I have been remiss at writing one of these and thought I had better get it in before he turns three!
What he’s doing:
Walking all over the neighbourhood. He is a superb walker. We started getting into the habit of walking to the library after I picked him up from nursery school on Monday afternoons because there’s a bakery right across the street and he quite liked the idea of having afternoon snack there. After we’d done this a few times, I decided to look our route up online and discovered that it was 1.5 km! And then he was doing close to another kilometre to get home again from the library, all without complaint. He loves balancing on the angled paving stones on some of the yards in the neighbourhood (to prevent erosion from the lawns). Now that we’re (finally) getting some slightly warmer weather he’s been enjoying walking in his shoes. He was heartily sick of the snow and the ice and the wind and the cold. I thinked he walked to nursery school every day this winter except for one, when it was so cold with the windchill he would have been in danger of frostbite. That day we took the stroller. He’s also enjoying playing in the parks again, and getting out consistently at nursery school. I lost count of the number of days this winter where we would walk there and then discover that it was an indoor day because it was too cold for them to go outside!
He’s also really, really, into the mail right now. He became so disappointed that there was never anything for him that I wrote to all of his relatives and asked them to consider sending him something. That’s resulted in him receiving mail two or three times a week for the last few weeks, which has thrilled him no end. It’s also prompted him to get interested in letters. The other day we were walking back from the library and he asked me why the cats never got any mail and I said without thinking, “Oh, well the cats can’t read. There’s no point in getting mail if you can’t read because you won’t know what it says.” The next day he brought a book over to Q. and said, “I want you to learn me my letters so I can read.” He’s probably got 12 or 14 of them now, and he never fails to recognize when one of the envelopes that arrives at the house has an E. on it!
Speaking of the cats, he bosses them around constantly. It’s almost like having a younger sibling (I imagine) as he shouts at them, “No, no Yiyi! Don’t touch my trains! Shoo! Don’t sit there! Go away!” He absolutely hates it if one of them sits on a puzzle that he’s working on, or tries to sniff his toys. If one of them is in my lap he’ll sidle over and lean on them until they move (if he’s being subtle) or just shove them away (if he’s not). They’ve both taken to hanging out in his room in the mornings to take advantage of the morning sun, which he thinks is hilarious, especially if one of them has gone into his room and jumped onto his change table before he’s even woken up.
He has become very interested in time and numbers. He can count to twenty-nine, and can go higher if you help him out with “thirty” and “forty” (otherwise he’ll say “twenty-ten, twenty-eleven” etc.). He is trying to figure out how the months of the year and the seasons and the days of the week all fit together. He knows who has a birthday in which month. He also experiments with saying things to me like, “I’m going to go and visit the Bears in half an hour”. We’ve been talking about his new room and he’s told me he wants a clock in there “so I will know what time it is when I wake up”. I read in Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender that this sort of interest is really common around this age, which made me feel a bit better. I’m completely incapable of not being obsessed with time and punctuality (army brat), and I was worried I was burdening him with the same rigidity. But it seems it’s just normal development and I’m sure I’ll be pulling out my hair waiting for him to get up when he’s a teenager.
I do sometimes feel like pulling out my hair when we’re trying to get out the door in the morning, or at bedtime. I’ve realized that we have very little conflict in our day if we observe his timeline. It’s when I have to pressure him to do something faster than he wants to do- because I need to run errands before lunch, or I need him to get in bed so he won’t be overtired the next day- that he pushes back and starts resisting and getting silly and running away from me. And if I push back, then we get a meltdown. I am trying very hard to leave enough time to let him do everything he can do himself- put his pants and shirt on, put his boots on, take all winter gear off, etc., but some days I end up taking over and doing it (usually with him screaming and writhing in protest) because we have to be somewhere else. It’s a hard balance to meet.
He still really likes to help me out around the house. He doesn’t enjoy helping with the vacuum, as it’s too loud, but he cleans the toilets when I do the bathrooms, and does quite a good job of it too (I do around the edges, but he uses the brush to clean the bowl). He still loves baking and did 85% of the work for the cookies we made for my students on the last day of classes. He doesn’t help as much with dinner prep as he used to- I think we got out of the habit in the U.K. because the kitchen there wasn’t toddler friendly and it’s been hard to restart. He matches socks when I do the laundry, and puts cutlery out to set the table.
One thing he doesn’t seem to be doing a lot of is growing. His feet are in the same shoes I bought a year ago (8s). I’m sure he is getting taller because his head is above the countertops in the kitchen now, but all his clothes still fit and he’s showing no sign at all of needing to move into 3T. We’re going to have to move the carseat around the next time we need to drive somewhere as he no longer has the inch of shell above his head that is the requirement for rear-facing. This is deeply frustrating for me, as the carseat is weighted for rear-facing to 40 pounds, and he is nowhere near that. He’s put on some weight (finally- it’s been a real struggle with him being ill in the fall and then again in December and again in January) and is currently a whopping 28 pounds. I seriously think he might be off the weight percentiles altogether if he doesn’t put on a couple of more in the next month. I am having trouble not stressing about this. He looks healthy and has lots of energy, but it seems odd to me that I might have an average-sized son rather than a tall one, given all of my male relatives are over 6′. Q. is average-sized, so it appears his genes might be winning out. E. is a total beanpole. Even with all the weight he’s put on you can still see his ribs and his pants all slip down below his waist.
He does have a good appetite, although it is wildly variable. Every morning he likes to ask me what the breakfast options are, even though they’re pretty much always the same. I never notice how little his eating troubles me until we have grandparents visiting. They invariably end up pushing him to eat more, or they report back to me exactly what he ate if they were looking after him. My mum finally relaxed one day after watching him eat four bowls of oatmeal at breakfast. I had told her and told her that he ate when he was hungry and dinner wasn’t usually a good meal, but she had still been fretting. Q. and I have started to push him a little bit more with food now that he’s almost three. We don’t push him to eat more, but if he’s eaten everything he liked, or drunk all his milk, and he wants more of the same, we’ve started asking him to try the things on his plate he hasn’t touched. So far this hasn’t led to any battles (I think because food has never been a battle), and it means he’s getting exposed to more things, as he is still a real toddler stereotype in what he prefers to eat. If he doesn’t like what he’s tried, he’s allowed to spit it out. He really dislikes seafood right now, which is funny given one of my favourite memories from his first year is watching him eat everyone’s scallops at dinner the weekend of his first birthday party. Scallops are one of my Dad’s favourite foods, and he just handed them over, entranced at the sight of this pint-sized almost toddler wolfing them down. We had scallops again the other night when he was visiting and E. took the one bite we’d requested of him and then immediately spat it out gagging. Oh well.
What he’s playing with:
These last few months have really been about imaginative play. We spent MONTHS playing Berenstain Bears. We would line up all of the dining room chairs to make a streetcar that we would ride to go and visit the Bears, and then we’d sit on the couch and pretend that it was going to be Christmas, or that we were going to have a picnic with them, or that they were moving out of their treehouse and needed our help. When we set up the trains, the trains would inevitably be transporting things that belonged to the Bears. He would get upset with me at quiet time or bedtime if I told him anything other than, “Have a nice visit with the Bears”, because that’s what he would sit up there doing for the entire quiet time, or until he fell asleep at night. Once he skipped quiet time because Grannie and Grandpa were visiting and he told me at supper, “I’m looking forward to bedtime because I can visit the Bears. I didn’t get to see them this afternoon.” Yep. This child tells me on a regular basis that he has “no friends” at nursery school because “the other children are too yowd”, so I’m glad he’s made friends with someone, even imaginary ones.
When the Bear obsession finally waned, he became fixated instead on Peter Rabbit. He has a stuffed Peter, as well as another bunny (this one a lop) which he has ignored for his entire life. Suddenly they were both treasured companions, and Peter and Mop the Lop (and I) spent days going “gooseberry netting” which consisted of the bunnies eating breakfast, then E. driving his dump truck over to the part of the couch where the gooseberries were that day, and then Peter would refuse to help Mop pick the berries, or Mop would spend the whole time jumping into the truck and Peter had to pull him back out again (depending on which bunny E. was in charge of that day). When the truck was eventually filled, he would get a book from his shelves to be the lid, and then he’d drive it off, dump it out somewhere, and we’d start all over again. The bunnies also come out at night when we sing Sleeping Bunnies before he goes upstairs to start the bedtime routine. He made Q. and I laugh so hard the first time he made them join in, because after the first round of the song, he lay down again, and he made Mop lie down, but then he made Peter keep hopping and refuse to lie down (because Peter, after all, is a very naughty rabbit).
In between the Bears and the bunnies, he became very attached to his stuffed cougar and, by association, my stuffed cougar, which was my most treasured stuffed animal when I was small (and not-so-small- he came with me on all my moves overseas). My mum made his cougar a cape, so now she’s Super Caramel and he spends a lot of time flying her around making a whooshing sound. He’s also continually engaged in a campaign to keep my cougar in his crib. I’m resisting, because as much as I love my son, I can’t relinquish my cougar, but he might wear me down.
He’s really not interested in crafts right now. We get art from nursery school perhaps twice a month, and he almost never colours at home. He does like stickers and sticking them in all sorts of strange places. Trains are still very popular, as is the IKEA tent he got for Christmas. We set it up in the living room and then the bunnies or the cougars will go inside and all sorts of antics will ensue. He’s in the habit now of watching a short (thirty minutes or less) video each day, which is more television than I’d like him to be watching, but since he doesn’t nap at all anymore and his tolerance for quiet time ends at about the hour mark, it’s a useful sanity saver. We tend to borrow DVDs from the library, usually Mighty Machines or Berenstain Bears. The Mighty Machines are 25 minutes long, so he can choose one of those, or three of the Berenstain Bear episodes (they’re 12 minutes and each DVD has five different ones). Mighty Machines has been a great discovery. It’s Canadian, educational, and apparently enthralling to almost-three-year-old boys. I know I’ve learned something from every episode.
He has a wonderful imagination but also incredibly firm ideas about how the game will go. I’ve had to tell him more than once that I won’t play with him if he keep screaming at me because he doesn’t like what I’m doing: “NO! WE’RE NOT PICKING THE GOOSE BERRIES FROM THERE! NO, I DON’T WANT PETER TO DO THAT! NO THANKS! NO THANKS!” I know he gets to control very little in his day, so I try to let him take the lead when I play with him, but I’m also cognizant that I do him no favors allowing him to be a tyrant when playing with someone else.
What he’s reading:
It was basically one Berenstain Bear book or another for two and a half months in this house. I think at one point we had 27 of them out at the library…and he had them all memorized and would correct you if you missed a single word. He didn’t have any strong favourites, although he was quite taken with Moving Day and Go Out to Eat. It was a great relief when the obsession eased in the last couple of weeks, not least because I had used up all the renewals on the library books and had to start taking them back. I think we’ve only got five or six out at the moment. He’s recently moved on to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, which has become a firm favourite (I think partly because it’s short enough that I’ll agree to read it twice at night, which I wouldn’t do with any of the Berenstain Bears).
What he’s saying:
I think I probably say this every time I write one of these posts, but his language really does change in leaps and bounds these days. He has such a wide vocabulary- we realized the other day (after a lot of wrong guesses) that he was trying to say “ricocheting”. The biggest change, right around 34 months, was he figured out the first person and stopped calling himself “you”. It was really interesting- he woke up one day and was clearly starting to experiment with it. The next day he had it 85% of the time, and the day after that he was pretty much letter perfect with ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’. For a long time he was saying “Yep” or “Nope” but lately he’s been using “Yeah?” with this huge upward shift in pitch at the end. He also shouts “No thanks, no thanks, I think that’s a terrible idea” when he disagrees with us. He’s started getting us to come with him by saying, “Ok, come on Mummy, let’s go and play with the trains”, while holding out his hand, which makes me laugh every time. He’s also understanding the idea of sitting together at the dinner table and talking, as he’ll ask, “How is your day, Daddy?” listen to the response and then, if we’re not fast enough, he’ll add, “I want someone to ask me how my day is!”
Here are a few of his conversations:
At lunch (33 months).
E.: “You was hungry! And thirsty!”
Me: “You were! Are you all done? Did you want to get down?”
E.: “No. You want to sit at the table and chat with Mummy for a little while.”
Me: “Sure! What do you want to tell me?”
E.: “Want to tell Mummy about what happened at [nursery school] on Wednesday.”
And he did.
At lunch (34 months).
E.: “I’m going to visit the Berenstain Bears at quiet time.”
Me: “That’s nice. Are you going to see them in their treehouse?”
E.: “Yes. And each day I’m there will be Christmas.”
Me: “Every day will be Christmas?”
E.: “Yes. Because I love Christmas.”
Me: “You do, sweetheart.”
E.: “And each Christmas I will get a big truck. Because I love trucks.”
In the bath (34 months).
E.: “I don’t want to use the potty or the toilet because I’m two.”
Me: “Oh. Does that mean you will want to use them when you’re three?”
E.: *giving me a deep, suspicious stare* “I will use them when I am bigger. Like an adult bigger.”
At breakfast (34 1/2 months).
E.: “Daddy, you and I are going to do the roof.”
Q.: “We’re going to redo the roof in the spring?”
Q.: “Where are we going to get the supplies we need?”
E.: “We will get the sprinkles (shingles) from Canadian Tire.”
Upon checking the mail and realizing that there are two pieces of mail for him and none for me (34 1/2 months).
E.: “I got two mails today! Two!” *shakes his head* “You did not get any mail again. You must be so disappointed.”
What I’ve noticed:
When we have good days, we have GREAT days. He is so funny, so insightful, so curious. He figured out ‘why’ questions in early February, and we often spend much of the walk to nursery school discussing one thing or another. Q. and I both end up shaking our heads sometimes at the things he tells us. He is genuinely good company. We have real conversations at the dinner table now.
When we have bad days, they are very difficult. He is so quick to start shouting or crying or both as soon as he dislikes something. When he’s having a bit of trouble doing something, he’ll start shouting, “Help! Help!” in this really high-pitched voice. Half the time he’s shouting it as he does whatever it is he’s claiming he can’t do. I have to admit I find the high-pitched whine/shout really hard to cope with. Nothing erases my patience faster.
He’s obviously worried about growing up too quickly. He’ll make big strides in doing something and then suddenly start wanting us to do it for him again, as if he’s realized he’s more independent. Bedtime is becoming a progressively larger issue. We put a nightlight in his room about six weeks ago because he was starting to show signs of being afraid of the dark. That worked well, but in the last week or so we’re back to him wanting the bathroom light left on as well and his door left wide open. We also have to check on him multiple times, and we’ve only just managed to curb a bad habit of having to go back in and take him back out of the crib for another cuddle on the futon. The routine also takes forever these days, now that we have to do two rounds of Sleeping Bunnies, and then he wants to run laps of our hall upstairs (usually 20 or so), and then there is the inordinate amount of time it takes him to put on his pjs, and then teeth brushing and hair combing and then there are stories, and then cuddles, and then we have to check on him three times, and then we still often have to go back in again to stop a meltdown. Partly this is a result of him occasionally napping at nursery school. He gave up napping over Christmas. Since then he’s napped maybe a handful of times- three of them at nursery school in the last week or so (which might mean a growth spurt). It’s so clear that he doesn’t need a nap now- it just destroys bedtime. But I also think part of it is he’s developing more sophisticated fears. He woke up from a bad dream the other night and told Q. that he had been lost and he understands the idea of being lonely too. Right now Q. and I are pretty clear on our lines in the sand and we’re not budging. I have to admit I’m glad he’s still in the crib- it would be far worse if he could be popping out of bed whenever he pleased. We were planning on moving him to his new room later this month but the timings are just going to be too hectic, so we’ll wait until we’re back from Oz in July.
Other than the battles at bedtime, his sleep right now is truly amazing. He’ll go to bed happily at 7:30 (8:00 at the latest) and sleep through for twelve or thirteen hours. Once he slept in until 9:00! The other huge change is we can get up in the morning without waking him up (even with our terrible floorboards). Occasionally Q.’s even showered upstairs without hearing a peep from the other side of the wall. And we can check on him at night when we go to sleep. I remember reading about Serenity being able to check on her O. when he was sleeping when E. was so little and so terrible at sleeping and thinking, “That sounds amazing. That will NEVER be us.” Yet here we are. A year ago at this point E. was waking up for the day at 5 a.m. or earlier. Two years ago he was waking up when we went to bed, even with the white noise machine in his room, and if I didn’t nurse him, he’d just scream for an hour or more, even though he’d fed less than three hours before. And now I can walk into his room before I go to bed and smooth his hair and check to see if he is wearing his bunny as a hat, or if he is cuddling a cougar. I can listen to his breathing (or put my hand on my chest if I can’t hear it). I can see how he sleeps. I love being able to do this.
His best bunny isn’t as popular anymore. Since she only has a bunny head and a blanket body she’s not as interesting as the cougars or the other bunnies, so she doesn’t tend to come out of the crib much these days. For a while he wasn’t even sleeping with her. It made me so sad to think he didn’t need her anymore- it was this reminder I just wasn’t expecting that he is growing up. And then I noticed that when he was asleep she was usually nearby, or tucked under his arm or his belly, and the last few times we’ve had a huge meltdown, I’ve been able to get him to calm down and fall asleep by getting him to cuddle her. He was even wearing her like a hat as he slept two nights ago, which I haven’t seen him do in months. I’m glad he hasn’t outgrown her quite yet.
He is still so physically cautious. We started going to playgrounds again, and when he first sat in a swing he didn’t want to be pushed very high at all, and the first time he went on a climbing structure he actually crawled across the little bridge spanning two sections (a bridge that was made of metal and wasn’t going to move). When I told him it would be ok to walk across, he did it, but he kept a death grip on the railing. In some ways this is a good thing, as he’s very sensible and it means I don’t have to worry about any daredevil antics. At the same time, however, I don’t want his excessive caution to slow him down. He became much braver in the playgrounds after a couple of visits, thank goodness. I think he just needed to remember how to play there.
He’s starting to develop some empathy. He spends a lot of time telling us that he misses us, asking about our days, giving us big hugs and cuddles, etc. When he knows we’re upset, he brings us kleenex so we can wipe our tears and feel better. He wanted to buy Q. flowers when he finished teaching for the year because “Daddy will love the colours and they will make him so happy”. He has also finally, finally, stopped rejecting his father. I am still doing 99% of the bedtimes, because if I’m home E. will make a huge fuss and it’s just been too stressful a semester to push that, but if I’m out Q. puts him down with no trouble at all. More importantly, E. has stopped yelling at his father to leave as soon as he walks in the door and he no longer shrieks and throws a fit if Q. gets him breakfast or changes his diaper. I had to leave for work before E. woke up a few times in the last couple of months, and Q. didn’t have to call me to get me to talk to a hysterical little guy. E. gives Q. lots of hugs and kisses now. They giggle together when they’re being Sleeping Bunnies. He seeks out his father for stories after supper. It makes my heart happy to watch them together.
Watching E. process the loss of the baby was heartbreaking. For weeks I’d be ambushed out of nowhere with questions: “Tell me again why there’s going to be no baby in September.” “Is you still sad about the baby?” E. told me that he missed the baby and that he was sad it wasn’t going to get to come out. His interest in the months of the year was sparked by his wanting to know exactly when September was. He knew that we weren’t supposed to going to Oz this summer- when we were talking about it, weeks after it had happened, he piped up with wanting to know why there wasn’t going to be a baby again. The other night I was telling him that he’s my best medium-sized guy (because he doesn’t want to get big, but he’s not little like a baby either), and he thought about it for a while and then said, “Mummy, I’m your only medium sized guy.”
He gets me through the day. Even on the days where he’s driving me absolutely up the wall and I don’t know whether to cry or scream and I’m afraid I’m going to do both, he gets me through.