Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dark Side

Now that Finny is using and understanding language, David and I are fully exploiting him in front of friends and family. “Finny, Finny, Finny!” We find ourselves saying, “Where’s your belly button?” And then “OHHHH!” we yell as he points to it, almost always missing the mark by about four inches. “Finny, Finny, Finny! What does the cow say?” And then, “YEAH!!! Good boy!” we beam as he wraps his teeth around his bottom lip and hums, “Mmmmm.”

This, you may say, is not exploitation, but rather normal, proud parent behavior. While I am proud of all the new things Finny can say and understand, I am not proud, however, of some of the tricks I’ve pulled on him now that I know how much he understands. In fact, I am a little horrified to be confronted with my dark side as I find myself using some underhanded tactics to get him to do what I want. Lying, bribery, manipulation—I’m apparently not above any of them.

I once thought of myself as a fairly decent person. I let people ahead of me in traffic, I contemplated shoveling my elderly neighbor’s driveway (Does the thought count here?), I do not have extramarital affairs, I go to church every weekend, and I write thank-you notes, sometimes two-three months late, but I write them all the same. But lately, my good guy image has been tarnished by the dirty, rotten tricks I’m playing on my sixteen-month-old son, who is learning rather quickly that language, though useful, can also be a powerful tool for manipulation.

A couple weeks ago, I needed to go to the grocery store to get some things for dinner, and Finny wanted nothing to do with his car seat. He kicked and thrashed and arched his back and I could not get the buckle around him, so do you know what I said? “Finny, we’re going to see Jane!” He immediately beamed and willingly complied as he giggled, “Jay! Jay! Jay!” I was so ashamed. I looked him right in the eye and said, “Finny, I’m sorry. We’re not going to see Jane. Mommy lied to you. We’re going to the grocery store.” He didn’t get it and halfway to the grocery store he forgot about the whole thing and ended up having fun cruising the aisles and chomping on Cheerios. But my dark side was out.

Then, just yesterday, I tried to bribe him. He was sitting in his high chair, kicking his legs, anxiously waiting for me to slice him more banana and just as I was about to grant his request, I stopped short. “Finny, do you want some banana?” Yes, he beamed. “Okay, then say Mama.”

Who am I and what’s next?! Pins under the fingernails? Water boarding? Lies, bribes, deceit—will I stop at nothing to get what I want? Withholding food from my toddler to get him to say Mama—what kind of cruel narcissist lives here?

And what will he say next when he catches on? “Finny, Finny, Finny! What does the mommy say?”

“Lies! All lies!” He’ll exclaim.

And then, yesterday afternoon, I got a taste of my own medicine. While Finny was busy playing with his twenty-five choo-choos on the family room floor, I smelled a poopie. “Finny,” I asked, “Did you poop?”

Not wanting to give up his play for a diaper changing, he smiled and shook his head back and forth.

Lies! All lies! Like looking in a mirror.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Duh, Mom.

For a while there, I could keep up with him. His new little tricks. Pointing. Clapping. Signing for milk. Now, I can’t keep up. I’ll be explaining something to him and he looks at me like, “Duh! I’ve known how to say drum for ages! I was just keeping it under my hat.” Wink, wink.
There are too many words and sounds to count now. Just when I’m marveling over his clear pronunciation of “Bus! Bus!” as he runs giggling and screaming towards me away from the noisy toy school bus he loves to turn on and run from, I open the coat closet and he says, “Coat.” Coat?! Where did that come from? Duh, Mom. Coat is almost always followed by, “Pop-pop.” Why? I’m not sure. Is it because Pop-pop hangs his coat up in the coat closet when he comes over or because we put on our coats to go see Pop-pop? Don’t know. But “coat” and “Pop-pop” are a natural pair.

More exciting than the actual sounds he’s making and words he’s saying, is just how much he understands. When we climbed the stairs for nap time yesterday, he ran straight down the hallway to his room and began barking orders. First, he opened his dresser drawer where the paci is kept. Then, he pointed to the CD player where the lullabies are played. Then, he marched right over to his crib, pulled down his blankie, pointed to his Winnie-the-Pooh doll and said, “Pooh.” If he were a tad taller, I’m quite certain he could’ve read himself a few pages of Goodnight, Moon, turned on his fan and tucked himself in.

All of a sudden, he’s like, “What’s up, Mom? What do you want to know? Ask me anything. Anything you want. Where’s my nose? Right here in the middle of my face. Where’s my belly button? Right here. Smack in the middle of my belly. Oh, and just south of that is my penis. Got that one too. What else you wanna know? Toes. Got it. Hair. Got that too. No question’s too difficult. Shoot.”

I’m so amazed at how skilled he is at our little rounds of Baby Jeopardy that I actually had a dream last night that he rearranged the furniture in his room all by himself and then sat down to the piano and began plunking out a little Mozart, just, you know, because he’d heard it and liked it and decided to play it.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself. He still chucks his banana across the room, stands on the forbidden armchair and calls me Dah-dah, so we have a bit of work to do before I sign him up for the gifted program. But, nevertheless, he astonishes me daily. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what he’s going to show me today. Maybe with a little twinkle in his eye, he’ll call out, “Mommy!” from his high chair, followed by, “Oh, come on, Mom. I knew you weren’t Dah-dah all along. I was just messin’ with ya.”