Geekamama


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Sorry, Kiddo.

Before Kiddo was born, I vowed that I would never put anything online about his diaper or toilet habits. I will now bend that vow slightly, but (I hope) in a way that will not embarrass him ten years down the road.

(What kind of fool am I being? Ten years from now, anything we do or will have done is going to embarrass him.)

Before Kiddo was born, before our midpoint ultrasound where all the parts were inspected and displayed, I wasn’t sure which sex I wanted our child to be. I had only two concerns about having a boy, and one of them was around toilet training.

(Oh, sorry. I’m informed by the Supermommies Of The Internet that it’s “potty learning.” Whatever.)

I am delighted that he turned out to be a boy. I am excited watching him grow and learn new things. But I’ve known that one day, we’d reach the point that I was dreading, and we’d have to start with the potty training. And it looks like that distant train is much closer than we thought.

Most of the unpleasantness of toilet training applies to both sexes – the wet and messy pants, soggy imprints on the floor and furniture, mad rushes to find public bathrooms when someone has to go “now, Mommy, right now!”

Boys, however, come with an additional challenge. Very few of them are born with perfect aim.

 

And that’s enough said about that.


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Back away from the bubble wrap

One thing that’s been really hard for me as a new parent is trying not to be overprotective of my Precious Little Angelkins.  He’s still a little unstable on his feet, he’s young enough that he doesn’t really know how to share or play cooperatively with other kids, and all his emotions are right there on the surface barely under control.  All developmentally normal for a one-year-old, but something that seems ripe for disaster when slightly older kids get into the mix.

The first time we visited the play area at the mall, I followed Kiddo around, teetering between wanting to protect him from danger and wanting him to explore at his own pace.  To me it felt like the older kids were running around with no regard for smaller or slower kids.  I was sure he’d get pushed or trampled or picked on, or worse.  But none of that happened.  Sure, he got bumped a couple times, and he fell down once or twice, and I did have to assert when it was our turn on the slide.  I had a few moments of alarm, but Kiddo?  He had a great time.  He couldn’t wait to go back.

I had similar feelings of trepidation as we prepared for a week with relatives in California.  We would be spending most of our time at the home of Kiddo’s three older cousins, and all I could picture was a four-year-old and a pair of two-year-olds zooming around excitedly, not realizing that Kiddo wasn’t as agile as them, not understanding that he doesn’t understand all the social niceties yet.

Boy, was I mistaken!  There were only a couple incidents where a parent had to step in, and in general all the kids got along well and had fun together.  Kiddo was happy to toddle around after them and play with all their toys, and they were great about sharing them.  I’d definitely underestimated how the interactions would go.

Being around the older kids helped both Kiddo and I learn some new things.  He learned how to get up on his feet all by himself, he picked up several new words, and he’s gotten much better at eating with a spoon.  I discovered that reading bedtime stories is even more fun when the recipient can talk about the pictures with you, and that you never get too big for snuggles (thank goodness!)  And I might have learned to relax a bit and tone down the hovering.

My niece and nephews are living proof that kids can and do survive the falls and pushes and knocks on the head.  They’re also a reminder to me that the majority of the world really isn’t out to harm my little boy.  I may not be ready for total free-range motherhood, but I can at least stop trying to cushion every blow and smooth out every anticipated frustration.

         


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Toddlers versus the TSA, redux: Well, that was anticlimactic

Last week I wrote about my jitters around bringing a toddler through the security lines at Sea-Tac airport.  I even called the TSA to try to assuage my concerns.

As often is the case, my worries turned out to be fruitless.  Going through security was easy, and frankly, the least troublesome part of our flight.

We arrived at the airport about two hours ahead of our 7:30 p.m. scheduled departure.  Our carry-on count: two backpacks, one diaper bag, one car seat in carrying bag, and one Kiddo-carting stroller.  I estimated 40 people in line ahead of us at the security checkpoint we initially chose, but a helpful TSA agent pointed us to another checkpoint that had no lines at all.  By the time we got there, there were about 20 people in line ahead of us, including several families with small children.  Excellent, I thought; I can watch what happens with the other families before we have to face it ourselves.

What actually happened with them was a whole lot of nothing.  In fact, no one in our line got pulled for secondary screening.  Even the occasional person who had to step back through the metal detector was passed along eventually.

Metal detectors?  Wait, weren’t they supposed to have been removed and replaced with the body scanners?  Nope.  Once again, I’d led internet hype mislead me.  The body scanners and pat-downs are only brought into play when a person fails to clear the metal detector.  And in the entire time that we were watching the people ahead of us, or going through the line ourselves with all our baggage, or waiting for my backpack to clear a hand search, or packing up afterward, not one person was pulled for secondary screening.

I was almost convinced that the machines weren’t even turned on–that they were set up to let people get used to their presence, but not yet functioning.  We had to walk past two other screening areas on our way to our gate, and at each one I craned my neck, hoping in vain to see the AIT in action.  Finally, at the third security area, we saw a single adult male standing in the body scanner.  That was it. 

And considering what else we had to go through that night to make it to California–snowy roads, slow service in the food court, a mechanical delay, having to unload off the first plane and wait for a second plane to arrive, having to board 150-plus people in less than 20 minutes to avoid the flight being canceled–getting through security was a breeze!  Even with a toddler.

Those people setting up web sites asking whether you “posed for porn” or “got groped” are tweaking public perception by leaving out the option most likely to happen: neither of the above.  But no one gets web hits or ad revenue off stories of systems working correctly. On the other hand, it’s great gossip to pass along links of things that outrage us!  Here’s the problem with doing so (and I’m guilty of this myself): it creates the impression that the outrageous occurrences are more widespread than they actually are.  There’s so much fear and misinformation flying around that it’s a wonder there’s room for the actual planes.

I’m not thrilled that there’s a chance I may have to deal with a full-body scan or pat-down at some point in the future.  But now that I’ve seen firsthand what’s actually happening at the security checkpoints, I’m no longer stressing out about it.

By the way, here are a couple direct-from-the-horse’s-mouth blog posts about how to make your holiday travel go more smoothly (and reduce the chance of getting pulled for secondary screening):

http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/11/hey-turkey-check-out-our-holiday-travel.html

http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/11/tsa-myth-or-fact-leaked-images.html

Kiddo watches the airport activity during preboarding


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Toddlers versus the TSA

Update: I’ve noticed I’m getting some hits from web searches on this topic.  Thanks for visiting!  Our trip is Sunday evening, November 21.  I’ll take some notes on what happens when our family goes through the security lines, and I’ll try to write up a good detailed description of how extensive the toddler pat-down is (and the adult one too, if I end up getting that.)  I’ll try to have the new post up by Monday afternoon, depending on how much computer access I get.


 

Next Sunday afternoon, we’re flying to visit family for Thanksgiving week, departing via Seattle-Tacoma International.  Sea-Tac is one of the many airports that has installed full-body scanners at the security checkpoint.  I’m starting to get a little anxious about this.  It’s not the privacy issue at all; it’s the question of how it’s going to work with a toddler.

 

I’m sure I’m just letting myself get paranoid about it, but here’s the scenario that’s playing in my mind:

We get to the airport and check in.  Knowing us, we’re already a little stressed and running slightly behind schedule.  We go to security and get into the Family line.  Since it’s holiday time, the line is long.  Kiddo is getting antsy and doesn’t want to be held, but doesn’t want to hold someone’s hand while standing.  I’m already juggling too many carry-on bags and having a hard time keeping him mellow.  At last we get to the front of the line, only to be confronted with the full-body image scanners…

The problem I’m mentally crashing into is that everything I’ve been able to find (which isn’t much) about how the scanning process works says that the person being scanned has to step into the scanner and stand still while the image is being processed and analyzed.  It can take up to 15 seconds for this to happen.

Fifteen seconds doesn’t sound like much, does it?  For a toddler, it can be an eternity!

…Husband and I pass Kiddo back and forth while we empty our pockets.  He takes Kiddo while I walk into the scanner, pause for the imaging, and exit.  Then it’s Kiddo’s turn.  He balks.  He squirms.  Then he sees me on the other side and sprints through.  The TSA agent turns to me apologetically and says, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we need him to stand there for a few seconds.”  I guide Kiddo back into the scanner.  Kiddo stays for a moment, fidgeting, then runs back out and clings to me.  The line behind us is getting longer and the waiting travelers grumpier…

I called the TSA to get some clarification.  It only took a few minutes to get through to a real person (most of that due to me mis-navigating the menu) and the agent I spoke to was nice, but just repeated the same information I’d found elsewhere: They will not separate me from my child.  I can opt for a pat-down if I don’t want to go through the screener.  The agents are trained to work with children.  She did tell me that the pat-down for children is less invasive than it is for an older person, but right after that there was a burst of static and the call got cut off.  I should have called back, but I didn’t have the heart to do so.

…At this point, we have to go with the pat-down.  But by now Kiddo’s had enough.  He just wants Mommy to hold him.  He doesn’t want someone else taking him, even if I’m standing right there, and he doesn’t want anyone touching him.  Tension rises.  Kiddo fusses.  I stress.

Flying with a toddler is going to be challenging enough.  Logically I know that it’ll be just a couple of minutes and then it will be behind us, but not being able to plan for what’s going to happen is the part that’s causing me the most worry.  I feel a little silly, because in the travels with Kiddo that we’ve done so far, the TSA agents have been helpful and respectful, and I don’t know why I’m worried that things will be different on this trip.

In the meantime, my husband has declared the issue moot.  We’re not going to expose our son to more radiation than necessary, he says; we’ll opt for the pat-down for him right off the bat.  It does give me one less thing to worry about, but frankly, I never thought I’d long for the days when “all” we had to do was take off our shoes and walk through the metal detector.  I don’t want to be THAT MOM whose kid is screaming and putting everyone else on edge as well.

At any rate, I’ll report back next week on how things went, and we can all have a good chuckle at my still-relatively-new-mommy paranoia.  Right?  Right.


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I might have done it a little differently

If I had known how the day would turn out, I might have picked out a different shirt for Kiddo Thursday morning.

I definitely would have gotten right to work when I arrived in the office, rather than following my usual routine of checking various blogs and social sites while reading work email.  I had only one task that needed to be completed that day, and it would have been done by the time the phone rang: Kiddo’s daycare director, asking me to come pick him up and take him to the doctor.

In retrospect, I might have switched the order in which I made the phone calls.  My boss first, sure.  I had to let him know I was going to be out for a bit, possibly the rest of the day.  I probably would have called my husband next, though, since I was on hold for more than five minutes when I called the doctor’s office.  Perhaps it would have been a good idea, months ago, to ask which extension I should use for the rare “I’m letting you know that I’m bringing my son to you right now” phone call.  I wasn’t setting up an appointment (although that was the extension I settled on), the ask-a-nurse line is a message service where they would call me back later, and it wasn’t urgent enough to dial 911.

I am glad, now that I think back, that the daycare staff had already cleaned up Kiddo’s forehead and bandaged the cut.  If I’d known what was lurking underneath, I might not have been as calm and speed-limit-abiding as I was on the drive to the doctor’s office. I did wonder, though, why I was feeling a little shaky about the whole thing.  After all, the cut was covered by a single band-aid–it couldn’t be that bad, could it?  Surely the daycare was just covering their bases by asking me to have it checked by a doctor.

Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll be less tentative when I finally get in touch with my husband.  While it didn’t seem like a serious enough injury to require us both, I really needed someone there to give me a hug and help me keep it together.  The phrase “a half-inch cut on his temple” sounds smaller over the phone than it looked in real life, especially when it was my own baby’s head.  I wanted to stay calm for our Kiddo’s sake, and I’m told I did a pretty good job of that.  But on the phone, I hesitated when my husband asked if he should meet me there, because I didn’t want to inconvenience him at work.  Thank goodness my gut won out on that one.

Looking back, I wish I’d repacked some toys in the diaper bag when I emptied it last weekend.  Or at least remembered to ask my husband to bring in the book from the diaper bag in his car.  Kiddo was apprehensive when we were first shown into the exam room–a different one from the one we visit for well-child checkups–but he soon relaxed enough that he wanted to walk around and look at everything.  When we didn’t have any toys, he got creative and started pushing the doctor’s rolling stool around.  Fortunately he only ran into the door a couple of times.

Something I hope I’ll never have to repeat: holding down my son while the nurse flushed the cut with sterile water.  He hated that!  My attempts to soothe him seemed to just make him madder.  His father was holding Kiddo’s head still, and we had some blue paper stuff that was sort of holding back Kiddo’s arms, but he kept working them free, so it was my job to keep him as still as I could.  Toward the end he started putting his legs on my arm and arching his back, trying to get away.  He’s too young to understand “Just lie still and we’ll be done quicker,” and probably felt a little betrayed that Mom and Dad were not helping him but rather contributing to this torture.  I wondered all afternoon whether he’d reject my hugs because they reminded him of being restrained.

For heaven’s sake, I don’t know why I didn’t nurse him sooner, once the cleaning was finished.  A long time ago I figured I’d start tapering off the breastfeeding after he turned 15 months old.  Somehow, that hasn’t really been happening.  Thank goodness, because once the cut was clean we had a toddler who’d missed his lunch, missed the nap that usually follows lunch, and was now very angry about people messing with his forehead.  I was expecting the doctor to come right back in, but after five minutes when she hadn’t returned and Kiddo hadn’t calmed down much, I decided to go for it.  It worked well enough that he dozed off in my arms.

We think we made the right choice when we opted for surgical glue instead of stitches.  The doctor said either one would work, but we’d need to go to the ER for the stitches and they’d require a local anesthetic.  The glue could be done right there in her office, with me holding him in my arms.  Kiddo still hated it, but it was over and done in minutes.

It totally slipped my mind to ask about the phone number as we were leaving.

Finally, had I been thinking, I would have picked something else for lunch when we finally got home.  Penne pasta with Marinara sauce is delicious but very messy, and Kiddo had had enough of people messing with his head for one day.


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With great mobility comes great jeopardy

It was just two weeks ago when Kiddo decided he preferred walking to crawling.  Back in July he was able to cruise around the room holding on to furniture, walls, and other people.  By early September he was able to take a handful of steps on his own, but he was still more comfortable crawling.  His daycare teachers, his doctor, and we his parents were all convinced that Kiddo did have the necessary skills and balance to walk on his own; all he needed was the confidence.  And then just a couple Saturdays ago, I was packing up his diaper bag in preparation for running errands, and I looked up to see Kiddo toddling around the corner with a big grin on his face.  Confidence: he found it.

As expected, once he got past the psychological hurdle of letting go, he embraced the idea of walking anywhere and everywhere.  The little boy who always reached for my hand now pulls away.  And boy oh boy, is there ever a lot for this boy to explore.  My husband and I, along with some friends, had been spending a lot of nights and weekends in a conference room at work getting ready for a Halloween event.  We brought Kiddo along with us rather than leave him with a babysitter, because we figured how hard could it be to keep an eye on him?  At first he was happy to explore the room and push the chairs around, but after we’d been there a couple of times, he started wanting more.  Most of the time we remembered to keep the door closed, but when you’re behind schedule on completing a huge task list, it’s easy to forget.

Saturday evening as we were packing up, I was crawling around on the floor in search of a toy that had disappeared several hours earlier.  I finally found it tucked behind the recycling bin, and happily announced my success to the room.  “He’s a sneaky kid,” replied my husband.  I glanced over fondly to where Kiddo was playing–make that had been playing, near the now-open conference room door.  “Speaking of sneaky kids–” I began, leaping to my feet.  In a snap all three of us adults were out in the hallway, but there was no child in sight.  We split up, and I encountered Kiddo a few shaky moments later, blissfully wandering toward the kitchen and the drinks cooler.  We’ve just barely gotten used to his mobility, and he’s picking up speed more quickly than we can make the mental adjustment.

His I’ll-do-it-myself mentality is increasing too. In addition to not wanting to hold my hand, he’s less eager to have me carry him down the stairs.  Today as we were leaving for daycare, I opened the gate at the top of our staircase and asked Kiddo whether he wanted to go downstairs by himself (backwards, on his stomach) or be carried.  He usually opts for the carry but today he wanted to do it himself.  Unfortunately, as he was preparing to turn around, he misjudged where the top step was, and fell headfirst down the first step.  He might have gone farther, except that reflexes I didn’t realize I posessed kicked in, and I snagged his jacket pocket by one finger.  I was too surprised to be scared, and I think Kiddo thought it was just another tumble, because he was happy to continue down the stairs once I’d helped him straighten out.

I didn’t understand it when my friends with kids older than mine would chuckle knowingly at my saying I couldn’t wait for him to start walking.  I get it now.


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Less planning, more playing

If you were compiling a list of Useful Traits for Parents, you might include “makes detailed plans for the long term” as a desirable characteristic.  After all, there’s tuition to pay for, and vacations to juggle, and who wants to eat the same dinner three times in a week?  But as a long-term planner myself, I’ve discovered that trying to plan the finer details of the future often backfires in the parenting department.

It starts innocently enough.  I’ll imagine some scenario that seems reasonably likely to happen, and then try to plan how I’ll handle it when it arises.  Sometimes this works out well.  More often, I get stressed out as I realize that I have no idea how to handle the situation, and from there it’s a downward slide into whimpering and pounding my head against the table.  The epitomic episode of this happened one morning while I was still pregnant, pondering how I’d talk to my still-unborn son about drug use.  In my imagination, the situation I had to talk him through got more and more convoluted with all kinds of soap-operatic details, until I found myself thinking OH CRAP I SUCK AS A PARENT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THIS!!  Of course I didn’t consider that I didn’t actually need an answer right at that moment; we’d have a dozen years or so (we hope) to figure that one out.

Usually, my future-worries center around more immediate milestones, and several of them have already come to pass.  Yet most of my “I don’t know how I’ll handle it when…” scenarios have turned out to be less of a Big Deal than I anticipated.  For example:

I don’t know how I’ll handle it when he starts eating table food.  The mess!  The stubbornness!  And how on earth am I going to teach him not to be picky about certain foods like I am?
Reality: We’ve been fortunate that Kiddo is an eager eater who loves to try anything off Mom and Dad’s plates.  The baby food was messy at first, but not what I’d dreaded, and he’s doing a great job now with regular food.  He loves things I never tried until I was an adult, like hummus on pita bread.  Now that we’ve taught him some simple sign language, he can tell us when he’s hungry, thirsty or all done eating, which eliminates a lot of potential frustration on both sides.

I don’t know how I’ll handle it when he starts crawling and walking.  Our house isn’t kid-safe yet, and we don’t do a great job of keeping it picked up.  We don’t have the time to do all the babyproofing we need to do.  He’ll get into everything!
Reality: We intentionally chose not to bubblewrap the world.  Instead, we did just a little bit of advance childproofing (baby gate on the stairs, some padding on the fireplace) and then waited to see what mischief Kiddo chose to get into.  A lot of it has been handled with a simple “No” and redirection.  In some cases we did need to do a little additional work (outlet covers, magnetic cabinet locks).  A few things required mental adjustment on our part (gating off the seldom-used wood stove was impractical, and letting him pound on it really isn’t that bad).  So far we’ve had only one major mishap, and to be honest, it was probably time to upgrade that lamp anyway.

I don’t know how I’ll handle it when he throws a tantrum in public, and everyone is staring at us!
Reality: I confess, I cheated did research for this one, with more on the schedule.  I’ve gleaned some good suggestions so far and have been able to head off a couple tantrums before they got out of control.  Experience has found that I get better results if I start by empathizing with my toddler-raging Kiddo and acknowledging what he’s upset about, before trying to calm him down.  And if anyone has given us the stink-eye during a meltdown, I haven’t noticed it.  I’ve been too busy focusing on my child to look around at how the bystanders are taking it.

Still brewing in the queue are situations that we haven’t gotten to yet, including:
I don’t know how I’ll handle it when he tries to run off on his own in public.  How will I control him and keep him safe?
I don’t know how I’ll handle it when he’s ready for potty training.  Does he really need to learn how to pee standing up?
I don’t know how I’ll handle it when we have another child, and I have to divide my attention between the two of them.  Will Kiddo #1 feel like we don’t love him as much?  Will I be able to give Kiddo #2 all the attention he or she needs?  When will I sleep?

Reality: Just as my husband and I have learned to trust our parenting instincts in the present, I need to trust that those instincts will continue to develop in lockstep with Kiddo.  I don’t know right now how to calm a tantrumming three-year-old or talk to a teenager about drug use because I don’t have a three-year-old or a teenager.  But one day I will, and I’ll known him as well as I know the toddler I’ve got now.  I’ll be able to draw on that knowledge to figure out how to handle the situation in a way best suited for him as an individual.  That instinct has been there for me so far; it’ll be there for me in the future.  It had better be, because I’m planning on it.