Yesterday when I picked up my little guy from day care he was with his class out on the small, enclosed playground behind their room, and he was wearing the following ensemble: a gray zip-up hoodie, jeans shorts (technically jeans shorts overalls but I couldn’t see the bib because it was covered by the hoodie), bright fire-engine red socks and blue/black sneakers. Perhaps needless to say, I thought this was almost excruciatingly adorable, largely because to my eye he looked like a miniaturized college student who has passed the crucial sartorial threshold where comfort and function far outweigh how visually jarring any given ensemble might be. The fact that the hoodie in question came from the bookstore of the college where my father-in-law teaches no doubt enhanced this to a certain degree.
Daycare has been going very well for the little guy since he moved up to the two-year-old room; for example, there has been a steep decline in the number of biting-incident (both biter and bitee) report forms I’ve been required to sign at pickup time. My boy seems to be enjoying the whole quasi-school experience, but of course that’s one of those unknowable-because-observation-changes-quantum-state kinds of things. When I show up after work and he grins and gives me a hug, does that mean he’s thrilled to see me because he hates daycare and can’t wait to leave and I represent his deliverance? Or does it simply mean he’s a well-adjusted kid? I believe it’s the latter, but honestly I’d be inclined to choose to believe the latter barring the most undeniable evidence to the contrary.
There’s the second-hand evidence of the daily report sheet filled out on his behalf every day, which includes a checklist of general moods. The little guy was on a streak of like 100 “happy/cheerful” days in a row, and then suddenly for two or three consecutive days his mood was noted as merely “content” and of course that got my wife and I scratching our heads and we figured we’d at least ask the caretakers if there was something else we needed to know about. Which got us an assurance that the moods are generally gauged in the morning and our super special little snowflake was almost always his normal exuberant self by the afternoon (as I myself could attest) … and then of course ever since we asked his form has said “happy/cheerful” again. So … just a micro-phase, possibly a growth spurt which made him sleep harder and rise and shine only with difficulty and take a while warming up at daycare? Or did the providers of care just decide to arbitrarily assign him happiness and cheer so that we, the parents, would stop nervously obsessing over it? Unknowables abound.
It’s pretty much a given, though, that the kid is developing a little more emotional complexity every day, which honestly is to be expected in a fully functioning human being, I suppose. Especially when one comes from stock on both sides of, shall we say, heightened sensitivity. As toddlerhood becomes tweenerhood (with intermediate steps along the way, sure, but I’m led to believe it ends up seeming like a blink of an eye) it may be a bumpy ride, but at least my wife and I have personal recollections to relate it all back to. For whatever that’s worth.
On Monday when we were mounting the climactic final offensive on the weeds marauding over our lawn, my wife and I had to decide at one point how much we could reasonably accomplish before the little guy’s nap. Ultimately we decided, since he seemed to be in a sustainably good mood, that his nap could be delayed somewhat and we could all three head to the nursery and garden center for a whole lot of supplies. In theory, we would then come home, put him down for his nap, and get a couple of hours of uninterrupted horticulture knocked out. And to his credit, the little guy was exceptionally well-behaved at the garden center, and everything seemed to be humming along according to plan, and just as we were about to leave and only needed to wait for the massive bags of mulch we had ordered to be loaded into our trunk, the little guy just burst into miserable tears. It wasn’t because he had injured himself and wasn’t because someone had said no to him, it was as if he had simply hit a wall. (Which is certainly a feeling his parents can relate to about a butt-zillion times over.) Had we overreached, carting him around on errands at a time he would normally be catching zzz’s? Or was it just another one of his mercurial moods? For that matter, when we did get him home shortly thereafter, upon completion of a car ride that put him soundly asleep, and we tried to transfer him to his crib and spent the next hour or so listening to him on the baby monitor very clearly wide awake (alternately talking to himself and whining for mommy and daddy) was it just a case of the worst timing in the world for him to have a no-nap day when we were trying to have a relandscape-the-whole-lot day? Or had we brought it on ourselves? This is one of the major struggles I foresee as all three of us keep on trucking down the highway together. My wife and I can relate to crazy highs and lows, overreactions, furious passions (or passionate furies) and all that, and we’ll never look at our child’s outbursts and say “Dude, I just don’t get you.” But at the same time, that actually makes us more likely to fret over how we could possibly smooth things out better for him, to make the more unpleasant highs and lows and extremes unnecessary in the first place. Because we should have learned it for ourselves by now, right? (We haven’t, of course. But we remain convinced we should have.)