Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Case of the Two Sonnys

This is going to sound pretty wild, but we're beginning to suspect that there are actually two Sonnys running about, substituting for each other at critical points of each day.

Here's why this bizarre notion has occurred to us: When our son gets to the infant care centre, his behaviour apparently changes drastically. For instance...

(i) At home, he prefers to crawl from place to place, albeit with a unique high-backed gait. Yet when he gets to the centre, he transforms into an inveterate walker. The staff uniformly report that Sonny toddles upright for minutes at a time, confidently cackling as he shows off to all and sundry.

(ii) As far as we can tell, Sonny has a vocabulary limited to 'Mum-mum' (which refers to both his mother and food of any description), 'flower' (go figure) and a few other snatches. At the centre, however, he somehow accesses a hefty vocabulary and is able to count from one to two, identify various parts of his anatomy and even sit on demand.

(iii) Come mealtime, Sonny apparently prefers to hold his water bottle by himself and slurp away contentedly. At least, the Sonny-at-the-centre does. The 'home edition', on the other hand, insists that one of his parents wait on him and play water-carrier - though he is as likely to disregard H2O altogether and imperiously call for good old mother's milk instead.

You get the general idea. The little fella has two separate personalities, which assert themselves respectively when he is with his parents and the infant care staff. Which leads us to suspect that he has already learned that grand old secret of human existence: Get away with as little work as you can and slosh around in as much luxury as you can insist on. Presumably, the tough professionals at the centre are strict and unbending - insisting that Sonny pull his own weight and recall lessons taught with fidelity. Mum and Pa, however, are considerably more indulgent - so the little monster cuts himself some slack and operates at 'idling' power settings.

This may seem rather amusing now, when he can't get into much more trouble than tossing raisins to the floor or upsetting his water cup. But the stakes obviously rise with time. We must therefore come up with a strategy to run a tighter ship and try and merge the two Sonnys together. A psychiatrist's help is probably unnecessary - we think we know what our crafty 13-month-old is up to - though the little fella's divergent personalities is driving us a little batty.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A stroll too far

It's been a long while since we last posted, thanks to the flu breaching our family defences. But Sonny has fully recovered and seems raring for another stroll.

Stroll, you say? Remembering, of course, that the little fella can't actually walk more than a few steps?

Well, actually, Mum and Pa 'helped out'. Several days ago, we ventured to one of Singapore's ubiquitous night markets and bought a pair of little shoes. We slipped them onto Sonny's feet, then lowered him to the ground - one arm per parent - so that he was standing upright. He didn't need any time to orient himself. We trotted off in the direction of the library, all three of us, and he was cackling with glee. It was his first shod trod!

A few minutes later, we had to hurriedly remove the shoes. Not because they were too tight or were causing discomfort, but because Sonny was trying much too hard to lick them as though they were lollipops fresh from the fridge. Which led us to this stunning realisation: Everything is food to a one-year-old. Any object, however much it may be associated with various activities (counting, walking, bashing, et cetera) also doubles as a snack.

That said, the Sonny we know today is actually an improved model from the Sonny of just a few months ago. Back then, the scamp would simply slobber and chomp at anything that came into range - to the exclusion of all other forms of exploration. Slipper? Yum. Piano pedal? Gnaw gnaw. Pa's finger? Bite. You get the idea. Nowadays, however, a broader approach is being taken. He'll fiddle, twist, manipulate and dismantle with glee for some time - then, only as a sort of grand finale, move in for a bit of gobbling.

Anyway, Sonny's spending more and more time upright these days (especially over at the infant care centre, or so we're told) and he's swaying toddlings are becoming more confident by the day. So, as a sort of 'opposed gauge', we're expecting his need to chomp to correspondingly dwindle. At that rate, by the time he is a steady walker, he will have begun to reserve his sprouting teeth almost exclusively for what his parents would acknowledge as 'real food'.

We can't wait.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Enter the baby-whisperer

Horseflesh enthusiasts speak in hushed tones of so-called 'horse whisperers', amazing individuals who can commune with horses and soothe, placate or otherwise communicate with steeds.

We are now wondering if such people exist in the childcare world, where they would presumably be elevated to the title of 'baby-whisperers'. The notion struck Pa the other day as we were in a busy train station and Mum had to pop into the adjacent supermarket for some veggies. For some reason, Sonny struck up a humongous screaming symphony - complete with streaming tears, howls and piteous groans.

Pretty soon, a crowd gathered of concerned passers-by, many of them offering such precious advice as "Maybe he needs feeding". Anyway, this embarrassing situation persisted after we escaped into the shopping centre next door: The little fella just would not let up... until she appeared. A middle-aged woman of no special distinction to look at, but who needed only to gaze into Sonny's tear-rimmed eyes before he magically shut up. She crooned a few incomprehensible sounds at him - presumably special words in the hidden language of babies - and he was entranced, staring transfixed and silent.

Actually, this sorcerous being was able to stem Sonny's tears for only a couple of minutes: Sonny resumed bawling after we entered a lift. But that is not to denigrate her implausible ability to shut him up instantly with just a look. Perhaps she was an apprentice baby-whisperer, still unable to dominate little ones for more than a few minutes at a time, but striving to learn hidden secrets from some ancient master hidden in a cave. Or perhaps in some dingy flat, though that would sort of spoil the effect.

Anyway, if anyone knows a baby-whisperer, we'd be grateful if you might tackle him or her and glean a few 'scream-shuttering' secrets. We might even be willing to consider some appropriate remuneration (several boxes of infant cereal, say). Specialists ought to be properly valued, we say.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tossing everything out, trousers included

Sonny has been basically unable to function without at least one adult in the immediate vicinity: The little fella goes into hysterics if left in a confined space and almost always has someone with him, whether at home or at the child care centre. The other day, therefore, Mum - following the strictures from our trusty 'What to Expect' parenting guide - began a programme to teach Sonny some independence.

The idea was that we would deposit him in his cot with fulsome 'Goodnight's and 'Sleep tight's, then vanish for five minutes before reappearing to reassure the little fella that he wasn't being abandoned to the ogres under the bed. We would then reappear after ten minutes, then 15 minutes and so forth until he fell asleep on his own. But Sonny didn't waste any time behaving like an insane rabbit once placed in the cot. Even before we had left the room, he was hopping and yawling and pumping out tears with that vacuum pump he must have hidden away somewhere.

Five minutes later, with his shrieks echoing through our little apartment, we ventured into the bedroom again - to find that Sonny had not only tossed one of his soft toys over the side of the cot, but had managed to strip off his pajama bottoms and hurl them over as well. Here was a mystery! As far as we could tell, the crazy kid - who was standing in exactly the same posture as five minutes ago (his face a picture of rage) - had managed to either calmly sit down for a spell to take off his trousers, or do so upright - a feat even adults might have trouble achieving.

Anyway, we replaced the toy, jammed the pajamas back onto the intransigent little one and then escaped. The screaming followed us. To keep a long story short, over the next one and a half hours, we would return on schedule, find ever more things tossed overboard (pillow, blanket, soft toys, trousers) and Sonny determined to outlast us. In the end, figuring that we had tortured him enough for one day, we rescued him.

Ah, but that's not quite the end of the story. The next day, we recommenced the treatment. Again, there was screaming and howling - but after 40 minutes, silence flooded our condo. We snuck in - and Sonny was soundly asleep still in a sitting position. We straightened him out and tip-toed away in satisfaction. Which is to say that this cruel-sounding technique seems to work. Something tells us that the little fella was perhaps just plain tuckered out from all the yelling, but we'll test out the regimen again soon to see if his newfound 'independence' has taken hold.

Just hope the decibel levels haven't already sparked multiple complaints by our neighbours...