Because I can tell those Stations of the Cross posts just aren’t cutting it for most of you….
I’ve been realizing anew lately the beauty and the hair-pulling potential that is toddlerhood. Lacking speech, Michael shrieks his displeasure–and you know toddlers are always wanting something for no reason other than because somebody else has it. When he doesn’t get his way, he’s a sight to behold.
Yet outside those moments he is so adorable. He’s so free with his laughter, and so lovable. I really want to write a post on this topic, but I have to wait until after Easter I’m afraid. (Note to self…)
Nicholas had his kindergarten screening this week. He got a little overwhelmed as we were walking in–somehow it’s very different to tromp around the parish like you own it on Sundays and choir practice nights than it is to walk in and realize it’s now a school and a whole lot of unfamiliar adults are there to talk to you. For one awful moment I thought he was going to refuse to go. Then he grinned and took off with the first teacher with that Peter-Pan walk, feet spread out wide, bouncing from side to side. The teacher who brought him back forty-five minutes later said she asked him what his favorite part was, and he said, “All of it!”
He followed that up on Tuesday with a horrible day. Not even so much a horrible day as a horrible late afternoon. It was like a switch flipped, and he said, “That’s it, all my goodness is used up.” I’ll spare you the details. I kept my cool, but that boy lost three days’ worth of screen time and earned an hour of chores, one minute at a time.
“Julianna!” I said, but my attempt at severity was severely undermined by the giggle I couldn’t restrain. “It is not your place to count him down! I will take care of Nicholas!”
Being up at 5 or 5:30 every morning, I’ve come to recognize certain patterns in the kids’ early-morning patterns. Michael, for instance, used to have a fussy minute or two around 5:45 a.m., about the time he needed a toilet. Julianna’s pattern the last few months is vivid dreams in the hour between 5 and 6. She talks in her sleep. She’s hard enough to understand while she’s awake; asleep it sounds like gibberish. But the other day I heard her giggling in her sleep. Her giggle is like silver. It was just darling.
I’ve come to a realization: I like my children much better when they have no screen time at all. I’ve seen other parents say that aggression goes up when the kids watch TV. I always thought it was because they were watching superheroes or something else with violence built into it, but I’ve been observing the phenomenon in my house lately, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Thomas the Tank Engine, Tinker Bell, Mary Poppins, Minecraft or math and writing games–the instant the screen goes dark, they start getting angry with each other. I mentioned this to my mother yesterday and she said, “Oh, yes. That’s why I stopped letting you girls watch Saturday morning cartoons. I thought I’d be nice and give you a treat, but you were so bad afterward I said, Fine, enough.” (The business with Nicholas began with turning off the iPad.)
It’s always interesting to me to analyze the differences in personality among my children. For a long time you can’t really do that, you know? They’re just progressing through early-childhood stages. With Nicholas, I’m finally realizing what probably should have been obvious long ago: his devil-angel tendencies are not a stage. He is a strong-willed child, and nothing is going to make him suddenly become thoughtful and compliant as his older brother is.
I spend more time problem solving how to bring Nicholas along, in terms of behavior, than any of my other children, including the one with special needs. But it’s good for me as a mother. It’s a challenge to both intellect and conscience. I realized yesterday I’ve been absorbed by the overwhelming task of novel revision, and I was not taking time to spend with him. So yesterday we spent the entire afternoon together. I got no writing done at all, but we made these flowers for grandparents:
And I painted a picture with him (which, spookily enough, I had dreamed about doing the night before. This is the picture I painted in my dream).