Friday, February 27, 2009

The good stuff

So I've written a lot recently about the trials and tribulations of having a strong-willed little boy.

I started feeling a little bad about complaining so much because he really can be such a great kid a lot of the time. I don't want him to grow up thinking that I only noticed the not-so-great things about him. And I don't want y'all to think that he doesn't have any good qualities either.

So I'm going to list a few of the GOOD things about my dear son William. I figure, we can all use a little extra praise, don't you think? So, without further ado...

William Wyckoff:

*Is a great eater. He rarely complains about any food, and he almost always finishes whatever I put in front of him. He loves to tell me that "I ate all my lunch!" when I pick him up from school, even though he always eats all his lunch.

*Loves vegetables. Seriously. He'll even ask for more broccoli. About the only vegetable that he's ever tried and didn't like was lettuce. And honestly, I can't blame him. Lettuce doesn't have much flavor, and if you don't like the texture, why bother? Except for romaine, it doesn't even have that much nutritional value.

*Is not now and has never really been a biter. I can count on one hand the number of times he's ever bitten me, and that includes breastfeeding.

*Is a happy kid. I'd say his default mood really is happy. He doesn't stay grumpy for long, and you can usually joke him out of a fleeting bad mood pretty quickly. When he was a baby, I started calling him my little smiley guy, and that's still a pretty good way to describe him.

*Loves to make up stories to tell me. This morning's story started out like this: "Once upon a time, there was a little boy named William, and he wanted to go to the zoo. But the castle people weren't ready yet..."

*Loves to read books. I'm a reader, so this makes me very happy. If I had a child who didn't love books, I'm not sure I'd know what to do with him. To my delight, Wiliam even loves many of the same books I loved as a child, too.

*Is friendly. I have a picture of William waving to all and sundry while his daddy carried him into church last Easter. That's William. He's the mayor. He waves and greets everyone in the grocery store. He chats with the people in line behind us. He saw other small children at the beach last summer and tugged at our hands so we'd take him over so he could "meet those friends over there." The corollary to this, of course, is he's not shy.

*Apologizes when he does something wrong and he knows he upset us. This might not sound like a big deal, but it is. I'm hopeful this means that he understands when he's messed up and that it's important to say he's sorry and make amends. This is an important social skill to have throughout life.

*Loves to hug and kiss us and tell us how much he loves us. There is really nothing better than when William clamors up onto a chair or the couch and reaches up to hold my face before he bestows damp kisses on my cheeks and my nose.

*Didn't really require that much child-proofing. This is selfish on my part, but I am so glad that William wasn't too interested in getting into certain things that I've heard other kids do. We never needed an oven lock or a fridge lock or anything like that. He never was a big climber, so I never had to worry that much about that either. Pretty much, we needed--and used--baby gates and outlet covers and drawer and cabinet locks, and that was about it. I'm sure that if we ever have another child, we won't be so lucky.

*Loves to sing. Yeah, I'm sure most small children love to sing, but I get a kick out of hearing William warble "Once Upon a Dream" or "The Rainbow Connection" or "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" no matter how many times I've heard him sing them before. He's improving, too.

*Is pretty well-behaved when you take him shopping. Now, I will qualify this by saying that he does still have a tendency to run off if he's not contained in a shopping cart, but if you put him in a cart at Kroger, he usually does really well. He never complains or cries, and he usually enjoys looking at everything. He occasionally gets upset if you don't take him to look at something he wants to see (i.e. the decorated birthday cakes in the Publix bakery or the Star Wars toys at Target), but he almost never throws a fit.

So, that is a partial list of the good things about my son. See, I realize that he's a great kid and not just a crazy toddler. I need to make sure to tell him, too.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Facebook group

In the spirit of solidarity with my fellow parents of toddlers, I have created a new Facebook group called The Terrible Twos...and Threes. If you're on Facebook, please stop by and share some stories and advice with us.

Let us know that we're all in this together. I figure, if it takes a village to raise a child, well, then I need some village people. Er. You know what I mean.

Anyway, come on over. Tell me your best story about a Toddler Run Amok. Tell me your double-secret strategy for getting your preschooler do what what he's supposed to be doing, from going potty to staying in his bed at night. Reassure me that you occasionally resort to the bribe, too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A little progress

Fans of William will be happy to know that he was able to retrieve both his Cinderella book AND his Snow White book from Toy Time Out this afternoon. He was wild at school, but he managed to restrain himself pretty well at home. And I really needed to find a reason to reward the mostly-good behavior and encourage him to keep it up.

Tomorrow morning, I have a Young Leaders Council meeting. So William will have his regular Thursday morning Daddy time. I promised him that if he was good through tomorrow morning, he could watch "Sleeping Beauty" with his father. That seems to be working as a motivational tool...except that he couldn't fall asleep tonight. He was too excited about the prospect of watching his favorite movie again. Oh well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's a phase. It has to be a phase.

The Terrible Twos are in vogue here at our house. Actually, the Terrible Twos-Going-on-Threes might be a better description.

The willful defiance. The hitting. The spitting. (Seriously, where did the spitting come from?) The struggling. Even the occasional refusal of favorite foods (yes, you read that right).

It's a phase. It has to be a phase. It's got to be a phase.

It's a phase, right?

This morning, I was wondering to myself how long a "phase" lasts. What exactly constitutes a "phase"? How long does something have to go on to meet the minimum "phase" time-length requirement? How long can it last before it becomes a permanent condition? Is my child going to find himself so enamored with, say, spitting that he's going to be trundling off to middle school, still spitting at me when I tell him to put his coat back on because it's freezing outside? Is he going to be friendless because I don't know how to transition him from "it's a phase" to more appropriate behavior and he gets a reputation as the kid who spits and hits? Who wants to be friends with the kid who spits and hits?

Surely it's a phase.

The other day, I took away William's beloved Sleeping Beauty book (yes, gasp!) because he was hitting me--and because the time outs didn't seem to be working as a deterrent. Then David took away his Cinderella book last night. I took away the new They Might Be Giants CD this afternoon. And then the wizard hat. I've threatened to take away the Luke Skywalker spaceship next. I've got a whole stack of his favorite stuff piled on top of the armoire in my bedroom, and it doesn't even seem to be making a dent in his attitude. Meanwhile, my room is starting to look like a garage sale.

This has got to just be a phase.

I love my child. I do. He can be the most delightful, amazingly wonderful person on earth. This morning, for a few ours, that William resurfaced. We snuggled up in my bed and read "Snow White" together. He asked me to help him learn the names of all the seven dwarfs, and I did. It was lovely. We went to Cheekwood, and we did an art project, then wandered around the art museum and grounds for awhile. William climbed in and out of his carseat when he was asked. He held my hand in the parking lot. He enjoyed gluing feathers to his art project and helped me wash his hands afterward. He came with me when it was time to go home for lunch. Then we got home. And it was all over. He put his feet on the kitchen table...repeatedly. He pushed away his bowl of mac and cheese and turkey hot dog. He spit some more. He flailed his arms at me a few times. And the glow was gone. That's when I wanted to go online and find out if any sleepaway camps will accept toddlers for a week or so.

Must be a phase.

Monday, February 23, 2009

One step forward, ten steps back

Anyone who has talked to me recently probably knows that we've been experiencing some ups and downs on the potty training front.

That is, William will have a very rare success, and there will be lots of wahooing and dancing-of-celebratory-jigs....followed by days and days and days of backsliding. The sticker chart was successful at first. Now, not so much. The Thomas the Tank Engine and Spider-Man underpants? He liked them, liked the cartoon pictures, but not enough to replace his diapers and Pull-Ups with them. Even the big jar of M&Ms only worked for a few days. Can you believe that? We were willing to give our child pure unmitigated sugar as a reward for going potty, and it didn't even work! What child turns down M&Ms for something as simple as going potty? My son, that's who.

So we upped the ante. David bought a Darth Vader TIE fighter toy and ceremoniously displayed it in front of our wide-eyed son.

"If you can start going poopy in the potty, then you can wear big-boy underpants all the time. And THEN then you can have this," he told William, who eagerly reached out to touch the package.

Now, given how much William adores his little Star Wars figures, we thought surely that little bribe would work. Well. The TIE fighter has been sitting on the dresser in the guest room for at least three weeks now. William goes in there to visit it, but he seems content enough to just know it's there. For someday. He totally understands what it's for. He knows that he can win the toy by just going potty; he even told his teachers at school that he could get Star Wars toys for going potty. But he just doesn't want to. So he doesn't.

Upon hearing about all this, experienced parents tend to smile and shake their heads and say either, "Boys are just so much harder than girls to potty train" (gee, thanks for the newsflash) or "He'll catch on one day, but he has to decide on his own" (I want to believe you but why should I?).

I know that all the books just advise parents like me to chill out a little, to do the best we can to encourage our child to use the potty, and eventually William will come around. He has to come around. He's just about outgrown all but the very largest sizes of diapers and Pull-Ups!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


When I was a little girl, my mom used to buy a gigantic 500 or 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle for our family as a joint Christmas gift. The more complicated, the better. One year, it was the puzzle that looked like a huge spill of jellybeans. Another year, it was a bunch of different types of candy bars. (For some reason, food was a big puzzle theme in the '80s.)

After all the presents were opened, and the Christmas dinner had been devoured, we'd clear off the dining room table and dump all the puzzle pieces onto it. There, the puzzle would remain until we ceremoniously slotted in the last piece. Then we'd pat ourselves on the back and then put the whole thing back in the box...and we'd dig out a couple of puzzles from previous Christmases because we'd be in the puzzle zone.

I even had my own personal stash of puzzles that I could work on my own. The one I remember the most clearly was a huge Incredible Hulk floor puzzle. I have no idea why someone thought it would be a good idea to give a five-year-old little girl a puzzle of a big scary green monster man with bulging muscles, but there you go. And I guess to be fair, I loved that puzzle. And yeah, you see that that's the one I remember.

To our great delight, William must have gotten the puzzle gene, too. He always liked the little baby puzzles with the seven or eight wooden pieces, but now he's heavily into actual puzzle puzzles.

David started the craze when, Santa Claus...purchased a big two-foot-by-three-foot Melissa & Doug puzzle for one of William's Christmas gifts. I took one look at the box, which proclaimed the puzzle, which featured a montage of dinosaurs, had 48 pieces and declared, "Oh, that's way too advanced for him."

Wrong. I was so wrong. (And yes, David has crowed smugly about this many times. What? I can admit when I'm wrong. I'm just not...wrong very often. Ahem.) William needed some help from his grandmother or his daddy the first couple of times that he worked on the puzzle, but after that, he had no trouble working the entire puzzle by himself. All 48 pieces.

Diane brought over a couple of smaller puzzles, and I added a second Melissa & Doug puzzle (a picture of a fairy tale castle) and a cheap Cinderella puzzle from Target to the stash. William immediately adored them all. And after a couple of trial runs, he was able to work them all by himself. He especially likes telling anyone who will listen about how he worked the puzzle "all by myself and I am so proud of me!"

The only trouble I have with William's puzzlemania is that he often doesn't want to clean up the puzzles once he's finished with them. He wants to leave them on the floor so you and everyone who might drop by can admire them. It'll be nice when we can finally put him up at the dining room table and let him work his puzzles there. That way, he can keep his work intact and we'll still be able to walk through the family room. And maybe in a few years, we'll restart the old Larson Family Christmas Puzzle tradition here. Wonder if Mom and Daddy kept any of those old puzzles?

William with his masterpieces:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just a snapshot

Mid-bounce at a birthday party at Bounce U on Saturday:

Side note: do you know how hard it is to get a non-blurry picture of a bunch of two- and three-year-olds bouncing in a bouncy house?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wild Thing

God help me, I put my son to bed a half-hour early tonight because he was driving me nuts. Mostly because we only had a short window for a nap this afternoon, and yup, you guessed it, he stood in his crib and sang. And jumped. And shook the crib. And sang some more.


He behaved nicely enough at the late-afternoon playdate that we attended, but then we came home. And Mr. Hyde showed up to relieve Dr. Jekyll.


How can I love him so much, yet get so frustrated by him? How can I marvel at how smart he is (like when he effortlessly puts a 48-piece puzzle together all by himself) and then feel like beating my head up against the wall when he refuses to put it away? Is this still the Terrible Twos, or is this a preview of the Terrible Threes?


Luckily, he is still very cute. And he still loves to hug and kiss me. Hugs and kisses go a long way. Yes, I'm a sucker.

William and his daddy, all dressed up for church on Sunday:

William and his mama, after school today, in a rare uncrazy moment:

Monday, February 09, 2009


The stalling. Oh, my God, the stalling.

It takes us forever to get William to do certain things these days. It's getting absurd.

We try to leave the house on time. William announces he has to go potty. Of course, by the time I get him situated on the potty, he doesn't produce but a drop or two. He didn't really have to go potty, but who refuses a toddler who says he wants to go potty? So then I have to yank all his clothes back on and into place, get his jacket back on him (because of course how could he go potty while fully dressed?) and wrestle him into his carseat. Great, now we're running ten minutes late.

We try to get William to get into the bathroom. But first he has to try on his wizard costume or put the baby doll in her stroller and take the stroller to the rec room or look for his missing Percy train. By the time we finally convince him to get into the bathtub, we're running ten minutes behind, and bedtime once again will be delayed.

And we try to get William to bed at a reasonable time each night. But before he will consent to lying down and winding down, he has to have a sip of water from that sippy cup and a sip from his other sippy cup, and oh yes, this cup is nearly empty. And he has to move his music box from one side of the crib to the other, then test out all the musical options to find the right one to suit his mood, then compulsively adjust the volume. When the lights finally go off, we're guessed it...ten minutes behind.

If I could add up all those ten-minute increments that I lose each day due to my son's stalling techniques, I'd have an extra hour in my day. Think what I could do with all that time! I could, er, write on, blog...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pretty, pretty princess

I used to think I'd never have to deal with all the Cinderella, Ariel and Snow White things because I had a boy. I figured that we'd be completely immersed in All Things Boy, and our house would be completely devoid of anything the slightest bit pink or princessy.

Ha ha! The Disney Princess love continues at our house and shows no signs of abating. The current activities include:

*William now sleeps with both his Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty books in his crib with him.

*He likes to pick out a Disney Princess sticker for potty-training successes.

*He brushes his teeth with Disney Princess toothpaste.

*He insisted that I buy a Cinderella puzzle for him as one of his "big" potty-training treats.

*He saw some Disney Princess fruit treats at Publix a few days ago and nearly surrendered his beloved Spider-Man fruit treats in favor of the pink frilly ones.

*He likes to don his little dress-up crown and have us call him "Prince William."

*And today, William insisted on taking his beloved Sleeping Beauty book to school to show to his teachers and friends.

But you know what? I'm fine with all this. So what if William's a boy and he loves all the princessy stuff? It's a phase. It's a funny phase, to be sure, but it's just a phase. I blogged about it recently over on Go Get Your Jacket, in fact. The way I see it is this: it must get boring to have to play with the same-old, same-old stuff that stuffy old grown-ups think is appropriate for your gender. Why not shake things up a bit and let little boys dabble in princess stuff and let girls play with footballs and Thomas the Tank Engine?

Right now, William's into princesses. Next month, he'll probably have moved onto something else. So I might as well just sit back and enjoy the brief reprieve from trains, tractors and Star Wars. So I think I will.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How to handle a wild man

Okay, help!

I feel like I work so hard at this trying-to-be-a-good-parent thing. I encourage my child to eat a variety of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables. I expose him to culture by taking him to museums, botanical gardens and even a play last weekend. I read multiple books to him every day. I take him to Sunday School every week. I never used baby talk when I talked to him. I praise him for the things that he does well. I set boundaries when it comes to behaviors that are not acceptable. I make sure he gets plenty of sleep. I talk to him. I laugh with him and tell him I love him all the time.

And I try, I really do, to be patient with William when he does stuff that drives me crazy. So, why, oh why, does he insist on doing things that drive me nuts? Am I not responding correctly?

Here's an example. When I walked into his classroom to pick him up from school today, William acted like a hurricane. A fast-moving, destroy-everything-in-his-path hurricane. He began screeching happily and tearing madly around the classroom, knocking toys away from a couple of his classmates. He pushed one little boy who was trying to use the potty. He tore around the room and refused to stay still long enough for me to wrestle him into his coat. It was maddening. And exhausting.

And it's like this nearly every single time I pick him up from school or the nursery at church. None of the other kids act like that, and I have to admit that I get a little embarrassed. I worry that the other parents are looking at me and thinking, "Why doesn't she control her child?" I worry that no one is ever going to want to play with my son because he's so wild. I worry that he's not going to have any friends because the other kids are going to be afraid of him! He's not mean, but he gets so rambunctious. Why does this happen? What can I do about it?

And the other thing is...he can behave so beautifully when he wants to. On Saturday, I took him to see the play "The Wizard of Oz" at the Belcourt Theatre down in Hillsboro Village. He was an angel. He sat nicely in his seat for the first part, then in my lap for the rest of it. He didn't yell or scream or fidget or get down and run around. He used his "inside voice" when he wanted to ask me a question. He behaved better than most of the older children who were there. And yesterday at Cheekwood, he behaved very nicely inside the museum. He didn't run off or screech or keep doing anything that I asked him not to do.

So why does he does act like such a madman at church and school at pickup time? And why don't any of the other kids? What am I doing wrong?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Man, it's cold

You know how I know when it's really freaking cold outside?

When my son actually declines an offer to run around outside like a wild banshee.

Yep, that's what happened this morning. We bundled up and went to Cheekwood to participate in the Tuesday morning kiddie art class. Afterward William "made" a groundhog puppet out of a paper bag, I suggested that we take a stroll...or a mad dash...around the grounds so he could burn off some of his endless energy.

About 25 yards into his run, the wind started to pick up. William slowed to a fast walk. Ten more yards down the deserted sidewalk, and he stopped. Brrrrr. No wonder no one else was outside. No wonder the shuttle bus driver kept trying to wave to me to come get on his bus. William peered up at me from under his baseball hat, which was mostly covered with the fleece-lined hood of his heavy coat, and said, "Mommy, I'm done. I don't want to run anymore." If it had been any warmer, I would have responded, "Who are you and what have you done with my son?" As it was, my teeth were chattering so hard that I couldn't say anything. So I grabbed his mittened hand, and we braced ourselves against the howling wind and beat a hasty retreat to the nearby art museum.

Why am I still so surprised that it gets this cold here in Nashville? We lived here last winter. I survived a half dozen snows last year. Am I really still at least partially in denial that it really does get bitterly cold here?