H Words

I think that Joey has started to look more like his brother. My genes have clearly lost out on just about every front, which I find myself not minding—both boys have bigger eyes, like mine, and Cricket especially makes the same expressions I do (according to Ruth, and from what I’ve seen)—but they’re both within spitting distance of that tall fellow I like so much. I thought that Joey looked more like me, but then I saw a whole mess of baby pictures of my husband, and there were some in which he could easily have passed for his younger son. I may end up the odd woman out in a family of tall, charming blond fellows. There are worse fates.

Speaking of which, Joey has started expressing his anger by slapping me in the face. It’s a strange thing—one issue we are perpetually working on together is helping him to use words to express what he wants or is feeling. So he will scrabble at the foot of our bed and then scream with rage: I say, “You seem frustrated! Is there a word you can use to tell me what you want?” and he will say “Helb! (help)” “Oh, you want help up?” and I help him up. He has a lot of words, but he’s easily frustrated, and when he is frustrated, they go right out the window. (By contrast, if he’s feeling cheerful, he will run to the edge of the bed and say “Helb! Up!”) My brother has always had this same incredibly short fuse—easily frustrated and unable to tolerate frustration—so it’s important, I think, that we try to help Joey learn to manage it. I’m still figuring how. Right now, that mostly means time-in for persistently dangerous bad behavior (throwing blocks at people’s heads, that sort of thing): I hold him and talk to him and for a little while he fights to get loose and go back to whatever he was doing; after a minute, he relaxes and generally seems to enjoy being held; and after a couple of minutes, he’s free to do as he likes (he usually stays in my lap awhile). When he hits me, I first hold his hands, give a serious “No, we do not hit” sort of talk—and when he hits me again, which he invariably does, I tell him that he can’t sit with me if he’s going to hurt me, and I set him on the floor—at which point he starts screaming as though he’s the one who’s just been slapped. It is not a perfect system, for sure.

It might not sound like it yet, but I am overall really enjoying the toddlerness of this boy; he’s getting smarter by the day, and there’s scarcely a trace of baby left in him. We got a toddler leash because he wants to run into traffic and not to hold our hands—now he likes to wrap it around himself at home, and we’ve started calling it his fancy. “Oh, Snerks, you look so fancy!” He will let you know when he needs his diaper changed, usually (“Helb! Poop!”), and he’s more and more interested in soccerish games with us in the yard. His fine motor is pretty lousy, unfortunately (one area where my genes totally dominate! I was in special P.E.), and he gets frustrated trying to work at improving it, but there’s time yet. His physical enthusiasm combines with that “fine” motor to keep me on my toes preventing him breaking his neck, but we’re doing pretty well so far, and a pool fence is coming soon (not that he is ever, EVER alone outside). One of Joey’s favorite words is hug, and he will frequently demand one—“Ugga!”—this is one of my favorite new things. It actually came out of that same pool as the paragraph above, trying to help him deal with frustration; he was finding a toy very annoying, and when he would sit next to it and scream, I would say, “Sweetie, if you want, you can come here for a hug—maybe you’ll feel better.” After a dozen or so times, he started spontaneously coming over for a hug when he was getting mad, and the word has really caught on.

Baby Book

Joey went to the pediatrician on Wednesday, and although I had convinced myself that he was probably yellow as mustard and I was just blind to it, he is in fact perfectly healthy, almost up to his birth weight, and generally delightsome. He’s got a goopy eye (massaging the tear duct gently) and some dandruff (trying scalp massage with apricot kernel oil), but is eating, peeing, and pooping like a creature possessed. He loves the water. We’ve done a little bit of tummy time on the last few days, and he fights to lift himself for a few minutes and then starts to howl. I’m not sure what kind of strength is normal for a baby, but he seems strong to me: he has been rolling (apparently on purpose) onto his side since he was about a week old, and if you lie on your back and set him facedown onto your stomach, he will pull himself up your body until his head is jammed into your neck. My mother has started talking about how my sister Tammy was crawling at three months, which is unlikely to be repeated in Joey but still mildly terrifying.

Speaking of my mother, she is here! That is mostly great—she is reorganizing our closets!—but there are some bits of it that have been less great. She spent a few days trying to talk us into using a pacifier, for example; I would also like to give Joey some diaper-free time (his bum isn’t rashy but is a bit red), just crank up the heat in one room, lay down a couple of towels, and let him rock out for an hour or two—but I’m pretty sure that she would be a little freaked out. She’s also got me thinking about what makes an easy baby. I’ve been thinking of Joey as easy (at least so far), but I realized that a pretty fair part of that depends on the way I want to parent; he wants to be held while he is awake, and wants to go to sleep touching someone, for example, which would mean a lot of crying with a less touchy-feely mom. Me, I’m happy to wear him around town and cuddle him at home—wanting to be held makes a lot of sense to me, and I am getting better at typing one-handed. But my mother had us sleeping separately and spending time in a playpen, which would I think make Joey just scream and scream. He also wants to nurse pretty frequently, often just for comfort (thus my mom’s pacifier recommendation); I so far think that if I can nurse him, I’m happy to, so why not let him find comfort in his current favorite thing? I totally whipped out a breast in Starbucks without thinking about it yesterday (meeting with a social worker), so that particular barrier apparently won’t be a problem. I no longer have any shame. Of course, he still has time to get colicky, which would put him firmly in the “high needs” category, but for now . . . he’s easy for me. Not that I’m pleased to be awake for a few hours in the middle of the night—but it feels so good to hold him.

One thing I’d like to note just for the electronic baby book: I regularly end up bicycling Joey’s legs, to help with gas and also just because he seems to find it relaxing sometimes. For whatever reason, from the first time I tried it in the hospital, I’ve narrated to him a story about Joey bicycling through Alberta while I do so. We’ve gone on little missions, usually to find something: first, uncreatively a moose, and later things like “a sweet shop that sells candied yams” or “someone who might appreciate a jar of cashew butter.” I just natter to him about what he’s seeing, and what we’re looking for, as he pedals through the forest primeval on an old-fashioned bike with one huge wheel in front and one tiny one behind.