Tuesday, March 11, 2008

His Own Drummer

I have three "babies," the eldest now seventeen years old. Dear Daughter fills the middle child slot, while the toddler is at present, quite commanding in his role as the Center of the Universe. It's no surprise to me that he's an individual, that he is different, that he has his own personality. What has caught me off-guard is *how* different he is from his older brother and sister.

While Daddy was deployed, I dealt with Toddler, then age 1-2. He went through what was wrongly diagnosed as a milk allergy for several months, using all of my sick days plus enough regular days in the first quarter of school that for the rest of the year my paycheck was docked each time I had to stay home. No, no milk allergy- he'd simply been subjected to three rounds of antibiotics that killed off all of the good stuff in his gut (gotta love military doctors sometimes) so that milk/dairy couldn't do its job. Yogurt is a good thing!

He did well in day care, not throttling the biters like I feared he would (and sometimes wished he could!). He would often wake up in the middle of the night, hungry again, or soaked through, never settling into a routine of sleeping through the night. Not a good situation for me as I'm one of those people who *must* have at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night in order to function the next day. No drama, no indulgence, just the truth.

Older Brother and Sister both slept through the night at (you're going to want to smack me) two weeks of age. They both had a regular, predictable routine, only thrown for a loop when a sneaky ear infection came home to cause problems. They were both healthy, neither requiring hospital visits until they started getting sprains or broken bones from too-rough play. Toddler was hospitalized a few weeks after birth after catching a respiratory infection. Older Brother liked most foods, as did Sister. Not so with the Toddler. Milk is good as long as it's "bunny milk," and the world is a happy place as long as our kitchen is full of pancakes, yogurt, fruit snacks, or crackers and cheese.

The older siblings enjoyed music, and relatively peaceful play activities and games. For the toddler, louder is better! Crashing, bashing, thrashing no matter the time (today he was up at two-thirty, three-forty, and finally "UP-up" at four-thirty) is what he enjoys in his morning routine. Brother and Sister liked cartoons, but watched PBS most of the time when the television was on. For Toddler, there's nothing better than Dexter's Lab, Samurai Jack, and Duck Dodgers. Nothing.

Toddler growls. He growls in play with Daddy all the time, but growls at strangers, male and female, in the post office, at the commissary, in the mall or bookstore. Brother and Sister would wave, or smile, or hide behind me when greeted. Toddler talks when he wants to, not when he's engaged to do so by others. Independent and assertive. And growly. While Brother and Sister never needed a leash, Toddler has one, yes he does. Despite some of the disapproving looks I've received from strangers, I know my child, and I know myself. He's faster than I am, especially when I'm carrying packages in my arms at the post office. He's an explorer and wants to touch, grab, and manipulate everything, unaware of the differences between plastic and porcelain. He bolts, runs, jumps, and climbs, and often does a pretty good bull-in-a-china-shop impression. I love him so much I don't want to lose him to strangers or some dangerous situation, but I also know I can't swaddle him or stuff him into a baby backpack everywhere we go, restraining his movement. With this child, leashes are a good thing.

Brother and Sister routinely demolished their bedrooms. Toys, games, books everywhere, but the mess was always contained, corralled by some unseen force. Toddler's messes spread. Bedroom, hallway, living room, kitchen, under the dining room table, out onto the back porch, under our bed, under Sister's bed, no place is spared. Robots, books, blocks, Harley toys, stuffed animals and any snacks he decides to swipe from the pantry are all mixed together on just about every surface in our house. I dread the day he realizes he can reach the countertops.

We have to lock all of the doors to bedrooms and bathrooms to keep Toddler out of things he shouldn't be in. He has learned how to pick the locks. He'll be three in May, but he already does the divide-and-conquer routine when it comes to trying to get what he wants: ask Mommy, and if that doesn't work, sneak out to the garage and ask Daddy. This week he's experimenting with dramatic sounds, crying louder or even forcing a cry when he gets a little bump, all of it extremely fakey fakey. If a piece of furniture is involved in an injury, he unleashes wrath upon it, "no no table! No owie! No boo boo!" Who do these rogue tables think they're dealing with?

I caught part of the Oprah episode where she interviewed Jon and Kate of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight." Oprah asked if things were getting easier now that the children were older. Kate's response is ringing true for us: "Didn't you know, three is the new two?"

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