Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gettin' Old

I like to say that LL changes every single day, but I only mean it in a technical sense. Many of the changes are very subtle, the kind of things only a parent would notice. He's a little taller, he's a little more steady, he can move a little bit faster. Then there are periods where it's like a whole new part of his brain suddenly came on-line, and we're like, "Whoa, this is a totally different kid!" We're in the middle of one of those periods right now. Some new link in his brain just came alive and suddenly he's understanding so much, and he's capable of doing so much more. It's really rather amazing. A few highlights:

After adding practically no new words for almost two months, LL is now building his vocabulary. "Up," "Down," and "cheese!" are the new favorites. He's currently eating a lot of cheese, because "cheese" is the only food word he knows, so every time I ask him what he'd like to eat, he says "cheese!" He has also added several new animal sounds (most prominently cows and wolves), which has meant a slight reprieve from the constant barking.

We're having real conversations! We used to have to coax him to say every word he knew, but now he volunteers appropriate words, and he asks and answers questions. He still gets by largely with four words: "Da!" (Russian for "yes".) "No!" "This" and "All Done!" When he wants something, he points in the general direction and says "this!" Then we play a guessing game where I pick things up one by one and ask, "Do you want X?" while he calmly shakes his head and says "No!" until I hit upon whatever it was he was asking for. Then he grins, nods, says "Da!", plays with / looks at / eats whatever it was, then says "All Done!" and calmly hands it back to me. Very civilized. The guessing part kind of sucks, but presumably that will get easier as he learns more nouns. For now, we're just happy that we have a way of figuring out what he wants that doesn't involve screaming and tantrums. And it's great that I've been able to reason with him on occasion: "Let's go change your diaper." "No!" "Why not? Is it because you want to keep playing with your car?" "Da!" "Hm... do you want to bring your car with you while we change your diaper?" "Da!!!" "Great! Pick up your car and let's go to your room!" And then he picks up the car and goes to his room. He wasn't at this level even one week ago.

We're having a lot of luck with avoiding temper tantrums using an "empathy" method that I didn't think would work yet, but miraculously does. The idea is that toddlers get upset about ... whatever (knocking over the blocks; having to wait for something; not being allowed to eat cake for dinner; having a dangerous object taken away from them) but they morph from simply being upset into being a screaming kicking ball of tantrum fury because they don't think that their parents understand why they're so upset. Being denied the cake is bad, but being misunderstood and dismissed is so much worse. So, when you see a tantrum about to start, you name the emotion, accept it, then suggest alternative ways of reacting. For example: "I'm sorry, LL. I know that you're angry that I won't let you have cake. I get angry when I can't have something that I want, too. It's okay for you to be angry, but it's not okay to kick your legs like this. Why don't we go find something else to have for a snack instead? Would you like a banana?" I have to say all of this while LL is still in the winding-up-to-a-tantrum phase, because once he crosses that threshold, I'm out of luck. But as soon as I see him start to get upset, I look him right in the face and start naming the emotion. He usually stops crying by the end of my speech, sniffles a bit, then calmly acknowledges the new activity. It's really quite amazing. It's amazing to me that "I know you want cake, but you can't have it" makes him tantrum, but "I know that you're angry about not getting cake" instantly calms him down. He hasn't had a full-blown tantrum in weeks.

LL is finally learning body parts. After stubbornly refusing to acknowledge eyes and ears, despite lots of singing of "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," and lots of reading of books like Karen's Katz's "Where is Baby's Belly Button?", he suddenly became obsessed with noses. For one day. And the next day, he was suddenly able to point to many of his body parts, none of which he was able to identify the day before. Mouth, teeth, tongue, nose, eyes, ears, hair, fingers, and toes. He's most consistent with hair, probably because he loves running his fingers through his curls.

He's suddenly into imitation. For a long time, the only behavior that we noticed him emulating was talking on the phone. (Everything vaguely rectangular was a phone.) But overnight, he decided that there are so many other things he could be imitating! He loves trying on our shoes and slippers and clothes (especially belts). He discovered during his last cold that he hates having snot on his hands, so he taught himself how to wipe his own nose with a handkerchief instead. No muss, no fuss! (Why he insists on handing the used handkerchief to me, rather than putting it down somewhere, is another matter.) And in a move that cracks me up every single time he does it, LL refuses to put down his sippy cup unless there's a coaster underneath it. If there's no coaster handy, he'll hand me his cup, run over to get a coaster, put the coaster where he wants it, take the cup back from me, and very carefully place it in the middle of the coaster. Every. Single. Time. We were at a play date last weekend, at someone else's house, and LL managed to find a stack of coasters on an end table, brought them over to where everyone was playing, spread them out, and then carefully moved every other kid's sippy cup onto its own coaster. (By the way, he gets the neatness thing from S, not me. And we've never even tried to enforce a coasters-for-sippy-cups policy. He just watched us do it with our own drinks, and decided it was cool.)

LL is finally reliably giving hugs and kisses. He's been doing the hugs for a while, actually, but the kisses are new. He'll follow commands like "Go give Daddy a hug and kiss," but better yet is that he notices when I'm feeling particularly tired (I lie down on the floor in the middle of his play area and say, "Wow, Mommy's really tired!" I'm subtle like that) and he'll come over on his own, give me a hug and kiss, and then pat my back encouragingly. The lip-smacking sound that accompanies the kisses is particularly amusing.

He's definitely into the "I can do it myself!" independence phase. He takes his shoes and jacket off by himself when we get home. He climbs into chairs by himself. When he's done eating, he takes his bib off and hands it to me before holding his hands out to be wiped off (and he wipes his mouth himself now -- it's very cute!). He loves brushing his teeth. He can stack cups and blocks into towers that are as tall as he is. At the park, he can climb the slide, sit down, and slide back down again all by himself. And he's finally reliably going to sleep on his own without crying. For a long time, he would scream when we put him in the crib; he usually stopped within 60 seconds, but it still bothered me that my peaceful night-night routine always ended with pitiful shrieking. Then suddenly last week, I put him in his crib and, instead of crying, he gently took his blankie from me, hugged it, smiled up at me, and waved bye-bye. It's so nice to be able to blow him a final kiss from the door and then walk out, knowing that he's happy and warm and comfortable and able to go to sleep on his own.

The more I watch LL interact with other children, the more I notice how easy-going he is. At playdates, other toddlers seem to spend much of their time throwing things and banging things and shrieking. LL is usually so much more calm than that. Not that he never throws toys. It's just not his normal mode of play. While other toddlers seem to yell the word "no" to everything, LL has this quiet normal-speaking-voice "no" that is usually accompanied by a gentle shaking of his head. Or, my favorite, he does his very thoughtful, "Hmmmm.... nah!" that is accompanied by a shrugging of his shoulders. How in the world did a one-year-old pick up the body language for indifference?

So, um, yeah. He's getting old. He's just two weeks shy of 18 months. The big one-point-five. It turns out that I'm getting old, too. Tomorrow's my birthday. My age will be a palindrome in both decimal and binary representations. Bonus points to anyone who identifies the other ages where this is true during a reasonable human lifespan. If you always ignore leading 0s, I count six other ages.


  1. Happy birthday! It is really funny the things you notice about your own child that you would never have thought to pay attention to before! It sounds like you have gone through a lot of the same things with LL recently that we've gone through with Jillian. Minus the coasters though. We don't have any now, because she ran away with them a long time ago and now we can't find any.

  2. I cannot tell you how happy this post made me. I just love the thought of him putting all the sippy cups on coasters.

  3. Happy 33rd birthday!! (And for the bonus points: 66th and 99th. If you add a zero in the front of 66, of course.)

    The talking/imitation stage is sooo fun. Today Bean laid next to me in bed, flashed me a huge smile and said, "Love you, mama." I nearly died of happiness.

  4. Happy birthday! I love reading posts like this about all the things we have to look forward to (although if the fusspot does even half those things in the next 3 months I'll be astounded ...). I am very impressed that he can climb, identify body parts, and keep a neat table!


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