Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa with the Dark Cheeks

This is a post I did for the Fussy Baby Site. I'm re-posting it here because I think it makes for a good Christmas post. Enjoy!


As I mentioned in a previous post, fussy babies often make for amazing children. Don’t take my word for it. If you look at the literature out there, you’ll see that you’re in for a real treat. But don’t go supposing amazing means easy.

Forgive me for saying, but I liken a spirited child to a smart dog. Yes, that Border Colly will delight you alright with his amazing intelligence, but unlike the dummer breeds, he’s going to drive you absolutely mad with his intense energy and need for stimulation. I know, because we have a Portuguese Water Dog. We should have bought a Bulldog.

But I digress.

One of the amazing personality traights of a formerly fussy baby (i.e. spirited child) is their acute awareness and perceptiveness. At three, Chloe is so perceptive that we have to be very careful what we say around her. She knows when what we say doesn’t jive with what she knows, so we can’t lie to her. She’s acutely aware of when anyone says anything critical about her. And she understands what seem to us to be relatively complex concepts – like life and death. One day, for example, I decided that it would be a good idea to be honest with her about where some of her relatives have gone. She asked, so I said:

They died honey. We all live and we all die at some point. We don’t live forever.”

She broke down in tears and said, “But that means I’m going to die too. I don’t want to die.

In one move I had just gotten my 3 year old child thinking about her own mortality. Way to cut short her innocence Dad! I had no idea she would make the connection to her own life that easily. Kids aren’t supposed to be concerned about dying, right?

But connections are what perceptive children are all about. It’s not the noticing that matters – although that helps. It’s making the connections to everything else they know that makes them perceptive. Which leads me to yesterday.

Chloe was at her skating lessons with Mommy and, it being close to Christmas, Santa made a surprise appearance. Except, this wasn’t the Santa she was used to seeing. He had, as Chloe put it “dark cheeks.”
Mommy,” she said, “Why does Santa have dark cheeks?” She was the only one staring at Santa, giving him an uncomfortable look. The other children didn’t seem to pay any attention. Julie, caught off guard and not knowing what to say, just said she wasn’t sure and quickly distracted her.

I didn’t know any of this little story when I put Chloe to bed that night. I asked her about her skating lessons, and she told me that Santa had come to visit, but that he had had dark cheeks.

Really?” I said. “Well that’s nice.”

“But Daddy,” Chloe said, “it couldn’t have been Santa if he had dark cheeks. I’ve already met Santa and he didn’t have dark cheeks….”  Then there was a pause (where I didn’t have a clue what to say) and Chloe went on, “There must be more than one Santa. There must be lots of Santas.

My cue: “Chloe, I think it’s just that sometimes Santa has helpers because he can’t do it all by himself. This must have been one of his helpers.” “Oh,” said Chloe, looking only semi convinced. Meanwhile I’m thinking, great, I just made Santa’s helper the visible minority – how white of me!

Julie and I have resigned ourselves to accepting that when it comes to Santa and Christmas, Chloe’s not going to be one of those kids who still believes at 10 years old. I think we’ll be lucky if she makes it to 5. She’s just too quick at adding 2 and 2 together. She likes to know how everything fits so her world makes sense.
And as colour blind as we all pretend to be, let’s face it, we’d know if our biggest hero just up and changed colour one day.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The baby of the family - already!

Emily is now a toddler. When did this happen? It seems to have sneaked up on us. Part of it is that she's not quite walking yet (she could be if she wanted to, but she's a bit of a chicken). But she is talking. She has a real knack for sounds and can mimic almost any vowel, if now always the consonants. We know what she's saying, even if no one else does.

We've had a tendency to project age and maturity onto Chloe as she's grown. She's so smart, so mature, so responsible (a little she-devil too, but we make allowances). Look at what she's accomplished now. We've been putting a whole load of expectations on her shoulders without even realizing it. Our enthusiasm gets the best of us. But it's hard to help. She's the first child. Onto Emily we project youth, cuteness, sweetness. We've made her the baby. It's her role, her position. How unfair for both children.

As Philip Larkin wrote, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do."

Tonight, I had to rock Emily to sleep. She was having trouble settling. And though she'd just been cruising around the house, laughing, playing, and throwing many tyrannical tantrums (a habit of hers lately), to me she was a beautiful little baby all over again in my arms, cuddling in, looking up at me, and drifting off to sleep. We have to recognize Emily's development, nurture her independence, encourage her desire to explore. But we all need to be held sometimes too. We just need to be able to recognize when we're comforting our children and when we're indulging ourselves.   For fun, I'm including all of Larkin's poem below. But please don't take it as gospel. Enjoy!

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
  They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
  And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
  By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
  And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
  It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
  And don't have any kids yourself.