Parenting

pendulum

Turns out children are a pretty complex species, which I’m sure I’ll learn to accept soon enough. But craving consistency I keep thinking the child has locked into a certain way of being, his personality decided – for better or worse.

There was a patch where he was pure evil. And what I mean by that is that he was curious to the point of defying instruction. Perfectly normal it turns out. So when he would see his bowl full of cereal and think about what reaction it would have, that I would have, if he were to swipe it off the table and proceed to splash around the milk whilst holding eye contact with me, I’m sure he was just seeing what would happen, and that it wasn’t a demon taking residence in the body of my child. Ahh the rosey tint of retrospect.

So it was with welcomed surprise last week that I could stop thinking about moving house as he turned to pure gold. We had our day together – Daddy Dave (the ‘v’ fell into the pronunciation and we haven’t corrected it just yet) – and he was full of love and energy, reminding me constantly of how I’m his best friend and that he loves me. Later I asked what he wanted to do and he proposed that he go to bed, stopping to brush his teeth en route. I follow to read a few him his bedtime stories and he has already tucked himself in. Perfect, if not suspicious, child. Almost more unsettling than when he went full Damian.

So there goes me, smugly reassured of this new angelic child. Until Fathers Day just passed.

We had tried potty training a little while back and it was just to difficult to keep up with the amount of washing when there were accidents. But now, in his newly perfect mode he seemed to be taking to it just fine. Well. Fathers Day. Nico asks the boy if he needs the potty: he looks down at his dry trousers, back up at her and presents his growing piss patch with a stage magician’s “tadaaa” adding a little leg kick as a flourish. At least he’s a showman about it. But all I can think to do is hold him down whilst Nico fetches the bible.

Update: Daddy Dave just passed and the pendulum has once again swung in the other direction. Fully aware and using the potty his ownself, no accidents for four days straight now. Lovely as ever, but I keep my bags packed and holy water handy on the off-chance.

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gaming the system

Terrible twos. A horrible throwaway term that encompasses a great many emotional developments. A shorthand between parents maybe, but still it stands in for something individual and a lot more complex.

A couple of the most recent Machiavellian flourishes that little Jtown has mastered in the last couple of weeks:

Playing hide and seek and, because I’m a pro, he goes looking for me for a little while. I watch as he runs into the living room, peers around the usual places (like I said, professional) and then calls out “Daddy! You my best friend”. I die a little in silence, long enough though to see him turn around a look for movement before trying it in another room, bating me to react.

Or more recently, Nico was giving Jackson a time-out. Pretty upset by the ordeal he brilliantly found a way to distract her from the process and asked “You love me?” and then cuddled her when she said yes. Now maybe he was just looking for assurance while being told off, I wasn’t even there – but I can imagine his demonic smile over her shoulder as she comforts him.

Cleverclever.

magic

Went paintballing tother day and suffered no bruises, just exhaustion from my severe lack of fitness. This left me stiff for a couple of days, my thighs (quads?) tight and burning. Home with the boy I tried as best I could to play and wrestle like normal – but even getting to the ground I had to moan out loud.

‘What’s wrong Daddy?’

I told him that my leg hurt. He upped and moved over to me and kissed my leg in an attempt to heal it, a remedy we have prescribed him on occasion that actually works really well. Now who am I to disprove this treatment? I was then forced to pretend I was better, purely to keep the magic of kissing better, grimacing as I do myself damage. The lovely bastard.

pigeon

I had never really noticed how many toy cars are installed in shopping centres until now. The ones that cost a pound for two minutes of gentle oscillation, whilst spouting some tinny catchphrases of the character its themed around. The kind that you find on piers, in supermarkets and arcades. They’re everywhere, aiming to both stimulate and pacify – to pacify by stimulating. I haven’t quite worked them out yet, but the boy has sussed them.

A fruit machine for toddlers they have flashing lights and buttons that will loop a demo in extremely short intervals, aiming to hook a near-by child and then frustrate them by being unresponsive until you cough up some change. Well little Jtown is unperturbed by this, he will b-line for the car, climb inside and press buttons multiple times and in different combinations until the demo plays. He will make some association between his actions and the result, creating some superstitious ritual like one of PT Barnam’s pigeons.

Pockets

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So nimble fingered is the child now that he can stow things away in his pockets. Up until this point, the pockets on his trousers were akin to the belly button on Adam – purely aesthetic, to make him blend in with the rest of us, to pretend he’s just like the rest of us. And now he is: collecting things he doesn’t need.

two

Fast approaching two years of age (24 months in parentspeak) we received a form that allows the men in white coats to track the boy’s development. Of course we treated the questionnaire competitively and were almost gloating when he would over-achieve a particular goal.

Can he name 4 parts of his body?

Four?! Hows about: shoulder, elbow, eyebrow and thigh. Do one bell curve.

Then of course we were met by some that he hadn’t quite achieved, or we hadn’t even thought to put in practice. And these were, as it turns out, quite huge – maybe even fundamental developments.

Does he refer to himself as I/Me?

Shit. We’ve raised a psychopath. Or a guru – referring to himself in third person like our own little Mike Tyson.

Mulling this over these last few weeks it seems to be a lot more complex than I first thought. How do you teach someone perspective without your own interfering. You refer to yourself as ‘I/me’, and somehow he is supposed to pick up on the fact that he should refer to you as ‘you’ and himself as ‘I/me’. It’s baffling really. I don’t know I manage, let alone teach it on.

I realise more and more the linguistic tricks I take for advantage. The synonyms, homonyms and word games of everyday. Somehow the little one has picked up on the fact that people share names, a la Nanny and Grandad. And I’m certain that he understands both two and too (meaning ‘as well’). He has a fluidity in language and isn’t hung up on a word meaning one thing and one thing only. His sole principle is to communicate something, not dressing it up and following grammatical rules, and yet he seems to have formed an understanding of the rhythm of language that he hears from others.

At this point in time he is forming 4-5 word sentences, if the words are crucial. If he only needs two words to communicate what he wants, he will often fluff up the sentence with some gibberish – knowing that when we talk there is more going on and so offering some noise as filler. I guess that is what we do on some level.

If he were to say ‘Fly gone window’ I know exactly what he is saying. But in mimicking the manner in which we speak, he protracts the sentence unnecessarily to ‘Fly baderrrra ferrba daaferr gone window’. As if we wouldn’t pick up on the nonsense sandwiched in-between. Or maybe he’s mocking our needless waste of breath, satirising us – the little fucker.

At least I can speak in first person.

the greatest pretence

Being a parent has thrown me through a number of existentialist ponderings.

All it takes is to recognise a small gesture or expression in the little one to make me realise that parts of my personality are merely biological quirks. I see the science-fiction philosophies of clones and time-travel bubble up in this version of me. Blended with another variable (she prefers Nicole) and placed into different circumstances, I realise that as much as I like to think that I am the thoughts behind my eyes, I am the product of my genetic make-up, and by extension so are these thoughts. From this crumbling perspective I watch as this 2ft replicant finds his own voice – both literally and figuratively.

I got to a point a couple of years ago when I started taking life seriously, acting more serious, pulling the appropriate serious faces and everything else it tells you in the pamphlet. I’m handed a child by fate (she prefers Nicole) and am expected to impart what little I think I know into this human child.

Hurled into the deep end and held under for a few seconds just so I know whose boss, I kick into gear and generate enough power to keep afloat. And then remembering I’m a legal guardian I kick a little harder for the extra weight and pretend I know what I’m doing – which from a distance can look like lot like flailing. Aerobic drowning maybe.

But that’s one lesson you pick up pretty early – everyone is pretending. As I heard one mother put it recently ‘life is the greatest pretence’. You pretend until you get a steadyfooting, before you`re hopscotching your way to the next thing, off balance but straightfaced and faking confidence until it becomes real confidence. The two actually aren’t that far apart.

Up until this point I had liked to think myself lucky for the temperament and general charm of the little one. Although quietly and in the privacy of my own mind I’m sure I put it down to a natural flair for parenting. Well that’s being tested now and I’m fast blaming the generic biological functions that all babies go through rather than my own shortcomings. Still, I’m not going to use the responsibility-relieving mantra ‘terrible twos’ – but it does seem awful convenientlike that on the brink of turning two he has started to test his boundaries and punch his keyworkers.

Now is the point where we impose boundaries and the proper way to be. Whilst I’m still naively challenging the status quo and questioning the system, I’m having to teach that self same system and impose it’s rules and regulations. It’s quite baffling really. I celebrate the little clone’s lack of inhibition and yet impinge on it with indoor voices and sensible attire. And who am I to say that his keyworker wasn’t asking for it.