Tag Archives: toddlers

The Mortal Coil

For the first time in several years, I didn’t ponder my own mortality on my birthday. Well, I’m lying, in that I had a moment, late in the day, in which I wondered out loud if I’ve passed the midpoint of my life at age 44. Susanne is confident I’m still in the first half, but in any case, there was a small reminder that life is fleeting and best implemented with enthusiasm. To put it more precisely than I did in the first sentence of this post, I didn’t get all morose about aging and dying, which is good, because I don’t generally walk around spouting off nihilistic prophecy. Though some of my birthdays in the last decade have been a bit—ahem—neurotic.

Emile enjoying cherries straight from the tree.Two days after my birthday, a good friend and also my past and Susanne’s current physical therapist brought a huge balloon and a strawberry-rhubarb pie to the house to wish me a bon anniversairie. She apologized profusely (so Susanne tells me; I wasn’t home at the time) for being tardy, but Tuesday had just been too hectic of a day and she couldn’t get to it, and she hoped it wasn’t too awful of her to be belated about the whole thing. Who would be a stickler for dates when pie is involved? Seriously.

Emile of course was gaga over the balloon, which was transparent except for the rainbow-colored HAPPY BIRTHDAY and a giant rainbow cupcake. He exclaimed that there was CAKE on the balloon, pointing at it more like a professional hunting dog and not so much in a “J’accuse!” way. He also wanted possession of the balloon. I was willing to go along with this until he insisted on bringing it outside and releasing it into the gorgeous blue late spring sky, and then I grappled with my 2-year-old to get it back in the house. It now hovers above our mantle, the silver ribbon cutting through the middle of our family portrait as the balloon gently jostles around. Emile seems to have made some kind of peace with just being able to look at daddy’s present. Read More…

Echoes of Chamber Music

guitar up closeThe mythology goes something like this: when I was three years old, I told my parents I wanted a piano. They may have chuckled, or pet me on the head, I don’t really know, but the upshot was that I was not taken seriously. I mean, why would anyone entrust a toddler with an expensive musical instrument that would test the floor joists? So I asked them again a little while later. And again. Persistence was my modus operandi. When I turned five, I got a Baldwin upright piano from my folks, a chestnut brown instrument with carefully turned legs and brass pedals. My brother David promptly scratched it up with his hair pick, but it almost looked like a whimsical music bar, so I mostly ignored the destruction of the varnish. I practiced with a teacher, mostly by ear, learning boogies and ragtime and all kinds of classical songs with a contemporary piece thrown in here and there. I won an award when I was seven, but I don’t think I was ever much good at playing. I had heart, though.

Over the years I developed an eclectic taste in music, and I still love any artist who can surprise me or do something new. I’m also a big fan of music education because I think it gives young students so much—it’s helpful with math, creativity, developing auditory skills, teamwork, practice, and patience. In a world where mere participation in group activities earns one a blue ribbon (rendering blue ribbons what? a simple color?), learning a piece of music is a rich reward all in itself. I may have gotten away from playing as an adult, but I still have a fondness for the feel of polished keys, and I can still tell if any of an instrument’s 88 keys are off in tone. Read More…

Telling Lies to Our Son

I’m not sure on which particular day it occurred to us, or to which one of us, but at some point over the course of Susanne’s pregnancy somebody had the giddy-making revelation that we would soon have the opportunity to dress up our baby for Halloween. We had total control over the nature, cost, and cuteness of the outfit, because how is a 2-month-old going to stop us? It was a dizzying amount of power, really. Over the next several months, we returned to conversations about The Costume. A lion? Maybe a bumblebee. Babies dressed as bumblebees are pretty damn adorable. Or maybe a pea pod, Susanne suggested. I worried it would be too derivative of Anne Geddes’ work with infants, but it stayed in the realm of possibility, which, if I’m being honest, was about as large as half of Delaware. We considered every possible Halloween costume, even ones we’d need to craft together ourselves.

It’s not that we’re big on pagan holidays, although Christmas with the gift-giving and all is pretty spectacular. It’s more of a combination of wistfulness for our own trick-or-treating days, an excitement about the baby having his own fun, and well, costumes.

But of course, idealism quickly gives way to reality, and then crumbles into deception. Read More…

End of the long sun

There were a few things I kept concentrating on last spring in the lead-up to packing all of our belongings and cleaning out the Liar House; one of these was the opportunity to soak in a hot spring, and the other was playing in a pool with my friends’ cute and fun 2-year-old. The hot spring went exceedingly well, but the pool event, not so much.

a swimming poolOh, the kid had a blast, so no worries about that. I however was my usual klutzy self and while fetching his ball for him, managed to careen down some steps in the water, and sprain the knee I’d hurt in 2008. Because I was in said pool, the act of spraining my knee joint happened in apparent slow-motion: stepping, stepping, ooooooooooh noooooooooo, owwwwwwww.

I carefully balanced on my not-just-sprained leg and cheered him on. And I did manage to get his ball back to him.

The rest of our trip has been joyfully uneventful of injury, if not sodden in 50+ percent humidity. I grew up in a swamp, I should know how to deal with this by now. For someone who has lived 38 of 40 years in dire summer heat and damp air, I really have gained very little in terms of strategies for contending with the climate. My best trick is to duck into a place with air conditioning. So it is that I’ve only progressed to 1957 standards for heat-busting technology. Not exactly a genius on this score is me.

But our two trips to the pool were interesting for getting to see toddler politics and drama in action.

Our little friend had brought two simple toys with him: the aforementioned, knee-killing ball, and a little toy boat. Say that 10 times fast. Given that parents want even 2-year-olds to appreciate the value of sharing, there still comes a time when hey, that toy is theirs and they get to play with it, too. I watched the pulling matches and the open-mouthed shock at other kids’ rudeness from our little friend’s perspective like I were viewing the war over Helen from a front-row seat.

From my vantage seat, I discerned the following rules: If there is a toy just floating in the water, it is fair game for anyone to play with it, at least for a few minutes. If the free-use toy is handed off to another child who also isn’t the owner, that kid may have to relinquish the object at any time, and they are expected to offer no resistance. If a toy is clearly in it’s owner’s use, another child may ask to see and/or play with that toy by simply putting out a hand as a sign of greeting and interest. They should also feel free, apparently, to add a verbalization—anything from “ahhhh?” to “can I see that, please?” is acceptable, depending on their fluency with language. While it is the toy owner’s prerogative not to hand over the toy, it is very bad form to say no to a polite request. Grabbing the toy from the owner is right out, and will summon apologetic parents from wherever they’ve been lounging, with the unfortunate result that the grabber is removed from the interaction, perchance the entire pool area, and most certainly will have to hand over the object un-played-with. When the toy owner does give the toy to the requester, that temporary user may play with the toy for a while, even for an extended amount of time, like 10 minutes. The amount of time appears to be commensurate with their concentration time.

I watched and learned. Sunlight reflected off of the broken water where the children stood. The fountain pumped joyfully behind them as they learned to share. And somewhere, off in the distance, I could hear Zarathustra’s epic music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sharing among the humans had been learned. Next, how to make fire.

But if he needed me to run after his ball again, well, that wasn’t going to happen.

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