Of Wandering Toddlers and Harnesses

I never thought I’d be the type of dad who’d harness his kids.  I’ll admit it.  I always used to look at kids on a leash and think “Boy, does that look demeaning.  What kind of parent would do that to their kid.”  Now I know.  The kind of a parent whose kid insists on wandering off!

Last week, JSL gave us a scare.  We were in the mall picking up some photos.  My in-laws had taken NHL with them to another store and B and I were watching JSL.  When we were done, we started walking off.  I let JSL stretch his legs and walk with us.  He did well at first, but then I saw him duck between some clothes racks.  I quickly went after him, but he was gone!  B calmly noted that the coats were moving.  There he was in the middle of the coats “playing hide and seek.”

Later that same day, as we were leaving the mall, I was getting coats on everyone.  NHL and JSL were nearly all set.  I zipped up NHL’s coat and off shot JSL away from us.  I calmly called him back, but he didn’t listen.  Then I walked after him.  He went about twenty feet down the store, turned down an aisle, looped around, and was going to go down another aisle before I caught him.  Clearly, had I not chased after him, we would have lost him completely.

NHL had always insisted on holding our hands when he began walking.  This was likely a byproduct of his hypotonia causing balance issues.  Holding our hand helped provide stabilization.  Even if he took off on his own, he wasn’t too fast so we could easily grab him.

JSL, however, is a little power walker.  Seriously, he swings his arms like he’s power-walking now.  It’s amazing the speed he can get and how silently he can slip off.  So I’m doing when I never thought I’d do and shopping for backpack harnesses.

So far, I have two in mind.  The Eddie Bauer Harnes Buddy looks interesting and is kind of cute.  On the other hand, the SafeFit Boy Backpack with Harness seems a bit more functional, if not as cute.  Any suggestions for giving a little walker the freedom to walk without letting him get lost?

Sick NHL, Bad Reactions, and Pee (This post not for the faint of tummy)

I’m back from my trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  Everything went well there.  My friend is now married and I have over 1,100 photos of the time I spent there.  More on that later.

On Sunday, NHL woke up and was acting odd.  He didn’t want to eat breakfast and asked to go back to sleep.  Not on the couch watching TV, mind you.  He wanted to go back to bed.  (Sign #1 that something is wrong, a nap with no TV is *ASKED FOR*!!!)  After about an hour’s nap, he woke up and went to Hebrew School.

When we picked him up, he seemed tired.  We went to the grocery story to pick up some food.  He and JSL sat in a car cart next to each other.  NHL complained that he was hungry.  Fair enough, it was lunchtime.  So we tried to get him some food but he kept going between hungry and not hungry.  Finally, we got him some pretzel crisps and went through the aisles quickly.  At the dairy aisle, the second to last aisle we needed to go in, he suddenly gagged and hurled all over himself, the cart and the floor.

Now here is where my bad reaction comes into play.  Ever since NHL has been little, I seem to have this reaction when he vomits.  I instinctively try to catch it to contain the mess.  It never works, always gets me messy, yet the reaction persists.  It’s not a conscious decision either.  It just seems to be something that I do as a split-second reaction to my son vomiting.  I don’t know why I do it

So there I am standing with vomit dripping down my hands in the dairy aisle.  My wife took JSL to get someone to help clean up the mess.  (Luckily, NHL turned away from JSL when he performed the Technicolored Yawn, so JSL was spared the mess.)

When she came back, I cleaned us up the best I could and took NHL to the restroom.  He complained on the way that he was going to hurl again, so we hurried.  Once in the bathroom, though, he tummy must have settled a bit because he didn’t need to.  However, the restroom was equiped with a hot air hand dryer (a "blower" in NHL-speak) and not paper towels.  So I grabbed handfuls of toilet paper, wet them, and tried to use it to clean up the vomit on NHL’s clothes (as well as the specks of toilet paper that started ripping off and sticking to his clothes).  It wasn’t a great job, but it was good enough for the moment.

Back we went to B to find that they had taken the cart away to be hosed off.  They were coming with a new cart and a mop.  Meanwhile, B was guarding the "spill zone" with JSL while watching our groceries.  I took JSL and NHL and headed to the car.  (Along the way, I saw an employee heading back to my wife with another car cart.  He saw me taking the boys away and said he’d get her a regular cart.)  At the car, NHL was clearly distressed.  He wanted to go home *now*.  I calmed him down the best I could until B got back.  Then we headed home.

At home, we saw that NHL was spiking a fever.  Motrin went in and NHL went to nap for a bit.  His fever seemed to pass, but he still wasn’t hungry for dinner.  A juice box and half of a apple juice popsicle was all he had the rest of the day.  Luckily, this morning, his fever appeared to be gone and he actually requested breakfast.  Hopefully, he’s on the mend.

My Gross Day wasn’t over though.  JSL had needed a tub, and a dinner of buttered noodles didn’t help.  Just before his tub, he decided to poop.  I couldn’t change his diaper *AND* clean/fill the tub at the same time, so B agreed to change his diaper.  Unfortunately, she didn’t wait until I was ready and soon a naked JSL was wandering about the house while I waited for the "clean the tub" water to go down the drain.

As the tub drained, B told JSL: "Out of the living room.  I don’t want you peeing on the carpet.  Go to Daddy."  Can you guess what comes next?   I suddenly felt wet on my leg.  I saw that the water was way to low for me to have accidentally splashed myself and I saw JSL turning and walking away.  Yes, JSL did as Mommy asked and went to Daddy to pee.  (Ok, it might not have been what Mommy meant, but apparently JSL is very literal.)

So yesterday I was puked on by one kid and peed on by the other.  I guess that’s the payback I get for being out of town for 3.5 days.

NHL’s Behavior Issues or The Frightful Fives

Last post, I mentioned that NHL is good at working the system to get what he wants.  In the case of going on a ride just to see the end of a Wiggles show, it is cute in a way.  Unfortunately, this post is about behavior that is anything but cute.

NHL just started kindergarten a couple of weeks ago and he has yet to have a completely good day.  He has a litany of bad behaviors that his teachers report to us:

  • Not listening
  • Pushing when kids are in his way
  • Doing what he wants to do now instead of what he is told to do (kind of falls under the first thing, but I think it’s big enough for its own bullet point)
  • Trying to (forcefully) correct kids when he is wrong (in other words, playing "Kindergarten Cop")
  • Screaming when he doesn’t get his way

To my wife and I this is bringing back ghosts of last year.  You know what happened last year, right?  Of course not, I wasn’t blogging then.  Queue the flashback sound effects…..

Last year, my wife and I enrolled NHL in the pre-K program at a local school.  To protect the school, let’s call it "School M."   He started the first day and everything seemed fine.  He liked his class and we were happy.  Sadly, this wasn’t to last. 

Not even a week into his school, NHL told us that he was "sick" and needed to stay home from school.  There was no way that he was really sick.  This was completely a ploy to stay out of school.  He started saying that he didn’t want to go and complaining about school more and more.  We spoke with various people, tried various things, and my wife finally decided to observe the class one day.  During the class, NHL was repeatedly told "No" over and over and made to do tasks from the beginning because he didn’t do them perfectly.  The other kids weren’t treated like this.  One chore that I remember was as follows:

  • NHL had to get a mat out of a cubby
  • He had to walk around a teacher to one side (the wrong side would elicit a "No!" and a command to start over)
  • He had to unroll the mat without letting his feet touch it
  • He had to walk back to the cubby to get a container of blocks
  • Walk around the teacher again (wrong way = "No!" + start over!)
  • Lay out the blocks in a certain way witout his feet touching the mat
  • Put everything back in a certain order.

I’ve simplified it a bit, but there were like 16 steps that he had to complete.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had a 16 step task to do, I don’t think I would do it 100% perfect.  And if each and every screw-up resulted in harsh words and a command to start from scratch, I’d get frustrated as well.  He began acting out in class (but not at home).

Needless to say, we pulled NHL from that school and moved him to "School J."  The change was immediate.  He loved school to the point of going to the door to tell us he was going to school…. at 8pm on a Saturday!!!  He wouldn’t have minded if school were 7 days a week.

Flash forward to today.  NHL is acting out again, but this time it is at home and at school.  In contrast to "M", though, he loves going to school.  He is constantly bolting from my car, without so much as a kiss goodbye, to dash into school.  But once in class, he seems to be having trouble with basic social aspects and with following directions.  At home he is prone to outbursts and over-exagerations.  He also seems to be trying to exert authority over people he obviously has no authority over.

"NHL, finish your dinner."

"No, I’m done. I want dessert."

"You don’t get dessert until you finish your dinner."

"I only need to eat one more bite."

"No, NHL, eat it all."


"Then you don’t get any dessert."

"Yes, I DO!  You don’t get any dessert because you’re a mean daddy! I don’t love you!"

Our best guess is that he thinks that acting out will get us to remove him from this school the same way we removed him from "School M."  Other than the behavior issues, though, he seems to like it there.

I’m out of answers.  With all of the troubles we’ve encountered with NHL so far, I’ve been able to draw upon my experiences growing up to find a path to take.  This is completely new.  I don’t know what to do.  B tries her best, but her nerves are shot after 3 hours alone with him (and JSL) every weekday.  Everyone always talks about the Terrible Twos, but how do you handle the Frightful Fives?

The Guilt Trips Of Toddlers

Sure I'm Happy Now, But Just You Wait!

I remember when I first dropped NHL over at day care.  He clutched at my suit-jacket and screamed as if I was leaving him at the top of a desolate mountain to be eaten by wolves.  Staying with him until he calmed down didn’t work, that just postponed when his meltdown would occur.  Slowly leaving didn’t work either, it just prolonged the agony.  The only way to do it was the "band-aid on a hairy limb" method:  Tear him off of me and get it over with quickly.

Even so, I left day care that day convinced that I was the worst dad in the world.  How dare I leave him in the care of those monsters!  Couldn’t I hear him howling for me as I walked down the hallway?  Why didn’t I just turn around and run back to him?

As NHL grew, drop offs got less and less traumatic.  Finally, one day, NHL fully accepted that he was going off to play, Daddy was off to work, and Daddy would, in fact, be back later.  In fact, NHL would be so excited about playtime that he would forget to hug and kiss me goodbye.  The rolls were reversed.  Now he was trying to tear away from Daddy and Daddy was clawing at him trying to get one last hug and kiss.

Now, NHL is in kindergarten and he has a little brother who is a few months older than NHL was when he started day care.  NHL loves kindergarten, but JSL hates it.  Apparently, he calls for NHL constantly during the day.  Not just that, though.  He hates for Daddy to leave for work now.  As I left this morning, JSL crawled over to me, used my leg to pull himself up, and wailed at me to stay.  (At least, I think that’s what those sad cries of "Da-Da" were.)

I’m sure he’ll get used to it eventually, and the "Worst Dad In The World" feeling isn’t as bad.  (Partially because I’m leaving him at home — a familiar place to him — and partially due to learning to cope now that I’m dealing with #2.)  Still, I feel pretty bad every morning when I leave JSL behind.  That bad feeling is balanced, though.  For when I return at the end of the day, I’m sure to be greeted with an enthusiastic "Da-Daaa!"

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