Thursday, June 21, 2012

Inching upwards

I had just gotten used to the idea that we might be done with the heavy emphasis on nursemaiding our offspring, when 3 a.m. Thursday morning found the little guy suddenly (and shriekingly) ill with some kind of gastrointestinal bug. I bailed on work on Thursday to stay home with the kids; normally that wouldn’t be necessary on what is typically a day off for my wife, but she had other business to attend to (in the realm of new jobs and large-scale career transitions, which I’ve been reluctant to post about because things were still tentative, but look for more info on that hereabouts soon) and, honestly, it’s not that hard to twist my arm and get me to play hooky. And while the 3 a.m. interlude was heartbreaking for how intensely distressed the little guy was in the moment, it passed reasonably quickly, he went back to sleep, and when he woke up at his normal time he was pretty much his normal self, with a healthy appetite and no major complaints for the rest of the day.

At any rate, as always, not going to work meant that I never quite got around to blogging. I’m cheating a bit and backdating this entry to Thursday (because that’s where it belongs) but you are not going crazy if you swear it didn’t really go online until Friday. (Also, Whedon Week will get Part Four later today and Part Five will be pushed into tomorrow. So it goes.)

It’s not easy being responsible for a pair of precocious, willful and energetic tykes, one going on four years old and one closing in on fifteen months. But it is getting easier, however slowly and painfully. Not too long ago I likened the experience of parenting our little ones to crawling uphill over gravel, which might have been overstating the difficulty and/or unpleasantness somewhat, but at least made my wife laugh. But my point was that however exhausting, frustrating and at time painful the process may be, it is a process and it slowly yields progress, as well. The natural, human-nature tendency, for both my wife and myself, is to focus on the ecstasies and the agonies. There are moments when the little guy comes up with something off the wall, like an abstract drawing he makes at school which he describes as “a grape tree … on the beach … in Africa.” And then there are moments where he flat-out refuses to do something simple that he has done a million times before, like brush his teeth at bedtime, apparently out of sheer orneriness. But in between those highs and lows there are (as I try and try to remind myself) lots of smaller moments that really do indicate incremental gains. He’s sweetly, spontaneously helpful sometimes, and while that’s also generally in those areas where the task at hand is something we’ve done a million times before, at least the outcome is in line with what we’d like to expect: we go over it again and again and again and finally, eventually, he does internalize it. It can be supremely enervating by the time we get up to the 900th repeated request, but if it takes 1000 repetitions for the little guy to get it, at least the eventual getting-it does exist out there somewhere.

Which is even more important to bear in mind where the little girl is concerned. My biggest fear (of late) is that I will find myself unwilling to go over something with her 1000 times when I already went over it 1000 times with her brother. That’s grossly unfair to her, of course; it’s not her fault she was born second, and she deserves better than to have me say I feel like I’m already used up. It’s just a tricky balancing act, knowing that molding and guiding a developing human being is a long process of cumulative effects, not a do-it-once-and-its-done proposition, and knowing that we have to make it through that process twice, and there really are no shortcuts, and just generally being ok with that.

Well, maybe there are quasi-shortcuts, like my oft-mentioned weakness for straight-up bribery. Did you know that Disneyland recently converted their entire California Adventure attraction into a life-sized recreation of Radiator Springs from Cars? Importantly, the little guy does not know this – yet. My wife and I looked into it and verified that children must be at least 40 inches tall to ride all the rides. The little guy tops out at about 39 inches as of now, so he’s getting there physically while mentally he is so squarely in the prime target audience window it hurts. It seems inevitable at this point that we will have to figure out a way to get to Anaheim within the next twelve months or so, and I would be shocked if we don’t somehow incorporate the promise-of-reward/threat-of-withholding associated with Carsland into our ongoing behavioral discipline of the little guy sooner than later. With luck, the little girl will help us out by fixating on some Disney property herself right around the same time, so that we can similarly cajole her along with some semblance of resource efficiency. But we shall have to wait and see.

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