Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.

I read somewhere that in terms of intensity and magnitude, the brain development that goes on in children between the ages of 2 and 5 is rivaled only by the changes people go through at puberty. They're developing language at a colossal pace, something like an average of 10 new words a day, they're learning to exert their independence at the same time that they're being required to start controlling their impulses -- everything everything everything is changing enormously.

Which is to say that living like a 2-year-old is sort of like running an asylum for a very short mental patient with a bipolar diagnosis. Or a 14-year-old girl.

One minute everything is happiness and sweetness. Chattering and singing songs and dancing and being so fucking adorable I can hardly stand it.

Then suddenly, and often without warning, his face will cloud over and he'll pitch himself onto the floor for a tantrum.

And I'm all, "what just happened? I thought we were having fun?"

I never know which it's going to be. Driving from work to pick up my children involves steeling myself for a potentially difficult night, with much oppositional behavior and fussing, only to find that Zeke is in a stellar mood and we have an evening of playing and laughing and an easy bedtime.*

Or, like last Tuesday night, Zeke will have a great swimming lesson, but then be pissed off that he has to get out of the pool, so he'll proceed to wail in the middle of the Montclair Rec Center and run out into the court of an ongoing youth basketball game, so that I have to put the baby down in her carseat in the middle of the hallway, chase after Zeke, and carry him screaming out of the building. The whistle of the basketball game scares the shit out of Josie and startles her awake and she starts to cry, so I'm carrying both crying children (plus the diaper bag and my purse) through the parking lot while people stop and stare and wonder whether there's an iPod app containing all the numbers of Child and Family Services offices nationwide so that they can make an quick call.

But progress is being made.

Zeke has been interested in the toilet and in talking about pee and poop for awhile. Whereas when we went to the zoo, we used to talk about and list the animals we saw, now we talk about the kind of poop we see. "See elephant poo-poo." "See rhino poo-poo." "See hippo poo-poo." I'd probably be annoyed by it if I didn't find it so goddamned funny.

We bought him a little potty and have been encouraging him to use it, but so far he hasn't wanted to. We haven't pushed it, because we figure he'll do it when he's ready, and I wasn't even going to start worrying about formal potty training until he was 3.

And then all of a sudden, this past Saturday, he said he wanted to use the potty. I took him in there and sat him down and kept him company for awhile, but nothing was happening. So I said, "well, let me know if you need help," and I went into the kitchen.

A couple of minutes later, he came to me and said, "I went pee-pee in the potty."

"Really?" I asked.


"Let me see!"

He took me by the hand and took me into the bathroom and sure enough, there was pee in the potty. I was so excited and effusive in my praise that I think it scared him a little.

Now we've started a prize chart for him, so he can work on sitting on the potty and using "nice hands" (not hitting or pinching), and every time he does, he gets a sticker on his chart and after 3 stickers per behavior, he gets to pick out a prize (ice cream, a new book, McDonald's french fries, whatever). Slowly but surely, the prize chart is filling up with stickers. And he's starting to internalize the relationship between positive behaviors and positive rewards. It's fantastic.

So while he definitely has rough nights, sometimes involving numerous time-outs for hitting or acting out, more and more, there are nights like last night, when he peed in the potty twice and we spent an hour before bedtime reading books, wrestling and giggling, until he snuggled up against me and said "I love you, Mama," and planted a big kiss on my cheek.

It makes the craziness pretty easy to stomach.

*Josie plays no role in the difficulty, as she remains the easiest baby I've ever encountered. Never fusses, smiles and coos, and goes to bed on schedule and sleeps like a champ. God, I love that girl.


  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Way to go, Zekey!


  2. I know, we're so proud of him!

  3. Hee-hee. "Nice hands". Love it.

    I never thought of Walt as being like a 14 year old girl, but OH MY GOD. What a perfect analogy. And yeah, if one thing doesn't go his way, it has the potential to cause complete dissatisfaction with everything from then on out.

    I was going to wait until potty training for the chart, but you made me realize we can start it now. Our challenge is not throwing toys.