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You are four and a half years old. 

You asked, very casually, about the box below, “Why does it say ‘go’ on there?” 

You are in heaven when your Daddy takes apart something electronic for you. Usually this happens on weekends. 

You enjoyed summer camp, though you declined to go in the sprinkler even on super-hot days. 

You inherited a floaty from a good friend, and now you are plunging into the pool, intentionally dunking yourself, asking Mama to dunk you, and opening your eyes underwater. These are new developments in your swimming career.

You have recently discovered U2 (Daddy), Green Day (Mama), Blondie (Mama again), and Fleetwood Mac (the car USB on shuffle).

You started having bad dreams, or at least started talking about them (but only a bit because you believe talking about them will make them come back). The most recent one involved a bad car, a house alarm, and the inability to run or talk.

You are newly afraid of the dark, and require your chair to be draped and your closet closed at bedtime. 

You sleep through fireworks and thunderstorms. 

You clipped your own toenails last week — and did a very decent job, without drawing blood. 

You still wear a diaper at night, and have told Mama that you pee in it as soon as you wake up. 

You have expanded your diet a tiny bit and are now willing to eat cantaloupe, green beans and nutritional yeast, which Mama plans to use as a gateway to cheese. The big shocker was your request to try a fish stick, which you didn’t like, but agreed to try another day with lemon. 

You have lost your zest for scrubbing toilets, but you still enjoy helping Mama vacuum and view working with cleanser as a privilege. 

You are continuing your love affair with My Little Pony, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Peg + Cat. Justin Time and Ready Jet Go are new discoveries, and you’ve circled back to Word World and Octonauts. Most days, you still watch less than two hours of TV.

You traded your long-neglected easel for a “science table” which tends to be heaped with whatever you’re fiddling with. Right now, it’s egg cartons, scissors, a screwdriver, two rolls of blue painter’s tape, empty water bottles completely wrapped in painter’s tape, paint stir sticks intermittently wrapped in painter’s tape, and bits of string and drinking straws you decided to cut into very short pieces. Mama’s just happy you’re using the space and enjoying yourself. 

You are trying out stronger ways of asking for what you want, e.g., “Mama you have to get me a snack NOW!” Mama never tires of finding new ways to say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” Her hands-down favorite is the raised eyebrow. 

You recently visited a farm, where your favorite thing was turning the electric water pump on so you could test all the sprinklers. Your second favorite thing was the robotic vacuum cleaner, or maybe the waffles the lady of the house made.

You are four and a half years old, and you are still very snuggly, just with pointier elbows. 

Big mistake. Huge.

So there we were. We had sailed through the Boo’s follow-up eye appointment, which he was anxious about because they had surprised us with dilation drops last time. But he was on my lap, pleased about getting an eye chart with letters like I get instead of pictures that little kids get. Meanwhile, I was pleased that the technician had much a better kidside manner this time. 

And then she leaned over and whispered, “How old was he when you got him?”

I was confused, and I must have looked it, because she repeated her question. But what she was asking didn’t register until she pointed to his chart. There it was, in all caps: ADOPTED

I stammered, trying to find something to say that would set her straight without getting on my kid’s radar. He’s four, he has amazing antennae, and this was not the time to answer the 8,000 questions I knew he would have: what’s adopted, am I adopted, are you adopted, why do people adopt kids, why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast (he’s smart, but he is Very Four.)

“Um, that’s not accurate. My husband is from India.”

Now it was the technician’s turn to look confused. She said something about not knowing how the word got in there, then asked whether glaucoma runs in our families, crossed the word out and led us to a waiting area, saying the doctor would be with us soon.

I had a few minutes to collect myself and think back on our first visit, three months ago. I asked myself questions like, “Did anyone ask if my son was adopted?” and “Did I talk to anyone about how awesome adoption is?” and “Could I possibly have misunderstood a question about my kid being adopted, maybe when they were asking about family medical history?” No, nope, and almost certainly not. 

It’s not as if this is the first time someone has assumed my child is adopted because his skin tone is different than mine. And admittedly, it always hits a raw nerve because I fought like hell to have a baby. But this time it hit a new nerve, because it was in writing. That made it feel more official, and threw other people’s perceptions of my family into harsh focus. I started thinking about how many people make that assumption on a daily basis, and whether I should make a T-shirt made that says, “HE CAME OUT OF ME!” Maybe one for every day of the week for August, when we will be attached at the hip during the hiatus between Summer Camp and school? 

Okay, maybe not. Maybe I’ll just write the practice a polite letter explaining why we won’t be back: If they got that wrong, how many other mistakes are they making?

Father’s Day 2016

We picked out a card we knew Daddy would enjoy — it referenced heavy metal and made lots of buzzy noise. He loved it. 

We went to take care of Grammie’s yard before it got too hot. You loved it. 

We went to the grocery store to pick up a few of daddy’s favorite treats, and you picked out his favorite juice. He loved that.

You woke Daddy up with a sweet “good mornin’ Daddy!” right after Mama asked you to quietly blow him a kiss. He loved it. 

You helped Mama make Besitos de Coco, and you stuck with it long past the point where you usually wander away (right after you taste all the sweet ingredients). Mama loved that, mostly. She’s a Virgo. She has issues with messes. She’s getting better. 

You filled up (and popped) a bunch of water balloons with Daddy. You loved it, Daddy loved it but got a bit overheated. 

You smashed your face into the only hard part of the couch during a game of “keep the balloon off the floor”. Nobody loved that. 

Your front left tooth (the same one that needed a root canal a few years ago, of course) was bloody and wiggly. Nobody loved that. 

Your dentist called Mama roughly three minutes after she left a message with his weekend service. She loved that. 

Your dentist said the tooth was probably okay but to call the office first thing Monday to schedule an X-ray. Nobody loved that. 

You decided you still wanted to help Mama make Daddy’s favorite cakes (yes, plural — warm caramel cakes) even though your tooth was bugging you and you were worried about the X-ray appointment. Mama loved that. 

Daddy didn’t realize we were making his favorite cakes until after his Father’s Day nap. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s scheduler called Mama 15 minutes before the office opened on Monday, and said we could come in later that morning. Mama loved that. You did not love that, but felt better about it once Mama explained there would only be an X-ray and a quick exam.

Your hygienist told Mama you did great and kept asking what was next. She loved that, and told you there was nothing more for you to worry about. 

Your dentist told us your tooth is going to be just fine as long as you don’t chomp down on anything hard for about a week. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s cashier told Mama that insurance will cover everything. Mama and Daddy loved that. 

You helped Mama with the weekly Target run, and she got you several treats (nothing sugary!) to celebrate the good news. You loved that. 


Last week as an old work buddy was doing me the tremendous favor of cutting apart the Boo’s school photos (seriously I would pay an extra five bucks for that because I canNOT cut a straight line) I said something misty about how much my kid has changed since September. My friend said something really smart in response: We all change all the time, but we don’t think we do. Well, that was the spirit of it. I don’t recall the precise words because Baby Ate My Brain. 

Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about the changes I’ve undergone this school year, right along with my kid. 

He’s grown taller and gotten heavier, while I have grown wider. (Seriously, Mother Nature?!)

He’s gained confidence in his physical abilities by exploring the creek behind his school and pushing the playground to its limits. I’ve done the same by trying wacky fitness classes in order to write about them. 

He’s acquired a taste for Rush, ACDC and Ozzy Osbourne, and I’ve learned to tolerate them. 

He’s gained more sophisticated debate skills, and I’ve developed new parrying techniques that (mostly) don’t piss him off. 

He’s discovered the joys of extended day, and I’ve discovered I can get professional, paid writing done during those glorious additional kid-free hours. Or catch up on Call the Midwife (it takes hours for the Ugly Cry Face to dissipate).

He’s moved into the “I can do it/I know how/Let me try” phase, and I’ve learned to sit on my hands/say yes/not react to the appearance of a mess on the floor I JUST cleaned.

He’s learned how to write his name, and I’ve learned to decode his scrawl.

He’s made great strides in negotiating relationships with his peers, and I’ve learned how to negotiate Facebook troll attacks.

He started wearing glasses a few weeks after I started wearing stronger bifocals. 

You get the idea, but I’ve saved the best for last: At the beginning of the year, the Boo reported in horrified Junior Narc tones that some of his classmates used potty talk. Last week he told me, eyes a-twinkle, “I do potty talk at school now Mama!” Then he waited for a reaction. All I gave him was a bored, “Oh really?”

See, even a Mama-Come-Lately can learn new tricks. Happy Summer, everyone!

A few times a month, the Boo is class leader. This involves perks such as ringing the bell for snack time and bringing a treasured object for show-n-share. He’s brought things like a book, a small fan, and an old cassette recorder. That last one got rave reviews from one teacher because the dual recording speed means you can play back at Chipmunk speed. 

I wasn’t sure the teachers would love what he selected for yesterday’s show-n-share, though. After some hemming and hawing shortly before we needed to walk out the door, he settled on this:

For the record, I am not the adult in the house who introduced him to this album. However, he LOVES it. I don’t know if it’s the strong beat or the guitar work, but he just can’t get enough of stuff like this (he also loves Rush). So my approach has been to balance it out with Prince and Aimee Mann, and be honest about the times I just can’t deal with the Young brothers. 

I was slightly nervous about how the CD would be received at school, but when I picked him up the extended day teachers (different from his usual set) told me they had played the CD for hours. And they were laughing about it. Hard.

That night, we got the Boo talking about show-n-share. The conversation took place while he was dancing wildly to Back in Black, so it was, um, fragmented. But as he hopped around wailing on his mini-broom-guitar, we were able to put together that they did play the CD, at least a few kids danced to it, and a kid who cranked it up was asked to turn it down. When I asked if it was his best show-n-share ever, he shouted “yes!” And then he went back to rocking out. 

The next day, I checked in with the Boo’s teachers to ask how the songs went over with the kids — and them. Thankfully, “So fun!” was a typical comment. A teacher from another class came by to rock out a bit, and I learned that one of the Boo’s teachers taught the kids some leg guitar moves. Meanwhile, my kid had demonstrated the proper arm wave and “rock on” hand sign for concert-goers. (I taught it to him that morning in the car pool drop-off line, and I was pleased that the quick lesson had stuck.)

There were a few parents on the playground when I was chatting with the teachers, and they seemed to have no beef with the CD. The word “cool” was uttered more than once. 

Phew!

  All parents have child care tasks they detest. Mine is brushing and flossing my kid’s teeth. I would seriously, honestly, rather wipe my kid’s butt ten times a day. And this week, I had an actual bona fide fight with my kid about the aformentioned and detested task.

The Boo has always been a bit silly about getting his teeth brushed, asking me to play the part of his dentist and demanding hugs when it’s my turn to brush. So I allow lots of time to get through the routine of letting him start, then hitting all the hidden spots before we take the same tack with flossing. It takes a while, but we get the job done and have a bit of fun along the way.

But this week was different. Maybe because he was home sick for two days, maybe because of the full moon, or maybe because he’s growing up a bit. Whatever the reason, he suddenly amped up the fake hug tactic, and it bugged me. I just wanted to get the job done and move on, but he wanted to make a never-ending story out of it. In frustration, I pushed him away mid-hug, and he pushed back. I made a speech in a loud voice, and he stuck his fingers in his ears. I yelled, and he yelled. Finally, I left the bathroom.

Eventually I got him to cooperate, but things were no better that night. After I blew him kisses and closed his door, words from a very wise parenting coach came back to me: You can’t have a tug of war if one person drops the rope.

The next morning, I dropped the rope – by telling him the truth.

Me: “Honey, can I tell you a secret?”

Boo, eyes wide: “Sure!”

Me: “I don’t like brushing your teeth. It’s not fun for me. I do it because it helps keep your teeth clean so you don’t have to get so much scraping done at the dentist. I don’t like the hugs you give me before I brush your teeth because they’re not real hugs. I prefer to have a real hug when we’re done.”

He was still listening, so I went on.

Me: “I’m done fighting with you about brushing your teeth. If you want me to help you, that’s great. But if you don’t want me to help you, that’s fine too. And that might mean more scraping and maybe a cavity.But it’s your choice. You get to decide.”

He thought about it, opened his mouth for flossing, and then started up the old games. I threw the flosser in the trash and walked out, saying I understood his choice. He protested and said he wanted me to floss, really, please floss.

I didn’t floss his teeth that morning. I reminded him of the choices again that night, and after reminding me that a cavity might be one of the consequences of not brushing, he opened his mouth like a baby bird. A baby bird that’s making his own choices.

And then the next day we were back to square one, or maybe square one and a half. So now I’m singing him a “mystery song” every time it’s my turn to brush or floss. It’s working, for now, and when it no longer works I’ll change my tactics again and cross my fingers. 

This, my friends, is life with a four-year-old. 

   
 Boo, cradling stuffed animals: I had two babies!Me: Congratulations! What’s this one’s name?

Boo: Zinc lozenge. 

Me: What do you call the other one? 

Boo: Green dot.

Me: …
Later…

Boo: Zinc lozenge likes to play baseball.

Me: Oh, great!

Boo: Now he’s tired so I have to sit on him to keep him warm. 

Me: …

I'm over 40. I'm at home with a preschooler. Hear me roar.

thepeacefulparsnip

My journey to becoming a dietitian and other cool stuff

Bideshi Biya

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