Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trilogy of Terrors

Gather ‘round, beastly boys and ghostly girls, and prepare to have your spine tingled, your blood curdled, and your myocardium thoroughly discombobulated. I bring you many tales of doings both gruesome and foul: Dismemberment! Plague! The barking of hellhounds! Crawling things with fangs and claws!


Of course I’d be highly susceptible to finding any excuse to tie in my usual brood updates to SPOOKTOBERFEST, but it really wasn’t much of a stretch at all this time. I’ll start with the loss of limb story, which is not as bad as it sounds (but almost): the other day the little guy was playing with his prize possession, his large talking Buzz Lightyear action figure, and he brought the space ranger in for a particularly heavy-footed landing which snapped one of the legs right off its plastic joint. This was not a pop-out, pop-back-in injury, unfortunately; the armature was sheared through and it would have taken a miracle to superglue it back together in any lasting way that still allowed full motion of the limb. The little guy, as you can imagine, was devastated, and in a heartbreakingly inward-facing way because he had done the damage himself, however accidentally. Through his tears, he was grappling with some heavy existential questions: “I know toys don’t last forever and things break,” he sobbed to me, “but WHY can’t they last forever? Why aren’t things made so that they NEVER break?” (When I figure out a good answer for that one I will get back to him, and all of you.)

The one consolation I was able to offer the little guy was that Christmas is coming and maybe, if he decides it’s what he really wants, a brand new Buzz Lightyear toy could be one of his big presents then. That actually did the trick of calming him down and reinvigorating his sense that life is still worth living. Honestly, “prize possession” barely scratches the surface. The little guy has taken to referring to Buzz as his brother and telling people that he is one of four children (still first in the birth order, although Buzz has leapfrogged ahead of the little girl and the baby) - which was hilariously confusing this past weekend when we attended a family wedding and various great-uncles and -aunts and second cousins tried having conversations with the little guy, who carried the at that point still unbroken Buzz everywhere we went.

At any rate, the little guy’s grasp of time intervals like weeks, months and seasons is still iffy at best, so all he really knows is that Christmas will get here before, say, his next birthday, and he’s hanging in there until then. In the meantime, he’s resolved to make the best of things (as resilient little kids often do). The opening sequence of Toy Story 2, as you may or may not recall, is a mini Buzz versus Zurg epic that ends with Zurg blasting Buzz and atomizing him from the waist up (because it’s just a video game that Rex is incapable of beating). The little guy still plays with one-legged Buzz, and often re-enacts said opening, and switches most-of-Buzz for just-his-leg when the moment comes that Zurg fries the rest of him. I find this hilarious pretty much every time.

Moving on, the aforementioned disease and unholy animal noises all belonged to the little girl, I am afraid, who came down with some kind of nasty virus in the wake of our roadtrip which brought on the barking croup. My wife and I noted that this will probably go down in the record books as possibly the only time one of our children will time a bout of sickness in any way favorably. The little girl did not get sick before the trip, which would have caused us to question going at all, nor when we were all trapped in a car or hotel room together, but held off until we were home. And at that point it was the eve of a holiday, so I was planning on staying home anyway. She never got any symptoms worse than a high fever and the insidious lung-rattle, which of course came on strongest at night when everything settled horizontally in her chest. We shuttled her back and forth from her bed to ours, administered pain and fever reducers, gave her midnight juice boxes, &c. She’s on the mend, it’s just one of those things.

And her baby brother has been contending with a few of those things, as well. Not creeping crud, as our first pediatrician used to colorfully refer to it, but the baby is the crawly creature I alluded to above. His fangs are two front lower teeth which are well-emerged and two front upper teeth with are just peeking through. And his suprisingly strong, grabby little fingers have the sharpest little fingernails I’ve ever been gouged by. But the big news is that he has achieved independent locomotion, however herpetological and belly-scraping, and therefore we are now DOOOOOOOOOOMED. Can’t take your eyes off him for a second or he’ll be halfway across the floor and getting into something he shouldn’t. I don’t recall if I ever said it hereabouts, but having two children is exponentially harder than having one. In the same vein, now, having two elder siblings to the baby just learning to wriggle around the room at will, we have exponentially more choking hazards scattered about than we ever did the last couple times we went through this phase. So that’s fun.

But between the physical pain and trauma of teething (and its snot-engendering side-effects) and the neurological mania of learning to crawl (his brain is on fire) the baby has regressed significantly on the sleeping-through-the-night front. I try to cast my mind back to how we survived this stage with the other two children, but of course the times when I’m least likely to retain and remember things are the times when I’m mentally exhausted. (As always, I concede that my own fatigue is not a patch on my wife’s, since the bulk of the comfort-via-nursing strategy for making it through the night rest solely on her.) I have a vague sense that this was the precedent-setting pattern: avoid sleep-training the little one, let him/her naturally get better and better at sleeping longer and longer, which works for a while, then the little one backslides, so we swing fully into sleep-training mode, telling ourselves that it’s actually more of a sleep-reminding since they were doing so well before some developmental milestone or other upset the cherub cart. Something like that? And that’s probably where we’re headed now.

Again, it’s only (well, mostly) in the spirit of this macabre month that I’m dwelling on the negative here. By and large things with the kids are as fun and fascinating as ever. No need to worry … unless that wailing you hear coming from down the hall in the middle of the night doesn’t belong to anyone among the living … (LIGHTNING THUNDER MUUWAAHAAHAAHAAAAAAAAaaaa)

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