Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just numbers

I've been making offhand references all this week about the baby's birthday party, which was indeed an event that happened and was by and large pleasant and without incident. I straight up admitted to a couple of my buddies that the party was really a celebration of my wife and I surviving one whole year of having three kids who were all five-and-under, which is why the entire thrust of the get-together was to have over our own adult friends and family for pizza and beer. There happened to be kids there because our friends happen to have kids, so it all worked out. There was also cake decorated with chocolate frogs, which was a big hit, particularly with the guest of honor himself, who snorfled up at least two of the chocolate frogs in the time it took us to sing him "Happy Birthday." He had no idea, on the other hand, what to do about the burning candle atop the cake, but fortunately his big sister and even bigger brother were there to lend a lungful or two. I should probably point out, too, that the bigger kids were very good and gracious about not being the centers of attention at the party, and managed to be genuinely helpful during the obligatory present-unwrapping, as opposed to insanely jealous in full hostile takeover mode.

So the baby is one year old and has been properly, officially feted as such. But of course 1 is just a number, and he's still the same, in most meaningful senses, as he was a couple of weeks ago. I feel like I'm changing a bit, though, which may be due to subconscious awareness of this new phase of his life, or may be pure coincidence. Either way, a switch has certainly been thrown in my brain, and I find myself using The Scolding Tone with the baby nowadays, whereas previously I would have considered that a waste of time and energy. Used to be that if he were getting into something he shouldn't I would just wordlessly pick him up and redirect him, like he were some kind of mindless wind-up toy.

Awwwww ... oh, I mean, AHHHHHHH!!!!!.

But of late I have actually been breaking out the big booming "NO." ... just before going over and picking him up and redirecting him. Still, clearly, in my mind I have determined he is now old enough to at least start laying the ground work of listening to his parents/elders as to what is and is not acceptable behavior. This may also have something to do with the fact that he is getting bigger and stronger every day, and is finding new and interesting ways to give us heart attacks every day, e.g. figuring out how to pop the "baby-proofed" outlet covers right out of the sockets. You had best believe that once he demonstrated that skill, he started hearing "NO." whenever he got within arm's reach of a wall outlet. And to his credit, while I've known many a babe (my older two included, in their day) who burst into uncontrollable sobbing the first time they hear a negatory word, or really anything in a tone of voice other than cooing adoration, our baby does not fall into that category. He is nothing if not mellow, and while saying "NO." does stop him in his tracks, it also prompts him to look at the speaker with a certain relaxed yet expectant attitude, as if to say, "Is there a problem here?" I have not yet fallen into the trap of actually attempting to explain my reasoning to a one year old. But that exasperated day is probably not too far off.

Speaking of exasperation, the other day the little girl took it into her head to destroy a piece of arts-n-crafts that the little guy had painstakingly assembled. This was not an entirely capricious act, I believe there was a retaliatory component at play, but deserved turnabout or not, the little guy was horrified. But what he said to me was, "When is her birthday?" And I told him it was a few weeks away (true) and he nodded sadly and said, "OK. And when she turns three, she'll act better, right?" Which of course broke my heart a little. I have been telling the little guy to go easy on his sister and not expect too much of her, because she's only two. And he's toed that line admirably. But apparently he's also been nursing an expectation that when she turns three a magic switch will be thrown in her head and she'll be much easier to deal with, and it kills me to have to disabuse him of that notion. But we all have to live with each other through all the difficult phases and ages, so we might as well all be on the same page.

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