We’re all about choppers over here. Vera got her first tooth. Yay! Also: Roy’s into biting us. Boo!
Little girl’s been pretty drooly for the past couple of months. She’s also ferociously gumming anything she can stuff into her mouth. It seemed a bit early to me, but it’s hard to argue with such signals.
Then last weekend, at five months and one week, her first tooth broke through. Bottom right. The second one, right next to it, appeared a couple of days later. Do you think it’s a coincidence that on that very night, she finally and mercifully slept until 4 AM? 4 AM, you guys! She celebrated with a magnificent blowout, which necessitated a complete wipedown and outfit change, followed by over an hour of uninterrupted screeching, cooing and kicking. While I, personally, would prefer a celebration that involved MORE SLEEP, I’ll take it. It was actually pretty cute.
Which leads us to something that’s the opposite of cute. Our sweet, gentle little two-year-old has taken to frustrated explosions, wherein he’ll thrash and scratch and scream like a, well, like a two-year-old.
But sometimes, there is biting. He’ll be so obviously bursting with emotion, over a “no,” or a naptime, or a similar shift in his world that’s not to his liking, and he’ll clench his teeth and growl and come at you, clearly intent on chomping down. Hard.
At first Clint was his sole (and intermittent) target. Eventually, I was fair game, too. We dealt with each bite as it happened, depending on that moment’s state of mind, mostly trying to minimize our reactions, because we figured that negative attention is attention. Things escalated.
Finally, about a week ago, he bit me so incredibly hard that I lost it. Declared I’d had enough and that this was going to stop. Sure, I hated getting hurt. But even more frustrating was watching my little guy’s emotions continue to boil up and over, and not being able to help. Clearly we needed a new tactic. Or, more accurately, a tactic, period.
That night, after a flurry of Googling, I wrote on a piece of paper: “We don’t bite. Biting hurts.” I set it on the kitchen island, so Clint and I could commit it to memory. From there on out, whenever Roy bit (or tried to bite) one of us, we looked him in the eye and calmly and firmly said it: “We don’t bite. Biting hurts.” Then we plopped him on the nearest chair and told him he could get up when he was ready with an apology and a kiss.
I noticed a few things. 1) I was easily able to stay calm, because I knew exactly how to respond. 2) Roy almost always apologized immediately and genuinely. 3) Within just a day or two, the biting all but stopped. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to type “all but” in that sentence, but again, I’ll take it. Perfection doesn’t seem to have much of a place in parenting.
Too bad this tactic doesn’t work on infants, though. Those two jagged little whitecaps hurt!
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At Vera’s four-month appointment, the doctor mentioned that a little rice cereal in her belly might help her start sleeping through the night again. I just couldn’t bear it. Roy started solids at 6 months old, and I assumed I’d wait that long with the chunky monkey, too.
And then I didn’t get a decent night’s sleep for another month and thought, What the hell? Let’s give it a shot.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have an eater:
Rice cereal went over well last weekend. She’s still deciding about banana, which we sampled this week. Avocado and sweet potato, purchased today, are next in line. It’s a new era.
Part of my hesitancy last time was that feeding a baby in a manner that did not involve simply attaching her to my boob sounded like so much work. Choosing the right foods, plus the right amounts, plus watching for allergies, plus using the correct BPA-free eating equipment, plus choosing a proper eating space, plus finding the time, plus cleaning up a new mess. And so on. The “eating thing” loomed, ready to topple what little hard-won confidence about kid-having we’d finally established those first few months.
Once we dove in, it was actually pretty fun. We made our own food. Roy and I would cruise the local farmers’ market for in-season possibilities, then drag the haul home, where Clint and I would cook and puree it, then freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays for future use. We’ll do the same for Vera.
Hopefully she’ll show her appreciation by sleeping through the damn night.
When did you introduce solids? Why?
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You may recall that for some insane reason, I decided to start potty training our then-26-month-old toddler, Roy, when Vera was just two months old. It’s a long road. And we’re still on it—we still use diapers or training pants during naps and at night. Who knew potty training could be such a drawn-out process? Roy really is doing an incredible job, though, and I’m super proud of him.
Here are my key toilet-training takeaways thus far.
1) (Don’t) Push to Start. Too much, that is. I admit, I didn’t like the idea of having two in diapers. But more important than that, Roy had shown an interest in using the big potty for a very long time. In fact, he’d almost trained himself months earlier. My hunch was that making it an Official Fun Event would psych him up for making the plunge. It did. But it was still hard. I can’t imagine what it would be like with serious resistance.
2) Start Strong. We made getting him to the potty the focus of every waking moment over a long weekend. For three straight days, we pumped him full of liquids, made frequent potty trips, and enthusiastically cheered each success. We didn’t leave the house the first day, went on only a short walk the second and took a longer walk on the third. This tactic very clearly laid the groundwork for what was to come, while showing Roy that he was well equipped to handle it.
3) Go Naked. Roy spent those three days naked below the belt so he could easily potty on his own and quickly turn accidents around. We continued the nakedness at home for weeks after that. Now, months later, he wears shorts or underwear, but rarely both. We’re getting there.
4) Keep Rewards Simple. We started out with different amounts of fruit snacks for #1 and #2 as well as an elaborate sticker chart that earned him larger prizes. It was too much. Choose a reward that’s simple, quick and highly motivating for your kid. If it’s not something sugary to eat, even better. I’ve a friend whose daughter goes gaga over stickers, for example, so she used those. Maybe that reward chart would work for you. Roy was obsessed with fruit snacks, which he rarely got. We streamlined our reward system to one for #1 and two for #2, then slowly phased even those out.
5) Customize Accident Reaction. I read where you’re supposed to put on a serious, mad face over accidents. Roy’s sensitive and fairly hard on himself, so instinct told me that doing so would only stress the poor kid out. Instead, we assured him that accidents happen and pumped him up to make the next time a success. Another child may benefit from a stern talking to. Accident reaction—the entire potty-training process, for that matter—is not one-size-fits-all. Only you know what tactics will best help your kid.
6) Be Patient. Running to the toilet every five minutes to grunt magnificently over a drop or two of pee is super cute at first. At bedtime, however, a half-a-friggen-hour of that cuteness gets old quick. Remember, he’s mastering a brand new skill. Whether it’s frequent bathroom trips, camping out for eons on the potty or simply moving through the entire toileting process at a glacial pace, this will not go quickly. Stress will only make things worse for both of you. Build extra time into the schedule; devise fun, creative ways to speed things up (Set a timer! Woo-hoo!); and prepare to be infinitely patient. Deep breaths, my friend.
7) Go Public. Before the big day, we were out running errands and Roy kept asking where the bathroom was. After awhile, it dawned on us that with all this talk about using the big potty, little guy wanted to see how that might go down outside of our home. We started making a point of showing him public toilets when we were out and about. It was a disgusting truth at times, but a truth nonetheless.
8) Port a Potty. We regularly brought his little toilet with us on the road at first. No worries about whether or not there was a toilet nearby. Again, setting him up for success. Bonus: It helped avoid some of the aforementioned disgustingness.
9) Stay the Course. As I said up top there, it’s a long road—not three days, and you’re done. Good days will be followed by bad days. Roy’s gone weeks accident-free, only to pee on the carpet twice in one day. When that happens, part of me wants to buy a pack of diapers and call the whole thing off. Instead, we look at the big picture to see if we can’t pinpoint the problem (daycare difficulties, new sibling-induced neediness, etc.), address that as best we can, then attack toilet training with new vigor for a few days.
10) Plan for Positivity. Take a picture of his proud little big boy face and gaze at it. Give yourself a potty prize. Have a plan ready, to use during kick-off and when setbacks occur, for achieving positivity by any means necessary. Again, stress helps no one. I’ve found that a dirty martini after the kids are in bed, however, does.
Anything to add?
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There’s a superpower that comes with having a toddler and an infant: The Ability to Function on Very Little Sleep. Personally, I’d rather have the ability to fly, but we take what we’re given.
Four hours straight? That counts as a full night. Three two-hour increments? Yes, please. Even five consecutive hour-long naps is better than nothing. Which is only a little less than what I got the other night.
I overshot my caffeine intake. Then, on more than one occasion, Roy decided he needed my body (and only my body) next to him in his big boy bed. Vera threw extra nursing sessions and a 3 AM solo dance party into the mix. The next day, I was a drooling, zoned-out shell of a woman with the patience of a hummingbird. So pretty.
My friend Liz up the street has kids roughly the same age as mine. That night, she posted on Facebook: “Need a new bedtime routine for chubby buddy Frank, our current state of affairs is DRIVING ME FRIGGING BONKERS!”
Desperate, yes. But the fact that she possessed the energy to use all caps and an exclamation point told me she had yet to hit bottom.
Liz and I often have super interesting conversations. They go something like this:
Me: “Yeah, we didn’t get much, OK, hey, please stop that Roy. Let’s do something else, OK? Thanks, sweetie. Uh. What was I saying?”
Liz: “Sleep. I know. He cried for two hours straight last night. I don’t, um, Vivi, let’s go upstairs then. Here we go! Up!”
Me: “Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s teething or a growth, uh, whatever. Spurt. Growth spurt. Spurt’s a word, right? Spurt?” [Baby starts crying.] “Hey, little lady! What’s wrong?”
Liz: “Yeah, spurt. I know. Who knows? I’m thinking about letting him cry it out. Here you go, Viv.”
Me: “Shhh. It’s OK. Shhh. Hold on a sec?”
And then we solve world peace. The end.
With Clint it’s an unfair pairing. He’s more well rested, which is good for him. Yay, I’m happy for him, getting all that great rest. So happy.
Working against him: The fact that he’s my husband and therefore should know how to read my damn mind.
Me: “Please put that thing back in the, um, thing for me. Would you?”
Clint: [Pause.] “First: What thing?”
Me, gesturing: “The, uh. You know.”
Clint: “No. I really don’t.
Me: [Staring, with eye daggers.] “C’mon. Help me here.”
Clint: “I want to.”
Me: “Do you? The thing!”
And then he hands me a bottle of really good wine, which I drink, and then I “sleep” all night long. The end.
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We discovered this weekend that Vera loves her some Exersaucer. I could just cry.
This second time around, I feel a little differently about milestones than I did the first. On the one hand, I want my little girl to develop and grow and explore the world around her with ever-increasing curiosity and independence. On the other hand, I want to bind her little limbs and keep her in a calm, dark room in the hopes that she’ll stay my cuddly chubby baby forever.
Mostly I want that first part.
Clint brought the Exersaucer out at my request. Vera strained her neck to check it out as soon as it entered the room. She watched intently as Clint cleaned it off for her, and when we lowered her into it, she beamed and gaped in excitement and disbelief. She struggled to hold her body erect, head wobbling unsteadily, testing new neck muscles. She willed her hands toward the nubby-eared giraffe, then the clear bead-filled tumbler, swatting, Zombie-like. She worked that thing like a bartender at happy hour, giving attention where attention was due, then promptly shifting it all to the next in line.
“The days of the bouncy seat on the kitchen counter are coming to an end,” Clint said.
Endings. They piggyback in on all these amazing beginnings.
I’m more acutely aware of it this time around, because I know how things unfold and I know she’s my last. I did feel the same way with Roy, whom I made pinky-swear on video, before he hit his first birthday, that he’d live with me forever and ever.
I know. There’s a chance it will not hold up in court due to his minor status, blah, blah, blah. A mama can try.
But I also wholeheartedly cheered the first rollover, the first Bumbo session, the first unassisted stand, without this undercurrent of loss.
Mostly, I live on the bright side. This new development buys me more hands-free time, gives her more exercise and mental stimulation and means we’ll soon be able to get rid of a few of the thousand or so cumbersome swings, seats and things we have propped around the house to contain her.
I can’t stand those damn swings and seats.
I miss them already.
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