking around outside, I kept smelling something rotten. I inspected the bags of leaves that have been sitting there since last December, and decided NOT to put my nose that close to them again.  I murmured something about it stinking on that side of the house.

Sean: No, I think that maybe I just farted.

But the one that really takes the cake: Easter dinner at Tom's parents house.  Not only was it the four of us and Tom's parents, but Tom's Aunt Betsy and her three kids, plus a foreign exchange student from Japan.  This delightful young woman from Japan is a peaceful spirit. She has a kind, beautiful smile, and Audrey (who is currently knee-deep in stranger danger) loves her.  No doubt the dark eyes and jet black hair help, but I believe Audrey is also drawn to her quiet, gentle spirit.  I asked Yasuho what she found most interesting, different, or difficult about American culture having lived here almost the entire school year.  Her answer: Americans' ability to carry guns and burping.  (Though I've never quite thought about these two ideas in the same sentence, I can see how they would be equally strange to someone observing our culture.)  Her exact words were, "If a girl is out on a date with a guy and she burps; the relationship is over."  Offensive, rude, intrusive, inappropriate.  These are the words that come to mind given her example.  Not but 30 minutes after having this discussion and while eating a delicious Easter dinner, I hear the sound of a fart escaping from my son.  Escape is probably not the right word: the fart was pushed out - making a much louder sound than is necessary, and the exuberance in both the fart and the Farter was felt more than three chairs away.

Sean: (grinning) It's stinky over here!

... as if waiting for someone to say something... and then...

Sean: I farted!

Ooooookay.  At Easter dinner?  While everyone's eating??  In front of Yasuho who just commented about American culture being different because of burping???  We take it to a new level here!  Subliminally ridiculous.

But let's take it back to the pristine, sublime moment we had the other night at the park.  The night was beautiful, the sun was setting.  There were people playing tennis on the tennis courts, and kids swinging on the swings, and other kids running around the playground.  We ran the bases multiple times, talked about the first base line and what it means for a ball to be fair or foul.  We even picked a lilac from a lilac tree and smelled it.  All three of us took a moment to stop and smell that lilac.  Sublime.

Sean: I think this tree is pretty.

me: Yeah, I do, too, buddy.  It's a beautiful tree.  And it smells good, too.

Sean: yeah.

Then noticing that the tree branches had some kind of disease on them, Sean further assessed the tree.

Sean: I think that maybe someone pooped on the branches.

me: Ehhhhm... (laughing) uhhh, I think the tree might have a disease.

Sean: No, look, Mama.  Someone pooped on those branches.

And in that moment, I decided not to try and explain the death and life of trees.  I tried not to reprimand or tell Sean he was wrong.  I turned away from what I thought might be a subliminally ridiculous moment and decided to embrace the sublime, ridiculous as it may be, through the eyes of my child.  Someone pooped on those branches.