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Posts tagged ‘toddlers’

mean baby

I’ve written about my toddler before, but given that he is currently setting siege and laying waste to my entire family unit, I thought it time for a reappraisal.

I’ve noticed that our family tends to function with a focus on one player at a time. For stretches, it has been Finn who has taken the vast majority of our mental and emotional resources. It has been Tom, during trial, or when Michigan is losing. It’s been me, during those weepy and suicidal weeks after a bad haircut. But right now, it’s all about Tate. All Tate, all the time.

He started talking in sentences about two months ago, and we were delighted. And then, he stopped talking in whole sentences, and started yelling them. And we were frightened. At about the same time, Tate realized the awesome power of his crying, especially in public places. You have never seen a family pack up their food and leave a restaurant more quickly than mine, when Tate gets going. I once watched a movie about London during WWII and they had these sirens that would blare during air raids. The volume of Tate’s restaurant crying is like that.

photo by jen guldenzopf

Tate has been breaking out the show-crying a lot, because waiters always bring a bread basket to share, and Tate’s not having any of that sharing BS. When the bread comes, Finn will look at me with big, haunted eyes, because he wants some bread, but he knows that if he reaches for some, Tate is going to start screaming. I will try to point at something outside, like a dog, and snatch a piece for Finn while Tate is momentarily diverted, but Tate inevitably notices that Finn’s eating bread when he turns back. And then the screaming starts again, except it’s louder, and angrier, because if there’s anything Tate hates, it’s the assumption that he has tiny toddler brains. Tom’s usually no help with any of this drama, because he’s busy trying to look like he’s not with our party, even though he’s seated at our table and the kids keep calling him daddy.


Tate affects what we eat, beyond the bread. We all like ice cream. But none of us can really eat it anymore because Tate is the world’s slowest ice-cream cone licker, and he will scream if you try to take the cone away before he has finished it. We recently spent about 50 minutes in the blazing sun at an outdoor Dairy Queen, waiting for Tate to finish licking his dipped cone into submission. When there’s no ice cream on the menu, Tate forces all of us to eat with superhuman speed, because, ice cream aside, he’s not a big eater, and once he’s done, he just pushes himself away from the table and starts swaggering around the restaurant looking for other victims to terrorize. Why not strap him into a high chair, you say? Those are for babies, as Tate will inform you via scream and a well-placed kick to your nads. So, in order to finish our food by the time Tate finishes, Tom, Finn, and I have learned to eat like prisoners–quickly, with eyes cast downward, in case Tate makes eye contact and sees something not to his liking.

The future bodes well for Tate and ill for the rest of us, because he keeps getting bigger, and able to reach more stuff. He can just peer onto the kitchen counters now. If he sees something he likes, he will pull it down with such force and speed that you’d be amazed, if you weren’t busy picking up the flat of bruised strawberries rolling around on your kitchen floor. Don’t bother asking him to help. Tate doesn’t do cleanup.

Tate also doesn’t do naps, at least not at home. Here he is in his room, about an hour into naptime, taking in the scenic views from the top of his train table. Bedtime is also getting compromised, since he’s figured out how to turn his bedroom lamp on and off. I put him to bed at 7:15. He waits until I leave, and then turns on his lamp, gathers his stuffed animals around, and taps a keg.

I should do something about his refusal to follow rules. I should. But I keep telling myself that this too shall pass. And besides, I’m kind of enjoying the struggle. My small little dude, making his presence known in a big world.

my favorite child

The upside to having more than one kid is that when you just can’t stand one of them, you can turn to the other. All you child worshipers: relax. I don’t tell my kids to their faces that their sibling is my preferred child of the week. I merely let my actions imply it.

Tom and I are just coming out of a three-month stretch with Finn that is best summed up by this image:

Munch must have had a five-year old

The figure in the front could be me, but it could also be Finn. Because for three months, he literally could not open his mouth without screaming. Everything I did or said pissed him off. He also started acting up in public, a new phenomenon for which I was wholly unprepared, because I was raised by a true Korean mom, and acting up in public just doesn’t happen with a true Korean mom (I’m apparently a fake Korean mom). The one time that my brother and I got loud in a restaurant, my Mom made us raise our arms straight up in the air and hold them there for ten minutes while she calmly finished her meal. A kid only needs to experience that kind of humiliation once for the lesson to take.

During the three-month stretch in the wilderness with Finn, my younger kid was in the background, doing his best imitation of the Baby Jesus. Born an easy baby, Tate was so low maintenance that I forgot he was there for long stretches of time. He would play with his toys by himself, flip through books in a sunny corner, and regularly update me on the status of his diapers.

easy tate with grandma on his first birthday

The harder Finn got, the more I unintentionally gravitated toward Tate. I’m a human first, a mom second. In retrospect, I imagine Finn picked up on some of it and that it only made him madder. In fact, Finn probably felt the way I feel when he says he wants Daddy to put him to bed, seventeen nights in a row.  Or when, at pick up, he greets me with a loving “WHERE’S DADDY??”

But things have a way of evening out, especially with kids. Now, Tate is solidly in his twos and feeling his oats. Last night he climbed on my lap, but instead of giving me the usual slobbery kiss, he curled both his fists in my hair and yanked with alarming vigor. When I said “ouch,” he cracked a feral smile and did it again. He has started announcing that he’s done with dinner by shoving his dishes off the table. And every night, he wears Finn’s ski helmet around the house, just butting his head into things. Last night, I found him helmeted, on top of a chair, banging his beloved plastic sword against my Cynthia Lahti.

not so easy anymore

So of course, it’s Finn’s turn to be awesome. Earlier this week, I left him in the car with a cookie while I ran inside the school to pick up his brother. As I got out of the car, I told Finn to finish the cookie before I returned with Tate, in case Tate got jealous. When Tate and I got to the car, as expected, the cookie was nowhere in sight–until, that is, Finn quietly pulled out a piece he’d saved in the car door, and handed it to Tate. I felt so much love for Finn in that moment that I stood in the car door for two minutes, nuzzling him with kisses and being rewarded with his laughter. I’ll gladly take three months of screaming for a few more moments like that.

February 2012 Park Johnson Child of the Month

Well, maybe like ten of those moments.  Anyway, it’s all good. It’s ok that Finn prefers his Dad sometimes, and that I prefer his brother when Finn’s pushing my buttons. Because it all evens out in the end, and there’s plenty of love to go around.