22 June 2010

Hair Splitting

NOTE: I know! Two posts in one day! But I actually wrote the other post a week ago. This is this week's post.

There’s a story in the Wolfe Family Lore about Aaron that goes like this:

One day, when he was about five or six, Aaron looked at his superhero action figures and decided that it would be really cool if they could fly. So, he threw one and off it went through the air like a bird or an airplane—at least until it came across an archenemy known as The Mirror. Well, this made a loud thumping noise, which to a six year old is a fabulous, terrific, fantastic sound. He therefore did what any young boy would do, which was to throw the superhero again and again. THUMP! THUMP!

To the adult (Aaron’s dad) working in the next room, this was not such a fabulous noise. In fact, it was downright irritating. So his dad went into the room and told Aaron, “Stop throwing your action figures against the mirror.” Pretty clear instructions, right?

So imagine his surprise when not a few minutes later, he hears another THUMP! He runs back into the room and says, “I told you to stop throwing your action figures against the mirror!”

“But I didn’t,” Aaron protested innocently. “I threw them against the wall.”

There’s also another story about his mom telling him not to draw on the wall, so Aaron came across the lovely idea of using Chapstick to draw on the walls, because it was clear and therefore couldn’t be seen and therefore wasn’t really drawing (until the sun hit it and then it was clear as day, and also almost impossible to get off the walls).

I used to laugh at these stories, but lately they are starting to worry me. They are worrying me because Eamon Wolfe is his father’s son through and through. I’ve already told you the story about Eamon and the Elmo Phone, and his belief that taking a toy from another child is okay if you convince that child that you’re actually just trading.

Well, today at the gym, Eamon had another Incident. It was free play at his gym for kids, and there was a bunch of other toddlers there. Eamon started a game of holding two small balls, running them over to the small basketball hoop, and putting them through one at a time. The other toddlers saw, and quickly joined in for some good old-fashioned parallel play.

Everything was going fine until Eamon decided that he wanted another ball. He figured out how to hold two balls under one arm and then had his other hand free for another ball. A boy about his age also had two balls, so Eamon tried to take the ball away from the child with his free hand. My mother jumped right in and told Eamon that he could not take away toys from other children. Eamon looked at her, sighed in frustration, and then apparently hatched a plan.

Here’s what he did: he went over to the basketball hoop and pretended to throw his balls through. PRETENDED. When the other little boy saw, he also went to throw his own balls into the hoop, and as soon as he dropped the ball, Eamon snatched it up.

My mother, of course, immediately took the ball away from him, told him it still wasn’t okay even though the other boy had officially dropped it, and gave the ball back to the other boy.

But still. Do you realize what this means? Eamon is processing things just like his father. It wasn’t stealing when he took the Elmo phone—it was trading. This latest gym incident wasn’t snatching, either, because the other boy dropped his ball on purpose. (Never mind that Eamon specifically manipulated the situation each time to induce the child to voluntarily give up his toy. How long before we have kids ringing our doorbell, begging to whitewash our fences?)

My other big worry? I can’t live without chapstick. Maybe I should just go ahead and cover all the walls in clear plastic contact paper?

Kid Philosophy 102: This I Know

Preface: Our desktop computer had a temporary period where it was "mostly dead," and was therefore holding all our pictures hostage, so that's why it took a little while to post this blog.

After everything that I said about almost everything being a belief, I’m happy to tell you that there’s at least one thing that I know we have done right with Eamon: swim lessons. Okay, it’s a little thing in comparison to discipline, eating, sleeping habits, etc., but I’ll take certainty where I can get it.

Eamon Wolfe LOVES the water. There’s no cosmic reason for this. I didn’t go swimming a lot when he was in the womb, he wasn’t born on a boat or in a water birth, and he isn’t a Pisces. The reason is terribly mundane: he loves the water because almost every Saturday since he was 7 months old, Aaron and I have taken him to the pool for “swim” lessons (parentheses added because there’s only so much swimming they do at that age).

I won’t say it’s been easy. Swim lessons start at 9:00 which means that we need to be out the door by 8:40, which comes earlier and earlier every Saturday. Both Aaron and I go because it’s nearly impossible to corral Eamon while you change out of your own wet swim clothes. There are no doors on the changing rooms (just curtains), and he runs away the second you set him down, leaving you with this terrible choice of running after him while you’re half-naked or…well, there really isn’t another choice. So the whole family goes.

Aaron usually gets in the pool. I have gotten in the pool before when Aaron absolutely cannot make it (he needs to be out of town or on his death bed), but I generally prefer sitting on the sidelines. I tell myself that it’s because Aaron used to be a lifeguard so he’s really better suited (ha! get it?) for being in the pool, but really I just don’t like getting wet.

Eamon, on the other hand, thinks the pool is the greatest thing ever. As we walk into the locker room, he usually starts cheering and clapping. He beams smiles at everyone at the gym. When he gets into the water, he happily splashes and screams in absolute joy. This might be his favorite part of each week.

And in the past couple of weeks, you can tell that it’s really paying off. Eamon is only 17 months old, but already can blow bubbles in the water, and doesn’t mind going under the water at all. He hates being on his back (even on dry land), but will do it, even putting his ears in the water (which most kids protest violently at this age). He kicks with his legs, and he reaches and pulls with his arms. He does not, however, have any buoyancy, so if you let him go he just sort of sinks despite his best efforts.

Two weeks ago, however, we discovered a way around this: the pool noodle. Eamon held on to the noodle, and suddenly—life was great. It gave him enough buoyancy that Aaron was even able to let go briefly. Eamon would kick his legs, and move forward—he was actually swimming! I don’t know who was more excited, us or Eamon.

Whew. And, I'm spent.

13 June 2010

Kid Philosophy 101: I'm a Believer

There’s a difference between believing something and knowing something. To believe implies a level of faith; in other words, you’re pretty certain, but admit that maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong. When you know something, you know it. There’s no faith involved. You’re certain.

For instance, I don’t believe in gravity. When I jump into the air, I don’t ponder whether I’m going to come down. I’m not reasonably sure—I’m certain. I know that gravity exists, so I don’t have to believe in it.

What does this have to do with Eamon? Well, before I had a baby, I Knew how to be a good parent. I knew that there was a Right Way and a Wrong Way, and I was going to do things the Right Way. Whenever I saw a parent with a screaming child out in public, I knew that they were doing things the Wrong Way, and if they just thought about it a little more, or tried a little bit harder, they could do things the Right Way. They just needed to apply themselves.

And then I gave birth, and every second since then, I believe I’ve been a good parent, but it’s hard to know for sure. In fact, almost every decision is suddenly based on belief.

Because here’s the thing: for “kids” in general—there are plenty of guide books out there. But there’s no book specifically entitled, “Eamon Wolfe for Dummies.” (Is there?)

For instance: I theoretically know that Eamon should be sleeping through the night. And he does, almost every night. But then he gets sick with the stomach flu, pretty sick, fever and everything, and doesn’t eat much beyond crackers and cereal for about a week. (I was pretty sure we didn’t need to take him to the doctor, but that one was a bit of nail-biter, too). Eventually he got better (yay! I guessed right), but he had lost at least a pound, and when you only weigh about 25 pounds, that’s a lot. Add that on to the fact that he grows like a weed, and once his appetite came back, it came back in force.

He started waking up in the middle of the night, desperately hungry. Well, what do we do? The books say not to feed a kid in the middle of the night, because it’s a bad habit, but they also don’t say anything about purposefully starving your children. So, okay, we feed him in the middle of the night, because he was just sick and he needs more calories to make up for it. He goes right back to sleep, problem solved.

Then it happens the next night. Well, he’s still looking thin, so okay, feed him again. He goes back to sleep relatively quickly.

But at some point, this goes from being necessary to just being a bad habit. When is that day? There’s nothing in any of the books that says, “If your child has had the stomach flu for a week and has lost a pound, it is permissible to feed him in the middle of the night for 3-4 days but after that you’re just a sleepy sucker who needs to let the kid cry a bit because he’s getting spoiled.”

As they tell us in my administration classes, “You just have to make the best decision with the information that you have at the time.” And you have to believe that you made the right decision.

This isn’t the only example. In fact, as I said, almost every decision with Eamon is what we believe is the right thing to do. It’s impossible not to wonder if you’re being too firm, and other times if you’re being too soft; if you spoil him with too many toys or if you don’t provide enough sensory experiences for him; if taking occasional naps with him in your bed is a great way to bond or instead promotes a dependency that keeps him from wanting to sleep in his own crib. Do we bathe him enough if we only bathe him every other day, or would bathing him more just dry out his already dry-skin? Is he not talking much because he knows some sign language, or because his frenulum is too tight, or because he just isn’t ready yet? Should I just chill out, or at what point do I worry?

I’m not trying to make it sound like I spend all my time in a nervous, hand-wringing huddle, because I’ve mostly accepted the fact that sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, make a decision, and hope for the best.

Sometimes, you just have to believe.

08 June 2010


One magical morning, Eamon crawled into his mystical Laundry Basket of Teleportation, threw out the carefully folded underwear and socks in just the right combination, and ended up at...

The Virginia Living Museum!

The Living Museum has lots of things that live in Virginia!

Our Intrepid Explorer put on his Exploring Hat, and along with his faithful companion Elmo and a sherpa guide named "Dahdee," braved the outdoors.

He saw things like "Flowers" (That is so the sign for flower. Sort of. What do you want? Our Intrepid Explorer is only 1 and a half.)

Other sights were awe-inspiring. Like this sign.

And the fences! Oh, the fences! You would have to see them to believe them!

There was digging galore! Our Intrepid Explorer will do doubt be world-renowned for this great discovery of fake plastic dinosaur bones.
Also discovered were shiny hot things that beamed light! (and big roaring things in the background, but they weren't very interesting).
Here our Intrepid Explorer pretends to be interested in the giant, roaring model dinosaur, but that is only a diversion so that he can once again sneak up on those beaming things he has started to call "lights."

What an exciting adventure! Who knows where the mystical Laundry Basket of Teleportation will take us next?