Like a lot of new parents, when Nathan was born I was struck by how dependent the human newborn is. Yeah, they can't control their own arms and they need another person to provide the most basic of human necessities, but what especially struck me was the fact that they needed somebody else to make them burp. I don't know why the whole burping thing stood out to me, except that I guess I always sort of saw burping as an involuntary action, one that you should be able to make happen for yourself, even from birth.
I'm getting a bit sidetracked here. My point is, newborns are needy. You accept this neediness, you hunker down, you get through it.
What I'm having more trouble accepting, however, is that at 4 years and 8 months old, Nathan seems to have regressed to a level of newborn neediness.
Now, of course I'm exaggerating. The boy can walk and talk and feed himself (on the rare occasions that he actually eats). But damn if he doesn't act as though he's lost every other life skill that he's acquired since birth.
For example, I know the boy can dress himself. I know because several times a day he likes to take off the normal, respectable outfit he's wearing and change into a costume or some mismatched pajamas he outgrew two years ago.
But first thing in the morning, he acts like putting on clothes is the hardest thing on the planet.
Let's get me dressed! he calls. Or sometimes just, Get me dressed!
I do try to insist on adding please, but I admit to giving in to his requests if he asks nicely. For one thing, this is one of the many parenting mistakes I make for the sake of convenience: We usually have somewhere to be, and I don't have all day to sit there and wait for him to put on his clothes.
But as the day goes on, the requests just start to grate on me. I want to watch a DVD! More milk! Come see this commercial for something I must have for Christmas!
Where I really fall apart is at the laziness. I'm happy to give you a refill on the milk, but please go get your cup, I say. Noooooooooo, I don't know where it is! he whines. I tell him it's in the family room. But it's daaaaaaaaaaaark in therrrrrrrre! he replies. (Yes, the lights are turned off, but it is the middle of a sunny day, and the room has a window.)
He whines and whines until he either gets the cup or gets distracted by something else.
I think I try to stand firm, but maybe I'm doing it all wrong. I generally assume I'm doing it all wrong. Pre-Kid Judgmental Shannon probably would have professed that she would say, I'll give you milk if you get your cup, take it or leave it, and calmly walk away. She would not get sucked into even one minute of a battle over who would retrieve a cup. She definitely wouldn't offer to stand so she could see into the allegedly dark family room and ascertain that there was no imminent danger while the cup was retrieved.
I could go on and on about what I do, and what I don't do, and how I blame myself for all his behavioral shortcomings. But my point is, I find myself struggling to get through the day with all his neediness.
Augh, you have so many needs, I say several times a day, quoting Tina Fey's character in Date Night.
I suspect part of our problem is that this past week was the first week where the weather was unreasonable for outside play. Whether or not getting outside to run around helped his behavior, I don't know, but it certainly helped my mental health to be able to get out.
And I know, this is just the beginning of the wretched six-month season of indoor play, and I'd better get some coping strategies really fast if I want to make it through.
Another problem is just the sheer volume of hours I spend with him. He no longer takes a nap, and he no longer needs as much sleep at night as he used to, but yet he's not old enough for regular school. So he's up about 14 hours a day now, and even with outsourcing strategies like school, the babysitter, and the gym, we're still home together a lot. Even with ample TV and computer time, there are still a lot of hours to fill.
Yes, there are places we can go and things we can do. But I'm also trying to save money and stay out of stores and other places that cost money. The library is a nice, free indoor activity, but it doesn't burn off a lot of energy and it's kind of a once-a-week destination. The mall playground is technically free, but I sort of feel an obligation to at least spend some money sometimes in the mall in exchange for their free playground. Same with McDonald's: you can't play there if you don't buy something.
We have memberships at the zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry, so those are technically free (MSI does charge a small parking fee), but those are big productions and we can't be jetting off to them all the time.
Anyway, those are my current challenges. *END RANT*