Monday, February 7, 2011

Big Boy

I've been feeling a bit conflicted these days about Jacob's "big boy" status. I mean, he's really getting to be a big boy, at least compared to the little baby that we had for so long. He's a bona fide kid these days if you look at him, but then he has one of those moments when he doesn't act like a big boy and he might as well be the screaming six-month-old all over again. Some days he eats like when he was a baby (read: not well), sleeps like he's a baby (not "like a baby", unfortunately), and just generally acts like less than the big boy he could be. He's impatient about everything, afraid of this or cranky about that, and I feel like things haven't progressed at all. He's two going on three, so I know that moments like that are par for the course. He's not going to be logical or mostly cooperative for a while, and most likely by then we'll have another baby to challenge us at every turn.

This is sort of an odd age we're at (I'm sure I'll say that a lot for years to come), because everyone is on the cusp of major growing up milestones. Big boy underwear and big boy beds, among other things, really seem to separate the big boys from the babies. Every time I come into daycare and hear another parent talking about their kid's big milestones, I start panicking a bit. I know no normal child will go to kindergarten in diapers, and I'm sure we'll get through the big boy bed situation at some point, but I'm having trouble finding a happy medium where we're challenging him but also not putting him in a position to fail...or to make our lives miserable.

There are times it's easier to keep him a baby, and other times when I long for big boy behavior. For example, I try to encourage him to walk next me a lot of the time, though admittedly it is easier some days (particularly when it's cold, wet, and snowy) to just pick him up and go. I almost always carry him back to the car from daycare because I don't want slushy boots on my seats, and I carry him for the cold walk from the car to the arena (and back) when we go to Amerks or Knighthawks games, just because it's too darn cold to walk slow. But I encourage him to walk a lot of the rest of the time. Of course, lately he's been pulling a "Carry Me!" at the most inopportune time, and won't budge unless I do. Ugh. Are the mixed messages a problem? Maybe. I also encourage him to get himself in and out of his car seat, but in the midst of the ice and snow, I'd like to prevent wet, dirty shoes from destroying my car seats. It's also a big drop to get out. Some days he'd sit there forever without getting his arms out out of straps, so I end up doing it for him again, knowing that I'm not forcing him to be independent. When we're in a hurry, I only have so much patience.

Now let's take the big boy bed as another example. So many people tell you, "Keep your kid in the crib as long as you can." If they're not climbing out, keep them there. They'll sleep better and they're contained. It's safer and gives us a lot more peace of mind, if nothing else. Jacob is still happy there, but sometimes I ponder the idea, just because he is becoming a big boy and so many other kids his age have moved on. It would be nice for him to have free access to his bed--to take random naps (which might never ever happen--he's never randomly fallen asleep while playing (at least not for me) and weekend naptimes are always a tad challenging), to grab his stuffed animals, or curl up to read. I'd love to read bedtime stories in bed with him, though I'm not sure his converted crib is built to handle my weight, so that might have to wait for the real big boy bed. But I'm dreading giving him access to the world outside his crib, because I have a feeling he will never stay there no matter how we explain that he needs to. We may need to gate his doorway or put a child-safety device on his doorknob to prevent unwanted escapes, and we'll have to prepare ourselves for at least a couple incidents of a destroyed bedroom if he's locked in there and being forced to sleep when he doesn't want to. I'm not sure I'm ready for that, or for random wakeups or middle-of-the-night escapes. Do we gate the stairs just in case? Revamp his room so he's got no reason to bother getting out of bed? I'm just not sure. I know we'll have to get there, and I do want to encourage him to be a big boy with a big boy bed, but I'm not sure if any of us are ready for it yet. I do like the thought of not having to get up with him on weekends. If he's up early we do tend to let him play downstairs while we stay in bed, keeping an ear open but generally able to trust he's playing nicely.

And oh, potty training. I have no idea what to do about this issue. Jacob was doing really good at one point about using the potty, and I thought we might have a good head start. But then he regressed a bit. He was still fine with sitting on the potty, and even going, but it was harder to get him there. After a month or so of real regression, I worked up the potty chart. He's more or less back to even--being fine with sitting on the potty and even being a little more proactive about it. But despite a few bright spots, he's still not telling us when he has to poop, and really won't tell us when he has to pee. If we happen to catch him, great...but he's not offering up too frequently. This weekend I tried a little experiment. He was begging to wear his big boy underwear, but obviously he's not ready. Even still, I told him that he could wear them with a pull-up over them. I figured I'd give him a shot, and if he wet himself, maybe he'd get that wet sensation and decide he wants to stay dry. I know that the pull-up still gives him that diaper feeling, though, but it was an easy way to test things without doing major cleanup. Both days he did wet himself despite me repeatedly asking if he had to go. They weren't soaked--just spotty--but wet nonetheless. However, one other thing happened--twice--that is starting to make me wonder. Twice this weekend while we were picking out post-potty stickers, he had some significant dribbles right on the floor. More than just drips, but not a full-out pee. But considering it was right after a solid potty-going, I'm not sure what's going on. I'm starting to wonder if we might be dealing with an immature bladder that's just not capable yet. It would explain the dribbling as well as the slightly wet--but not soaked--underwear. Sometimes it seems like he can hold enough in to do a big pee, but other times he struggles to get a decent amount out. Sometimes I think he just asks to pee so he can get a sticker, even if he just did a big one in his diaper. And then, of course, he gets frustrated when he can't go and can't get a sticker. Sometimes I think we should jump headfirst into potty training--naked time (but with carpet? Ugh...maybe we'll just wait for summer), every-15-minute sessions, etc., but I'm not sure any of us are ready to commit to that either. His third birthday is still my target, but now that some of his friends are into it, it's hard to ignore. We've got 11 pairs of big boy underwear ready to go at any moment (I bought more this weekend...five isn't enough once the accidents start), so it would be nice to get them some use. But if he's not ready, we'll just have to deal with that.

Thinking about all of this, sometimes I'm not sure who needs to grow up more--me or him. A lot of these steps are big, and not without pitfalls and difficulties. It's easy to get comfortable and give yourself what appears to be a well-deserved (and much needed) break from toddler dramas. It's nice getting sleep most of the time and not having to learn so much so quickly just to keep your child alive and well. When you can catch a break from that stuff, it seems crazy to willingly plunge yourself back into it. But I suppose sometimes that's exactly what needs to happen. It's not really any fun watching your child fall behind their peers, no matter what the activity may be or what your child's actual ability level is. So even if Jacob really isn't physically ready to potty train, it's hard to know his friends are. It's hard to be patient and lay off the pressure, yet continue to realistically support and encourage his efforts. And it's extra hard to eventually explain to your child why they can't do the things their friends do just yet. I didn't think I'd have to have the "Life's not fair" conversation (not the "Life isn't fair!" argument, which is something totally different!) this early on, but it may happen. In the meantime I'm not sure whether to continue the underwear tests when we have the time, or hold off for a while so as not to dull the excitement or potentially bum him out each time he's wet while wearing them. I'll have to work on hiding my disappointment when it happens, if nothing else. Now that I have a couple pieces of evidence that it's not just a mental thing, I think that will start to get easier.

Still, I'm constantly amazed by my big boy and so proud of what he has become. We have a long road ahead of us, and with him around, it'll definitely be an interesting ride!

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