toddler


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I had one of those days today.  The ones where I just want to go home, get a hug from my mom and curl up in bed and be thankful that unlike other (real) parents, I can go home and detox from the crazy little munchkins that rule my life.

Calling Bunny a handful would be like calling the grand canyon a crevice. If there is one word to describe him, it’s volatile. But no, today I’m not going to get into Bunny’s extensive behavioral issues. No, I’ll save that for when I’m really in need of blogging fodder. Today, there was one main issue that really, well, for lack of a better term, freaked me out.

It was almost time for me to go home and after an excruciatingly long day with the two of them (damn you Easter/Passover!) I was looking forward to collapsing in a heap on my bed. Of course, just when I think that Bunny is really shaping up, he reminds me why it is that I am so thankful for the fact that he has school five days a week now. I was giving Bunny and Buddha a bath this evening, which under normal circumstances would have been a somewhat daunting task anyway. But the fact that Buddha had only napped for 40 minutes this morning was not helping matters. Mostly, however, it was Bunny’s ever increasing hysterics that were beginning to unravel me. Though I had calmly given him a twelve minute warning (and then reminded him again at 5 and 2 minutes respectively) that we would have to collect his toys and head inside, he had adamantly refused to cooperate and instead had insisted on yelling and sprinting wildly through the backyard before finally flinging himself in a small pool of mud that he had previously created with the garden hose. We were already a good twenty minutes off schedule by the time I finally had settled him down enough to be able to go inside and start the bath. Anyway, despite my best efforts at redirection and my reminders that he needed to control himself and settle down, he continued to spiral out of control, only becoming semi-calm for moments at a time – just long enough to fool me into believing that it would stick.

In the immediate minutes following, despite my warnings, threats and directions he pulled Buddha’s hair, took away his bath toys, and poured water on his head. In any other moment, I would have taken him out of the tub and secluded him outside so he could be by himself and calm down, however Winifred had planned on taking the boys out to dinner at five and it was already five after five so I did my best to protect Buddha while simultaneously trying to scrub the mud and grime off of the both of them. So when the incident happened in the tub, I was on my eighth hour at work and frazzled.

“What are you doing?” I asked in my most calm voice possible despite the fact that I wanted to rip him out of the tub and send him outside, mud, water, sand and all.

“I’m putting my penis in Buddha’s bottom.” He informed me in a rather pleased tone. And indeed he was attempting to do just that. Sitting directly behind Buddha he had scooted forward and was tugging at his penis directing it straight towards Buddha’s unsuspecting little heiner crack.

“That is not okay.” I replied in an as matter-of-fact tone as I could muster.
“Bunny, stop.” I instructed him, giving him a moment to acquiesce before continuing.
“That is not alright. You need to keep your penis to yourself.” And with that I put my hand on his shoulder and urged him to the other side of the tub.

Maybe if it had ended there, I wouldn’t have worried, however, less than a minute later, as I was reaching for the shampoo behind me, I caught him, yet again, straddling Buddha while touching his penis to his bottom. Perhaps  too harshly, I  again demanded that he stop immediately and reiterated that he keep his penis to himself.

“Why?” He asked me defiantly while laughing.

Refusing to be baited into one of his classic arguments I simply repeated that he needed to control his behavior and keep his body away from Buddha’s. This is the same mantra I use whenever he is physically aggressive towards Buddha (hitting, kicking, pushing etc.) When he refused to back off, I picked up a fussy, sudsy Buddha and placed him on the opposite end of the tub, instructing Bunny to stand up while I finished rinsing him off.

Finally, after a full blown tantrum during which I had to physically drag a kicking and screaming Bunny out of the tub and out of the bathroom itself, and after I consoled, dried and dressed a cranky Buddha and had buckled him into his car seat, I dashed inside to have a quick word with Winifred while Dr. Doormat was helping Bunny into the car.

I’m not sure what I expected from her, but considering she’s an LCSW, her off-handed reaction was certainly not it. With a nonchalant scoff and a roll of her eyes she explained, unperturbed that some of “the kids at school are playing that game” and that she herself had previously witnessed a similar interaction with one of his friends in the showers after swim class. Flabbergasted I shared with her what I had said to Bunny about keeping his body/penis to himself and she nodded, adding that that was practically verbatim what she had told him earlier. And with that, she brushed me off and hurried out the door.

Maybe I’m completely overreacting. Maybe my radar is too sensitive to these things, but something does not sit right with me about this at all.
Last October we found out that one of my other moonbeams, little Abuelito, had been sexually abused by a young male, teenage sitter and the way it came to his parents’ attention was due to his acting out the molestation with another child.

So perhaps, I’m simply overly cautious  from that experience, but I just have a bad feeling about this.

My father has seven brothers, of which at least two were/are excessively friendly with some of us female nieces. One of my very first memories, albeit fuzzy, dark and faded, is of being an underwear clad four year old exclaiming “no” to my uncle MoFo in response to his behind-grabbing invitation to sit in his lap. I learned very quickly to try and avoid him at all costs. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to deem it abuse, especially as I have no definitive memories of him doing anything more than simply touching inappropriately and making lewd comments, it definitely makes me that much more inclined to want to protect Bunny and Buddha at all costs.

I’ve been pouring through my child development textbook and reading all I can online and haven’t been able to find anything definitive regarding this type of sexual play in children. On the one hand, play acting and exploration are a normal part of a child’s burgeoning sexuality, but the incredibly specific nature of this incident doesn’t feel like ‘normal’ playing to me. It’s not as though I don’t have experience with the sexual explorations of young children. I’ve been witness to preschool boys comparing penises and of young siblings touching themselves or each other in the bath, but I have never seen anything to this extent before and it unsettles me. And what’s worse is Winifred’s off-handed reaction to it all. Up to this point, I haven’t really disagreed (and if I have, I’ve kept it to myself) about any of her parenting choices, but it makes me uncomfortable that we have such drastically different points of view about this.

And again, it’s very likely that I’m overreacting, but I talked to my mom about it today when I got home and asked her to please call a child therapist friend of hers so I can get an unbiased, professional opinion about it. I guess I’d just rather be safe than sorry.

In the past two months Buddha has grown by leaps and bounds (literally sometimes) and I realized that his babyhood is slowly fading away and that I better freaking write all this down so I can remember later on. Plus, I have this secret fear that there’s something wrong with him (a result of his traumatic birth) and by documenting his milestones and development I’m thinking I can catch something if there actually is something to catch. Which there probably isn’t and I’m being paranoid, but whatever.

Anyway. His verbal skills are improving. Not so much the quantity of new words but the quality of them. Practically every day he surprises me by pronouncing something just a little bit better than he could the day before. He does, however, say two new very distinct words one of which is “cat” which surprisingly enough he pronounces perfectly. The other is “brahbeh” which is how he pronounces Barabas. (The fact that he’s Jewish just makes this even funnier.) One of the neighbors has a dog, whom she lovingly named Barabas (She’s Winifred’s boss otherwise I’d totally interrogate her about it.) and Buddha likes to chase the pup around calling out “Brahbeh! Brahbeh!.” Also, we have figured out that apparently all those times when we thought he was saying and signing “fish” he was actually saying “nurse.” Heh. Poor kid.

His musical inclinations are incredibly obvious. He is constantly singing. His baby babbles are almost always to a beat or rhythm and often times have a bit of a tune. It’s delightfully amusing to just sit and watch him eat his food whilst belting his heart out.

His problem solving and logic skills, while fascinating to observe, are unfortunately requiring us (me) to be super hard-core vigilant. Last week he figured out how to reach up and turn the knobs on the stove, so we had to take them off and put them in a drawer so he wouldn’t be able to turn on any of the burners. Well, just today he pulled a fast one on me. We have several baby gates set up so that when he’s in the living room, he’s sort of in an enclosed space and can’t venture into the laundry room, or any of the bedrooms or bathrooms. Unfortunately the kitchen and dining room aren’t separated from the living room by any doors or walls. Well, mister Buddha walked over to one of the baby gates and grabbed one of the step stools that we have set up for Bunny so he can get over them, and then proceeded to push it all the way across the room, into the kitchen and placed it directly in front of the stove. Before I knew it, he was standing on the stool and pushing the buttons that control the oven. Less than a half hour after I told him no and removed both him and the stool, I found him with a different stool in front of the stove. Well this time, in his glee he managed to fall off and ended up making a total face plant on the kitchen floor which split his lip. After he was sufficiently calmed down and contentedly sucking on a teething toy to soothe his lip, I again removed the stool and figured that maybe this incident would have taught him a lesson.
No such luck.
Apparently the logic of that is still a wee bit too advanced for him because later on in the afternoon I had to remove him, yet again, from his perch in front of the stove.*sigh*
Overall though, he’s not really a high maintenance kid. Most definitely not like Bunny, anyway. Yes, he enjoys pulling Bunny’s t-shirts from their hangers and taking all the socks out of his drawer but generally speaking, he’s not overly mischievous – just incredibly enthusiastic and insanely merry. He delights in the simplest things. From how a straw pops up from one of his cups to how he can open and close to drawers, to just running around and giving people hugs. He’s truly an extraordinarily cheerful little guy. On many occasions I’ll hear him giggling only to see that he’s simply cracking himself up.

What a kid.

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Buddha is an incredibly verbal child. He especially loves to sing. Not a waking hour goes by that he does not spontaneously burst into song. It’s one of my favorite things about him; his unabashed merriness. As far as widely recognizable words, though, he’s largely uninterested in those. Since his first birthday, however, he’s been making considerable progress in the area of communication.

Agua – “Oooah”
All Done – “Gah Gah” + sign
Baby – “Beh beeh”
Ball – “Baah”
Book “Buh”
Bunny – “Eeeoh”
Bye bye – “Buh bah” + wave
Car – “Cgah”
Daddy – “Dah dah”
More – sign
Shoe – Ssssh
Star – sign

So far he can say/sign half a dozen words, which just absolutely thrills me to no end.
You’ll notice, however, that neither “mama” or “turtle” are on that list of words he knows. This has perplexed me for quite some time since he’s been saying ‘Dah Dah’ now for about six months and has recently (within the last two months) begun referring to Bunny as ‘Eeeoh’. I found it to be rather odd that he wouldn’t even attempt to refer to either of us, ever.
Winifred, of course, is bent on teaching him to say ‘Mama.’ She refers to herself in third person when talking to him and repeats the sounds ‘mamamamama’ with him over and over again. Well, I, obviously, have been trying to get him to call me by my name. And recently this past week he began saying, but only with a lot of prodding, the first consonant in my name when referring to me. This was supremely exciting for me and I’m not ashamed to say, really the highlight of my entire month.

Except today he called me “Maahm” and then “Maah”

Twice.
Completely out of the blue and both times specifically reaching his arms out towards me so there really was no doubt as to whom he was referring to.
Thankfully, Winifred wasn’t home when this happened but it kind of unsettled me anyway. When she did get home, I specifically exclaimed “Look! It’s mom! Mama’s home!” in hopes that he would get the queue and use his brand new word on the correct recipient.

No such luck.

The thing is, I have made zero attempt to refer to myself as mom and in fact, have been somewhat overly zealous in trying to get him to say the real world equivalent of ‘Tortuguita’. I don’t really understand why or how he has suddenly decided to use the word on me, instead of Winifred.

The real problem is that part of me feels strangely pleased, as though, in his own Buddha way, he’s acknowledged my importance to him and has validated my role in his life.

Except the moment I’m done thinking this, that stupid, obnoxious voice that always interrupts the protagonists in cheesy movies kicks in and condescendingly exclaims –

“That is way creepy. As in totally ‘Hand that Rocks the Cradle‘ kind of creepy.” And I immediately feel incredibly evil but defend myself anyway with.

“No! I just love him, that’s all.”

“Right.”

“And besides, I spend just as many waking hours, if not more, with him than she does.”

“Creeper.”

“So why wouldn’t he think of me as his mother?”

“Yeah, okay, Peyton.”

“Shut up, that is so different. I’m not trying to sleep with Dr. Doormat or destroy Winifred out of revenge.”

“Maybe not but you wouldn’t exactly don a black veil if she croaked.”

“Just because I don’t like her very much doesn’t mean I want her to die so I can raise her kids.”

“Whatever you say, oh wicked one.”

“Go to hell.”

“After you, Empress of Evil.”

“Go away.”

“Sure thing, Corrupt Caretaker.”

“Stop.”

“Execrable employee.”

“Oh brother.”

“Sick Sinful Sitter.”

“Cut it out.”

“Malicious Mentor.”

*sigh*

“Baneful Babysitter.”

“Are you done yet?”

“One more. Nasty Nefarious Nanny.”

At which point I realize that despite her nauseating synonym savviness, my incredibly irksome alter ego has a bit of a point and I am left feeling altogether very unpleasant because not only is there a good possibility I am evil but I’m probably a little crazy too.

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Dance first. Think Later. It’s the natural order.
– Samuel Beckett

Bunny has the rhythm of a dead chicken; he absolutely cannot dance to save his life. At one point I made it my personal mission to try and teach him but even basic skills like keeping a beat ended in miserable failure. So, when Buddha was born I decided it was time to move on. Here was some new clay to molded. The fact that I have been singing to him daily since the day he was born has not been for naught. The kid loves music. He’s constantly singing – even while he nurses, which is hilarious and incredibly cute.

Dr. D listens to either Stevie Wonder or Air America, both of which are excellent, but they’re not exactly varied. And generally, Winifred doesn’t play music because it just adds to her sensory stress. So, the task of exposing him to diverse forms of music has been left up to me – one which I have been more than pleased to take on.

For the past month or so we’ve been listening to a lot of rock. I knew it was time for a change when it became apparent that Buddha’s favorite song was Novocaine by Greenday. So I worked on a new mix, this one focusing on some fast beat dance rhythms.

As is our custom after lunch, Buddha and I were having one of our dance-a-thons. I was having a blast, dancing away and I was busy shaking my badonkadonk to Sean Paul’s Temperature when I realized that Buddha was not enthusiastically participating. In fact, he was staring at me with a look of grim disdain and upon catching my eye, he shook his head, declared “goh goh” and signed “all done.”

Damn.

I just got baby burned.

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I was absently thinking about the word scrotum (okay, seriously, when will I ever get another chance to start a blog entry like that?) when this suddenly came back to me.
Bunny is an incredibly stubborn child. Moreso than your average kid. He is defiant and contrary and that’s just the way he is and nobody is gonna change him because they can’t because he’s the boss of himself, so there. When he was three, he was theoretically potty trained. As in, he was perfectly capable of knowing when he had to go, he would simply choose not to when he felt like it. When he did feel like going to the bathroom, he would insist on doing so in the most unique ways he could think of. For a while he would only go if he was straddling the toilet seat backwards. At one point, he insisted on peeing by laying across the toilet face down, so his penis was literally pointing straight down into the toilet bowl. And in moments when he was feeling particularly defiant, he would simply inform us that he was pooping or peeing in his pants, and then do exactly that.

Eventually, I learned to stop feeding the attention hoarding behavior of his and when he resorted to pooping as a control tactic, I would simply walk him to the bathroom, hand him a box of wipes and let him clean himself up. After he was through, I’d do a “heiner inspection” to make sure he was fully clean and we would go about our business, so to speak.
On one of these occasions, I was in the middle of something else when I realized that he was taking a rather long time in the bathroom. I poked my head in and asked what the hold up was, and he replied, altogether very chipperly “oh, nothing, I just have poop stuck under my scrotum.
Lovely.

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Winifred called me this afternoon to let me know that Buddha took his real first steps, sans help, today at the library. Woot! This means I’m the de facto winner of the bet. At the end of last year we all placed bets on when we thought he would walk. Winifred guessed New Year’s, I guessed the 11th, Bunny guessed the 16th and Dr. Doormat guessed the 23rd. Bunny walked at 14 months, so we figured it would happen at a similar time for Buddha and we were right! He’s 14 and 1/2 months old, practically to the day. I’m a wee bit bitter that he waited for a day that I wasn’t there, but I’m just so excited. Silly, I know but this is sort of the last tangible milestone that marks the end of his infancy. *sniff* He’s growing up! Welcome to toddlerhood, Buddha! You’ve come along way.

I just talked to my mom today and I found out that Abuelito was recently sexually abused by a fourteen year old boy who was a friend of their family and who occasionally cared for him and his sister. I’m so angry at the world, I just don’t know what to do or how to feel. I’m furious and I don’t know who to be angry at. He’s only four years old! He’s a little boy and he doesn’t deserve this. Apparently it happened a few months ago but they just recently became aware of it when Abuelito acted out the molestation with another boy at his preschool. Because it occurred at school, CPS had to be called in and the police were in involved. The mother of the older boy, who committed the abuse was originally very cooperative but when Abuelito’s moms tried to talk to the boy and his father the family shut down and hired an attorney. The two families attend the same church and the churchmembers are angry with Abuelito’s parents for involving the authorities and supposedly blowing the situation out of proportion. And in the midst of all of this, are the two boys. Because as much as I want to be angry at the kid who did this to Abuelito, I know he’s suffering as well, and at some point he was probably a victim of abuse himself. My mom took care of Abuelito and Donna last night because their parents had some work thing to attend to and according her, Abuelito is very removed and he refused her help when getting ready for bed. My heart just breaks for him. He’s such a sweet, affectionate, loving little boy full of joy and enthusiasm and the fact that somebody took away his innocence just devastates me. I can’t even imagine what his moms are going through. They’ve been through so much as it is, but this is just so much more than any parent should ever have to deal with. I just … I’m so shocked, I can barely vocalize any of this. Kissing this boo boo just won’t cut it. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.