Friday, September 19, 2008

The Baby Wars

Among other things, keeping 20-month old Ella from sneaking into the bathroom and zipping out 100 feet of dental floss, raiding the cupboard for goldfish crackers which she likes to smash on the floor, or marking all over her body and clothes with a stray Crayola marker, I have my hands full with daily child management. This small itinerary does not include the large dose of her older brother Wyatt which needs its own essay for explanation. But to get to the point, I have been at war this week with my daughter Ella.

Between Ella’s desire to no longer wear clothes and her decision that she no longer likes to pee on the potty, I am fighting like a mom determined. I must win. The daily struggle to keep my daughter dressed is daunting enough and I am taunted by her calls for "nay-kit, nay-kit, nay-kit" as I chase her around the house when I find her in the nude. Or alternately, I will find her bare from the waste down and struggling with her shirt pulled half way over her head in attempt to fully disrobe. As she blindly walks around bumping into the walls or furniture screaming “hep, hep, hep,” I give in and often assist her, but after the third or forth time in one day I leave her to figure it out. When I oblige the little nudist and let her run au natural, she likes pat her belly and rub her chest cheerfully saying “nipples” and the other various words for her body parts in baby talk language.

Daddy Mike, sarcastically worries that she is going to be a stripper, and I have to say to him I think it’s a wee too early to tell. Then he might throw in a derogatory comment about her potential for promiscuity, flippantly saying something cliché about easy girls and loose virtues… As I roll my eyes back in my head and ward off his typical nonsense, the potential threat is really from the four boys who consist of her brother and cousins. Her brother, Wyatt is mostly innocent and laughs at her wanting to be naked, since he too revels in his nudity and will still run around the property a-dangle at the mature age of four. Two of the three cousins are benign except for Trevor, the middle child, who has a serious interest in all that is related to “The Body.” I worry his curiosity will get the better of him, so I do like to keep Ella clothed in company. What’s a mom to do? When in a group the boys do like to stare and mumble something about vaginas, so I guess it all starts pretty early.

I move on to the bathroom which has become ground zero in the battle over potty training. Somewhere last week the allure of the “treat” for going pee on the potty wore off, and the success I have had with training this child to use the toilet is waning. Pavlov’s dog patterning principles at work, I think, “up the ante,” and attempt to bribe Ella with a chocolate peanut butter cup instead of the meager jelly belly bean for her potty reward, but alas no, just more chanting “all done, all done” with no pee in the pot so to speak. The topper for the week was a 3 hour no pee stint where I knew she needed to go but was holding out. I took her into the bathroom for another try and once again she insisted NO, but 45 seconds later the Amazon River is flowing down her legs in my living room. For those keeping score it’s Mom-0, Ella-72. At least she has the courtesy of telling me immediately after she has wet herself or while in the act and pauses for a brief moment politely saying “dirty.” On occasion she will even pee herself, strip off her clothes and come to me and tell me innocently, “wet, Mommy.” I have to give her some credit however, in this whole process since she does tell me when she has to do #2 and she emphatically wants to put that in the toilet. Thank goodness for small favors.

Sometimes I think that jamming pieces of hay under my finger nails or tweezing all the hair out of my eyebrows one by one would be more enjoyable than caring for my kids, but I persevere. Actually, waxing my legs or depilating by using the electric Epilady tool is lovely way to end the day after dealing with 12 or so hours of kids.

They will grow up, you can’t stop them. In the end, the nice things that Ella does are worth all her troubles since she always says “tank-u” and “peas.” She listens to directions, puts her bottles and her brother’s sippy cups in the sink unasked, puts her brother’s clothes away in drawers, and dances to music spontaneously. So toss the good in with the bad of the salad of our life and all things reach parity. Next week will probably be better.

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