At a blissful time in our daughter’s young life we were getting two, 3-hour naps a day. It was amazing. The amount of stuff that my wife and I could do was quite impressive. I personally broke the first 3 hours into chores, followed by the second 3-hour nap with some TV, video games, or napping myself. There were moments when Claire’s first nap wasn’t a full three hours, but that was okay—you always had the second nap to make up for it.
The day finally came when that late morning nap disappeared. I wasn’t informed. There was no, “Hey dad you might wanna brace yourself for this.” It was taken from me. I’m not going to lie; there were some man tears shed over the loss of the first nap. Eventually, I was able to pull through and condense all I needed to do into the only remaining 3-hour nap. Many an awesome project had been accomplished via the naptime we had left. Rebuilding the patio deck and painting/remodeling the downstairs basement were the major things (each took 3 months worth of nap-time, and bed time sleep).
I think that dreaded day is almost here. I knew it would come, but I don’t want it to be here already! In the last few weeks my wife and I have both noticed its presence slowly creeping in. Of course, I am alluding to Claire not napping anymore.
(Pause for man tears)
The last few days Claire has not napped. Honestly, it is my fault. The Saturday it first happened we were visiting family and Claire was playing with her cousin. My mom didn’t think to put them down, and honestly they didn’t show signs of sleepiness. The next day I made sure I put her down for her nap. I had her milk, storybook and doll all set up. Claire went to her room and climbed into bed without an issue. “Have a good nap” was said, and I proceeded to go and read for a while. I could hear Claire playing in the room through the monitor. It was clear that there would be no nap in that room. ‘She might need me to go in there and remind her’ I thought to myself. I went in and told her to settle down, but 5 minutes later she was hollering, “Papi, come here!”
There are those moments in life where one is left baffled at what to do, say or think. This is one of those moments.
Every now and then our daughter will do things that we want her to do without having to tell her. I know it’s shocking to me too. Examples of such things range from eating all the food on her plate, to cleaning up after a coloring session, or simply sitting quietly while playing with her toys. Usually I am thrilled to see that Claire will do these things without us having to say anything. I will stare at her as she chomps away at her food. I will smile proudly as she cleans up her messes. I will gaze in wonder as I see my little girl’s imagination at work while she plays.
And that’s usually when it all goes down hill. When we make eye contact.
As I stare at my daughter from across the room she gets the sense that I am looking at her and if our eyes lock it causes her to snap out of her good-behavior-mode. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Claire will go from well-behaved kid to insane toddler in a matter of seconds. I’m not really sure why my wife or I locking eyes with her can cause Claire to change what she is doing, but we have quickly realized that if we do not want to interrupt her calm, cool and collected moments we cannot make eye contact with her.
I recently read an article that says that the human mind can actually sense when someone is staring at you—it is quite fascinating. There is a “gaze detection system” in our brain that is responsible for recognizing when someone is staring at you. There are clear benefits to this but when it comes to our toddler we have realized that we do not want to be detected by the said system. When Claire’s “gaze detection system” gets her to lock eyes with us she will stop eating, recognize that she was cleaning up instead of making a mess, or realize that she has been quiet for more than a minute and therefore must do a lap around the house while screaming at the top of her lungs.
As with most things toddler, there is a balance with how you deal with them. Apparently locking eyes with them is also something that we need to find a sweet spot for. My wife and I will call each other out during dinner if we stare at Claire for too long. “Don’t make eye contact!” will come out of one of our mouths. Quickly we will stare at our plates hoping the “gaze detection system” was not alerted and Claire will continue to eat.
Never a dull moment with these little ones that is for sure!
The last few weeks I have noticed a significant change in my relationship with my daughter. I don’t really know how or when it happened but it is palpably different. Claire and I have been hanging out and doing stuff like normal but I find that I am able to interact with her on a deeper level. Maybe it’s the fact that she can communicate with more than the word “no”. Claire is talking so much these days. Her ability to construct full sentences, and express her thoughts and feelings has changed the dynamic between us. I love it.
I know it sounds weird but I feel like I have a relationship with her now. Obviously, my wife and I have been in relationship with Claire since the womb, but the majority of womb to two has been meeting her needs. At this stage we are still meeting her needs, but there is more to it.
We took Claire to an amusement park last week and it was a blast! We had her ride the kiddy rides and she loved them. At one point there was this kids rollercoaster that we got in line for. I was a little apprehensive about it because it jerked around quite a bit. I had decided that I would keep my arm around Claire’s neck for extra support and comfort just in case she freaked out when the coaster started. As we got our lap belts fastened I gave Claire a pep talk, “This is going to go fast baby. Don’t worry I will be here with you ok?” Claire was too excited to care about what I was saying. I positioned my hand around her and was ready for a frightened kid. We had our first drop and Claire had an ear-to-ear grin that was accompanied with a loud “weeeeeee” as her arms were raised in the air. It was awesome.
After we got off the roller coasted my wife and I asked Claire what she wanted to do next and she responded with, “ride again.” We went from ride to ride eventually ending the day at the water park. The whole time Claire and I were hanging out there was this palpable difference. Claire interacted and laughed with us; she would run up to stuff and say, “Papi look!” I would respond with, “Wow! That’s amazing.” My daughter and I are growing in our relationship together and I love every minute of it.
I guess all parents recognize that at some point we will do more than change diapers and feed our kids. The reality of it happening is so cool and moving. This little person that I have the blessing of raising is fun, full of personality and someone I really love spending time with.
My daughter is two and she is totally milking it. There are moments when Claire will develop this strange case of selective hearing. Usually the selective hearing occurs when a command is given that requires her to do something, or to stop doing something. Strangely, mom or dad can be steps away from Claire and she wont be able to hear our commands. “Sweetie, pick up your toys. (Pause) Honey, pick them up. (Pause) Claire!” Huh, maybe she got a hearing problem.
There are times when Claire will become immobile when it is time for her to go to bed. It is curious how her legs will give away during this specific moment. “Hun, did Claire hurt her leg?” “No, why?” says my wife. I respond, “She’s holding it and saying it hurts.” Claire will grow to be a great soccer player some day.
The strangest of all is the sudden, inexplicable, ravenous hunger that manifests the moment she is climbing into bed for the night. “Papi I need to eat!” “You literally just ate sweetie.” Claire counters with, “Please! Papi. I wannit.” I have learned that this is a last resort tactic to staying up so I don’t fall for it anymore.
Some will say, “She’s two and doesn’t know any better.” The thing is I think she totally knows what she is doing. I know she’s two, and technically full reasoning isn’t there, she can’t control her emotions, yada, yada, but I’m telling you—she knows. Maybe not completely, but she knows enough.
The other day Claire was given a 30-minute slot of time to watch Thomas and Friends, when I started calling her to get ready for bath time she looked at me from the corner of her eye and gave this ever so slight sinister smile. I’ve grown accustomed to expect trouble when that smile comes out so I watched her carefully. Claire grabbed the TV remote and hid it under the cushion on the chair across from her and then sat back on the sofa as if nothing had happened.
How about the time I told her if she finished her food we would go outside and play. Claire complained that she didn’t want to eat. I sternly told her she needed to eat some of the food, “Eat 4 nuggets and we will go out.” I turned around to wash some dishes in the sink and a minute or so later I turned to look at Claire’s progress. The 4 nuggets were gone. I look at Claire who stares back with a look of satisfaction. I think to myself, “there is no way she could have eaten 4 nuggets that fast.” I look over to the left of the dinning room table and Rocky (our dog) gives the plot away. Rocky’s head is hanging low in shame. Claire has figured out that Rocky will consume 4 nuggets in seconds and he is her way to getting outside fast.
This two year old knows enough to try and get her way. I am convinced of it. When my daughter gets cranky, mean, or wants things her way she will figure out a way to try and make it work to her advantage. Maybe this is why she is trying to lock me out of the house all the time?
Maybe she knows that I know…
Having children makes you do weird things; things that you would never, ever do in normal circumstances. Fathers sell their priced muscle cars that they have worked on for half a decade to purchase a minivan with “stow-n-go” for the sake of more room. Mothers leave their careers that took them years to obtain to stay home and be pooped on, yelled at, and bossed around by little dictators. We will leave our beloved city life in order to move to a quieter suburban home because the school districts are better there, but the parties are lamer.
And sometimes we buy grass.
Yes that is an awkward sentence. It is one of the weirdest things I have ever done since having a child. My wife and I were fortunate enough to buy a home early on in our marriage. The house had everything we needed and it was move in ready. When Claire was born the back yard began to be an issue for me. I now saw it with “daddy eyes.” The ground was rocky and uneven. The grass, or to be more precise, the weeds, were not inviting. There was this awkward spot in a corner where we had a ton of pea gravel and glass. It literally looked like someone took a pickup truck full of pea gravel and dumped it there and then smashed bottles over it. Needless to say the yard was not inviting and was more of a hazard than a future playing area for my daughter.
As Claire began to crawl I took more notice of the yard. I finally got a landscape company to come out and tell me how much it would cost to fix the yard. We were given a great quote and so began this crazy process of redoing the yard. We put down some Zoisa grass because my wife’s family had grown up with it and it also requires less maintenance. We couldn’t afford to do the whole yard with Zoisa sod, so we had a big patch of it installed by the playground area and we seeded the rest with common seed. I figured the Zoisa grass should go where Claire would walk on the most. Zoisa is a thick type of grass that spreads. Eventually the Zoisa will take over the whole yard. The landscaper suggested I install the Zoisa in the middle of the yard since that would allow all four sides of it to spread at the same rate. It made sense. However, Claire’s playground was on the left corner of our yard and I wanted it there so that she could play on it. The landscaper said, “You realize that one side of the grass will be against those 6×6 beams enclosing the playground, the other will be against the fence separating your neighbors yard, the third stops at your deck, which leaves you with the right side as the only possible spot for the grass to continue to spread out?” Yes I understand. “Sir, you wont maximize on the Zoisas growth that way!?” I know, I said. The landscaper thought I was nuts and I was, but children make us do weird things like buying grass.
This spring we were able to really see the fruit of our landscaping endeavor. The yard is level. The grass is actually grass and not weeds. The playground now sits on top of the pea gravel and is buried by weed cloth and rubber mulch (another ridiculous expense that I would never, ever have made under normal circumstances). My daughter now runs, jumps and tumbles in the yard. I stand on my deck and watch Claire laugh and chase the dog. Claire falls on the grass as her and the neighbors play together. Endless laughter ensues. I smile and take it all in.
It’s more than just grass.
I walked into my home the other day greeted by the following words from my wife, “Claire is too big to stay in her crib. We need to move her to a toddler bed.” I was puzzled at first.
Baby too big? No crib? Toddler bed?
I responded with a simple, “ok.” My wife began to explain that she had caught our daughter after her nap with her leg over the crib rail and was getting enough momentum to make an escape. When my wife checked to see what the weight and height is for switching to a toddler bed Claire had reached those measurements a while ago.
After eating dinner we spent the next 45 minutes putting together a toddler bed that had been given to us. As I assembled the toddler bed, my wife disassembled the crib. There was that “awww, she’s a big girl!” sentiment, mixed with a “she’s a big…girl…?” feeling. It was really weird. It felt like we were burring someone while new life was springing up right next to it. Claire was super excited at the reality that she was getting a new bed. There was no mourning on her end. No hesitancy to see the comfort of those four walls disappear before her very eyes. Meanwhile I am holding on to an Allen wrench in the fetal position wondering to myself, ‘what is happening?’
They outgrow things: clothes, car seats, and shoes. I have seen Claire outgrow several of these items, but her crib was the last symbol of her “babyness”. It’s definitely a little sad. My baby isn’t a baby anymore. She’s a little girl. I guess I knew this was going to happen and I understand that it is an inevitable part of life, but its weird. Part of me wants Claire to stay a baby so I can hold her longer and experience her in this oh, so short and unique time of life. However, Claire doesn’t want to be held. “I walk!” she says as she squirms from my arms to get to the ground. “I try!” comes out of her mouth as she attempts to figure things out. I step back and let her do it.
This discovering fatherhood journey has so many twist and turns. One minute I think I’ve got it figured out and the next I feel like I’m starting over again. Being a father is awesome but it is painful. As simple and necessary as it is for Claire to transition to a toddler bed a piece of me hurts inside.
It’s part of the process I guess.
My daughter has been potty training for what seems like an eternity. We started her slowly at around 18 months because we knew she was capable of grasping this. Claire is now a little over two years old and is able to pee in the potty with no problem and for the most part keeps her Pull-Up diapers pretty dry. Although we’ve got the pee thing down; the dirty, not so distant relative of the vowel movement family is not something she seems to understand. Pooping is so much harder. My wife tells me that some kids usually grasp one over the other and so pooping is the one Claire doesn’t grasp. Claire has pooped in the potty before, a handful of times I might add. However, this has been due to us seeing her face turn a shade of red and purple that we’ve come to recognize.
We have instilled a price system for going to the potty that has stickers and a chart. For every 4 pees she gets to pick anything out of a plastic container we have in the bathroom. Every time she poops she automatically gets a price. The stickers show her how many more bathroom visits until she gets a price. The prices consist of chocolate, stickers, pencils, coloring pads, etc. Claire understands how this system works very well, she will say to me, “two more Papi and I get a dulce (candy in Spanish).” I will praise her and say, yes two more. However, she won’t poop in the potty. I speak slowly to her and try to explain it and even though she gets it for peeing she is missing it for the other. “Instant price Claire. Instant! No waiting 4 times, you get it right away!” She will smile and say ok and then go poop in a corner.
There are several people telling us their own particular methods of how to teach them and we have finally realized that Claire is too content with the amount of comfort the diaper provides. The padding in diapers absorbs and allow for the discomfort of a kids vowel movements to not be noticed much. So today we swung by Target and got two pairs of those training underwear. The idea is that it has less absorption fabric to catch pee or poop, but because its not too padded like a diaper the kid will recognize that ‘this is not very comfortable’ and hopefully be more aware of when needing to use the potty.
We just got this training underwear so I’m not sure what to expect. I have this slight fear that I will find my daughter opening her said underwear and fling poop everywhere in defiance. I’m fine with cleaning poop, but to randomly find it one day at home as I go about my day creeps me out.
Somehow it always comes back to poop on this blog…
Claire has been great in most things. We really have been blessed with her ability to follow instructions and deal with change. I hope that this poop problem doesn’t “hit the fan”.