|We talked Bug into a haircut--as long as it was still long hair, he said.|
Last week, Little Bug remarked on the gathering fog ahead of us as we walked in the park. He was just far enough away that I didn't hear him clearly, and I replied, using my favorite of his mis-pronunciations, "Yes, it is getting froggy."
"No, Mama Laura," he corrected me earnestly, taking my hand and looking up at me seriously. "Foggy. It's fog-gy."
My heart broke a little, as he rushed on toward childhood, less and less a baby every day. He is a wonderful child, full of jokes, music, love, and laughter, and I wouldn't want trade anything about him. But they change so much faster than we staid and boring adults that the pace is sometimes hard on me.
Keeping up the blog is good for hanging onto the memories. But I've come to realize why there are so many more baby blogs than children blogs. Babies don't do much, and they sleep a lot. Writing is a good way to spend time with the baby, visiting with recent memories while your little one sleeps. Children are a mile-a-minute, and spending time with them requires you to put the computer down and look at them.
The other day Bug was practicing his typing with my iPad, and I was trying to get him to look at a book with me. "Bug," I read, "Where is the green sheep?"
Without looking up he answered distractedly, but not unkindly. "Keep looking, Mama. You'll find it."
And I heard myself. This is why it's so hard to write when I'm not working. Because that's what I sound like when I am working.
So, a little bit of catch-up:
Sometime in the spring, Bug stopped saying "Pig-e-let." We prompted him for it one too many times, and, smart guy that he is, he realized he was a source of amusement. Although he laughs at himself more easily than I do, that was a small affront to his dignity, and he picked up that the rest of us were saying "Piglet."
But it didn't lessen how much he loved the little pink guy, whom he carried everywhere.
We were taking a plane home from San Francisco (his new favorite place) on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, and it heightened everybody's anxiety. Little Bug was making his way through security (somewhat more smoothly than he had last fall in Puerto Rico, when he took off through the maze of machines, and for some reason the TSA folks let us chase him down without getting too wound up about it). We had talked about what was going to happen, and he was preparing to let Jennifer carry him through the machine with Piglet in his arms.
A TSA officer, though, insisted that the stuffed guy was going through the x-ray tunnel.
Bug burst into tears as his best friend disappeared.
As we tried to assemble stroller, shoes, belts, computers, and diaper bag, Little Bag stood at the end of the x-ray machine and watched for Piglet, fiercely determined and unblinking.
When he could reach him, he gathered Piglet in his arms and took off at a dead run, determined to escape with his friend.
If I'm ever unjustly detained by unreasonable security officials, Bug is the stalwart, brave guy I want at my side.
(And if I ever see an adult in sagging pants and socks running across an airport after a toddler with a stuffed animal, I'll remember having been there...)
March: On the moral order of the universe...
"Mama Laura, are goats naughty, or polite?" asked Bug as we strolled past them at the little zoo nearby.
I was nearly stumped, which happens rather a lot. "Hmm. I guess they are full of mischief, and eat laundry and all sorts of things they shouldn't, so I'd have to say naughty."
"What about peacocks? Are they naughty or polite?"
"Well...polite I suppose. I've never heard of them doing anything mean, and they are delightful and beautiful when they are free to wander."
Trying to guess what was behind the questions, I asked, "Bug, are you naughty or polite?"
"Oh, naughty!" he said with a smile full of mischief. And while he enjoyed my subsequent praise of his good qualities, he didn't change his position.
The next day, he was on the swings at the park and we watched a girl, about 7, have a full-throated tantrum about going home.
Bug: "Mama, what's wrong with that girl?"
me: "I guess she's not ready to leave the park, and is having a lot of feelings about it." We do a few more rounds of this, as I name what her feelings might be: angry, sad, disappointed, maybe also hungry and tired, which make everything worse. It's clear I'm not getting to the heart of the matter in his mind.
"But what's wrong with her?"
"She's having a fit because she's mad at her mom." Slightly moralizing, I add, "You know, you almost never have tantrums. If something doesn't go the way you hoped, you usually just say, 'Oh well.'"
"Yeah, but I throw my dinner on the floor."
That night, he did his one truly rotten behavior, something that had all but faded away: he flung his dinner plate, full of food, at the wall. "Mama, that was naughty!"
The moral order of the universe was restored. The pressure to be polite-guy was off his shoulders. Our Bug could be naughty if he liked.
February: If you give a boy a truck...
It's February, and I'm teaching the gender-disparities in early childhood literature in my Biology of Difference class. We're reading Lise Eliot in Pink Brain, Blue Brain and Anne Fausto-Sterling in Sex/Gender, who argue that the sex differences in brains and perception in children under 2 are small, the studies that show them have been poorly replicated, and the differences themselves are highly malleable. Furthermore, they are mostly statistical artifacts, in the sense that there is more difference among boys and among girls than between the two groups, so you have to massage the data to even produce them. By the time children are two, though, they suggest that we have often produced significant differences in gendered play, likes and dislikes. The class had been reading and watching some un-sourced and highly exaggerated popular media representations of the scientific literature on these slight differences, including how these (supposedly biological) differences are amplified in later childhood. "If you give a girl trucks," says a media figure, commenting on how girls are relational, boys competitive and individualistic, "she'll have Mommy trucks and baby trucks." (Not so much, say the data, but never mind).
The next morning, I am playing with Little Bug and dragging my feet about going to work. He is baking a cake in his play oven, because, he says, we're going to celebrate his birthday (6 months early, but who cares). He takes a pot stuffed with vegetables out of the oven (it's a carrot cake), and carefully lays out plates. Then he pulls his trucks around in a circle, and we all sing happy birthday.
If you give a boy trucks, they'll have a party.
January: Proud, Proud, Proud
On January 12, shortly after 9 pm, in one heart-stopping and unforgettable moment, Little Bug leaned out over the landing between the second and first floors of our house and fell headlong down the stairs. He bounced off his face before Jennifer caught him, stopping his momentum before he broke his legs, which were tangled in the posts under the bannister. He came up bleeding and sobbing. We didn't know it until we got to the ER, but he had knocked out two teeth.
After we'd been at the hospital about 20 minutes, Bug had stopped crying and we were in a room. Jennifer hadn't put him down since we got there except briefly to have him stand on a scale. A nurse came by and asked, "Are we sure he can walk?" This was a good question, since we knew he'd gotten both legs caught. We asked him if his legs hurt and he said no. Jennifer put him down and we asked him to walk to the bed. His legs wobbled crazily, he staggered. I felt dizzy. He clearly had neurological damage, or maybe something was horribly broken. "Pick him up!" I cried, terribly upset.
Jennifer put him on the bed. The nurse examined him--head, neck, chest, abdomen. Amazingly, except for the blood all over his face, not a mark on him. She moved his legs, then asked him to press her with them. They were strong as ever.
"Were you just joking?" asked the nurse.
And then our boy, looking like a vampire, drooling blood, grinned a face-splitting grin. "I played a trick on you!" he said, laughing out loud.
When the doctor came, he repeated the performance, which worked almost as well the second time, because his mamas were hysterical. The doc was so floored by the whole thing that he collected residents and nurses and came back. Bug did it again.
A few days later, as we tried to adjust to his new smile and swollen face (and persuade ourselves that we were not the absolute worst parents on earth), we asked Little Bug how he was feeling about his new look.
"I can't tell you, I have to sing it," he said. And he grabbed his ukelele, and sang, "Proud, proud, proud, proud."
I grabbed my camera. And cried.