Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Portrait of the Artist as a Toddler

Are almost 4 year olds still considered toddlers? What if they still are only about 50% potty trained on a good day? (3 guesses as to what I am agonizing over after almost a year later from initiation...)I figured I might as well pay homage to James Joyce since my writing style has been compared to his through a scientifically vetted analysis program.

Parenthood turns you into a gloating, overprotective, and slightly delusional critic of your offspring. I think it has got something to do with epigenetics--when an embryo implants into your lining, the trigger on that "bragging" gene is turned on high. And we all know that men learn through osmosis, so that's how theirs gets turned on. (Okay, so my theory tanks when you consider adoption...)

We live in a world of competitive parenting, and I am no stranger to the insidious game. I think in part we take full responsibility, whether it be through genetics or parenting, when our kids are "accomplished" and tend to blame less controllable factors, like the environment or circumstance, when things aren't as favorable. Kids are extensions of ourselves...our hearts walking outside of our bodies, and I think deep down we feel accountable when people say things like, "he's so smart! He's so well behaved! He's so handsome!" I'm not going to go into some full on nature versus nurture debate, but I do believe both are at play. I've had far too many discussions with Eric on Pinker's Blank Slate to make my head spin.

It seemed like an appropriate place for an ellipses. Makes my ridiculous tangents seem more legitimate or "literary," no?

I remember sitting in the doctor's office for one of Felix's well appointments (maybe his 1 year?), and the woman in the waiting room with me had a 6 month old little girl--her first. She was waxing poetic about how her daughter had this unbelievable baptism the other week and that in front of the whole family, her daughter said out loud, "I love you Daddy!"

6 months?
Dee-luge-in-uhl. (That's phonetic for delusional.)

She continued on as though her daughter won the noble peace prize, and she was the one who actually did all the work.

I can imagine another parent being inclined to pipe in and say, "well, Junior was able to distinguish between an ankylosaurus and a brachiosaurus at 12 months."

(Reality, Felix can identify and distinguish between about 5 different dinosaurs at 2 years...but whose counting...not this bragful parent...so full of herself that she actual creates words such as "bragful.")

I'm the first to admit that I've got cute kids. I've got kids with personality. I've got kids with charm and smarts, but I also had one kid 7 weeks early who didn't crawl until 11 months or walk until 15 months (not adjusted for prematurity, though), and both who have endured PT (physical therapy) and PT (potty training) woes. I'm still banking on speech therapy for Miles (though it's really improving), and Felix's warranty expired after the 3rd child he bit (and we are well onto double digits for casualties at this point). It's kind of hard for me to play the game of "one-upping" other parents...and to be honest, it just doesn't come as natural to me as, say, feeling like my kids don't measure up.

Mommy confession: I have a lot of envy when it comes to comparing my kids to others...but let me make crystal clear that it has no bearing on how much I adore them. I am insanely proud of them, and will continue to encourage their strengths and work on their weaknesses. But the reality is that 3+ years of interrupted sleep makes me play the role of the victim a little easier. Eric is the first to remind me of this. 

Anyway, I recognize that there are kids who are far younger than Miles pooping and peeing on a potty regularly (I'm pretty sure my friend at work told me her embryo was already peeing in a port-a-john on the west side of her uterus.), kids who sleep past 6:20am (although, both my boys can still rock out to a 3 hour nap), and kids who aren't so painfully shy and incredibly needy.  (This morning Miles told me he couldn't get off of the bed because his legs were broken, and asked for me to blow on every bite of his oatmeal because his belly "ran out of gas.") And I've seen Facebook pictures of my friends' 3 year olds holding a picture of their name that they have written perfectly, next to a an unmistakable picture they drew of, say, their family enjoying a quiet dinner with the kids eating Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beef tenderloin, napkins in the lap, singing kumbaya...in harmony. (How does one draw harmony, anyway? Nicholas Deysher, I'm challenging you!)

And although this isn't to that caliber, I've recently had some really proud Mommy moments (and did share on Facebook for all my high achieving toddler parents to see and probably sigh, "oh, how darling. I remember Junior doing that LAST year...") And I was uber proud to get Miles's pre-K assessment back from one of the private schools we are applying to demonstrating that he scored above the median (across the board in the 80-90th percentile) on almost all elements...save gross motor--apparently he has the gross motor of a 2 year 6 month old:

A) Eric told me it was the first assessment that he had to do when another child in his group was crying so loud, scaring the be-jeebus out of Miles, who then refused to complete the physical challenge. (I should have told him to take the double dare...he's better at that intelligence stuff.) I don't blame him; I'd refuse to balance on a beam and do tree pose if I was surrounded by a screaming child. I will say that Miles can do a MEAN pirouette.

B) I figured he would not score 90th in gross motor. My boy can run, and the Marist sprint coach already recruited him, it's just the whole vertical thing. Felix can jump like Brian Boitano (without the skates), but Miles's gravitational pull is intense.

Anyway, it was many moons (or months) ago that Miles drew his first recognizable figure. It was on a scrap piece of paper, and I almost pitched it in the recycling bin until Miles told me it was a person, and I actually saw...a person? Okay, apparently this type of drawing has a name according to my mom:

S/he's got eyes, and the right # of limbs! We are just missing a body...hence, head footer. But I'll be damned if this doesn't grace the front of my fridge for years to come. And that's saying a lot as I do not like things on my fridge (I only recently gave up the side of it to artwork and birth announcements.)

Over time we've acquired hair (and pushed the trans fats a little too hard--fat head):
And most recently, I got an entire scene:

You don't see it? According to Miles, it's  an astronaut (still sans body and the proper space equipment), Saturn, the sun, Jupiter, Venus, and a cloud.

Lemme break 'er down for you:

Person, with an apparent Mohawk and Daddy's shnoz.
Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus (Saturn, his favorite planet, is largest one with the 2 concentric circles, and the one that impressed me the most even though it looks like a potty, Jupiter is the crushed doughnut, and Venus is the vacant circle in the top right.)
Prickly sun
And apparently a cloud. Stratus? Cumulus? Lord knows...I thought it was lightening, but I was quickly corrected by the artist himself.
Now, let me also indicate that there was some inspiration prodding here. I saw a pin on Pinterest regarding something called Scribble Tales. I thought, why not submit? (Of course, after submitting, I've received no response, and like many a resume, expect to be "put on file.") I asked Miles to draw a person and something that the person is doing. He choose a galaxy theme, probably based on the fact that we find every planet on my Google Sky Map phone app each night. (Pam, not only do your boys have the best names, and insane artistic ability, but you NEED to exploit the triplet angle and submit...I'm calling you out!)

Who is to say I cannot do this on my own? It's just all...that...effort. And I would be willing to spend $35 for a custom story with other children's more developed head footers.

Once we develop the skill to recognize and draw the abdomen, I also want to do the whole "turn your child's drawing into a stuffed animal" project--or as they call them, "softie" dolls. This I cannot do. I don't sew, unless it is middle school and a pair of sunflower boxers. 

Child's Own Studio has been floating around the blogosphere and Pinterest for a bit, and even today I saw reference to it on a post on another blog I follow, make it and love it, which indicated that there is an apparent 563 person waiting list to get a softie! So that mom just whipped up her own. Um...I've got no chance of that (unless Miles draws a pair of boxer or a sock with a hole fixed, and that's pushing it), so I am hoping to look at some of the other shops that have been recommended and do this sometime in the future when the finished product won't just be a huge blob with 4 toothpicks poking out.

Until then, we'll keep working on abdomens. 

And vertical jumping.

And writing more than just his first printed word, "MOM." I was almost as proud as I was when he drew his first head-footer...and said "I love you, Daddy!" to Eric at his baptism. Heck, we were still working on going 3 hour stretches at night at 6 months. And Miles wasn't baptized until he was 2, and although he had learned how to say "I love you" by then, I'm pretty sure we spent the whole baptism preventing him from shouting WATER!

Epilogue: Funny enough...after submitting today's post to I Write Like, I got David Foster Wallace. Sorry James.


  1. That's a pretty impressive thematic drawing of Miles's! It's wonderful when children become intensely interested in concepts like the solar system, and we Moms and Dads end up learning along with them.
    As far as waiting for the torso, drawing is quite developmental (like the ability to jump or skip). The torso will come when he is developmentally able. We found that gross motor development does not particularly correlate with intelligence or social skills. All those abilities will come in due time.
    Yay! For Miles!and love to both the boys.

  2. Is it me or are we being expected to have keener visual acuity in typing the words to post our comments?! Pretty soon I may not qualify anymore...

  3. Wow, he Miles may be ready for "Mat Man". We'll have to give it a whirl.

  4. I can't wait until Jax is drawing creatures I can sew into stuffies.

    Oh, and if you send me a drawing, I would totally sew it into one for you!