I have been experimenting with a new approach with Penguin. It evolved one day when I realized that if I just put the words “That’s the rule” along with anything I said, I got a lot less lip and huff in response. Now, I realize this won’t  last forever. One day in the not too far off future, my son will look at me and say, “But why is that the rule,” thus prompting me to rapidly scramble together an answer that has some semblance of truthiness to it. The gift of the four-year-old is that any statement can be logical if it seems remotely plausible in their purview. Which is why I can say to Penguin, with confidence, that if we don’t try to go poop every single day, our tummy will be mad at us and pen a strongly worded letter to this effect. He’s like, “Of course it will.”

Every time I observe a little something about Penguin that I think is stubborn or sassy, I immediately attribute it to Papa Bird. It’s a terrible habit. However, it has been brought to my attention on numerous occasions that his mannerisms, word choice, tone and commentary is all me. And this could not be more true. I recognized this the other day when I was given a dose of “the Look.” For those not in the know, the Look is something you are given when Penguin does not want to do something and does not want to talk about it any further. First of all, the not wanting to talk about it any further is a little tactic learned from Mama. When his pleading to get his way gets to be too much, I generally say something to the effect of, “The answer is no and I am not going to talk about this anymore.” As you can well imagine, this is exactly what I hear from Penguin when I want him to do something and he wants me to leave him alone. Apparently I also give a version of the Look. It involves pursing one’s lips, squinting and/or closing one’s eyes and turning your head away with a look of pitying disappointment. I didn’t realize that I did something similar until one evening, after Papa Bird insisted on watching Ancient Aliens when I wanted to watch Cake Boss, I gave him the look. He started laughing, noting that we now knew the source of Penguin’s look. And so it is. I read somewhere that mimicry is a sign of trust and admiration. So I take it as a compliment.

I’ve also been experimenting with a Day in Review chart. It was going really well, though the past three days I have placed a moratorium on the practice since we are all sick. Yes. Again. All sick. This can be over now. Anyways, the chart lists all the little things I’d like him to do in a day, such as eat breakfast, go to the toilet, take a nap or rest, limit media to 3 hours total (also, haha, he talks about his “media consumption” and even warned his uncle the other day that he should stop playing so many games because it would make him “brain sick’). He gets a big smiley face when he completes the task and an unhappy face when  he does not. He seems to get very affronted by the appearance of the unhappy face because after it is placed on the chart, he generally climbs up onto the kitchen stool and attempts to scribble over it and erase its mocking visage.

Penguin can be very good about structure and boundaries. He likes to push them to see how far he can take it, but he’s a lot like me in that he will stop and listen if it becomes clear that the person means business. It’s like we don’t want to be trouble but if we can get away with it, huzzah! I can appreciate that in a little person. It’s par for the course in raising a human. I put on serious face when I am in the thick of it, but there are many times, after the fact, that I laugh at the lengths he will go to get his way – the rationalizations, the fibbing, the trickery.

Oh – and if I may – a very proud thing in our house: Penguin is pretty much totally day potty trained. It was a long time coming, what with his bowel issues and all, but he’s doing great. It’s like everything else with him; once he is ready, there is just no stopping him and he picks it up like it was no big thing. I feel like I am saying this a lot, but that’s also like me. I was a late bloomer, too, and it takes me a while to get rolling on anything and find my groove. When I do, watch out. Since I have this knowledge, I feel like I’ll be able to help Penguin navigate life a little better. I also recognize the settings in which this can be a challenge, school in particular, so I’m already fretting internally about how he’ll do in the classroom.

One thing at a time, Mama. One thing at a time.

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