Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Great Ignorer: Ted's Tribute to The Platters

Sung to the tune of 'The Great Pretender':

Oh yes, I'm the Great Ignorer, pretending I don’t hear what you say.
My need is such, I ignore too much, since I’m three, I think no one can tell...

When Eva was over the two and a half year mark, I was nearly counting the days until she turned three. Since nearly every game and activity is marked ‘Ages 3 and Above’, I envisioned hours spent engaged in Chutes and Ladders and flashcards; the easel (that I don’t own, mind you) full of paintings of happy mums and dads – smiling heads with arms and legs. Those trace the letter activity books would fill in those doldrums hours where the nap used to be…Ah, three! How I loved you from afar! (I was allowed to dream, this was my first child I’m talking about.)

Around this time, I remember being at a barbeque of a close family friend and telling him this. I always talk to him about Eva since he has a daughter of a very similar nature (bossy, determined, highly verbal, etc.) who is a year older: she is usually my coming attraction for the year ahead. Just after wrestling Eva to the ground when she had her brother around the neck, our conversation went something like this:

‘The terrible twos are still here, but at least she’s nearly three. That’ll be better.’
‘Huh! Don’t count on it.’
Then he said the line that left me reeling:
‘Jill and I think three is worse.’

I think I started to black out at this point and all I could hear was that ‘Eh-Eh-Eh’ music from Hitchcock’s Psycho playing in my head.

Three came and went for Eva and I am happy to report that it wasn’t worse. My fantasies were way, way off – Chutes and Ladders ended in fights and thrown pieces, any kind of craft was still far too messy and those activity books and flashcards? They killed about five to ten minutes, and only when I served them with a side of Nutella. But we’ve both survived.

Now it’s Ted’s turn. He’s just over one month into threedom and he has become a tyrant. Honestly, I didn’t know that he even had it in him - he was supposed to be my easy one. His sentences to me could all end in 'b*tch', as in 'Pick that up for me, b*tch!' and 'Get me my clothes, b*tch!' and 'Get me my juice box, b*tch!' (I Thank God he's not yet familiar with that colloquialism.) I’m now beginning to understand how someone like Hitler could turn seemingly normal men into Nazis - they obviously had in them a latent three year old (long subdued) and it only took the magic of one special dictator to bring it out in them again. Unlike Eva, who’s behaviour (both good and bad) has been consistent over time, not so with Ted. Aside from the new-found bossiness, there are two other traits he’s currently working on perfecting: whinging and ignoring.

Let’s start with the whinging. Once it starts, there is simply no telling when it might subside, even after the cause has been long forgotten. After the actual tantrum has ended and even the crying has subsided, there persists a low drone of whining not unlike a sound that a monk might emit unconsciously, whilst in the deepest throws of meditation. Often it’s accompanied by an occasional sob, I assume for dramatic effect. It’s like being pestered by a tenacious fly. You simply cannot ignore it, nor can you make it ignore you. You have to just wait it out. He makes Caillou look like William Wallace from Braveheart when he behaves like this. (I’m really hoping it stops before he catches up with Caillou, because if you asked me, that Caillou is on the road to copping some serious schoolyard b*tch slaps when he gets to kindergarten.)

But worse than the whinging is the ignoring. Initially, I thought that he was just ‘engaged in a task’ (to use the euphemising developmental edu-speak that all parents have been brainwashed with these days, myself included) and he honestly didn’t hear me. He was so convincing and the ignoring was so thorough. It was like I was asking, ‘Can you please put your shoes on?’ and he was suddenly hearing ‘Pouvez-vous s’il vous plait mettre vos chaussures?’

I started to monitor what I was asking, what distractions were around. Nothing new or unusual there. Next, I started getting down to his level – and he’d still blank me. He would try to not even make eye contact at six inches away. That’s when I knew I was being tested.

So for some it’s the terrible twos, for some it’s the terrible threes. I don’t know who coined the phrase the terrible twos, but there needs to be a phrase that captures all the advanced horrors of a three year old just as succinctly. If you have any suggestions, please email me. I promise I won’t ignore you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Anyone Know a Good Mannequin Dealer?

(I need one preferably with a red wig and that fits into my clothes, but I’ll get to that later….)

Part of the reason I had three kids in three years was that they were good babies. They all ate, and more importantly, slept. (My mother-in-law says a sleep is better than a feed and I believe that.) I’ve always been a bit reticent in revealing how well my children have slept since other parents tend to think I’m either lying or smug. Or both. I probably would. But please, don’t think for a second that I don’t know how lucky I am (hence the not telling people). Although I have had my battles, bedtime has never been one of them.

Until now.

Big Liam, my third and (did I ever mention before?) FINAL child has decided this week to give me a challenge. He’s just turned nineteen months old: normally the age when one thinks the worst is over. But then the unthinkable happened: he’s started climbing out of his cot.

He may as well have started smoking cigarettes behind his changing table, I’m so not prepared for this.

What do I do? Surely I am capable of outsmarting a one year old. I try yelling first. (My natural instinct. What can I say? I’m an unapologetic yeller.) I try brandishing a wooden spoon coupled with the Evil Eye. Menacing, brought a few tears, but ineffective. Next I tried the no-reaction, no-eye-contact method. This I determined to be the best of the worst. From Liam’s perspective, since this was all a great game with him being able to get mummy into a fantastic flap, the no-reaction method had some minimal but non-lasting effect. The first night, he eventually fell asleep from boredom. A bit of a roadrunner-coyote ending.

The next night after re-cotting him some dozen or so times, there is finally silence. Later when I go in to check on him I panic: he isn’t in his cot. To my horror, I find him passed out like an old homeless guy after one too many bourbons, sprawled out on a pile of clothes he had removed from his bureau.

Next I try the mum circuit and ask around. I get a lot of pure shock coupled with ‘time for a bed’ type responses. One friend in the same situation did a little extra childproofing and put some doorknob locks on. Since Liam’s room has his brother (whose hair he loves to pull) and a sliding door, neither is an option.

As a last resort, I consult a parenting book. (Note: the only reason I keep these in the house is purely for medicinal information: basic first aid, symptoms of horrible childhood diseases, etc.) I browse the index: ‘Cot climbing, see pg xx.’ I’m momentarily uplifted that this is even a topic covered! The book advises, ‘Remove all offensive items from the room and put mattress on the floor. Lock door.’ Now that’s practical. Isn’t this the same advice given to people detoxing from heroin addiction?

I read on anyway. Then, on the next page of the book, I saw it: a picture of a nylon piece of material that attaches to the top of a cot to create a tent-like effect, hermetically sealing fugitive babe into the cot for 12 hours. Perfect!

I’d never seen or even heard of such a thing before. (Still doesn’t beat the design of those 50s cage-cots with the swinging door and detachable feeding tray.) I don’t even know what this thing is called: I just know that I need one. Now. How is this item not on every baby registry in existence? Better yet, why don’t they just come as a standard feature with the purchase of every cot? This makes me start to wonder if this is not but a bit of a unicorn in the baby product industry: an urban legend. But I start googling anyway.

Turns out I’m right. This item has long gone the way of the lawn dart: recalled, and no longer in existence. No doubt because of inappropriate use by a few dim-witted meatheads. But throw in a couple of multi-million dollar lawsuits by aforementioned meatheads, and, well, you’re out of business. Figures. Whatever it’s proper name is (or was) the offending item is now only available on the Ukrainian black market from a guy named Vlad who accepts payment only in Asian porn or U.S. dollars.

It occurs to me that I have another option, one that has been proven to work: The ghost chair. That requires one to park a chair outside the offender’s bedroom door and wait for him to fall asleep each night, before slipping away silently and leaving the chair outside the door. Family legend has it that my brother-in-law had to do something like this. Now I’ve never clarified the particulars of this, but I believe he had to leave his pants (?) outside his daughter’s bedroom door so she would be fooled into thinking he was still there. Same concept and it worked.

Hence, my need for a mannequin. Preferably with a red wig. Replacing my actual presence with a mannequin in the chair would free up a lot of time at a crucial time of the day. Now if only I could track one down.

One friend did suggest that I contact the Red Cross for a CPR dummy, but they’re always clad in those unattractive tracksuits – he’d know it wasn’t me.

There is only one remaining option: a blow up doll. Only problem with the blow up doll is they don’t ever want to sit down (except maybe on your face), not to mention that creepy look of “constant surprise” they’ve perfected.

A small price to pay for a good night’s sleep, I suppose. I wonder do they make a Lucille Ball version?