Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Separation Anxiety

At church this Sunday, Ryan experienced his first brush with separation anxiety. We got to church a bit early and I brought him downstairs to the church nursery. We got there before the nursery attendant did, so I sat him down and took out some blocks for him to play with. He was contentedly playing with the blocks when she arrived, so I stood up, gave her a quick overview of what was in his diaper bag, and started out the door. As I did, Ryan turned, saw me leaving, and immediately burst into tears and crawled after me at top speed and in full wail. I gave him a hug and sat him back down with the blocks, and as soon as he was distracted, I slipped out the door.

The way our church is laid out, the nursery is directly below the sanctuary, and there is a door at the top of the stairway that opens into the front of the sanctuary, right near where we always sit. So if Ryan is screeching at the top of his lungs, I would be able to hear him during a lull in the service. I didn’t expect that he would have had a full-out meltdown, but I was listening carefully just in case. I didn’t hear anything, so I assumed he was fine and enjoyed the rest of the service.

When I went to claim him after church, he had just finished his bottle and was dozing off. The attendant said there had been a few moments when he would suddenly look around, realize I wasn’t there, and cry for a few seconds, but he was easily distracted and never cried for long. I was relieved that it hadn’t been an issue.

I hope that he never reaches a stage when he’s inconsolable when Mummy or Daddy isn’t around, but if he does, we’ll deal with it. The difference between Herb’s and my response to that theoretical situation provides an interesting (but not surprising) comparison of the general difference in attitude between mothers and fathers. Herb stated that if Ryan screeched when he left, he wouldn’t even look back, and he’d leave him for the entire service without blinking or looking in on him. I, on the other hand, would come back and give him a hug, reassure him that I’d be back in a little while (even though at this point he wouldn’t understand), and then linger out of sight outside the door for five minutes or so to see if he calmed down. If he didn’t, I’d check back in 20 minutes or half an hour and if he was still screeching, I’d stay with him. Herb’s thought is that it won’t hurt him to scream for an hour, so if it doesn’t bother the nursery staff, it doesn’t bother him. My thought is that I don’t want him to make himself sick with screaming for an hour, and if I’m worrying about him through the whole service I’m not getting anything out of it anyway.

I suppose it’s a bridge we’ll cross when we come to it. I may find that it doesn’t bother me to leave him after all, especially if he’s calm and contented when we do go to pick him up. When I taught the 2- and 3-year olds in Sunday School, I always reassured the parents that it didn’t bother me if the kids screamed at first, and they almost always calmed down after a few minutes. But now with my own baby, I understand how heart-wrenching it is to leave your child in misery when you know that staying will make him happy. It really is a case of “This will hurt me more than it hurts you.” And I’ve promised Herb that I won’t be a helicopter parent who hovers over my children and never allows them to make a mistake, or hurt themselves, or be lonely, and I’ll stick with that. But I suspect I’ll have a harder time of it than I thought I would before I had kids.

We strike a good balance, he and I. If it were up to Herb, Ryan would never get a hug when he gets a tiny bit hurt or scared, and that would teach him to be self-sufficient, but possibly also a bit less trusting and secure. And if it were up to me, I’d never let him be hurt or scared to begin with, and that would teach him that he will always be safe and protected, but it would also make him overly dependent and ill-prepared for the world. But between the two of us, he’ll grow up knowing that he can solve his own problems, but that Mum and Dad will be there to reassure him and help him out whenever he needs us. I think that’s a pretty good compromise.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Prince Charming

This past weekend Ryan did a good deal of getting out and about, and as usual he charmed everyone everywhere he went. He began on Friday afternoon, with a visit from his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all the girl cousins plus a friend of theirs. The girls ranged in age from 11 to 15, so of course as soon as they saw Ryan they all squealed, “Oh, he’s soooooo cuuuuuuute!!” And he naturally basked in all the attention, bestowing them with grins and laughs. Shortly after they arrived, we all went in the pool and the squeals resumed when Ryan made his appearance in his slick “Aussie suit”, and again as he splashed and kicked in the pool, and yet again as he giggled at the girls’ antics. He was, in a word, charming.

As the evening wore on and dinner approached, Ryan had his own dinner and was then relegated to his playpen at the side of the pool. Even his protests were charming, and Uncle Jim soon “pulled a Mommy” and jumped in the pen with him. Ryan was delighted for the company and was soon chortling along with Uncle Jim. He found it particularly hilarious if Uncle Jim burped, so Uncle Jim obligingly kept him amused for quite some time. (Boys!)

The nieces stayed overnight, so in the morning when Ryan made his appearance there was yet more squealing. Herb took Ryan and the girls into Boston for the day, and as they walked to the train station down the street from our house, their charming little parade no doubt turned heads all along the way. It was Ryan’s first ride on the subway, and he was suitably impressed. He also made friends with several other small passengers (note the pink-trimmed stroller in the foreground). One of them even shared her cookies with him. Charming! 

They passed a firehouse on the way to lunch and Ryan checked out the big shiny red fire truck out front. And charmed a fireman or two in the process, I suspect.  

The crew had lunch at Dick’s Last Resort at Fanueil Hall and got their obligatory paper hats.
Ryan also charmed the waiter into giving him his first balloon. He was fascinated by it!

Since it was such a warm day, after lunch they found a public playground with a fountain, and the girls and Ryan all ran through the cool spray, making lots of new buddies as they played. They strolled through town and passed a wedding party taking photos on the waterfront. Ryan and his balloon evoked a few smiles and waves. He may have even ended up in a few wedding photos himself.

A little later, I joined them as they headed to Ben & Jerry’s for dessert. There was another family there with a little girl, and she and Ryan charmed each other’s socks off. Daddy freed him from his stroller to stretch his legs a bit and he happily crawled all over the joint, cracking up the customers and the staff alike. He didn’t have any ice cream, though – he brought his own dessert. (He did sample a bit of Daddy’s coffee frappe and Mom’s raspberry smoothie, however.)

Then on Sunday morning, as we were driving to church, we stopped next to a public bus at a stoplight, and Ryan was gazing raptly over at it when I suddenly noticed the driver (who happened to be a guy, lest anyone think that only ladies are susceptible to Ryan’s charm) glance over at Ryan and give him a little wave. Ryan burst into a big grin and – wonder of wonders – waved back. The driver gave him a bigger wave and a grin of his own and the two of them continued their love-fest until the light turned green. I like to think that Ryan brought a bit of sunshine into that driver’s boring day.

After church, Ryan made his usual coffee hour rounds. One of the regular church members, Philip, who recently announced that his family in Africa will soon be joining him in the US, was playing with Ryan. He tossed him in the air and joggled him and got him giggling with delight, as he confessed to me that not only does he have 6 children of his own, but he used to work in a daycare and he just LOVES babies – and babies love him. Ryan was certainly no exception on either side of that equation. I wish I had a picture of Philip holding Ryan, with his beautiful ebony skin and dark eyes in stark contrast to Ryan’s alabaster skin and bright blue eyes, but with matching brilliant white grins. It was such a lovely (and charming) image.

But Ryan wasn’t quite finished with his weekend charms. Herb took the two of us to Nordstrom so I could get some good shoes that actually fit my goofy feet. While the salesman was measuring me (apparently my feet are a size 8WW - no wonder my size 9s weren't comfortable) and having me try on various styles, Ryan was exploring the paradise that is Nordstrom’s shoe department, and charming all the salespeople and the customers. He discovered that shoe displays are the perfect height for cruising along, with the added benefit of having fascinating shoes on top of them. Plus there are mirrors all over that are the perfect height for watching yourself crawl. Not to mention that there are even a few displays that you can crawl under and peek through to see the shoes above. And to top it all off, when the salesman came back with some shoes for Mum to try on, he also brought a balloon AND a stuffed animal (the Nordstrom mascot, which looks kind of like a mutant albino penguin) for Ryan to play with and take home. Oh, and the floors were either covered with nice clean rugs that were perfect for crawling on OR they were shiny linoleum that feels nice under your feet and makes really good slapping noises when you crawl on it. Absolute heaven.

I think it just about sums up the weekend that when we left the store after dropping a sizable chunk of cash on shoes, the sales staff politely thanked us for shopping there, and then all ran over to wave and call “Bye-bye, Ryan!! Come see us again soon!!!” as we left. He is, indeed, my little Prince Charming. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, he’s the son (and spitting image) of my big Prince Charming!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Ah Pool, How I've Missed Thee

It’s been rainy and dreary and cool for most of this week, so the pool has stayed hidden under its little grey insulating blanket. But finally the sun came out yesterday and it felt like August again, so we uncovered the pool. It took some work to get all the fallen leaves and twigs and gunk that the rain and wind knocked into it cleaned out, but now it’s clean and beautiful once again and I’m recognizing how much I'd missed it over the past few days.

Last night we moved Ryan’s playpen out onto the pool deck so he could watch us clean while he played, and so he could get some of the fresh air and sunshine that I’m sure he missed as much as we did. We all ate dinner poolside and watched for the “batty-bats” to come out and eat their dinner, too. Ryan gazed at the tiki torches around the pool in absolute fascination, and was mesmerized by their reflections on the shiny stainless steel grill and on the surface of the pool itself. Bedtime was a piece of cake since he was already half-comatose from the combination of full tummy, fresh air, and intoxicating fire-watching. He was literally asleep before his head hit the pillow.

And it was wonderful to come back down to the pool after I’d tucked him in, to just sit with my sweetheart, enjoying a glass of wine and letting myself be mesmerized by the torches just as much as Ryan had been. I forget how relaxing the pool is, even when you’re not swimming in it. The sound and smell and sight of the water lapping against the sides of the pool, hearing all the summer insects buzzing contentedly in the trees, enjoying the cool evening breeze - all my senses are being soothed and my whirling mind can’t help but be slowed down and mellowed out. It’s a wonderful sensation, being poolside at night.

As a matter of fact, it’s pretty good being poolside during the day, too. If you’ll excuse me, I think I might just have time for a quick dip before Ryan finishes his nap!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't Fence Me In

Whenever I can, I try to give Ryan the run of the house. I’ll march around the basement with him for hours, I’ll let him explore the kitchen while I’m working in there, I’ll supervise him going up and down the stairs. But there are always limits: no playing with the cabinet doors, no going into the laundry room, no opening the drawers. Plus, I have to continually steer him out of harm’s way, whether that harm is in the form of the fireplace tools, some non-childproofed drawers, a delicate piece of furniture, or a wall. And when I need to do something unencumbered for a moment, Ryan goes in the playpen. He can be perfectly content sitting down playing with a toy, but if I put him in the playpen with exactly the same toy, no more contentment. He needs to be free!!

Last night, the family headed over to the family dance studio so Herb could set up a new sound system. While he was installing the system and teaching his sister and niece how it works, Ryan and I got to play in the studio. What heaven! What freedom! The studio is, of course, a big open room with mirrors along one wall. So not only could Ryan crawl or march without running into an obstacle, he could also watch himself do it. And it got even more fun when Aunt Holly magically produced a bracelet with 4 or 5 sleigh bells on it. He made the most of his time at the studio, happily crawling at top speed from one end of the room to the other, stopping only now and then to ring (and chew on) the bells. He grabbed my hands and marched all over, clearly reveling in the ability to build up some momentum without having to stop or turn aside. He chortled at himself in the mirror as he did all his tricks, obviously proud of his own accomplishments.

For a child who is often told “no” or steered away from something interesting (in his mind) or dangerous (in mine), it was a wonderful opportunity to stretch his legs and not have to be stopped. As an adult, I rarely think about the freedom of movement I have. I can get up and stretch my legs or get some fresh air almost any time I want, and no-one will tell me to stop or come back. I can almost always find somewhere where I can walk freely as long as my heart desires. I’m rarely fenced in. But a baby doesn’t get to taste that kind of freedom very often. So any time Ryan doesn’t have to be fenced in, I don’t wanna fence him in. March and be free, my little man!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Summer rain can be a lovely thing. A warm evening shower after a hot humid day can be soothing and relaxing. The sound of soft rainfall can be pleasant to drift off to sleep by. Splashing through a puddle or two can bring back happy memories of childhood.

But this morning, I’m sick of it.

It’s August. Yes, it’s late August, but it’s still August, and in my mind that means that summer should still be in full swing. I should be swimming in the pool every day, going for walks in the sunshine, wearing shorts every day, and needing to water my garden. But instead, for the past few days I’ve been wearing jeans and sweatshirts, avoiding having to run errands, and gazing sadly at the pool cover full of puddles and fallen leaves. It’s dark and it’s dreary and I want my summer back. I’m not ready to be done yet!

The funny thing is that I love the fall, too. I love watching the leaves change colors, I love the crisp earthy smell, I love the cooler weather, I love seeing the kids at the bus stop with their backpacks and their excited back-to-school faces. But I’m just not quite ready for it yet. I need a few more cookouts, a few more poolside dinners, even a few more humid sleepless nights of turning the pillow over and over looking for the cool side. I want to hang on to the smell of suntan lotion and bug spray. I want to hear one more late-night party on the neighbors’ porch. I want the feeling of beach sand between my toes one more time.

Fall, with its rain and drear as well as its sights and smells, is welcome to come. But not until I’m ready for it. And I’m just not ready for it yet. So rain, rain, go away. Come again another day. September 30th or so should be just about right.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Best Job in the World

Being a stay-at-home-mom is seriously the best job in the world. Sure, there isn’t much of a paycheck, and the hours are long, but the workload and the fringe benefits are way better than any other job I’ve ever had, not to mention my fabulous office mate.

Think about it: there’s no dress code, I’m my own boss, the commute is non-existent, I make up the rules and responsibilities as I go along, and I can redecorate the office any time I want. I can take field trips anywhere and anytime I like. I never have to fill out paperwork. I don’t have to requisition supplies. I don’t have to fill out a timesheet or punch a clock. I take my coffee breaks and my lunch break whenever the spirit moves. I always get to listen to the radio and occasionally even get to watch TV in my office. What’s not to love?

And above and beyond all that, my office mate keeps me entertained. Yeah, he’s a little loud at times, but he keeps the mood in the office upbeat and he’s always good for a laugh. He’s always happy to help rearrange the office supplies (i.e., the Tupperware cupboard, the pots and pans, the books on the bookshelf), even though he isn’t particularly neat about it. He always lets me pick the background radio station (although he WILL wrestle me for the TV remote). He takes a break for a couple of hours every day and lets me have the run of the place. If we take a field trip, he always lets me drive.

I love my job so much that I always hang around long after my shift is over. Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that the guy on second shift is REALLY hot…

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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Mayor of Everywhere

Once again, Ryan has proven that he is the unofficial mayor of anywhere he goes. This past weekend we were at my friend Maryellen’s annual party at her beach house, and we got to see a bunch of friends we hadn’t seen in a while. As usual, Ryan was a big hit. He started off by showing off all the new tricks he’s learned since he last saw most of the guests – things like standing up on his own, clapping, high fives, waving, and his favorite skill of all, rock eating. But by the time we were ready to leave (and he was five hours overdue for a nap, but still in a good mood despite the heavy eyes), he had made the rounds of just about every guest. And he was charming and sweet to every single person he met. And, like any good politician, he gave each person individualized attention.

He began his rounds by sharing a cracker with Daddy. Then a quick pause to cleanse his palate with a few rocks.

“Hey Pilote, that cookie looks pretty tasty! I might need some of that coffee to wash it down with, though.”

Then he moved onto Uncle Ed, with Pam looking on.

He was delighted to sit in Janet’s lap for a while.

And then he moved on to Sue.

He hadn’t met Maria before but was still more than happy to visit and show off how well he can stand up.

He saved a smile for Sharyn. Whom he noticed was wearing a watch. And so began his flirtation with anyone with “props”.

Like Alice’s sunglasses.

Or Deedee’s camera.

Or Auntie Dana’s necklace.

By the time he reached Judy, he was running out of steam a bit, as evidenced by the tell-tale fingers in his mouth, but he was still cheerful and friendly and snuggly.

He even saved his biggest and best grin for the hostess, Auntie M’el, who swears that babies always cry as soon as she picks them up. This photo proves that is NOT the case!

My little ray of sunshine came through again, just like he always does. And I have all the photos that I can look back through when he’s a sullen teenager and this weekend is only a distant memory…

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Master of the House

Yesterday afternoon Ryan was on a tear – marching everywhere, curious about everything, getting into as much mischief as he possibly could. I figured that he’d burn himself out and be mellower today, but no dice. He’s got just as much energy AND curiosity as he had yesterday, and then some! And he decided to use all that energy exploring the house this morning.

Herb had gotten up with him and fed him breakfast, and by the time I got up, got dressed, and got breakfast, Ryan was downstairs in his playpen having a bottle as a little “topper”. I took him out, thinking he’d be happy to sit on my lap and work on the bottle, as he often does. Ha! As soon as he was freed from the playpen, he lost all interest in the bottle and wanted me to march around the basement with him. So he marched along the couch, looked out the sliding glass doors for a moment, stuck his head into the bathroom, paused for a moment to roll around a few cans of soda next to the fridge, peeked in the study at Daddy, stopped to play with the plastic tag on Daddy’s camera bag, made a thwarted attempt to explore the laundry room, and banged on the air filter for a few minutes. Then he did the whole circuit again. And again. And again. And then he climbed the stairs – but instead of the usual attempt to go back down the stairs once he’d reached the top, he decided to explore the kitchen.

He opened every cabinet and studied its contents. He smacked the front of the fridge and pressed his nose against the sliding glass doors. He crawled under the kitchen table to see what he’d dropped at breakfast. He preened in front of his reflection in the dishwasher, the stove, and the wine fridge. He smacked the trash can on the way into the dining room.

He examined the wine rack and stood up to drum on the extra chair. He fingered the decorative table with the wrought-iron leaves. He stared at the chandelier from every angle. He stood on tiptoe to peek out the window. He crawled through the entryway, pausing for a moment to check out the extension cord on the doorjamb. He nearly fell over craning his neck to look at the chandelier far overhead.

Just as he reached the living room, the clock struck the hour and he stopped dead in his tracks to listen to the chimes and study the pendulum. As soon as the echo of the chimes died away, he was off and running again – checking out the firewood, the fireplace doors, the fireplace tools. No sooner did I thwart that attempt than he scooted behind the lounge chair and discovered the guitar! He spent quite some time strumming the strings and (gently!) patting the body and listening to the reverberations. Then on past the piano and back down the hallway to go back through the living room, this time edging, crablike, along the glass-top coffee table, drumming as he went. Then a peek into the bathroom, checking out a few cabinet doors on the way, and the entire circuit again. And again. And again! He stopped to consider going up the stairs, but apparently decided he was too tired to manage the third floor explorations at the moment.

I wonder if he has the concept of, “This is my house” or “This is where I live”. Is he exploring because he understands that this is where he spends most of his time, and is likely to spend more time here in the future? Does he feel some primitive form of ownership? Or at least of familiarity? Is he exploring in order to create or deepen that familiarity? Or is it just curiosity and the knowledge that exploring here is allowed? Whatever his reason, he certainly does love becoming the master of the house.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Just a Matter of Trust

Ryan would happily spend all day long marching around, hanging on to my hands. In fact, he’s got me so well trained in providing said hands that in the middle of doing something else, he’ll decide he wants to stand up and walk and without even looking around, he’ll just hold up his hands and grab, assuming (usually correctly) that my hands will be right there, ready and waiting for him.

It’s such a lovely demonstration of trust. He doesn’t need to confirm that I’m there, or that I know what he wants, or that I’m willing to help. He doesn’t need to see me, or to see my hand and reach for it. He just reaches out, like a surgeon who needs a scalpel, without a doubt in his mind that my hand will magically be there for him. I find the most interesting part of that to be the “not looking”. When you sit down at the dinner table and reach for your fork, you know the fork is there, and yet you still look at it before you pick it up. You don’t just blindly reach out and assume it will somehow land in your hand. But that’s exactly what Ryan does. That’s true trust.

What a wonderful thing for a child to have that kind of trust. No doubt, no hesitation. Expecting Mom or Dad to be there for him all the time, with never a flicker of thought that they might not be. He plunges through life, absolutely secure that we will be there to protect him from dangers and to provide for his every need. And we do. When he climbs the stairs, I’m right behind him to be sure he doesn’t fall back down. When he scrambles across the couch, I’m at the edge making sure he doesn’t launch himself onto the floor. When he’s playing beside the pool, one of us is always between him and the water. When he’s playing in the pool, Daddy has him securely to be sure he doesn’t try to breathe underwater or forget that he can’t actually swim. We strap him into the car seat, the grocery cart, and the stroller so he doesn’t get himself into trouble. Everywhere he goes, and everything he does, he doesn’t need to be concerned with his own safety because we do it for him. He trusts us to protect him. He trusts us utterly and completely.

But someday, probably sooner than I expect, he’ll decide that he’s ready to trust himself. He’ll walk without holding my hands. He’ll bob in the pool without assistance for a split-second. He’ll climb the stairs without a human cushion behind him. He’ll launch himself off the couch. And he’ll probably crash into something, get water up his nose, fall down a stair or two, and land on the floor on his head. And he’ll probably cry. But he’ll also probably get up, dust himself off, and do it all over again. And he’ll discover that he’s pretty trustworthy, too.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

The other day I was looking through my photo files and I got looking back through the photos of Ryan that I’ve saved month by month. Somehow, even though I know how much he’s grown and changed, it was amazing to look at actual photos of him from months and months ago. Was he ever really that tiny and helpless?

I’d forgotten there used to be so much room when he was on the changing table.

I'd forgotten his arms and legs were ever that skinny.

I’d forgotten the Floyd hair and the “scrunchy face”.

His rapt attention to Daddy hasn’t changed, though.

Nor the way he sleeps with his bum in the air.

He’s always been a good laugher, especially for Daddy.

We see “space face” a little less often than we used to, but it’s still there.

I vaguely remember when he needed a little help to sit up. (And when his hair was so red!)

He can still fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

He still occasionally gives me this face, although it's a slightly less pudgy face these days.

I realize how much he’s slimmed down when I see this photo, when he really did look like the Michelin Man. Look at those arm creases!!

I remember being so proud of that first little tooth. As was he!

His first few incursions into the pool weren’t quite as exuberant as they are now. I forget that he wasn’t always such an old pro.

He’s always looked like a little angel when he sleeps.

Ever since he could reach dirt, he’s loved playing in it. And eating it.

Suddenly, he’s such a big, independent boy! Although I guess it wasn't really that sudden.

It’s only been 9-1/2 months, and already I’m looking back in amazement at how quickly time has gone by and how much he’s changed. What will it be like when I’m looking back five years, or ten years, or twenty years? I guess it’ll be just like this, only with a bigger pile of pictures to look back through.

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