Natie loves his pacifier. I never minded, figuring that he will give it up when he’s good and ready. After all, chances that he would head to college with a pacifier dependency were pretty small; he will give it up eventually so why worry?
So when he was one, Nate still hung on to his binky. We transitioned to only allowing it during car rides, naps and at night. “Binky!” Natie would say; it was one of the first words he said.
Then he turned two and still, binky remained important. He would walk around with it all the time if he could. I started to feel like may be I should do something, but I felt really terrible. What kind of person takes away something a baby loves from the baby?!
The kind that cares about dental health and speech development, apparently. At our 2-year checkup, the pediatrician said that binky must go and that a dentist would be outraged by our behavior. It turns out that a pacifier interferes with the development of teeth and jaw at this age. “Anyway it’s time for him to move his attachment to something else, like a stuffed animal instead of a pacifier.” said the pediatrician.
Yes. But no one told Nate. We do not lack for stuffed animals, but binky was Natie’s only favorite thing.
Then, during our evaluation of Nate’s speaking progress, the specialist said that having a pacifier inhibits speech development. “He just turned two; THAT should’ve been your bye-bye binky party!” she explained. Her tone made it clear that we were slacking off.
It seemed there was no choice but to take the binkies away. We used our pediatrician’s advice: we explained to our 2-year old that he is now a big boy (?!!!) and so doesn’t need binkies anymore (sniff!) and so we are going to gather all of them up and send them away.
I made a special little box, we collected all the pacifiers, and left the box on a playground. Natie did it, and when he did it be didn’t seem sad. But it just breaks my heart. He loved the binkies so much and we made him throw them out.
Afterwards, sleeping was tough for a few days. He’d ask for a binky; we’d remind him if the whole big boy thing and that binkies were gone and, predictably, that just caused him to become really really really upset. A week went by before he started to not mention binkies anymore, and now he seems to fall asleep fine.
Sigh. Bye, binkies. Bye, Natie’s baby time. Hello, boy who now, true to pediatrician’s word, loves to hug his curious George.
I know plenty well what this means: diapers are next.
Thank you to everybody who sent their encouragement. We are feeling better and the flu is receding (knocks on wood, spits over shoulder three times). Thanks for all of your advice and support; you are the best!
The weekend right after Thanksgiving 2012, we took Elijah to NYC to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and to see the city.
We had wanted to give him a special trip for a while now. Ever since his little brother appeared, Elijah went from being a baby to being a Responsible Party. We didn’t realize this happened until one day, when we were checking out boats in Baltimore harbor, my parents had taken tired Nate home and we were left with just Wombat. And in the following hour Elijah had received more doting than he usually does in a whole day. We decided he deserved better, especially given he is the best big brother in history.
So we wanted to do a special trip for him, and of course it’s the Radio City season, and I happen to have a long-repressed fantasy of taking a kid of mine to see that show. The fantasy probably stems from seeing all the dressed-up, dolled-up kids emerge from limos with their Banana-Republic catalog-looking parents and heading to the roped line for the show, the kids all wide-eyed and excited. I was 15, and I totally wanted my kid to someday get that experience. 17 years and a Groupon special offer later, we were all set to go thanks, again, to gracious grandparents.
So, keeping the whole thing a big secret, we just loaded Wombat in the van on Saturday afternoon and told him only that we were taking him on a special trip, just for him. And we didn’t say where. We thought it would be exciting, and it was, but given we are dealing with our super-managing wombat, it was also anxiety-inducing.
“Where are we going? I can’t know? That’s because it’s a surprise. When it’s a surprise you don’t know where you are going, but it’s still good right Mommy? This is a trip just for me. Not for Natie. Right, Mommy? Not for Natie? Right. Mommy? Why not for Natie? who is with Natie? What about food? Do we have food? What about Natie? Are Baba and Deda going to be with him the entire time? Mommy? What about me? You’ll stay the entire time? And then we’ll come back? Ok. This is a special trip.”
We got to New Jersey, took Elijah out to Pomodoro, in the process realizing his dream of going out to a “fancy restaurant” with the parents. He was tired and delirious but hungry. And happy! Revealing only parts of our plan at a time, we told him we were going to go visit cousins in NJ; he looooooves his cousins and was thrilled. We stayed in a NJ hotel, saw our cousins the next morning and drove all up and down Hudson River while Elijah keps saying “Is that New York City? Can we go there some day Mommy?” :) After half-day visit with our cousins, we finally revealed to him that NYC was our destination. He was satisfied.
We drove into NYC over “The Big Bridge” (geo washington), into the hustle and bustle of the city and into our hotel for naptime. Our Wombat passed out pretty quickly, and we got to enjoy the amazing view of wombat, all snuggled into the hotel bed, with NYC rising all around him beyond our windows.
After his nap, we had one more surprise for him – his uncle was in town too, all the way from LA, and was able to carve out some time to see us! So, after much planning of how to meet and to surprise Elijah, and after my insisting that, come what may, we must NOT ever pass near the Times Square Toys R Us, we ended up meeting….. guess…. Yep. At Times Square Toys R Us. I caved. And after Toys R Us we went to a rotating restaurant, and then…. Yep, back to Toys R Us. Guess which section? Yep, the LEGO one. Elijah would’ve pitched a tent there if he could.
So, we came back to the hotel with more LEGOs than we ever intended to acquire (why does that keep happening? why?!), and, naturally, ended up assembling a LEGO police truck all the way into wee hours of the night while Elijah (thankfully) napped starting about half-way into construction. A very satisfying day deserves a nap.
The next day was the Day of the Big Show, but we didn’t let on. We had a quick breakfast, headed to the Central Park and did a quick playground tour, then saw the Grand Central Station and its trains and convinced Elijah to nap just a little bit.
After checkout we headed to 30 Rock to see….. shout it right out…. the LEGO store! Yes. The Rock does have a small rink, in case you don’t know, and some tall buildings or whatever, but it might as well have been in a field of corn. The important thing was that it had LEGOs. I think that officially made NYC the best place on earth.
Finally, after LEGO-ing out, we headed to the actual show and told Elijah what was up. He was cautiously excited, the way that Wombat gets. He liked the theatre, getting a drink (with cool straw that we snuck from the adult cocktail stand !) and sitting high up. We were in the first row in the first mezzanine, and seats were awesome. He was excited about the show and really liked the 3D portions of it, but the dancing bored him a bit. Regardless, he was a trooper and sat through the 1.5 hours even though I think he was ready to take off after about 30 minutes.
Right after the show, we picked up our car, changed Elijah into his PJs at the hotel, and took off into the night. Bye, New York. Elijah had an awesome time.
He truly did. It’s so interesting, what he found to be the best things about the trip. If you ask him, of course, his favorite thing was the “big toy store”, and “lego store”. But while we were there, he enjoyed some things immensely and clearly showed it.
1. He LOVES the idea of cabs, and the fact that you can get anywhere in the city fast. When Iggy and I would try to figure out which train to take, or how to walk somewhere the fastest, Wombat would say in an exasperated voice “Guys! Guys! We can just take a cab!” It being his special trip, we did not make the effort to explain to him that just taking a cab means just paying up to 20 bucks, depending on where you are headed and how stupid of a tourist the cabby thinks you are (one of them drove us for 20 minutes to get 3 blocks away from Grand Central Station).
2. He LOVES being able to get what you need right here right now. Food? Got it. Clothes? Next block. Warm drink? Look over your shoulder. The efficiency of the goods and services exchange clearly impressed him. (Once again, we did not explain that this is the city experience you get when you have money. Without money, the city looks veeeeeeery different. Very different.)
What was most interesting to me is that he, well, settled in right away. Remember how he did this as a baby? Well, as a 4-year-old he did a different version of the same thing – basically, saying “Oh, yes, New York. I belong here, obviously. Where’s a cab?” He felt very comfortable in the city, with the noise, the crowds, the busy-ness of it all. So cool. Our little urbanite. I think when he is big, he will choose city life.
Overall, the trip was a great success! If I had to nitpick, I would only change 1 thing – I would make it shorter. Turns out, 3 days is just too long for a 4-year-old (plus, we did a LOT in those days). Too much action, too many things – cousins! Fancy Restaurant! Uncle! City! A Rotating fancy restaurant! Bridge! Show! LEGOs! Biggest toy store ever! Central Park! Grand Central! Cabs! Trains! By the end of day 2, he already was dazed and out of it, and I think he would’ve enjoyed the show more had he seen it in the morning of day 1. By the end of day 3, when we saw the spectacular, nothing could have impressed Elijah anymore. He was spent.
But still, the impression the city made on him is priceless. I love it even more that way – I took him there to fulfill my silly teenage fantasy of taking my kids to Radio City, but I ended up with a kid of mine finding a kindred spirit in the city instead. To me, that’s just priceless, because it is exactly how I feel about New York.
When I was headed for college, I wanted nothing more than to get out of New York, and I didn’t know why at the time. I just knew I didn’t like it and didn’t want to go to NYU or Columbia or anywhere within 50 miles of the city. My 3 years in NYC were exhausting, stressful and purpose-filled, and once they were over I wanted them to be over in both time and space. Once I finished college, I would bring people to NYC and show them the city but not really enjoy it that much myself. One day though, Iggy and I decided to spend an anniversary in NYC before heading over to my parents’. We booked a room at the Omni, drove in from DC, parked in the valet and walked up to champagne and fruit delivered to our room. Omni hotel is on the Upper East Side; we had one of the rooms on the top floors and the city stretched in front of me as I met it at the window. And at that moment, I understood all at once what the city is all about and why I needed to escape it after high school.
New York runs at a break-neck pace, because everyone is running away from a bad place and working their asses off to get to a better one. Everyone is trying to make it. Once they do, they usually leave the city. The majority of New Yorkers are in the run for their lives: immigrants (from other countries or from Real America), making a new life in a new place from scratch. It is thrilling, and it is an adventure, but it is terrifying and stressful like any good adventure should be. So when you return to NY, many years after you ran its race, hear the city hum approvingly below and realize you are no longer an exhausted runner but an equal to the city, as someone who as able to use its incredible power to move yourself up and out, you feel triumphant. Somehow, that had made the city mine. I suppose it helps to be holding a glass of champagne.
I remember that moment still because in all of my life that was the biggest feeling of pride, achievement and satisfaction I’ve had. Graduating Cornell, CMU, being able to earn a salary, being good at my job never meant as much to me as standing in a fancy New York hotel and realizing that the race I ran here, I ran well. Iggy asked me what I was thinking, and all that I could say was ”It takes a really long time to get here from Brooklyn.”
Ever since then, I’ve found New York to be a part of me somehow, and I still feel a homecoming sense of confidence and pride every time I visit. So it was very cool to see Elijah draw a sense of confidence from the city, to sense it as a force behind him and to take to its flow like fish to water. It’s like in some Lamarck-ian way, my little quest has given a boost not just to me, but also to my kid, who was able to meet the city as his equal at 4 years old, and never needed to run its grueling race at all. That, I now see, is what my own run was for.
Since last Friday, things have been awful. I came back from my awesome time at Palantir and found Nate dazed, his eyes all watery and hazy, and his whole look announcing “I am sick”. Aw, I thought. He’ll miss his school recital tomorrow!
The school recital should’ve been the least of my worries. By Sunday, his temperature got to 107.3 after climbing for 2 days relentlessly as soon as drugs wore off. He slept, coughed in his sleep, screamed out in pain from the coughing, woke up and trembled and asked for water and held the water cup all shaking. Awful. We went to the emergency room.
Apparently, Sunday afternoon is the amateur hour at the Shady Grove hospital emergency! We were seen by a resident who, after introducing herself as a doctor(?$@!!) proceeded to suggest we x-ray Nates chest just in case: “I can’t make out if there’s wheezing or if its just him shaking”. After I explained to her that we won’t be exposing my son to radiation just for her benefit, she went on to check his ears for signs of infection. She couldn’t see anything, and tried to remove ear wax. She wasn’t able to remove any, but she did successfully scratch up Natie’s ear so it started to bleed. Then she gave up and left us to wait for a real doctor, what with the bleeding ear and all.
The real doctor arrived, shook my hand awkwardly like it were a wet fish, and told me we’d need a prescription to make sure the bleeding ear does not become infected. Good point! He then looked over Nate, declared that its just a virus and left.
Nate passed out at this point, probably deciding that its best to just tune these people out. I couldn’t do the same unfortunately.
A nurse looking remarkably like Maxine character from hallmark cards, down to bedazzled glasses, appeared with ear drops. She opened the bottle and bent over Nate. “I think it’s the other ear” I told her. She checked the paperwork. “Right ear. Oh. Right. Ok. ” She flooded the ear with half the bottle and threw the remainder in the trash. Immediately after that she delivered me a prescription for THE EXACT SAME DROPS so I could get them. On Sunday. At 7pm. In the rain. With a 2 year old passing out from fever. In case you have not run this circuit, most pharmacies are closed on Sunday at that hour.
“Should I flood the ear with drops the way you did?” I asked the nurse. She checked the papers. “Oh, only 2 drops it says”. Oh, does it really? Well that’s good to know after you’ve given a 2 year old the wrong dosage.
No one suggested doing a flu test. No one brought up croup. No one asked how long he’s had symptoms to see if Tamiflu is an option. Instead, they created a new prescription-requiring problem in his ear and sent us out the door a few hundred bucks lighter. A kid on a playground could’ve scratched Nate’s ear for me for free, not to mention Nate would’ve had more fun with that.
So Iggy and Elijah had to spend half the night driving around to find a still-open pharmacy so Nates ear wouldn’t get infected. And Natie had another miserable night. We went to pediatrician the next day, and he suggested it might be croup and so prescribed steroids. So, now we were armed with a nice spread of meds.
Making all this worse is Nate’s insistence to be completely hostile when miserable. He hates anything. He won’t eat honey. He won’t drink syrupy medicine. He won’t sit under a blanket. He won’t take off socks. He won’t put them back on. He won’t be held. He won’t be not held. He wants to eat this, right now, up until you bring it and he hates it and wants another thing and hates that too. But not before you prepared it.
This for us is a really rude awakening, because our only experience has been Wombat who could always, even at 2, be persuaded by a clear, lucid and logical argument. If he can’t find a fault in your thinking, he will accept your conclusion and drink the medicine or do whatever you need him to do. Nate doesn’t give a damn about your thinking or any of its properties; he knows what he wants and he knows he doesn’t want to hear you talk about it. I realize this is probably what many 2 year olds are like all the time, not just when they are sick, so I know I’m really lucky to have 2 boys so sweet. But still, the contrast is a rude awakening.
Not to mention its hard to help someone who won’t let you try. We have been giving him Motrin by syringe, while he is kicking and gritting his teeth and yanking the syringe and shrieking and spitting anything that makes it into his mouth back in our faces. So he’s been more miserable than he has to be because he is acting not like a sick baby but like 007 captured by enemy combatants and determined to take as many of them down as he can.
Ugh. All of us are exhausted; Elijah is handling it really well given that he hasn’t been allowed to visit his own room in almost a week and had to go to school by himself. He even bought Natie a balloon! He is the best big brother ever. Nate is one lucky 007. I hope this is over before I have to break out those steroids out of desperation. Get better Natie! Get better!! When you do, we can all find out if you will ever again agree to sleep in your crib at night, or if after spending a week in Elijah’s big bed you will demand one too. I have a hunch on this one, I think.
Nate actually does speak two languages, or, more accurately, he speaks neither. He understands pretty much everything, but he says only a few words in each language:
A myriad of animal noises (we’ve got all farm animals squarely covered. The pig noise is the cutest).
But he says no full, or even partial, sentences in either language. I’m a little concerned about it, I think, but I can’t remember how Elijah was doing at this age. I should have written it here, duh. I remember that on his way to the second birthday party Elijah was singing his “happy boythday to Eyaya” song, and that he was saying some Russian words in daycare, but that’s about it.
It seems easier for Nate to say English words, which makes sense I think as they have more vowels, no RRRRR noises and permit you to have a lisp with the ‘TH’ everywhere. Russian is harder as you have to spit out 3 adjoining consonants at once, moving your tongue at olympic gymnast dexterity. One day, I sang “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine” song to Natie, and when I would sing out a word, he would repeat it easily. I suspect if he heard more English he would probably be speaking by now. Oh well, such is the plight of a bilingual child – the start is that much harder. At least I don’t think there is a speech issue, because he easily repeats English words when he hears them. It’s Russian that he has a hard time pronouncing, and that’s most of what he hears.
But he does have enough words to sort of communicate. I’m not sure if he knows there are different languagues, but he definitely knows that some words mean the same thing and that different people understand and speak different kinds of words. So he now says the same thing in all languages he knows, to make sure he got all his bases covered. As a result, he sounds like an airport announcer:
“All done! Vsyo!”
It’s completely adorable in person. Our house is now as official as a UN entry chamber:
“Welcome! Bienvenue! Guten Tag! Sayonara! Dobro Pozhalovat’! Salut!”
We had loads of fun this year. Halloween lasted about a week! First, I signed both boys up to attend a Halloween Bash at Romp-n-Roll in Germantown, and they had a blast. Then there were events on our Main Street, events at Whole Foods, a school parade and (finally!) the actual Halloween.
Elijah had started out asking for a delivery man costume. Once we probed into that a bit, we realized that he is assuming that the delivery man would be delivering LEGOs and so would be holding boxes and boxes of LEGO as part of the costume. We were bracing for having to work that issue when, one trip to Costco, Elijah changed his mind and decided to be a superhero. Several trips later, at a Target, the superhero of choice was…. Captain America. And I must say, he looks great in his costume. And he takes his role of saving the planet very seriously.
We ended up not attending the Main St/Whole Foods costume parties because, you know, Captain America can’t be too many places at once. But we did make it to Romp and Roll, and school events, and we went trick-or-treating.
Nate was a skunk this year, again, because the skunk costume still (barely!) fits him and his mother is going through a crisis as a result. For the gym bash though I had to have some shame and give him a costume he could actually run around in. I ordered a Superman pajama from Gap and so Nate went as a superhero in his own right. Both heroes had a great time.
Lately, Nate has become interested in math.
When he got to be about one and a half, he would point to letters and numbers stamped on playgrounds and say a measured “eh. tweh. weh. beh. deh!”, pointing to a letter or number with each syllable. About the fifth time he did that, I did not just follow along repeating his “tweh”s and “weh”s, but instead realized “He’s counting!”. He still likes to do it, now pointing to different objects like trees or toys and counting them. If you start to count, he will follow along and count to about five.
He also likes to arrange objects in neat rows or to stack them. In general, he seems to like making patterns of objects or arranging things and rearranging them and figuring out what fits into what and how to balance things on each other. It’s really interesting to watch him working these problems, and very very cute to find trucks, boats, toys and books lined up in neat rows and stacked in elaborate 3-tier pyramids all over the house.
Once he achieves a perfect arrangement, he becomes very upset if you disturb it. This makes it unclear if he is doing this for the mathematics or for the art. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Here he is, doing his thing: