Saturday, July 20, 2013

Year One, Month Five Musings

Travel. Ah, the joys of travel with a one year old. Actually, let me clarify – traveling is pretty brutal these days regardless of having a child with you or not. When you board a plane, sit down, and hear the pilot say “we’re experiencing technical issues – sit back and relax and we’ll try to have us in the air in about 45 minutes” it crushes the spirits of everyone on the airplane. However, when traveling alone your biggest concerns are missing connection flights or wondering how long your iPhone battery is going to last to entertain you for the extended period of time. When you sit down with a busy one year old and hear the same announcement, it’s a feeling of panic and dread that I can only compare to being stuck in traffic while running late to a DMB concert. This was the situation we found ourselves in last month while traveling with Jackson to Pennsylvania.

But it gets better. Shortly after the dreaded announcement, KB and I started to smell something… and realized that our second biggest fear was coming true. Here we were, trapped on a sold out, delayed airplane, with a very busy child with a dump in his trunk. We did what any responsible parents would do – ignore it and hope that the smell wouldn’t bother the people around us. This strategy worked for a while… until I started to feel something wet on my leg, underneath where Jackson was sitting on my lap. It makes me feel better to pretend that this was simply “pee” that was leaking out onto my shorts, but the color would probably indicate otherwise. Forced with no other option, we somehow performed the dreaded mid-air, on the lap diaper change without creating any additional spills, and emptied the contents of a Zip-Lock bag from our carry on to contain the smell.

Even though we brought one carry-on bag full of nothing but entertainment options for Jackson, the last twenty minutes of the flight and de-boarding process featured a screaming child that we were responsible for. Needless to say, upon arriving at our destination, I was frazzled, fray, poop-stained, and broken. There’s a reason why airlines (who charge for EVERYTHING) don’t charge you for bringing a child under the age of two on a flight – no one in their right mind should do it.

Sunny Days. Leading up to the flight, there was one discovery that went a long way in keeping our sanity on that fateful day – our child LOVES Sesame Street. It really speaks to the marketing genius behind the creators of these characters over forty years ago. It’s not as though Jackson watches this show every day – in fact, he’s probably seen bits and pieces of the show less than 10 times in his life. He’s got roughly 100 books strewn about our house – including exactly three that involve Sesame Street characters. Yet somehow he suddenly knows and LOVES the Sesame Street characters. Those books are now his favorites. Out of the huge pile of stuffed animals we have from KB’s childhood, he’s discovered both a Grover and Big Bird that he plays with every day. But most importantly, Jackson will now watch the show for an extended period of time, sitting in a trance and trying to understand the educational antics of those weird furry creatures.

After finding this out, those $2.99 episodes of Sesame Street on iTunes became a steal, and were quickly loaded on the iPad prior to leaving for the trip. Full disclosure - they did buy us about 45 minutes of glorious peace and quiet on the plane ride, where I sat completely still – holding the iPad in one hand and bracing myself at an awkward angle with the other, terrified that any change would break the copasetic state that Sesame Street had created.

But this really does bring up something interesting - WHY does Jackson love Sesame Street so much? Are all kids born with some innate connection to bright colors, high-pitch voices, and furry objects with large eyes? Or is it just coincidence that Jackson is drawn to it the same way that both KB and I were when we were kids? If the love for TV shows is genetic, my son is going to be in heaven when he realizes that I already own all of his favorite shows on DVD someday. But taken to the next level, isn’t it weird that Jackson likes things like balls, sports, and cars – but shows absolutely zero interest in dolls or even non-Sesame Street stuffed animals? Since we didn’t know the sex of Jackson before he was born, everything in his room was neutral colors, and there’s a pretty even distribution of boy-centric and girl-centric hand-me-down toys in our house. So why does Jackson naturally gravitate to the boy ones? Is that genetic? Or just a coincidence that I shouldn’t read too much into given that I am using a sample size of 1 out of the billions of people in the world?

Terrible Ones. Finally this month, Jackson is in the middle of what I’ve termed “the terrible ones”. I know that people talk about their kids becoming disasters when they turn two, but right now there are a lot of situations that are pretty frustrating. First and foremost is probably that my child is the most opinionated person I’ve ever met. He wants what he wants, and he wants it NOW. Coupled with the fact that his current vocabulary primarily consists of “more”, “please”, and “help”, it results in a lot of him asking for things and a lot of us either misinterpreting or denying him of what he wants… which leads to a sad Monk. I keep waiting for the point where I can have conversations with him and explain the logic behind the decisions I make on his behalf (“sorry Jackson, if we go outside in 95 degree weather, Daddy will physically die – do you want me to die, or can we play inside?”) and have him understand and respond with real words (“I understand your concerns, father – what if we get out the pool instead of playing in the street? Would that be an acceptable compromise?”) rather than him frantically signing “please” repeatedly and not understanding why I’m being a jerk about denying him what he wants.

Sure, if we were better parents, we probably should have taught Jackson more baby sign language – but if you’ve ever looked up some of the signs for things, the majority of them are pretty ridiculous. I’ll give you “more” and “please” as being acceptable – but the sign for “thank you”? It’s basically the Italian sign for “F you”. The sign for “avocado”? I watched a YouTube video of it about ten times and still couldn’t mimic it – and it has nothing to do with avocados! Where’s the symbol of slicing and opening an avocado? Or dipping a chip into something and eating it? Because of this, I’ve taken it upon myself to create more logical sign language with Jackson where I can.

First example – the sign for “help”. Kids are supposed to pound one fist into an open hand and then raise it with a thumbs up sign. That seems unnecessary complicated, so I’ve just taught my son to raise his hand when he needs “help” – and now he does it. It drives the wife crazy, but it’s absolutely hilarious to see Jackson run into a problem, then turn around, throw both hands in the air, and give this panicked look like “I can’t solve this situation! I need a person bigger than me to assist!”

So at this point, we either need Jackson to start talking (which I almost think he’s just being difficult or lazy about not talking – he clearly understands everything) or I need to start coming up with logical sign language movements for the expressions I feel like he would use most frequently. Currently, they would probably be the following:

  • I want to play with water, but not actually touch the water with any part of my body.
  • I want to carry around and ruin food, but not actually eat any of it.
  • I want to trade all of my toys for your kitchen appliances. You play with the plastic helicopter, I’ll play with the oven.
  • I want to turn the TV on and off repeatedly. I don’t actually want to watch anything. Stop trying to change the channel to things you’d think I would like.
  • Even though I want to play independently, I want both mom and dad within two feet of me to ensure I’m not missing out on them doing something more fun without me. If they are not here, I will call their name incessantly until they return.
  • I don’t actually want to go outside or inside – I want to play in the space between the screen door and the front door, opening and closing them repeatedly until all the air conditioning is gone from the house.

If we could just get all of those established (along with making him understand the ridiculousness of each of these requests), we would be all set… at least for now.