Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bed Time!

Now that we have a second child on the way, we're starting to think of all the things we have to do to get ready.  Since we're going to stay in our apartment for at least another year, we will have to find some extra space inside it.  Our landlady won't let us rip down a wall and expand into the hallway.  We're throwing away things, selling things, and chopping up Kyle's toys to make room.  We had considered buying monthly storage for a time, but then we realized that Kyle's bedroom can, in fact, hold two kids.  The only problem is: there's just one crib.

I'm guessing it's not a wise idea to have two kids sleep in the same crib, especially a three-year-old and a newborn.  There might be laws against that.  I'm sure the two will get along, but I doubt Kyle would appreciate the midnight wails next to his ear.  So, either Kyle must go or the baby finds another sleeping location.  We do have several nice shoeboxes around the apartment, but the baby would outgrow those awfully quickly.  It looks like our only option is to boot Kyle out and give him a bed.

On Saturday we took our son to a bed store.  He thought it was an amusement park, and immediately started bouncing on each of the mattresses.  The little guy kept us busy while the salesman tried to convince us that a two-year-old needs a space-age premium bed that gives you a massage while you sleep and pours a cup of coffee for you each morning.  In the end, the salesman was disappointed in us, as we decided to go with the basic name-brand mattress that was on sale.  To me, it didn't feel any less comfortable than the other mattresses, and I'm not totally convinced that a lower-quality mattress would be bad for a child.  The springs that poke through will build character, as they say.  He'll get to appreciate a good mattress once he moves out.

For now, Kyle absolutely loves his new bed.  It arrived with great fanfare yesterday.  Kyle watched intently as the delivery guys plopped the bed in his room, crushing his stuffed animals.  After they assembled the bed and left, Kyle climbed onto the mattress and started reading his books, much like his mother often does, though Kyle's reading style has a little more bounce to it.  So far the little guy has read on the bed, snacked on the bed, played with toys on the bed, and bounced on the bed.  It remains to be seen whether he'll actually sleep on the bed.  Sheets might help, and we will be putting those on soon. 

It will be strange having Kyle in a bed, as he will now have freedoms he never had before.  When he wakes up, he'll be able to get out of bed and move around.  He won't have to lie in his crib for up to a half-hour, shouting for us as we struggle to get out of bed ourselves.  He'll be able to get up and play with the toys in his room.  Maybe he'll read a book or two.  Maybe he'll make us breakfast.  Or maybe he'll come barging into our room and will start bouncing on our bed, with us still in it!  Hmph.  Maybe it's time for me to get a lock for our bedroom door.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oral Report

On Monday, Kyle visited the dentist for the first time.  Initially I didn't think we had to take Kyle there at such a young age, but we ended up scheduling the checkup at the urging of my dentist, who is trying to pay for a new addition to his home.  Jennifer was due for a checkup, too, so we scheduled both for the same time.  The visit was an unsettling experience for the little guy, despite our attempts to make drills and tartar scrapers seem magical.  Kyle immediately was thrown off by the dentist's tiny waiting room, a one-foot-by-four-inch space that somehow managed to contain three chairs and a fake plant, but lacked all the things Kyle was used to seeing in a waiting room: toys, children's books, and diseased kids coughing and sneezing.  This room was dark, foreboding, and incredibly boring.  There weren't even kids magazines, not even Highlights (what kind of waiting room doesn't have Highlights?!?), so Kyle had to settle for the latest edition of Road and Track.

Kyle and I spent a good ten minutes or so in that tiny room, as the dentist chose to see Jennifer first.  Kyle sat on my lap and flipped the pages of the magazine, pointing out red cars, blue cars, and cars with turbocharged V-6 engines.  He was trying hard not to stare at the woman in the chair next to us, who was wearing a surgical boot on her right foot.  My son had never seen a surgical boot before, so I am guessing he concluded that the problem with the woman's foot must have been caused by the dentist.  He kept getting up on his own feet and pointing to the door, asking for his mommy and looking warily at the woman's crutches, wondering what kind of ankle-smashing procedure was in store for him.  The woman's attempts to be friendly with him didn't help, neither did her description of the invasive mouth surgery she was about to have.  Fortunately, the door to the waiting room opened, and a hygienist rescued us.
The dentist welcomed Kyle and me with a big smile and a handshake.  He's a very nice guy when you're not there for a filling.  He told me to sit down on The Chair, and to have Kyle sit on my lap.  The little guy was fine with this arrangement until Jennifer showed up and suddenly (and predictably) he wanted to sit on her lap.  I swapped with Jennifer and sat beside them.  The dentist began the checkup by waving a tiny camera near Kyle's open mouth, which projected a magnified view of Kyle's teeth on the monitor in front of him (our dentist office is very high-tech; root canals are done there with light sabers).  It didn't take long for Kyle to realize that the TV in front of him wasn't going to be showing Sesame Street.  Instead, he watched a horror show with giant teeth, that, for some reason, his parents and the so-called "tooth doctor" enjoyed.  Kyle sat there looking uncertain or terrified through most of the appointment, but he did not fight, even when the TV horror show ended and the dentist took over, telling Kyle to open wide before shoving a fistful of fingers into his mouth and stretching it.  Obviously, Kyle had avoided fighting out of fear that the dentist would retaliate by attacking his foot, much like he apparently did to the lady in the waiting room.

As the dentist peered into Kyle's mouth, he said our son's teeth were coming in nicely, but then asked if either of us had worn braces.  When Jennifer and I both said we did, the dentist's pupils turned into dollar signs.  I asked him whether that meant Kyle would need braces himself.  He said it was likely and then mumbled something to himself about a new sports car.  He then said Kyle's teeth are fine right now, and he'd be happy to see him again much later, when he's twelve and has teeth that look like Superman's Fortress of Solitude.  Until then, Kyle would have to see a pediatric dentist.  Our dentist says he knows one who's very nice and is sending four kids through college right now.  Considering this dentist is an hour away via subway, we might turn down the recommendation and find someone closer to home.

After the all-clear, and a high-five from the dentist, Kyle was set to go.  There were no problems with his teeth, and hopefully that will be the case for a long time.  The little guy was happy to leave.  So was Jennifer, who also passed her checkup.  My cleaning is scheduled for the end of the month.  I'll make sure to bring my own copy of Highlights.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two-Year-Olds Just Don't Care

WARNING: The following post might not be suitable for those who have trouble reading about illness.  Pittsburgh Steelers fans are also advised against reading it, since they probably are feeling ill themselves, and reading a post about sickness might make them feel worse.

Getting sick ain't what it used to be.  Before Kyle was born, we would spend a sick day lying on the couch, snoozing, eating soup, and watching old game shows and TV movies (from Bollywood if we were lucky).  Our home would be quiet, naps would be long, and recovery would be fairly swift.  The caregiver (usually the spouse) didn't worry, and often the thermometer was never taken out.  Having a child changed all that. 

I've discovered that being sick with a child is not easy.  It's not easy when you're sick, and it's certainly not easy when the child's sick.  However, the scenarios could not be more different.  Tender loving care is a one-way street, especially with a two-year-old.

Our son became sick on Thursday.  The illness came with just a single warning at dinner time.  Kyle, who had been running around all day and acting like his usual self, barely touched his dinner before saying, "All done!"  I had been washing dishes, as our apartment, like many in New York, was last renovated before dishwashers were invented.  I thought the little guy was just being picky, so I told him to just stay put while I finished scrubbing, with hopes that he'd change his mind and start eating.  Then, out of nowhere, "BLLAAAAHHH!" 

Kyle's lunch was suddenly all over his dinner, and all over his shirt.  Compliments to the chef.  I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to him.  I mopped up his stunned face, found him a new shirt, and cleaned the mess on the tray.  Everything else I hoped to do that evening was canceled, as I spent the rest of the time pampering the poor little guy and helping him through this illness.

Kyle did not give Jennifer and me the same kind of treatment one Sunday night in December, when we were both hit with food poisoning. Jennifer and I took turns watching over Kyle while the other one spent some "quality time" in the bathroom.  Kyle seemed oblivious to our struggle.  He ran up and down the apartment, laughing and yelling joyfully, as one of us sat on a kitchen chair, staring blankly at him while trying hard to stay composed until the bathroom became available again.

When Kyle became sick, we let him rest in his crib and gave him plenty books to read.  When we became sick, Kyle still demanded that we pick him up and carry him until our arms were sore.  When Kyle became sick, we rubbed his back as he lay on the couch moaning.  When we were sick, Kyle still wanted to wrestle with us, and he jumped head-first onto my fragile stomach.  When Kyle was sick, I quickly brought him to the bathroom, and stood beside him as he threw up into the toilet, telling him that it was all going to be okay.  When we were sick, I sat alone in the bathroom, exorcising the demons.  From there, I could hear a child's voice in our dining room, giggling and shouting "BLLAAAAHHH," mimicking the sounds he heard coming from me.  No sympathy at all.

In fact, Kyle's most tender moments come when he's sick.  He will sit still, and he will cuddle with us.  While we love the affection, it makes us feel worse because we know he's ill.  I would rather have the laughing, wrestling, screeching, stubbornness, and even the fake barfing.  Having gone through several of Kyle's illnesses, and all the worries and feelings of sadness that come with them, I realize that, no matter how bad I feel when I'm sick, it's much worse when the little guy's not well.  I'm glad he's better today.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Breaking and Entering

Our child loves knobs and doors.  If he's not opening and closing doors, he's turning knobs until they're so loose they almost fall out.  It's a fun thing to discover if you need to change your underwear in a hurry.  One of our friends has even banned him from his bedroom because Kyle had managed to unscrew the knobs of nearly all the drawers of the room's furniture during the five minutes he was in there.  Our kid has some talent with knobs, and hopefully someday he'll be about to mold it into a skill that's both useful and lucrative.  For now, it's just annoying, and potentially dangerous.  That's why we keep him out of hospital rooms.

When he's not turning knobs, he's pulling on them, trying to open and close drawers and doors.  This is one of his favorite activities.  When we rented a cottage in the Poconos last year, one of the first things he did was run into its kitchen and open up all the cabinets.  It was the most fun he had there all weekend.  He usually can't do that in our kitchen, since the cabinet doors are kept shut by a very sophisticated baby-proofing device called the "spring and release latch."

The latches worked well for the better part of a year.  Then last week, as I was watching him in the kitchen, he looked at me, smiled mischievously, and then pressed down on one of the latches.  The door opened.  Taa-daa!  Kyle suddenly had free access to all sorts of amazing things, from bleaches for the bathroom to paints to insecticide.  There are even more knobs to turn inside, fun ones that control our hot and cold water.  There's even a natural gas pipe to play with!  Kyle was very excited that he figured out a way to enter this chemical wonderland.  I almost dropped the glass I was holding.

One thing I have learned in my two-and-a-half years of parenting is to never make a big deal out of something your kid is doing if you truly want him to stop doing it.  So far it's working with his crib.  He probably could have climbed out of it months ago, but he has yet to try, and I think that's in part because we don't make a big deal whenever he throws his entire leg over the rail.  We just quietly put it back and distract him by giving him a blanket or telling him there's a monster under the crib.  Kyle soon forgets he was trying to climb out, and we get to put off buying a bed for another few weeks.  Had we shouted "no" or gave a big reaction, no doubt he would have tumbled out by now.  I decided to apply the same method to the cabinet doors last week.  I told him calmly that only his parents open those doors, and that he could get seriously hurt or blow up the apartment building if he snooped around in there.  The rest of the day, he simply pointed at the doors.  The method worked, but for how long?

Up until that point, I had fooled myself into thinking I had done a fine job baby-proofing our home.  I installed gates blocking doorways that lead to potentially unsafe locations (like the bathroom or alligator pit), we moved scissors and other dangerous items out of Kyle's reach, and we no longer keep our fragile glassware in an old toy box.  I spent a good hour on a Saturday afternoon putting those latches in, but apparently that wasn't enough.  When Jennifer posted on Facebook that Kyle figured out the latches, one of our friends wrote that Kyle is "super smart."  I will try to look at it that way, assuming that Kyle will someday get a full-tuition scholarship to some prestigious university because at an early age he learned how to open the cabinets.  Still, my gut tells me he's just doing this because he thinks it's funny and he enjoys all the attention he gets, while at the same time annoying dear old dad.  It's a behavior similar to that of a rodeo clown.  So I don't know what to think.  My cousins have a magnetic lock system that supposedly makes your kitchen as secure as Fort Knox.  We might look into that.  Meanwhile, the little guy is also trying to figure out a way to put enough weight on the pedals of our gates to get them open.  Heaven help us all if he manages to do that.