Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Independent Boy

I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but my baby LL has been replaced with a little boy. And when I say "boy," I really do mean gender-stereotyped boy. He likes playing in dirt. He says "vroom! vroom!" while pushing toy cars. He is fascinated by trucks and airplanes. He is fearlessly obsessed with climbing to death-defying heights. He believes that chairs are for jumping off of, or flipping over, but rarely for sitting. He loves trains (and since the only television he's ever seen has been Packers games, I can't blame it on cartoons like Thomas). Even though he's still in the drunken-sailor Frankenstein-on-brand-new-legs phase of learning to walk, he has somehow already learned how to run. He figures out how toys work without our help. And he has this breathlessly happy, excited way of saying "Daddy!" that both melts my heart and makes me a bit jealous. (He says "Mama," too, but not out of excitement. He says it when he wants something. As S is fond of saying, LL clearly thinks of the word "Mama" as a command, not a name.)

He has also started cultivating his fiercely independent side. He has enjoyed holding his own spoon during meals for quite some time, but it was mainly ornamental (and a convenient teething toy between bites of food). Now he is actually feeding himself -- he uses his spoon for actual conveyance of food, dipping it into bowls and then bringing it to his mouth, repeatedly. It would be more effective if he didn't flip the spoon over every single time on its way to his mouth, but it works quite well for sticky foods that can just be licked off. He hates diaper changes. He hates putting on clothes. He hates that there are objects in the house that he is not allowed to handle and/or chew on. (Chanukah candles were a problem. He got really pissed that we wouldn't let him touch fire.) He is obsessed with electronics. He will only listen to books that he has chosen himself and handed to us, often turning to the exact page that he would like us to read first. He hates being thwarted. For a long time, he barely noticed baby gates, but now he shakes them angrily with his hands and shrieks in frustration whenever he encounters one. He also shrieks when he finds that his ever-growing body doesn't fit somewhere it once did, like in narrow gaps between furniture, or underneath small tables.

We took advantage of his desire for independence by finally changing LL's bedtime routine. For more than a year, we have ignored the advice to put him down in his crib "sleepy but awake." Early on, we just didn't have the fortitude to deal with the screaming that ensued. Then both S and I came to love the snuggling time that we got with LL by rocking him gently to sleep every night. The sleep experts all claim that soothing your child all the way to sleep will rob him of the ability to learn how to put himself to sleep, resulting in a baby that needs your help to fall back asleep every 3-4 hours, all night long. But these same experts say that a baby that can sleep for at least six straight hours without calling for help has definitely woken up and gone back to sleep by himself at least once during that time, and LL was sleeping for twelve straight hours almost every single night, so we were pretty sure that he had figured it out on his own. Nevertheless, S and I decided that it was finally time to stop rocking him all the way to asleep at bedtime. Partially this was planning ahead (waaaaay ahead) for possibly having another baby. Partially it was because the uncertainty of not knowing how long it would take to get him to sleep was becoming a problem. Mainly, though, it was just that LL had gotten so big that he doesn't fit lying sideways in my lap and I couldn't comfortably move him around while cradled in my arms. The bedtime transition went surprisingly smoothly. The first night, he screamed for exactly 15 minutes after we put him in his crib and closed the door behind us. (To be clear: this was screaming, not crying. He was not sad or upset. He was mad.) The second night, it was five minutes. He has rarely protested at all since then, other than a few shrieks when we leave the room, just to make sure that we know that this is not his preferred method of falling asleep.

He is finally starting to show some interest in "adult" foods, so we've been able to cut back a bit on the purees. Current favorite foods are cottage cheese, meatballs, grapefruit, tangerines, rice crackers, and spinach nuggets. (Spinach nuggets, by the way, are exactly what they sound like: they're like chicken nuggets, but with spinach instead of chicken. He is bizarrely fascinated by them.) He still rejects most of the common toddler foods like scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, avocado, bread, and pasta. But every once in a while he surprises us, like last week when he gobbled up an entire bowl of my broccoli orzo stew.

We took LL to the zoo for the first time, where he became obsessed with kangaroos. He hugged every goat in the petting zoo. He was very popular with the goats, possibly because he had smeared so much oatmeal in his hair at breakfast that he smelled deliciously like oats. At one point, he became so surrounded by goats and sheep that a zoo employee came over because she was afraid about him getting freaked out and trampled, but he was giggling so hard that she let them be. He tried his best to climb into the bear enclosure. He did not understand why he was not allowed to hug the bears.

S's company shut down for the holidays, so we have been enjoying lots of family time. I've gone into work a few times, but mainly just to work on job applications. Yep, I have now officially applied for several tenure-track assistant professor gigs. I'm also still working on two papers that I'm hoping to submit in the next few weeks, but I've decided to enjoy my time with S and LL and worry about the paper starting in January.

Happy 2010!


  1. Elizabeth surprises me with the foods she likes sometimes too. She loves black olives and pickles.

  2. It sounds like we have the feminine counterpart to your Mr. Independent at our house!

  3. interesting foods,
    uplifting moods
    thank you,
    cool blog.

  4. It is definitely interesting to see the male personality emerge... it's not socialization, it's genetic! I swear one day Bean woke up out of the blue and asked to watch football on TV, even though he'd seen it only once in his life before then. And since then, I've heard the toddler version of the word "football" about 142,874 times.

    I wish you all the best in 2010 -- you have some exciting changes coming, and I am looking forward to following your journey!

  5. Nicky,

    I wanted to thank you for your recent comment and let you know that I did enable comment moderation once I logged in this afternoon and saw what had happened. I did delete your comment, but it was actually a mistake. Your comment wasn't negative and should have stayed. If you wanted to put it up again, I would approve it. I just didn't want you to wonder why I had deleted it.



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