Tuesday, December 15, 2009

18 Months

Ben had his 18-month check-up the other week. They weighed him on the big-kid stand-up scale, which made him a lot less angry than the baby one which requires getting stripped down and plonked into a cold metal bowl, but it also meant that they weighed him with his clothes and shoes and a (full) diaper on, so I think the weight percentile is probably off by a few points. He'd always been in the high nineties, and this time he was 99th! And 50% for height (which, because of the way they measure and toddler squirminess, isn't notably accurate), which taken together might be a cause for concern. But I limned a typical day's meals for the pediatrician, and she said don't change anything: he's eating completely appropriately.

But she was concerned about his not talking. She asked him a couple of things: to point to his toes and his nose, and where were the teddy bears on the wallpaper, which of course he had no trouble with, and I think she took me at my word that his receptive vocabulary is not just adequate but pretty impressive. She said she thinks that he's just not motivated to talk, and that it's time for us to try to motivate him. The idea is, he's not in day-care or vying with an older sibling for attention, and Andy and I are very attentive and very attuned to his needs, so we basically anticipate or are immediately able to understand whatever he wants, so he doesn't feel the need to learn to communicate better. And I think that's absolutely true, but I'm a little torn about whether I think it's necessary then to "motivate" him.

On the one hand, I think that if lack of motivation is the only issue, that's not a big enough issue to hassle the kid and risk his feeling pressured about language, since obviously he's going to figure it out sooner or later. On the other hand, I certainly plonked him on his feet, held his hands, and walked him around when he was working on walking, and how different is that kind of encouragement from getting in his face and enunciating CAR freakishly distinctly? The ped said to pretend we don't understand him to elicit words, and I just can't get on board with that. I don't like the deception; plus, that seems like a recipe for frustration and unhappiness. I can't believe there aren't effective ways to encourage speech without that kind of unkind pretense.

Maybe it's a minor distinction, but it seems significant to me. If he wants up on my lap, I ask him to say "up." I don't pretend that I don't know what he wants. As soon as he tries even a little to form the word, he gets what he wants. And we do a lot of work on words for things he loves, like CAR and TRUCK. He now says just the K and T sounds, and more or less interchangeably, but it's progress.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tree Edit

We had half a tree on a table last year, and I didn't want to do that again (in part because we found a better place for that table upstairs) -- I wanted a real tree. But a good 75% of our ornaments are glass, and I didn't see that working out with an 18-month-old and a heedless basset hound. We got the tree, and I put the lights on, and I thought about it.

Finally I decided on a combination of Target and triage. Target provided an armload of plastic balls that look just the hell like glass ones. Triage put all the precious fragile ones into careful storage and the ones that can take a topple or a wag or a being thwacked with a dump truck without being or causing hurt onto the tree.

And I felt one of those moments of Right Parental Compromise. Are plastic ornaments my favorite? No, they are not. Would I rather have the nested glass bells that were my dead father's favorite ornaments on my tree rather than in a box? Yes, very much. But what I wanted way more than a small carbon footprint or a meaningful memento was for Ben to enjoy Christmas, and for us all to enjoy the tree without its becoming a source of stress and worry. So he got to "help" hang the balls, and in the process learned (and appears to have successfully internalized) that once the ornaments are on the tree, they're only to look at and not touch.

And during the triage I also culled a bunch of ornaments from my Mom that, yes, do have pleasant associations because my memories of trimming the tree with Mom every year are among the best and brightest of my childhood -- but honestly, some of those ornaments are dead ugly, and some are just not my bag, and I realized as I was doing this big Christmas tree edit that I didn't actually have to hang them all. I didn't get rid of them, either. They're in a box of their own. Maybe someday I'll change my mind about their ugliness or their necessity.

The result of all this is I love our Christmas tree this year. It might be the best Christmas tree yet.