Thursday, May 8, 2008

Have I been made redundant; or, get out of the way, mom, and let me do "by self"

With Bub 2.0's arrival getting closer and closer, I am both excited and nervous. I can't wait to see what he looks like. I'm eager to hold an infant again. There's a whole pile of really cute new bitty-sized summer clothes just waiting for him (Bub was bitty-sized in winter). It will be a kick to see what little personality emerges and a joy (I hope) to see the Bub fall in love with his little brother.* I am cautiously hopeful that I will have more confidence this time around, that there will be moments when I actually feel like I know what I am doing. When Bub was a baby, I had many moments when the responsibility of caring for him just seemed so massive. I couldn't get over the fact that this little boy could not do a single thing for himself and seemingly would not do so for years . . .

Fast forward 28 months, and the Bub is now phasing me out, or so it sometimes seems. For at least the past month, the Bub has adopted a new mantra. I knew it would happen one day, and it has. The bub wants to do things "by self." He is constantly reminding the hubby and me that he will "do self." Whether it's opening a single-serving container of applesauce, buckling the car seat straps, putting toothpaste on his little Thomas toothbrush, spreading cream cheese on his "bagel-muffy" at Einsteins, applying diaper rash cream before bedtime, putting his socks and shoes on, or squeezing his three dipping sauces on his plate before each meal . . . the bub wants to "do self." Truth be told, he does pretty well with a lot of these tasks, the major exceptions being buckling himself into the car seat and applying diaper rash cream. I am doing my best to be patient and to let him figure things out on his own, though it is sometimes hard to watch him struggle with the foil lid of the Motts or work up a sweat trying to get his head un-stuck from the shirt he is trying to don (offers of "Mommy help?" are often refused).

There are other "by self" moments that are just entertaining. For example, sometimes when the bub is in the grocery cart, he gets the idea in his head that he would prefer to push the cart "by self" . . . while he is sitting in it. He will push my hands off the cart handle and insist on pushing "by self." After twenty second of progress-less rocking, he usually allows me to place my hands back on the cart.

And, of course, there is one major task that I am really ready for him to "do self." Some attempts at potty training are going to start in earnest this coming week, and I will keep you posted.

The other sign that I am may be becoming redundant is a habit the Bub has adopted over the past two weeks. The hubby and bubby enjoy quality time together every morning while I am getting showered and dressed. Some mornings, they just snuggle on the couch, easing into the day with some Barney. Other mornings, they are already practicing bub's football stance and running tackling drills before 7:00 a.m. Whatever they do each morning, they both enjoy the time. One morning last week, I came downstairs, all ready to face the day (showered and possessing the confidence that comes when one does not have to wear Big Teal) and begin the next stage of the Bub's morning routine. The Bub looked at me, pointed his finger upward, and tried to send me packing by saying, "Upstairs. Upstairs." It did not seem like he was joking. It happened a couple of other mornings as well, but I decided not to take it personally.

This week, my mom was in town to allow me some more dissertation time. She and the bub kept themselves busy all day, but I would periodically leave the dissertation command center (i.e., my bed) to come downstairs to say hey. "Upstairs" kept happening, but with a new twist, "Upstairs, mommy. Upstairs. Go work. Work." It would be easy to conclude that the my husband and my mom are more fun than I am, mostly because they are (but I understand that it is easier to be "fun" for shorter, more contained periods of time. I do my best, and I feel pretty good about the job I do.) I guess I could also easily get bent out of shape and emotional, but I don't really believe the bub doesn't want me around or that he doesn't love me. He does love me and I get multiple big, wet kisses each day as proof. Indeed, I have a new and really comforting interpretation of the "Upstairs" command: my intelligent, sensitive, generous child wants to make sure I finish my dissertation in a timely fashion. He wants to see me achieve success and personal fulfillment. He knows how important my contribution to the scholarly conversation about affect and citizenship really is, NTB. What a kid, NTB.

I know in my heart that I haven't been made redundant. I still have years and years of drying tears, kissing boo boos, reading books aloud, cooking chicken nuggets, and dealing with poop in my future. One day, my boys will be all grown up, doing things "by self" that I never dreamed possible back when I was disinfecting bath toys after a code brown. Hopefully, the hubby and I will have the wisdom to see their independence and confidence as signs of our parenting success . . . and hopefully, there will still be just a few things that they can't do completely "by self." We'll be there to ask some more grown-up version of "Mommy help? Daddy help?" Securely into our thirties now, the hubby and I certainly still welcome the help of our own parents. Some day, our parents will need more of our help than they do now. That's how it works, I think, and it's a pretty good system. No one can do everything "by self."


*early signs of big brotherhood include the bub's kissing my belly, placing stickers on my belly "for brother," and crushing up pieces of food and piling them up in my belly button "for brother" . . .

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The image of that little one crushing up food and putting it in your belly button is hilarious to me. Do you discreetly remove it so that he thinks the baby really ate it?

LAP said...

Last week J told me that she wanted to go to Grammy's EVERY day. I too, choose not to take that personally.

Actchy said...

This post is both adorable and hilarious. And I'm glad to hear that you have correctly identified the fact that the Bub's love of his Grammy and Daddy are in no way a reflection of his love for you. My husband's 2 year old niece is so enamored of me that she weeps profusely whenever we part ways and tells her parents to leave her behind when she visits our place. Her mommy looked at me once and said, "You'd think we were making her sleep in a closet and feeding her moldy bread at home." Of course, she only sees me every few weeks...clearly more frequent exposure would allow her to discern that I'm not really all that thrilling on a regular basis. (Unless she likes to watch people sit at an office desk all day long.)

Land of Bean said...

I wandered onto your blog some time ago and have really enjoyed reading the sensitivity and humor of your posts. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

cake said...

cosmo often tells me to go away, and it stings a tiny bit. but it is usually just like you described, when he is enjoying time with someone else, and doesn't want it to change right then. he sees me coming in the room as threatening the status quo, so logically, if i leave, the fun activity will continue.

i also see it as a sign of strong attachment. he knows you will be there for him no matter what. that brings such a strong sense of security, that he can ask you to leave once in a while, and know you'll be back. i know someone with a child this age who cries inconsolably whenever his mother is out of sight. i'll take the independent streak, thank you.

 
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