Monday, June 29, 2009

Cot-free and ready to roam

Since Sonny's arrival just over 14 months ago, our little fella has spent his nights in a collapsible cot in our bedroom - initially in a shallow bassinet, then later making full use of the available space. But as longtime readers of this blog will know, he absolutely detests every waking moment spent in the cot (click here for some of our efforts to 'cure' him). He would howl down the house, toss out every toy and otherwise make it perfectly clear we were violating whatever childcare version there may be of the Geneva Conventions against cruel and inhuman punishment by keeping him thus confined.

Over the weekend, therefore, we folded up the cot and stowed it away. A futon took its place - and Sonny has now graduated to sleeping on the floor, free upon awakening to immediately embark on sundry adventures. In doing so, of course, we are taking a calculated risk. Despite every precaution, he might conceivable steal out of the room while we are slumbering and start parachute training using our settee, for instance. Or he might begin to carefully to chomp on the newspapers, or make a meal of sundry trash bags.

Still - and there's a broader moral here - you can't keep a child caged away from all danger forever. Soon enough, he'll have to take such vast risks as submerge briefly in water (if he is to learn to swim) and a little further on - gasp - cross the road on his own steam. There's no getting away from it, though we may throw up as many protective barriers as possible, from swim lessons to road-crossing coaching. With a bit of luck, nightmare scenarios will not come to pass: In the present case, when we are in the room the door will be securely shut and Sonny can't really reach the doorknob yet. Of course, there'll come a day the door is left ajar, and the little fella might revive at precisely the wrong moment and slip out to do a bit of wrecking.

Still, we have to weigh against this prospect the daily protestations by Sonny upon waking up in his cot, the increasing difficulty of conveying him there after he falls asleep elsewhere without his coming to and the like. And much the same calculus will have to be applied as he is progressively exposed to more and more 'dangers'. On the grandest scale of things, he'll have to be an independent operator in the big ole world sooner or later - and sometimes, it's the parents who need to do the most adjusting to come to terms with that terrifying prospect. Over-cocooning, if we might use that ugly but apposite phrase, only postpones the inevitable and ultimately results in a child unprepared for life.

What's a parent to do, but to begin the incremental letting-go earlier rather than later? The dilemma of 'but there's just the teeniest prospect of danger...' has to be confronted on a daily basis.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dancer, singer, one-hit wonder

We've been watching re-runs of that excellent programme, 'Dancing with the Stars', in which celebrities who have not so much as spelt 'rumba' in their lives are transformed into dance-floor delights thanks to the maniacal efforts of professional partners. Neither Mum nor Pa has ever ventured into the realm of ballroom or Latin dance - but it looks as though Sonny can't wait to give it a try.

A day or so ago, Pa was just tapping his toes in his own painful impersonation of a crippled dancer possibly half-asleep when our little fella stepped up. With a self-important air, he began raising and lowering his right foot more-or-less rhythmically, while glancing up at the hdults in the room as though expecting a storm of applause.

There was no doubting it. He was trying a bit of soft-shoeing! Granted, a bit of leg-raising does not prove that he's bound for stardom, but one has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, the season of 'Dancing' that we've been following has just ended, but just as soon as another one gets underway, we'll be plumping our son in front of the TV and encouraging him to do a few lifts and wobbles here and there.

Meanwhile, we have had another smidgen of evidence of a certain musicality. The little fella's grandmother has been singing 'Twinkle twinkle little star' to him, and after a bit of coaxing, he's learned the right juncture (just after 'Twinkle twinkle little...' or 'How I wonder what you...') at which to bawl out 'STAR!' or 'ARE!'. Well, actually, he just shouts out 'ARRR' both times, but at least he's not randomly interjecting, but instead waiting for a logical rhythmic climax. If we switch to a different verse, to boot, Sonny will stay silent - as though he has enough of a grasp of the lyrics to know that different words need to be slotted into the pauses.

Unfortunately, after one year and two months, that's all we harvested by way of proof that he isn't going to be leaden-footed, tone-deaf shower-singing disaster. But it's better than nothing - or so we keep telling ourselves.

Quite possibly leading ourselves on a merry dance of self-delusion.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Pa Pa Pa problem

The other day, Sonny managed to get his father skip-hoppity happy when he blurted out 'Pa' as the said parent was entering our flat after work.

"Aha, so he recognises me," said Pa, puffing up his chest ever so slightly and casting a pitying glance at Mum.

Strangely, Mum did not seem particularly put out. "Go on, ask him who Sonny thinks he is," she responded. So Pa poked the little fella in the chest and said, "And who are you?"

"Pa!" chirrupped our one-and-two-month old creature enthusiastically, causing a sneaking suspicion to dawn on his father.

"And who's this?," he demanded, pointing at Sonny's grandmother.


Apart from bruising egos, of course, the incident does make us wonder exactly what concept of identity toddlers can possibly possess. Could Sonny believe there is some sort of 'Pa' club to which both he, his father and his grandmother belong (Mum, typically, is addressed as 'Milk' or a garbled 'Mpagh')? If so, where could he have derived that idea? We've spent quite a bit of time pointing at ourselves and trying to attach the appropriate signifiers: Somehow, the signals got crossed.

Actually, it's even more confused than that. A couple of weeks back, Pa was able to get Sonny to thump his chest (that's Pa's chest, not Sonny's) by barking, 'Who's Pa?'. So, to all intents and purposes, he was clearly on the right track to recognition. Even more mysterious is why Mum should have been left out of the big happy 'Pa' club.

Apart from crossing our fingers and hoping the arrow signs get sorted out in his little brain, we're also now waiting to see when Sonny will call himself by his first name. This would seem to be a fairly significant moment, since it would clearly signal a deepening of self-awareness.

He'll probably start working on that knotty issue once he understands that he's not his father.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sleep, the final frontier

Once upon a time, there was a nice little boy who went to bed every day at about 8pm, made no fuss about having to turn in and drifted off to dreamland without the need for any parental encouragement.

Sonny, however, is nothing like that nice little boy (who may not even exist, though Pa claims he used to be 'no trouble at all as a toddler'). Our little fella is temperamental when it comes to bedtimes. Some days, tuckered out from a full day at the infant care centre - bullying younger infants, or so we strongly suspect - he is yawning mournfully by 8pm and asleep by 8.30pm. On such days, Mum - who is left to handle him with Pa at work till 10pm or so - can simply deposit Sonny in his cot and then skip away to surf the Internet or do a bit of quiet reading.

Most of the time, however, the little monster has vast resources of energy and is still wide awake at 10pm. Pa will typically let himself in, creep into the bedroom - and find an exhausted Mum spreadeagled on the bed with Sonny prancing to and fro between her limp limbs. Mum's first words will be "He wooon't sleeeep!" or some variation on the sentiment, even as Sonny gains extra oomph from seeing his other parent return, and scampers cackling forward.

As it happens, Mum knows full well that with Sonny now almost a 14 months old, he should not need 'liquid encouragement' (a spot of breastfeeding) to transition to sleep. But nothing else really works - and, as you would have realised, filling the fella up with milk doesn't necessarily work either. Reading is useless, since he doesn't understand much of whichever nursery rhyme or silly story Mum starts on. Indeed, the book itself may prove an additional distraction. We don't have a rocker, and Sonny's getting rather too heavy for any handrocking - not that that works either!

For now, therefore, we remain mired in quiet desperation. Eventually, after multiple milk sessions and much quiet time tucked into Mum's side, the little fella will drift off and his rejoicing parents can sidle off. Our earlier efforts to just 'let him cry himself to sleep' (as chronicled in an earlier post, which you may access by clicking here) have been largely abandoned due to Mum's soft-heartedness and Sonny's obstinate bawling: Despite initially hopeful signs, he is still fully capable of wailing for over an hour and then immediately going silent once picked up.

Wilful sort of fellow. We just wish he could will himself to sleep.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A child can definitely wave too much

Early this morning, Pa woke up and blearily saw a little hand flapping enthusiastically at him. He knew at once that Waving-Sonny was at it again.

That's right. Our little fella has caught the Hello-Goodbye bug. That is to say, after months of imperiously ignoring anyone who tried to gain his attention, he can't stop greeting folks, as well as bidding them goodbye (often before said folks are ready to retreat). And it goes further than that:

- At one year and six weeks, we're figuring he ought to be able to snap off immediate one-word tags for people and things that he encounters on a daily basis ('Tree!', 'Dog!', et cetera). Instead, however, Sonny has taken to cheerily waving at lamp posts, park benches as well as all manner of flora and fauna. He's perfectly indiscriminate in dispensing his favours, and the ability of the object of his attention to actually wave back appears to be completely irrelevant.

- Sonny even goes in for 'generic waving'. In its more innocuous form, this is basically what royalty or big-deal politicians are wont to do: Confronted by crowds howling their adoration, they daintily move their fingers without singling out any one in particular with their gaze. Our little fella does pretty much the same, and even throws the odd blurted nonsense-phrase (or irrelevant word, such as 'Ball!' or 'Go!') for good value. At the same time, he takes this sort of thing to its logical conclusion and can often be seen waving at nothing. Mind you, you might think he's directing his fluttery-digits at some distant person. But scientific analysis - that is to say, Pa looking very carefully - has confirmed that Sonny is pretty much vacantly waving into space, or possibly Harvey his invisible friend.

Overall, we're pleased enough that he's learning some manners and deigning to acknowledge the presence of others. Ideally, we would whisk him into close proximity with friend or relative, allow Sonny to wave about cheerily (collecting 'how cute's and 'how friendly' observations) and then rapidly toss him into a bush or basket before the visitor realises Sonny is actually transmitting 'hellos' to everything within visible distance and beyond.

What next for our inveterate royal greeter? Well, he must next learn to verbally welcome those who are granted an audience with him. Something tells us that, if he performs true to form, he'll be chatting to trees, bees as well as everyone and their second uncles within a few months.