Getting tough

Dearest Finch —

You are now 21 months old, and fighting for independence. You have spent every day since the 20 month mark asserting your OWN self. “Finn do it,” you tell us… and afterwards you say, “Finn did it!” You want to use the BIG fork to eat the melon yourself, drink soy milk from Mommy’s cup yourself, pick out your own clothes (the bumper car shirt AGAIN?), read the books YOU want — over and over again. I have to say that we’ve done a good job teaching you all twenty-six of your letters and at least twenty varieties of birds (including a few with your OWN name variations, such as the “pink ‘mingo,” “peacop,” and “paradise”), but my attempts to make you a bird and word-lover have somehow been less successful than nature’s attempts to make you — well, I hate to say it — a TRUCK lover. In fact, as I try to get you to focus on identifying some of our feathered friends, you tend to lose interest pretty quickly and walk away to play with something that has wheels:

Some people say that the car and truck thing is genetically-wired — a claim I used to scoff at — but all it took to make you an avid truck and train aficionado were a couple gifts from relatives, including your current favorite, a signed copy of Wheels of New York, otherwise known as  “Grandpa Jorge’s book” — a phrase I hear about fifty times a day. For the last few weeks, you’ve demanded to read “Grandpa Jorge’s book” when you wake up, at naptime, when people come over, before bed, while in the car… and you want it close to you whether awake or asleep:

Anytime we’re in the car, you’re on the look-out for different types of wheels, identifying vehicles for us with fully-charged passion. “Cement truck!” you shout from the back seat. “Fuel tanker!” “City bus!” “White pick-up truck!” A few weeks ago you shrieked “Motorcycle! Daddy, get it! Get it!” Although Daddy failed in this endeavor, he certainly tried, for you are hard to ignore, my dear.

You even dominate what we listen to and talk about, both in and out of the car. When I tuned into NPR this morning, you shouted “No lady talking!” At dinner tonight, as we spoke with a guest about grown-up affairs, you simply demanded “No talking!” Yesterday morning after greeting me with a kiss, you began the day by ordering “ocean waves OFF!” I turned off the white noise you sleep to and started one of our favorite playlists, the one with the birthday song your uncles wrote for you, but you walked up to the ipod dock and swatted at it. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Hitting ipod,” you said. “We don’t hit, ” I said. “What do you want to hear? Use your words.” Your answer was simple: “Violin.” How lovely, but why couldn’t you just say so? Why the swatting?

This hitting, while physically harmless, turns my heart black and blue. Sometimes you swat at the air when you can’t get your way, and sometimes when you’re frustrated you hit me lightly on the arm or forehead. You know you’ve crossed the line and immediately say “sorry,” but then you do it again five minutes later. The worst part, though, is your recent desire to hit other kids for no reason at all — at music class, at a local playspace, at the water park, at a playdate. In just a couple of weeks I’ve gone from absolutely loving our Saturday music class to secretly dreading it. How can I enjoy watching you dance and make music when I’m worried about what you’re plotting to do with that metal cymbal?

My darkest, most challenging moment as your mother was just last week, when you suddenly bit my friend’s daughter on the arm so hard that I could see raised teeth marks. As Marlowe wailed, I lifted you up and handed you to Daddy, feeling shocked, devastated, and confused. You looked pretty shocked, too. Where are you learning this? Daddy and I don’t bite or hit. We cancelled our cable a year ago and never watch ANY television, let alone violent programming. If, as everyone is telling me, this is a “natural” way to express frustration, then when why are you so frustrated? Could it be the pointy canines now poking out of your gums? The attention we’ve all given to your twin cousins? My hot-headed genes? Sometimes I feel so helpless.

Although I love watching you assert yourself and paint the world the colors YOU like, I have to admit that I wish I felt more in control. And I have a feeling that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. You may be 21 months old, but we might as well just consider you TWO… as in terrible two. It isn’t a fair label, I know, for there’s too much sweetness, laughing, listening, conversing, reading, dancing, tickling, snuggling, kissing going on to be anywhere NEAR terrible. But there’s no getting around the fact that things are a bit more complex around here, Finch. Every day with you is more unpredictable for all of us. You might wake up offering kisses and hugs, or you might wake up whining. I wake up each morning hoping that I have what it takes to keep you healthy and happy as you figure out what you want, and who you want to be.

With love, no matter WHO you want to be on ANY kind of day…. Your Mommy

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8 thoughts on “Getting tough

  1. Finn is, truly, a remarkable child. It’s not every 21 month old who knows all his colors and shapes, can identify all letters and even read sight words, name all sorts of birds and trucks, or by god!, identify violin music. He has a gift. And I adore him.

    As to the hitting, well, you know we struggle with that, too. I have to imagine it’s typical behavior for young toddlers, no? I’m not sure how to handle it either. I just take his hand and have it brush my face softly, always repeating “gentle hands.” Maybe it’s worked a bit…he seems to be doing the swatting/hitting thing a lot less lately. I’d love for him to use his words instead, but he certainly doesn’t have the vocabulary Finn had at his age!

    Finn clearly has a powerful brain inside a tiny not-even-quite-two-year old body. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be, to know so much and be so limited by your small age and size. I’m sure it will work itself out.

  2. You must really be loving your Finn. I simply love going through what you write for your Finn and I can smell how badly you love him. Kepp on loving him forever. Wish you and your Finn all the best.

  3. I know that I’m younger than you, and it may seem a little displaced for me to tell you this, but I can feel your pain. You saw Jadyn at target that night (one of the most embarrassing nights of my life if I may add), and she was totally quiet. Finally at the very end you heard her yell, “Boobies!” I was totally mortified. I just wanted to tell you, as a mommy, we’re all in the same boat. As much as we keep them away from all of these negative elements, as much as we monitor them, and try to steer them in the direction that we think is right, they tend to surprise us with little, tiny flaws. We find ourselves saying, “Don’t say that!” because we slipped up and said something out of anger, or just pure frustration. They go on to repeat that word that you beg them constantly not to repeat for a week to two weeks, to a month straight. I am the least violent person in the world, I confront when I’m already over the situation, I don’t like getting physical and yet Jadyn somehow loves being physical. She gets angry and she’ll slam her body against the couch. She’ll do the little slap on the arms when she doesn’t get her way. As much as we put her in the corner, in time out, “alone time”, and as much as she knows she NEEDS to apologize before she can go on with her day she will repeat the same action everyday. We can’t take this to heart, we can’t think that our babies are going to grow up to be abusive, spoiled children. We just have to realize that they’re new to this world, they don’t understand all of this emotions that take over them. They are so small, just one emotion is overwhelming to them. I also think that the factor of being only children makes them more prone to maybe act out when they don’t get their way. Jadyn will be an angel in public, and the moment that another child comes around (usually younger than her) she’ll automatically want her pacifier, or she’ll want to play with their toys, she won’t greet them–she’ll actually say, “Mommy, David’s here DON’T TOUCH HIM!” Anyways, the point that I’m trying to make is that Finn is going to grow up to be a wonderful, young boy. All of the effort that you put into him will not go to waste, he’s just going through a phase, and learning new things.
    Oh- and get ready for the “TERRIBLE TWOS”. There is going to be a lot of holding back laughs when they do something wrong. You wont want to laugh because it’s funny, you’ll want to laugh because it’s just too strange to see your two year old tell you, “Don’t say that word Mommy” as they wave a finger in your face. It’s quite an adventure, but honestly every moment is worth every frustration.
    —Sorry for making this lengthy.

  4. hi 🙂 just saw your comment on liam’s truck post… ahhh yes. hard wired indeed. i never thought i would have THAT kid… the one who loves MONSTER TRUCKS. we are so NOT the monster truck crowd!

    finn is a cutie – i love that he can identify bird species! i am going to have to get a book now for liam to learn that!!

    cheers!
    kari

  5. Finn identifying all those birds is so so awesome. I know he’s a real smartie, but that was super impressive. He’s got a great ability to learn and memorize. Can’t wait to see him grow up on this blog. I find watching them learn and develop to be one of the most rewarding parts of parenting.

  6. Finn’s experimentation with assertiveness may be a little scary and frustrating to you, but his brilliance and sweetness more than compensate. I am sure this phase will pass quickly. Finn is such a great boy!

  7. Oh he’s so precious! You have a lovely family! I wanted to tell you that I was in DC last weekend and I went to a poetry reading dedicated to Allen Ginsberg. Anne Waldman performed HOWL accompanied by a string quartet and it was so lovely! I thought of you and how you taught me to push my poetry and that’s when I fell in love with it. It’s been awhile since I’ve written cause of all the school work I have but I still love reading it from time to time. I’d love to hear from you and how you are! Congratulations to your sister for delivering healthy twins! Hope you’re well 🙂

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