Sunday, September 9, 2012

Age of Id

Only after the ink had dried on Thing 2's birth certificate was it pointed out to us that we had unwittingly given both of our daughters names from the phoenetic alphabet. This was completely unintentional on our part but I like the feel of it; individuals that are part of a larger set. Hubby likes the finality of it. There are no more girls names to be had in the phoenetic alphabet unless one runs to weirdo, flaky celebrity baby names (no offence intended to any readers who may have named their girls Foxtrot or Golf... though I suppose India has potential so perhaps I am being too narrow minded). I guess I have de-facto given away the names of Thing 1 and Thing 2 but I have, over the years, come to feel pretty safe among my tens of readers.

Siblings share, on average, 25% of their DNA. The sharing of DNA between parent and child is fixed at exactly 50% (yes, we are doomed to become our mothers and fathers) however siblings can vary theoretically from 0 - 50% shared DNA bc the DNA a sib inherits from parent is random. With Thing 2 still being so young it is difficult to know how similar in temperament she will be to Thing 1 though photographic evidence shows that they are very clearly related:

Maybe this is the expression shared by all babies when they are plucked from the warm, whooshy womb and dumped on the cold stainless steel scale:

I call this one "She has more hair, I have more chins but we share the same straight jacket":
Not really pertinent, just a gratuitous inclusion of this picture (hint: the bald ones aren't real):

But I sit on the edge of my seat wondering if Thing 2's toddlerhood will resemble Thing 1's. Time for the standard parental disclaimer: I love my child blah blah blah, best thing that ever happened to me blah blah blah, wouldn't change anything for the world blah blah blah (ok yes, I actually do mean these things but OMIGOD do parents realize how overplayed they sound when they preface their complaints with The Disclaimer??). So, that probably makes it somewhat obvious that I find myself struggling with toddlerhood. And by struggling I mean morphing into a yelling, impatient, red-faced, strident, irritating monsther (cross between mother and monster).

Back when Thing 1 was a smiley, drooling infant I decided to get ahead of the curve and started reading "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by "the brilliant" Dr. Karp (really, he's brilliant, there are pages and pages and pages of anecdotes talking about how brilliant he is... in fact if you skip the "I'm brilliant" content the book shrinks from about 300 pages to 10 pages of rather good advice). He advocates child rearing approaches based on the toddler's particular temperament and neatly divides toddler temperaments into three broad categories: shy, easy and spirited. Unsure as to what temperament your child has, just do this simple test. Go to a crowded mall and let go of your child's hand and pretend you are not paying attention. The easy toddler will hang out near you, the shy toddler will cling to your leg and hide his face and the spirited toddler will be gone in a flash. I remember looking at my still immobile, speechless infant wondering what flavour I had. By the time Thing 1 was mobile enough to run the test, it was a moot point given that I spent most of my days 10 feet behind her fast retreating behind yelling and pleading and cajoling and generally being thankful I am a fit runner.

So we have without a doubt a spirited toddler, spirited being a highly euphemistic term. I struggle with the 30 pounds of id that IS Thing 1. (As as aside, I stole the "30 pounds of id" line from this article which, if you have ever had to fly with a toddler you MUST read because it is pee your pants hilarious). I do realize that my impatience and frustration with the id-ness of Thing 1 is really a reflection on ME and not at all on her... she is exactly what toddlers are supposed to be: self-centered, limit-testing, danger-seeking, noise-making agents of chaos. Toddlers can be thought of as sub-civilized aliens... they have a code but it is not one that is generally appreciated by the rest of society. The role of parent is to be the toddler's ambassador to the world. Parents exist to act as buffer between the toddler's frustrations and the world and the world's annoyance and the toddler. I know this. Things with Thing 1 are exactly as they are supposed to be but OH do I find it frustrating.

Frustrating that she has twenty thousand toys (give or take) but if Thing 2 receives one toy she must immediately claim and monopolize it because she must have All Of The Things All Of The Time. Frustrating that we can spend the whole morning pleasing her with trips to the park, loads of focussed attention, little treats but she cannot let us have five minutes to listen to a song we want to hear because "Moi aime PAS ca" and if MOI doesn't like a certain thing than that thing MUST cease to exist. Frustrating that we cajole her to try to go to the bathroom and she adamantly refuses, throws a temper tantrum telling us "Moi n'as PAS de pipi" and then she goes and pees in the bouncy castle causing it to be shut down for cleaning for the next hour (And yes, I offered to clean it and was refused given instead the humiliating job of guarding the entrance and turning everyone away. And since when did "it's closed" become not enough information??? I swear every toddler jonesing for the bouncy castle AND their parent NEEDED to know WHY). Frustrating that she cannot share with anyone, ever... not even say a seat on the bus with me... kind random dude gives up his seat, Thing 1 takes it, won't move over to share and mom is left hanging onto the pole with one pinky while trying desperately to keep Thing 2, stroller and daycare bag from poking people's vital organs.

And I say all of this is normal but a small part of me wonders as I guess ultimately all parents do... IS this normal? Parents OWE it to society to raise conscientious, thoughtful, confident, polite children. It is against all of our interests to have entitled, spoiled brats roaming around because although it may be normal at age 3, it starts to wear thin when the same behaviour is exhibited in say the workplace. So like all parents I want to release a kind, thoughtful person upon the world not only because it is my duty to society and but because kind, thoughtful people are happier than spoiled brats and more than anything else, parents want happiness for their children. And I am trying... but at age 3, the age of ID it is so hard to see around the corner and know if things are going to turn out okay. And in case it isn't obvious... I welcome the chorus of "it's normal" and "listen to what my child does"... please tell me I am not alone.


  1. I think my parents wanted to release kind thoughtful people upon the world too, but they gave up after seven kids.

  2. Oh my, I hear you. My just-turned-six-year-old is pretty sure that the world (including his four-year-old brother) exists to do his bidding. It does get better (or at least, different). For one thing, the four year old can now suck the oxygen out of any situation almost as well as his brother. So you have that to look forward to :-)

    Seriously, though, every time I'm convinced that we're going to live forever with an egocentric solipsist who must have the biggest, best and most of anything or he will BURST INTO FLAMES... he turns around and does something thoughtful, or generous, or sweet, and I feel like there's hope again that we might end up with a decent human being. He's climbing out of the id pit, step by step.

    Oh, and one more thing: They almost always save their worst behavior for you, the mama (or daddy). The rest of the world is probably seeing a better behaved child than you are.

    Small biology correction: Sibs can share up to 100% of their DNA (identical twins, for example) - if they happen to get the same combo of chromosomes from Mom and Dad. On average, they share 50%. /sciencegeek

  3. Robyn,
    Thanks for your words and encouragement. I realize I was not fair in my post... even at age 3 Thing 1 will do those little sweet things that you mention that pull us back from the brink of despair.
    And thank you for the correction... I am so embarassed, you are of course correct!

    SteveQ - I don't pretend to know you very well but from what i do know your parents succeeded.

  4. I am not a parent but I think that every person has some thoughts on parenting so here goes.
    I truly believe that parents are not responsible for what their child turn out to be as an adult. Each and every one of us has her/his own brain, we all think for ourselves and thus only ourselves and nobody else is responsible for our actions. There is a lot of information out there, we process them all and then it is up to us to decide how we are going to behave and live our lives.
    For example, I am sure that almost all parents of the current addicts told their children that drugs are bad. In addition, there is information about how drugs will destroy your life all around us and some children still choose to do drugs. Or when parents spoil their child rotten and this kid is still a spoiled brat when she is 16-17 then it does not reflect bad on her parents but rather on herself and her own stupidity because by the age of 16 she should be able to see that her behavior is not a decent one. Every person should be able to determine what is right and what is wrong because we all have access to information that show us what right and wrong is (children story books, TV news, newspapers etc) no matter what our parents teach us. If a person still chooses to do things that are unacceptable, I call it being stupid.
    Of course, I think that parents are responsible for their kids until they reach the age when they are able to think for themselves but then they are on their own. I imagine that being around the age of 15-17. However, the actions of small kids do not (usually) have a great impact on society or other’s lives and therefore keeping their kids in check is more about keeping the child alive and not driving others insane with tantrums etc rather than about making them a decent human beings. We ourselves decide whether we want to be good people behaving in acceptable ways independently on what our parents teach us.

  5. People say that having children changes their priorities and outlook on the world, and I being children-less cannot quite understand it but it might be true, so it might be than if I had children I would suddenly feel the responsibility for what my children turn out to be. Maybe it will be sincere feeling of responsibility, maybe it will be just caving to what society expects me to feel. Future will show.

  6. This post made me so happy and relieved. Zach is squarely in the spirited camp and I swear I spend so much time just chasing after him yelling "say excuse me!" and apologizing to everyone he is bouncing off of. I am praying Landon is easier when she hits his ago because as a baby she is SO much easier than he ever was. You are very much not alone. Great post.

  7. hi - mommies, thanks for the reassurance, exactly what I was angling for.
    Mmmmonyka - first, i certainly don't think one must be a parent to have a well thought out, interesting opinion on parenting so it's great to hear your thoughts. Your comments open a can of worms or at least introduce a great topic for another post. I do agree that ultimately the person that one becomes is one's own responsibility. A parent would have to be totally arrogant to think they can completely control how a child turns out. I guess I oversimplified in my post (as well as making egregious biology errors). I think it is the responsibility of parents to do their best to ensure a considerate, thoughtful etc. etc. person is produced. The ultimate "product" depends on so much that is beyond the parents control - peer groups, chance, genetics (i.e. another way of saying chance), environment outside the home. Parenting plays a limited role in outcome but we still must maximize the chances of a good outcome through optimal parenting (figuring out what the heck optimal parenting means is a whole other mess...). I also oversimplified in my post by implying that DNA entirely determines the outcome... obviously not true.