Sometimes I look at one of my kids and they are bigger than they were yesterday. Sometimes the “bigger” is physical and that cute favorite shirt is too small. Sometimes the child’s size doesn’t change at all, but the thoughts get bigger. New doors have opened in the child’s mind and suddenly whole new trains of thought are free for travelling. Sometimes this only means new vocabulary and interesting conversations. Sometimes it means that my four year old who has never once drawn on a wall suddenly creates mural sized portraiture. Frequently it means that I have to re-think all my parenting tactics for that particular child because they’ve suddenly grown into a different and slightly more complex person.
Patches got bigger inside his head last month. It happened about a week after I started babysitting NotMyBaby. These big changes are frequently triggered by an event, so it wasn’t really a surprise. Having NMB around made all of us, including Patches, realize that Patches simply isn’t a baby anymore. He isn’t even a toddler anymore. He’s suddenly morphed into a little preschooler. It shows in the conversations I have with him where he is stretching his vocabulary to try to express thoughts he doesn’t quite have words for yet. It shows in the way he throws tantrums when I do things for him that he wanted to do for himself. It shows in his new awareness of patterns and How Things Ought To Be. When I am changing his diaper I am no longer allowed to put his pants on while he is lying down, that’s not the Way Pants Go On, instead I have to let him stand and then coax him to put each foot in separately. Sometimes he even insists on pulling the pants up himself. His brain is now a three year old brain instead of a two year old brain even though his birthday isn’t until March. (Of course all of this starts indicating his readiness for potty training, but I’m not ready to deal with that yet so the potty training push will wait.)
These changes are now familiar ones. I remember when Kiki made the same shift around her third birthday. It was bewildering. I was always trying to figure out whether a certain behavior was just a stage that would be outgrown or something I needed to worry about. The first time around I really wanted a book that would explain common stages and the ages at which they occur. I never found one. Now after 4 kids I don’t need it anymore because I have first hand experience with all the patterns. Maybe sometime I’ll write up my observations in a different entry.
Okay, I lied. I still need the book. I’m pretty good at baby, toddler, preschooler, early gradeschooler, but I’m lost when it comes to pre-teen and I’m sure that teen will be just as bewildering. I think Kiki has turned or is turning a developmental corner too. The happy evidence of this is some of the wittyness I’ve seen from her lately. She’s gotten smart-alecky, but fortunately it is in a nice way that teases rather than defies. The unhappy evidence is the way she has been manipulating my emotions and pushing my buttons lately. There have been lots of tumultous conflicts in the past two months, mostly over homework. It helps to realize that all the conflict is in part caused by the fact that she’s gotten smarter. Many many times homework time was sidetracked for hours by diversionary subjects such as “I’m stupid” or “I’m worthless” because she knew that those statements change me from Homework Matron to Healing Mommy. I doubt this type of manipulation was conscious, but then I also doubt that it was completely subconscious. We’re gradually wrangling ourselves into a new relationship where I don’t allow her to manipulate me and she stops trying because it has stopped working. Not an easy process, but at least now I can see it as a process instead of worrying that I had a permanently emotionally unstable daughter who would be dependent on me for stability forever.
All this thinking about developmental corners has me once again realizing how important this journal is to me. Many times I’ve read back and found records of delightful events that I had completely forgotten. In here I manage to capture snippets of who my kids are today. That’s important because next week they might be different people. Again.