The Blind Leading the Blind

It’s hard to say who drew their sword first.  About 11 months ago, the battle began.  We thought we were doing everything right.  After all, without even reading literature on the subject we took it upon ourselves to involve our son when we installed the integrated toddler toilet seat and purchased the oh-so-cool Lightning McQueen pull-ups.  All new things are exciting.  But, excitement gives way to nonchalance and nonchalance gives way to refusal.  Before us, we saw our ordinarily easy-going child turn into something we didn’t recognize.  There was screaming, 1.5 hour tantrums, fist punching rolling on the floor crying, hitting, scratching and even one incident of eye poking.  I took the high road of no stickers, no rewards.  In this house, we poo for the sake of pooing.  Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have listened to Barbara Colorosso.  We tried everything.  And when everything we tried didn’t work we tried everything we said we wouldn’t try – bribes, prizes & trickery.  Then, we truly crossed Ms. Colorosso’s line stealing his dignity and our own when we executed the put-your-hands-on-the-tub-and-spread-your-legs-so-we-can-wipe approach.  We were further aggravated by the fact that he sat on the potty at daycare.  Of course, she had the added bonus of peer pressure as she led her parade of kids to the bathroom to do their business.  And we took solace in the fact that he wasn’t asking to go.  And then, after months of standoffs and heal digging, we all put down our swords.  On the advice of my sister Gioia, we ceased to acknowledge his output.  It was not easy, but we took the ‘I don’t care, I can’t smell anything’ attitude.  I wrote him an involved story called ‘The Amazing Corbin Roome’ about a boy who has friends, a brother, who likes trains and cars and movies, who knows how to do many things including going to the bathroom.  He loved the story.  But after the third reading, he indicated that he didn’t want to read it anymore.  He was done with it, thank you very much.  Needless to say, the non-conflict approach did make way for peace in the household but there was no progress on the potty front.  We all let it go and simply waited.

Then one day it all changed.  Our daycare provider, Deb – the one who has a reputation in our family for leading many major changes in our son – decided enough was enough.  One day in May when Loch picked Corbin up Deb simply stated that under Corbin’s trendy little cargo pants he was commando.  She told him earlier that day that she was done with the pull-ups and she just didn’t put it back on after the morning visit to the potty.  Apparently, he sat at the little red craft table and shifted about on the wooden chair uncomfortably.  He looked about nervously as if he was sure that all his little friends knew he was in his nuddie under his pants.  This is my sweet son.  He’s not the free- spirited-take-his-clothes-off-at-the-drop-of-a-hat little boy.  Lily and his brother are the only ones who inspire him to hang out sans clothing.  He doesn’t even like to go sockless.  Not having a pull-up on made him feel profoundly aware of himself.  This, as it turned out, was a very good thing.  He arrived home and I asked him if he wanted to put some underwear on.  He agreed – desperate not to feel so exposed.  We had a brief conversation about what he would do if he had to pee or poo and then minutes later he announced that he had to go potty.  From that point on, everything changed.  What was previously a terrible source of conflict in our house became a complete non-issue.  Potty training – with a few minor exceptions – was completely done.  The clouds lifted, the angels sang, I bought many pairs of Lightning McQueen and WALL-E underwears, and Corbin began to regale us with descriptions of his feces.  He made snakes, nests, railway crossings, and letters – particularly the letters ‘S’ and ‘O’.  As primary caregiver, I was lead cheerleader.

Shortly after mastering the art of the potty, Corbin stated that he would like to learn how to pee on a tree ‘just like Lily.’  My friend Kim, taught her daughter the fine skill of peeing in the woods – great, of course, for camping and parks sans amenities.  And so, I found myself doing something I never envisioned before and don’t relish doing much of in the future.  His first attempt was on a Gary Oak surrounded by cedar chips next to our driveway.  We had made it home from music class just in time.  I stood over him and held his little penis between my fingers thinking ‘this is just wrong.’  He looked back at me, “now what do I do?”  How should I know?  I thought.  Where is this boy’s father?  Apparently, he was leaving me to teach the Peeing in the Woods for Boys 101 while he waited for the winter to teach advanced writing in the snow class.  I told him to just let it go but the whole notion was a foreign to him as it was to me.  And so, we aborted the mission on that first attempt.  However, the third attempt was successful.  We were at a small park in Cadboro Bay and he had to pee.  We ran over to the nearest tree, a Cedar.  And this time, we watched as his golden arc of pee christened the bark.  There was laughter, high fives and much pride all around.  And, although it was a milestone that maybe should have been shared with his father, I was secretly glad that it was me who blindly led him to this accomplishment.  Although, I don’t relish the mechanics of teaching this particular life skill, I am again struck by the bitter sweetness of the moment.  The satisfaction I feel in bearing witness to the finer points of growing up are not matched by anything.  As he grows and matures – for he is more mature now than he was even a year ago – the challenges change but there are more tools for negotiating them.

I’m not sure that I can say we would do anything differently if we had to potty train him again.  What we – Loch, Corbin & I – went through was likely necessary for all of us to grow a bit more.  I can say, though, that I am unsure which of the two major events in May – buying/selling our house and Corbin saying goodbye to pull-ups – is more worthy of celebrating with a bottle of bubbly.

9 Months

Dear Hamish,

There are few things that are more remarkable to watch then a growing baby.  It is a bitter sweet process marked by milestones and ever so gentle moments of letting go.  This month has been amazing for both you and your brother.  It has been a month full of tiny steps towards independence.  Your bump squeak crawl – as Dad calls it – serves you well.  No one should be fooled – you are speedy and accurate.   You have also added the yogic pose of ‘downward facing dog’ to your repertoire.  Having had our fill of rescuing your chubby wedged leg from the leg hold trap of the crib bars, we succumbed to the purchase of bumper pads to keep you safe.  By the 20th of June, you had acquired two very good teeth, which clink, clink, clink against the glass when you sip water – something you love doing.

You have been out of my belly for the same amount of time you were in it – give or take a few days J. Your eyes are complimented almost daily for their bluer than blue quality, your lashes the envy of all young debutantes, and the soft tufts of blond and strawberry blond hair have at least doubled since your birth.  You weigh 20lbs and while I don’t know exactly how tall you are, I know that you can stand at the coffee table and drum your hands on the solid wood surface.  But, how can these trivial descriptions of your physicality even begin to convey the lightness and love sent out of your eyes when you smile?  Or, the way your giggle rolls in waves pitching high and rumbling low?  That you are simply unable to resist any wire, knob, electrical outlet, door hinge, strap, plant, piece of jewelry, lock of hair or toy that rests in the hands of your brother?  That you screech with protest and anger when I remove something from your hand that you have not finished exploring?  Or the spirit lifting sounds you make when you speak – “Hi, Hi Ya, Ya, Ya!”

If I had to name one trait that I love about you now it would be that you simply don’t want to miss a thing.  You are a sponge and you are constantly seeking things to take in.

It is truly a wonderful quality and yet sometimes it prevents you from getting the true rest that you need.  We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with sleep. I’ve spent nights rubbing your back, talking to you, and feeding you all with the aim of getting you back to sleep.  Sometimes you wake up and you look around.  Your eyes are clearly asking me “what’s going on?  What have I missed?”  You still tease us with your sleep – sometimes getting up three and four times a night.  But on July 9th, you slept right through to almost 6:30am with only one bottle from Dad at 11pm.

It was another busy month.  We started packing up our house on the 15th of June.  Then on July 1st you, Aunti Ros, Sloane and I took a trip to the Sunshine coast to visit Aunti Gioia.  Aunti Ros and I call Gioia’s haven the place of sleeping babies.  It is a serene and restful home looking over the Strait of Georgia in Gibsons.  We spent four days and three nights visiting with Gioia, Craig, Matthew, Kyle, George, Doreen and Aunti Gioia’s friend Laurel.  Being away from the responsibilities and commitment of home, it was the way motherhood should be.  We followed the routines and schedules of you and Sloane giving over to a rhythm that works best.  Resting when you rest, playing when you play.  It ended all too soon but as always I vowed not to let the time between visits stretch too long and look forward to the next trip when we will also visit Aunti Diane.

Your relationships with your family are clearly growing stronger.  Aunti Ros and I make an effort to see one another on a regular basis – almost weekly – so I’m sure you recognize both her and Sloane.  These visits are wonderful as you also get to see Granny and Grandpa – who calls you ‘the little wrestler.’  Seeing Corbin makes you smile always and Daddy is still the person who can make you giggle the loudest and longest.  Your brother has had his own milestones this month.  He is officially potty trained and he went on his first date – two rites of passage that will be blogged about soon.

As our move date draws near, I am getting more excited about our new space.  Your Dad and I have spent many nights over glasses of wine talking, planning & dreaming about our new house and yard and how we will remake it our own.  We have talked about garden railways, spa bathrooms, outdoor dining areas, sand boxes, play houses and Japanese gardens.  We are dreaming our future and yours.  By the time I write your 10month post we will be in our new house and you will have your very own room – something I think you will be as pleased about as Corbin is to be getting his own room.  Until then, Binoo, keep looking, seeing, hearing, talking and moving – but don’t you dare grow up too soon.

All my love,

Mama.

Packing Boxes
Packing Boxes
On the Langdale Ferry to the Sunshine Coast
On the Langdale Ferry to the Sunshine Coast
Happy Canada Day!
Happy Canada Day!
Cousin Sloane & Aunti Ros
Cousin Sloane & Aunti Ros
You & Aunti Gioia
You & Aunti Gioia
Made in Canada
Made in Canada