I am an introvert.
And I ended up with an extroverted child.
I don’t know how this happened.
I never expected to have an extrovert, because PH and I are both total introverts.
We get exhausted by stimulation and need time alone to recharge. We process social interactions slowly and find interacting with humans to be really difficult and often unpleasant. Introverts are the universal energy donors of the universe. Extroverts extract energy from the environment, but the environment leeches energy from us. So we hide from it.
We were both sedate, easy-to-handle children. I, as an only child, hung out in my room much of the day either reading or concocting elaborate imaginary worlds starring myself as some kind of animal. PH spend his childhood creating the perfect fantasy baseball team by examining the statistics on his baseball cards.
If you had asked me how I pictured my future son I would have described a blond, round-faced boy with a serious expression who needed time to warm up in strange situations. When Owl was in the womb I even thought he was showing introverted characteristics.
Owl is not an introvert.
I have suspected it for a long time, but there is no longer any room for reasonable doubt. He loves new situations, loves doing new things, doesn’t care if his schedule is disrupted, remains cheerful so long as there is something new to stimulate him, and gets cranky if we hang around the house too much.
In a way, it makes him really easy. I can take him out in public without tantrums, and I’m not a slave to his schedule.
It does not mesh well with my needs.
The Farm Fairy, whose son is more of an ambivert (like his mother) noticed a difference when she was babysitting Owl the other day. While her own son was happy to sit and play if she left the room, my kid would follow her from room to room, demanding interactions.
It’s wearing me down.
It’s not that I don’t like interacting with him, because I do. He’s frigging hilarious, this kid. He makes me laugh so hard with all his clowning and he says and does the cutest things.
But I’m SO. TIRED.
He eats all of my energy, like the world’s cutest little vampire, except he drinks mana instead of blood. Oh, and milk. Mana and milk.
It’s difficult enough to be an introvert in the working world.
When hour after hour of interacting with humans is required of you, you get drained fast. I had ways of dealing with it. I spent an hour in front of the computer in the morning, or reading in the bath, or both, just gearing up for work. Then, at lunch (which was an hour long), I would hide in a corner with a book. When I got home I’d spend some time with PH and then go on the internet and/or read and/or take another bath.
Not any more!
From 4 or 5 in the morning onward, Owl is on me. I am dragged out of bed by him, feed him breakfast, dress him, bring him with me on the dog walk, put him in the car, take him to daycare… and then I work. I work 9 hour days and I don’t get a lunch break.
In vet clinics, there really is no such thing as lunch break. It’s a medical environment. No one who will willingly say “yeah, that sick cat has to wait for me to finish reading this chapter” lasts long in the field. My last boss insisted on people taking lunch breaks, but then when days got too busy to make such a thing possible, you just didn’t eat at all. My new boss takes a more practical tack. She pays us for the whole day, with no lunch break, but IF there’s time, we are welcome to eat and take a break – paid. It works. But it means that I can snatch a few minutes to eat or run next door to buy a brownie, but I can’t hide in the corner and read for an hour. I can’t even check Facebook.
PH doesn’t have it any better. Since I need the car to take Owl to and from Daycare, PH has to transit to work. That means that in order to make it to work for 8 AM, he has to be out of the house at 6:45 AM. He doesn’t return to the house until 6:15 PM. So he’s gone for 11 and a half hours of the day just to work an 8 hour day.
On the bright side, he has time on the bus/train/ferry to read. On the downside, he is surrounded by humans and I tend to get texts from him saying things like this:
The person next to me is playing “Angels We Have Heard On High” on the recorder over and over again… VERY BADLY.
Then PH and I feed Owl, bathe him and put him to bed. By then it’s 9 at night and we’re wiped. We can spend time with each other, or time alone, and since we both want to spend time with each other but NEED time alone we take compromises where he watches TV and I blog. Occasionally one of us just orders the other into bed.
We’re so exhausted.
One thing I’ll say about having an extrovert: it gets you out of the house. Now, on weekends, we actively seek out activities to entertain Owl, because keeping him home all day is a recipe for misery.
Suddenly, extroverted locations like playgrounds, indoor play gyms, farmer’s markets, community events, and Canada Day on Granville Island are the most desirable thing to us, because they entertain Owl so we don’t have to.
When Owl is outside, or somewhere new, he is easy. He explores everything, chatters about everything, and is just… happy. He isn’t clinging or demanding milk or begging us to read Hippos Go Berserk for the umpteenth time. He’s just being cute and happy.
Yeah, extroverted locations are better for us introverts, nowadays.
So we’re taking Owl to Vegas, which is basically extrovertland.
We expect to find it very restful.
I thought I would transcribe my last 24 hours or so for your perusal. Behold the glamorous existence of the working mother of a toddler. It’s going to be exciting. Are you excited?
Perfect Husband brings Owl to me in bed, as neither of us feels able to deal with another wake-up. Owl nurses and I go back to sleep.
Awoken by a heavy weight bouncing up and down on my neck, the musty scent of a pee-filled diaper, and a tiny voice going “Mama Horsey! MAMA HORSEY!”
Go back to sleep after giving a quarter-hearted “neigh…”
“Mama up! MAMA UP!”
“It’s still sleepy time, Owl.” He may or may not understand me, because I am speaking directly into my pillow.
“MILK! MIIIIIIILK!! PEEEEASE!”
Perfect Husband walks into the room to find me lying prone with Owl nursing upside down on top of me, with most of his body sprawled on top of my face.
I am slapped repeatedly on the head.
Did you guys see my series on breastfeeding in World Moms Blog?
I’d love to know what you think and whether it resonates with your experiences.
The tl;dr of it is that I think that the reason so many women in Canada still don’t breastfeed despite astounding pressure to do so is that while we are constantly told TO breastfeed, we aren’t told HOW.
In fact, many women I speak to have been given incorrect advice by their nurses or doctors which actually sabotaged their attempt to breastfeed.
I have met several women trying to breastfeed who have turned to a bottle in the meantime, never having been warned by their doctor that a nipple could make the latch worse. One friend was told that she had poor supply and was given galactogogues, but no one explained to her that breastfeeding is a supply and demand system, so she went out and got a crate of formula. I have met women who thought it was supposed to be easy and natural, and no one warned them that it often isn’t.
If they want us to breastfeed, where is the support?
The friend who was given galactoguges never did reach full supply, but she continues to try to at least partially nurse her baby. Last night I saw her offer him the breast only for him to refuse it in lieu of the easier-to-drink bottle in her hand. I know how desperately she had wanted to breastfeed, and I felt so bad for her. No one talked to her about supplemental nursing systems. No one told her that some people just can’t produce much milk in a breast pump – that doesn’t mean that the milk isn’t in there.
No one helped her. They practically handed her a bottle at every pass. She laments the cost of formula, the fact that she couldn’t feed her baby “naturally” and remains grateful that she can nurse him at all, even occasionally.
We get lots of guilt but where is the help?
I was so frigging lucky.
She brought him a little gift. And by “little” I mean “a giant three foot long cardboard box”.
Inside it was, no word of a lie, a two wheeled bike.
For the 20 month old.
At first I thought it was a trike, but she quickly explained that there were only two wheels.
I was touched, because I LOVED my bike when I was a kid, and I do want Owl to get his butt on one ASAP, but I thought she was crazy. Owl still gets tangled on his own feet. (Just today I watched him trap himself in a weird downward dog position with by pushing a ball between his legs and then trying to retrieve it with one arm on either side of his right leg. It was highly amusing to watch.)
“He may not be big enough for it yet,” said Bestest Buddy.
“There aren’t any pedals, either,” she explained.
It turns out that this bike works kind of like a scooter. It’s meant to be low enough that the kid can sit astride with his feet flat on the ground, and push himself along. Instead of training wheels, his own feet provide balance and stability. As he gains confidence and speed, he can lift his feet up for short distances, and coast. When he wobbles, down go the feet.
Apparently kids can learn to ride a standard bike by age 4 on one of these things. Youtube is full of videos of toddlers basically riding them like a two wheeled bike.
Owl has a Norco Run Bike, not a Strider, but the principle is the same.
What a brilliant frigging idea.
I’m sure lots of you have probably seen these, but they are entirely new to me. After lunch I insisted on putting Owl on the bike.
He was very excited about it (“bike! bike!”) but sadly, it’s still a good inch or more too high for him. He can just barely touch the ground on his tiptoes.
I have never particularly minded that Owl is small for his age. I am always amused when my friends’ much younger babies surpass him in weight, and I actually feel for parents whose kids are unusually big, because people often expect more from them. There’s a baby in Owl’s daycare who looked like a two year old when he turned one, and the mother said she got a lot of flack from people who said he should be walking and talking. Meanwhile people think Owl is advanced for his age, because he looks younger than he really is.
So I have never really minded having a baby who is in the 15th percentile.
Because DAMN, I want to get him on that bike.
Our baby has no bum.
When rear ends were being handed out, Owl was at the back of the line, or possibly not even in the building. I sometimes wonder whether the reason he hovers in the 10th percentile is simply because other babies have bums.
Normally, we don’t really notice our child’s complete lack of buttocks. His cloth diapers are thick and bulky, and they hold his pants up very well, while also providing a nice cushion for landing on.
But when we travel, and we put him in disposables, we REALLY NOTICE. First of all, when he topples over he is much more likely to cry, as there is very little padding to protect his wee tail bone. Secondly, his pants DON’T STAY ON.
It’s really quite ridiculous. We had to pin all of his pants at the waist to keep them on when we went home for Christmas, and my mother in law had to actually hem and alter the pants on his little suit that my mother gave him – it was a 12 month size and he was 15 months old but WE HAD TO ALTER HIS PANTS.
Even then, the pants didn’t stay on well.
When Owl is in disposables, even the pants that are normally too snug on him hang down until he looks like a little gangster.
There’s simply no way to keep them on, because he has no waist for them to hang on. His body tapers from the shoulders like a carrot.
But we never considered that we might actually be causing his bum deficiency.
We were shown the error of our ways by the Helper Lady at Owl’s daycare.
I picked Owl up a couple of days ago and found him wearing a disposable diaper.
“Helper Lady put him in that, and I didn’t have the energy to argue with her,” said Daycare Lady. “She asked me to pass on a message to you, because her English isn’t good enough for her to explain it to you in person.”
“She thinks that his cloth diapers are the cause of his diaper rash.”
“You mean the diaper rash that started when we tried using wet wipes on him, and that has been clearing up ever since we went back to cotton wipes and water?”
“Yes. It’s looking a lot better. Um, she also wanted me to tell you that she thinks that the cloth diapers are constricting his bottom, and that’s why it’s so small.”
“She thinks that they don’t breathe properly, and they are snug on him, and that’s keeping his bottom from growing as fast as his top part…”
“You’re lucky she doesn’t speak English! She used to be a high school teacher! She’s very DEFINITE about her views!”
I brought Owl back to daycare in a cloth diaper the next day anyway, but if anyone knows a website where I can find information about the risks of disposable diapers or the benefits of cloth diapers in Farsi, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Meanwhile, I need to think about warning Happy Nappy about this unanticipated effect of their diapers on infant bum development.
Because apparently baby bums are like goldfish: they only grow if given a roomy enough container.
Alison Gropnik of The Scientist In The Crib claims that babies, especially toddlers, are like little scientists who constantly experiment with the way the world works. That’s why they’re always dropping spoons, smearing things on the wall, trying to provoke you with bad behavior and so on.
I took this video of Owl interacting with a new toy that I picked up at a swap meet. In under 5 minutes, I counted 14 separate scientific experiments, all unique, although some were repeats of previous experiments but with a new variable being introduced. It’s adorable and fascinating all at once. If you have a few minutes, check it out:[vimeo vimeo.com/41460908]
If any of you have kids, I’d love to see 5 minute videos of their play. How many experiments can you spot? Post them on your blog, or in the comments here, and encourage others to do the same. Let’s observe the scientists at work!
As you may remember, Elizabeth Pantley of the No-Cry Sleep Solution sent me some more of her books for me to check out. Since I love books, this made me pee my pants with excitement just a little bit. (Although that’s also a side effect of having given birth. Still working on those Kegels.)
So I started with The No-Cry Discipline Solution.
I really enjoyed this book, and I actually found it more useful than Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Toddler On The Block.
Owl and I are taking our evening bath. He’s a little overtired, on account of taking an unusually early nap that day. In order to calm him down I hold him on my arms and lay him on his back, with my chin resting gently on his head and my arms around his scrawny little chest. We breathe deeply together for a while, and Owl seems to become fascinated with this new view of the shower head and the shower caddy above us.
Owl: Deesh? *points upwards*
Me: What do you see?
Owl: Deesh. O? P? Q? Deesh!
Me: I don’t know what deesh is. I see the shower head, and the caddy, and the soap bottles, and my razor, and the loofah, and the wall, and the shower curtain…
Owl: Deesh! DEESH! Up? A… B… C… I… J… Deesh? *points again*
Me: Tell me more.
Owl: O… P… Q… Esh… Deesh? WOW! Yeah. Deesh? Up? UP! Deesh!
Me: What’s “deesh?” Do you mean “this”?
Me: Do you mean “what’s this?”
Me: You don’t mean “what’s this?”
Me: Just “this?” Only “this?”
Owl: Yeah. Yeah. Deesh.
Me: Only this.
He heaves a contended sigh and we lay there snuggled together, staring upwards, and thinking about Only This.
Most of my experience with teaching and training beings whose brains are smaller than mine has been with animals. Furthermore, in most scenarios Owl acts and responds very much like a dog and so I treat him very similarly most of the time.
I use redirection, positive reinforcement, a high-pitched, encouraging tone when I deal with him, and it seems to work. He responds well to praise, touch, and food rewards. He likes to fetch.
He’s a puppy!
So I am amused and delighted when Owl displays human-like abilities that are beyond the grasp of the dogs I have worked with.
Like when he was 14 months old and I realized that he understood that he was looking at himself in the mirror.
I pointed to his reflection and said “who’s that?” and he pointed to himself! To test his understanding, I secretly placed a banana sticker in his hair and showed him his reflection. Sure enough, his hand crept up to his hair while a perplexed look appeared on his face.
Dogs would NOT get that.
Also, I am constantly surprised by not only the extent to which he imitates us, but the extent to which he understands what he is imitating. Like at Hallowe’en, when he had just learned to walk, and he spotted a candy wrapper on the ground. He picked it up and toddled over to the cupboard under the kitchen sink, and proceeded to try and open it to throw away the wrapper.
A dog can learn to put something in the garbage if you teach him, but it would never occur to him to see something like a wrapper, identify it as garbage, and then try to throw it away himself. Hypothetically you could teach a dog to recognize certain things are garbage to be thrown away, but it would be a lot of work.
Your average dog does not watch you do something, intuit the intent behind your action, and then try to do it himself.
Owl does this every day.
Then there are other things that I almost don’t notice until I think about them.
For example, every morning I ask him to choose his footwear for the day. He can pick his wading boots, or his little doc-martin style boots. No matter which he chooses, he always brings me a matching pair. He has never brought me, say, one wader and one doc martin.
It’s the same thing when he brings me my own footwear (yes, I get my baby to fetch my shoes. I told you he is very like a dog…). He never brings me one sneaker and one boot. He brings me two sneakers, or two boots.
Again, a dog would have difficulty with that. He can fetch your shoes, but you’d have to formally train him to understand “fetch my sneakers” vs “fetch my boots”. It would take WORK.
But Owl does it as a matter of course. Humans are clever.
And the way he generalizes! I made the mistake of teaching my dog to chase my ex-boyfriend’s cat under the command “get the cat”. When I got my own cat, that command didn’t work, because he didn’t understand that “cat” meant any cat other than ex-boyfriend’s cat. We had to teach him our new cat’s name, instead.
But the baby understands categories easily. When he was 12 months old I could say “where’s Beloved Dog?” and he would point to Beloved Dog, meanwhile identifying him as “dog”. Ditto for the cat. He knew that we had A DOG and A CAT but that they each have their own unique identifiers as well.
We taught him what a hippo was, and from then on he could identify all sorts of hippos in all sorts of books, even drawn by different artists. No dog could do that!
Then again, Owl’s capacity for self-control, maturity, patience, obedience, following basic instructions, and potty training are completely eclipsed by our dog, and certainly his capacity for destruction rivals any dog I have ever met.
So I am putting him to the ultimate test.
I am going to try to teach both dog and Owl to read.
Well, not READ.
At least, not as those who use the alphabet would consider to be reading (Owl is trying to teach himself the alphabet, but has difficulty after “D”…).
More… symbol recognition, like in Mandarin. I’m trying to teach Owl to recognize certain letter combinations as holding meaning.
I’m going to do the same with Beloved Dog. I borrowed flash cards from my friend and business partner who swear up and down that she has seen dogs learn to recognize words like “sit” and “down” and differentiate between them.
Just to be clear:
I am NOT pushing, pressuring, or otherwise making this un-fun for Owl. It’s just a game, something I am interested in to test his capacity for generalization and symbolic representation. I don’t believe that it will aid his development or help him school in the future.
I’m just pitting him against the dog.
(I’m so going to get trolled…)