Category Archives: development

New Post! How Exciting!

New Post! How Exciting!

Part of the reason I put this blog on hiatus was that Nikola is getting older and I wasn’t sure how much of his life I wanted to make public, especially as he wasn’t able to really give consent. But there’s some stuff going on that I do want to share.

Nikola is 8 now, and he’s in 3rd grade. He’s in the gifted program at the same school he’s been in since pre-k. He loves the school. I love the school. It’s everything that’s right about Chicago Public Schools, other than the funding issues that all Chicago Public Schools have… namely that they lose funding every year.

He also has some of the same behavioral issues he’s had since he was a toddler, namely: screaming meltdown or very loud furious outbursts when he’s frustrated or prevented from doing what he wants to; taking things incredibly personally, as personal attacks, if you, say, forget something or (in the case of people who don’t know him) pronounce his name wrong; lashing out physically; trouble transitioning from one thing to another; trouble dealing with change; some other stuff I don’t remember right now. He also doesn’t like to look at peoples’ faces when talking to them; his ideal hug is one where his back is toward the hugger; he forgets to say hello when encountering someone or goody bye when he’s leaving; he’s extremely literal; he spends much of his time at home completely unable to sit still and sometimes will literally run laps around the room; he becomes very obsessed with one or two things… for years the ONLY things he was interested in was trains and dinosaurs. that’s all. that’s all he talked about or played with; he has difficulty reading emotions like anger and frustration and responds poorly or not at all; more that I can’t remember.

I got a referral from his pediatrician to have him evaluated for ADHD. This involved a trip to the neurologist, who was a little confused as to why she was our first visit and that he hadn’t seen a behavioral therapist first.

You might wonder what’s involved in taking a kid to a neurologist to get screened for ADHD and/or ASD. I was, and there’s very little that I found online that covers it – most info seems screened at ADULTS even though ADHD & ASD are more commonly diagnosed in childhood.

We were both asked a bunch of questions, mostly related to health history. Any blows to the head? Any family history of mental health issues? Any seizure disorder? etc. The neurologist tested his reflexes and had him move his arms and legs around and walk and move his eyes around and follow instructions and basically tested his muscle tone and strength and if he was weaker/stronger on one side than the other and if he could do what he was told and perform certain physical things. He managed to, even if he was clumsy at some of them.

She said she couldn’t diagnose him with ADHD or ASD, but he has markers for both… which doesn’t mean much. She also used words like “high functioning” which… as far as I know are really frowned upon by people on the spectrum. Like, hugely frowned upon. They aren’t used much any more. She also said people on the spectrum are often non-verbal and don’t recognize or respond to emotions which isn’t the case for a lot of people I know on the spectrum. Her knowledge of/attitude toward ASD seemed really out of date. She also said his behavioral issues might just be emotionally immaturity and he’d catch up.

She said her office was sending a referral for a behavioral therapist who can both screen for the issues we’re worried about and also say if he needs therapy for his behavioral stuff. We’re also going to be getting a packet with a bunch of questionnaires for Nesko, me, and two of Niko’s teachers to fill out regarding his behavior as part of screening for ADHD. We’ve yet to hear back from the behavioral therapist, but I know for a fact that department is incredibly busy all the time because they take ALL insurance including state insurance which most medical providers no longer take because the state is over a year behind in paying most claims. If I don’t hear back from them by the end of next week I’m going to start calling every day to see if there’s a cancellation we cram ourselves into. That’s how I was able to get a CBT appointment two months before my first scheduled one. Once you’re in the system it’s a lot easier to get follow up appointments. It’s irritating and a little onerous but I’m glad people with very few options are getting care.

I’m not worried about Nikola having ADHD or being on the spectrum because they’re bad: I want him to be able to get whatever support he needs from us, from his school, from therapists. And if he has an issue, then the sooner he’s diagnosed the sooner we can get that support into place.

I might be blogging this particular medical journey, mostly because it might be helpful to other parents navigating the same waters. I also might wind up taking down or password protecting these specific posts because it might be confidential information… ADHD and ASD are both heavily stigmatized. While I’m comfortable about talking publicly about being bipolar, I can’t make that decision for him.


The Worst Thing About Starting School

The Worst Thing About Starting School

Until he started school, we’d never taken Niko to the doctor for anything other than scheduled check ups. He had no big illnesses, no big accidents, nothing. I mean, he whacked his head HARD once and I debated taking him in, but there was no urgent YES MUST GO IN NOW moment. Then he started school and started getting sick all the time. We’ve taken him in twice for illness since August and I expect that we’ll take him in a few more times. A very nice and helpful nurse assured me at our last visit that after the first year’s exposure to germs he’ll be back to hardly getting sick at all. Which is lovely to think about, considering that Winter Vomiting Sickness is apparently sweeping through Niko’s school right now, and there’s a lice outbreak in his classroom even as we speak.

That’s not the worst thing about starting school, though. It’s irritating and sometimes a little bit scary, but it’s not the worst.

The worst thing is that Niko is now exposed to 17 other kids on a daily basis– kids with a variety of backgrounds and behaviors and lifestyles. And while it’s great to think that kids can get together and teach other things good habits and behaviors and ways of being, the truth of the matter is that kids are jerks and they only pick up negative things from each other.

We’ve seen all KINDS of negative behavior that’s totally new and frankly some of it utterly baffling. Also making an appearance: whining. He flirted with whining briefly about a year ago but we were able to nip it in the bud. Now it’s a daily thing, nasal and drawn out and as irritating as fingernails on a blackboard is to most people. And I know EXACTLY the kid he’s picked that up from. He’s picked up some very bossy turns of phrase, and has started demanding things instead of asking for them. It’s like my kid is channeling someone else, some other personality; acting as a medium to the most irritating ghost in existence. I hate it so much.

And, you know, my kid is far from perfect and I cringe at the thought of the other kids bringing home his less than sterling habits (which include screaming fits, I’m sorry to say, and also licking snot off his upper lip. I’m not sure which is worse.)

It’s really frustrating to see certain behaviors that we’ve worked hard on establishing go completely out the window the first time he interacts with other kids.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

Technorati Tags: , ,


A Bloggy Sandwich

A Bloggy Sandwich

When I was still taking art classes, I had a session on how to construct a portfolio. One of the tips was, of course, make sure EVERY PIECE is good. And if you’re doing sequential art, show that you actually can DO sequential art, can tell a story through art, not just have a bunch of splash pages and pin ups. But specifically, we were told to have your strongest piece as the very first one, and your second strongest one as the last one. That way, you set the tone with the first piece and then you end on a high note, so people viewing your portfolio are impressed right away and also leave with a good impression.

Then Nesko and I watched a pop sci show about how the brain works, and they just said lead with positive stuff and people gloss over the negative. First impressions super matter, apparently.

But I’m going to stick with what I was originally taught, and I’m going to sandwich some grossness between cute stories.


Niko no longer says “yes.”

When I say that, I don’t mean that he’s become suddenly and overwhelmingly negative. I mean that while he agrees to things, the word “yes” no longer passes his lips. Nor does yeah, or as he says it, “yay-uh.” No, it’s suddenly all “Sure” and “Of course.” As in, “Niko, would you like some milk?” “Oh, of course I would!” “Niko, would you please pick up your blocks?” “Oh, sure!” “Niko, would you like a hug?” “Oh, of course I do!”


It’s like he has a secret handbook on being cute.

The other day, I asked him if he would like some applesauce and he said “Of course.” And then he said “Actually, I would really appreciate it if I would have some pudding instead, please.”


I would really appreciate.


Can I have another kid who’s just, like, a copy of him? Because he’s basically perfect. Except not as the next story will reveal.


At the age of four years and 5 months, Niko has decided that it is HIGH TIME he learns to wipe his own butt. He’s been using up flushable wipes at an alarming rate and we’ve been dealing with random poo fingers here and there. But then yesterday he apparently decided it was TIME TO STOP FUCKING AROUND. He approached wiping his own butt with a grim seriousness. LET’S DO THIS THING, he resolved.

And he started going in the bathroom every half hour to squeeze out some pathetic tiny turd nugget.

He’s kind of obsessed.

And suddenly, we’re back to having pants accidents.

“Mama,” he says sternly. “I had a little bit of a poop accident.”

He is not proud of these.

So I’ve been picking up flecks of feces from the bathroom floor, doing a lot of hand washing, reminding him that he can’t use an entire package of flushable wipes in one go, etc.

And then, just after Nesko got home, I was in the dining room when I saw what looked to my weak eyes to be a a brand new knot hole in the wooden floor. Wait. There was no knothole there before… was there? I prodded it with my toe. It went squish.


I don’t have a lot of expectations out of life.

But one that I cling to is the expectation that I can walk through my house without stepping in shit.

Nesko launched into a long story about how HE was working at a house with DOGS and they had to RUN A LINE and the yard was FULL OF POOP and I’m like, ok. That’s horrible and gross. But that, at least, is outside. In nature. Nature, you know, that thing that is a toilet for wild animals. THE GREAT OUT DOORS IS ONE HUGE TOILET. My house? Not so much. My dining room floor? NOPE.




I just… no.

So then I patrolled the rest of the house, squinting at every smudge and speck, armed with a bottle of disinfectant and paper towels.

And then Nesko gathered Niko into his lap for cuddles and finger nail trimmings, and we discovered a motherlode of poo on Niko’s heel.



Niko has a baby.

His baby is named Baby.

Baby is a girl (a DWIR-OLE) except for when she’s a boy.

Baby currently lives in the bouncy seat that he used when he was an infant, that we’re holding on to until Nesko’s sister who just had a baby returns from Europe. At this point, we will have to evict Baby from her perch, her soft and cradling throne.

Niko sometimes carries Baby around, and feeds her cookies (wooden blocks, string, etc) or shares things he’s eating with her. “One little nut for me, and one for Baby. And one little nut for me, and one for Baby.” He invariably eats Baby’s portion, of course. He also brings her small toys, books, and shoes (?) for her to snuggle with so she doesn’t get lonely. And from time to time he decides that baby is taking a nap so he walks around and shushes us all because Baby is sleeping. Then he decides that Baby is fully asleep so we can be loud again. “Baby sure is sleeping hard! She’s a hard sleeper.”

Sometimes Baby needs a diaper change, or Niko decides it’s time to potty train her. He’s very encouraging. He cleans her up and cuddles her and says kind things.

It is the most adorable thing.

It almost makes me forget that I stepped in poop in the dining room.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


It’s time to be awake now! I already packed my bag!

It’s time to be awake now! I already packed my bag!

Niko has seriously levelled up in some aspects of his problem solving/helpfulness skills and it’s both adorable and ARGH NO STOP PLEASE NO at the same time. For instance, pouring his own drinks leads to massive spills, wiping his own pooey bum leads to poo everywhere, and jumping up and using a tool to turn on a light switch is an awesome idea but when that tool is a crayon it leads to crayon on the lightswitch/walls. There’s also the frustrating fact that he is ABLE to fully dress himself but still insists on us “helping” him where “helping” is “doing almost everything.” However, I think that’s primarily him being a bit clingy because a lot of stuff is changing and changing fast (Nesko has a new job and isn’t home as much, school is starting soon, we’re talking about moving albeit not for at least a year, etc). But I look at my little baby who came into this world as a helpless squalling grub, and every day I get closer to seeing the adult who’s going to leave my house.

He spent most of Saturday with his Tetka (aunt), and didn’t get home until pretty late. He had a super great time with her (he always does, she’s great) and before he left she told him that LATER ON as in IN THE FUTURE he could come over again and “swim” in the pool (a little wading pool, nothing big/fancy… if it was a real pool you know I’d rudely move in and never leave). He interpreted this, as little kids do, as TOMORROW.

So instead of sleeping in on Sunday he bounded into our bedroom, bright and alert, at 5:00 a. m.


Then he scampered off.

He came back a few minutes later wearing swim trunks (over underpants).


I dragged myself out of bed and helped him get a bowl of cereal (WITH MILK OK MAMA) and told him he had to not wear underpants with his swim suit, so he stripped down and redressed in just the trunks. He scarfed down two bowls of cereal and I checked his bag. He’d packed:

  • a full change of clothing including underpants and socks
  • a hat
  • sunglasses
  • his water bottle
  • appropriate snacks in little containers

This child does not need me anymore, except to get things off of high shelves. OBVIOUSLY.

Nesko called his sister who was all yeah no, I’m busy all day, I meant LATER and we broke the news gently to Niko. But not until he’d told me just how BIG and HUGE and ENORMOUS his swimming pool is. Internets, his swimming pool is SO BIG it is the size of my butt.

Apparently my bottom is now a unit of measure.

I told him that my butt is pretty small for a swimming pool and he said OH HM WAIT NO. MY SWIMMING POOL, he said, IS THE SIZE OF THAT THING YOU GOT UP THERE and he pointed at my shoulder which, I mean, that’s even smaller than my butt. Whaaat?

He’s decided that today is a good day to have a picnic so he’s spread a little blanket on the floor and consuming all food (breakfast, snack, lunch) right there. I can dig it.

Technorati Tags: ,


Writing Readiness

Writing Readiness

When Niko and I went and enrolled him in pre-k, the teachers asked a few questions about his skills and if we read to him at home etc. They mentioned that it would be helpful if we could work on him writing his name. I think I’ve mentioned before that we have been working on teaching him to write, and I figured I’d tell you some of the stuff that worked for us.

Pencil Holding

I thought about getting some of those triangular finger positioners that you can slide onto pencils, but decided to skip it. Like a lot of really little kids, Niko has a hard time physically holding a writing utensil. One of the things that helps him hold his fingers the correct way is to put a little something in the palm of his hand for his smaller fingers to curl around. We initially used a bit of wadded up tissue, which he objected to. I picked up a little baggie of pom poms from the Target dollar bin and he likes those a lot better. We don’t have to remind him as often to hold his writing utensil the correct way, it’s becoming a habit with him.

Making Lines

There’s a few things we’re doing to teach him how to make straight, slanted, and curved lines (IE, letter components). One of the earliest things I did was draw dots on a piece of paper and have him draw a line from dot to dot. It was a fun thing that we did together, and we’d take turns making the lines. You could also use stickers or something for the “dots.” This ties in to later activities like connect-the-dots and draw-a-line-to-match games.

There are worksheets you can buy from stores or print from the internet that have dotted lines to trace, making up straight, diagonal, curved, etc lines.,, and all provide free, printable worksheets.

A web search for “connect the dots” (we use google image searches) will give you a TON of free, age-appropriate connect-the-dot activities. We usually use dinosaur themed ones.

The Right Paper

Beginning writers need very wide ruled paper. You can buy packs of it at the store, or print it off from the internet. We’ve mostly been printing off what we need. Graph paper might be helpful for some kids to help with spacing. I make big dots sometimes showing Niko where to start and end a line.

Getting And Keeping Interest

Niko’s a bit of a perfectionist and he gets frustrated and upset when he isn’t good at something. He’s really resisted learning to write, and we’ve had a LOT of talks about how nobody’s perfect at things the first time they do them, and that the only way to BECOME good at something is to practice and do it over and over again. We praise him for trying, and point out where he’s improving. But it’s still hard getting him interested in writing! Here’s some things we’ve done in addition to the connecting dots etc.

We write words based on his interests: trains, dinosaurs, etc. He wanted to decorate a card board box and turn it into a rocket ship, so I told him the letters and he wrote “rocket ship” on the box. I tell him the letters, or write down for him to copy, dinosaur names. And, of course, his own name. FORBIDDEN/funny words are also great. Among the high-interest words for him are “naughty” words like poop, butt, fart, etc. He is VERY interested in owning those words. He also likes funny words, and writing letters to people.

We label his drawings, both with him writing words on things he’s drawn and with me writing words on things he’s drawn. He’s already engaged with the picture he’s drawn and sometimes he’ll stay engaged while we write on it. He also likes to turn drawings into letters and write messages on them, and to write his name on them.

A white board. I picked up a Crayola white board in the Target dollar bin recently, and we have some dry-erase markers already for some dry-erase work books he’s completely uninterested in. It’s very wide lined, and he seems to be more comfortable writing on it than on paper. I don’t know if that’s because he can erase mistakes quickly & completely, or if the marker glides along the surface better, or what. But he’s very interested in it and has been “writing words” (the letters H, T, and I mostly, in random combinations) and drawing all over it.

Accessible Materials

Markers, Crayons, paper, his white board, chalk, and a chalk board are accessible to him at all times. This wasn’t always the case (he’s WAY less likely to write on the walls/floor now) and we’d have to change this up if we had younger kids in the house. But being able to pick up writing utensils and paper at will help keep him interested and keep him practicing without making it a chore.

Creative Options

There’s letter shaping you can do without pen (or marker, crayon, etc) and paper. You can bend pipe cleaners into letters; make letters out of playdough or clay; trace letters with a chopstick or finger in sand or flour or sugar etc; make letters out of glue and sprinkle glitter or sand etc onto them; make letters out of blocks; make letters out of string. You can do this to introduce letters or supplement them, depending on your kid’s interest and physical ability.

Making Words and Words In Everyday Life

Some other things we’re doing with him involve manipulating letters into words in different ways, like letter magnets and letters cut out of paper. I also wrote some letters on duplo blocks with a black marker, and he can snap them together to make words. Decals or stickers would also work for that if your handwriting is shaky.

We read to him for about 30-40 minutes a day at least, and he has ready access to his books at all times. He also sees us reading a lot. Just reading to your kid is super helpful as it teaches them how writing works (for ex, in English you start at the front of the book and read left to write from the top to the bottom).

He tells stories and I write them down and then read them back to him. This emphasizes the importance of writing and reading and gets him involved and interested. Kids love to own their own words, their own stories. I have a little note book that he picked out and I’ll ask him questions (like, what are 3 things you did today, or what are 3 things you like to eat and why) or ask him to tell me a story. Then I write down what he said. Sometimes he illustrates it, too.

Niko’s not a calligraphy master, not by a long shot. But he’s getting more comfortable writing letters as opposed to drawing them, and getting more confident. School starts at the end of August and we hope to have him comfortably writing every letter of the alphabet by then, and knowing how to string letters together into a single word (IE, in order and all on one line).

What are you doing or have you done to help little kids get comfortable with writing? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you?

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Why I say my kid is weird

Why I say my kid is weird

I tell people my kid is weird and they either look at me funny and TOTALLY JUDGE ME or they laugh and mentally high five me. Really, pretty much ALL three year olds are weird, but mine is gloriously so. And I enjoy it! I enjoy weirdos and am one myself so, whatever.

One of Niko’s tetkas (aunts) traveled to Canada a while ago and brought him back a little stuffed moose with a red knit sweater that says “Canada” on it. Niko, cleverboots that he is, named the moose Canada. Canada the moose. Canadians, if it makes you feel any better, every single elephant he has is named Carl. ANYWAY, he recently discovered that Canada’s sweater is removable and it’s sized to fit beanie babies.

So his beanie babies (kissy bear, baba bear, tata kitty, mama otter, and EW SKUNK EW GROSSSSSSSSSS; CJ the dog, C the dog, J the dog, and Delilah the dog (he’s named them after dogs he knows, CJ and Delilah); Falcon Bernouli the goat and Edward Thomas the groundhog; they all get into fights over who is going to wear the sweater and who is going to be naked.

It’s like someone ate the forbidden fruit and now they know nakedness. And sin. And there is only one sweater to go around and cover their shame! So he sets them up and he has these little voices for them, and they argue over who is going to wear the sweater (only he calls it a shirt and he can’t say “sh” well so it’s a sirt) and why. They have VOCAL TICS, for crying out loud (albeit not very subtle ones: Canada brackets his statements with a sing-songy “I’m a moose, I’m a moose, I’m a moose, I’m a moose!”) At one point, Canada was saying “Kissy Bear you have my sirt and my pants! Oh no wait nobody has pants. You have my sirt! I am naked without my sirt. I’m a moose I’m a moose I’m a moose I’m a moose!” You have to admire his commitment. Canada breaks into identity-related song and dance constantly.

His stuffed animals tell jokes and they have specialty jokes. He sets them up and has them tell jokes. And laugh. And they fall over laughing.

I just… ok.

He’s three, right? And three year olds can be huge assholes. I think we’re all in agreement there. But they can also be FUCKING HILARIOUS and oh my GOD this is such a great age. And if I didn’t have carpal tunnel and arthritis and a complete inability to follow directions I would knit a bunch of tiny beanie baby sized sweaters so everyone could be clothed and the falsetto plush bickering could stop.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Can 3 year olds use knives?

Can 3 year olds use knives?

I grew up in a kitchen with a parent who was a professional cook for many years, which means that a lot of very basic knife (and general kitchen) safety was burned into my brain from a young age. Never put knives in the sink. Never run with a knife. Always pass a knife to someone handle first. Never touch a knife blade. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives. Don’t use a too-small knife. I even know how to hone a knife on a whetstone. As I’ve said earlier, some of my earliest memories are helping my mom in the kitchen and I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t actively helping.

Our current kitchen isn’t very usable, for a number of reasons, so I’ve been doing the bulk of my cooking solo. Even though Niko is at that magical age where he wants to help and is capable of helping in some ways, I’ve been curtailing that because it’s just so inconvenient for me. And that’s a wrong headed attitude to have, frankly. So lately I’ve been asking him to help me load and unload the dishwasher, put his dishes in the sink, measure coffee into the coffee maker… and cut red peppers.

Yes, I’ve given my baby a knife.

"A toddler stands on the Learning Tower, image taking from the Learning Tower website"

A toddler stands on a wooden scaffolding called “The Learning Tower,” which raises her height to be safely able to work at a kitchen counter. Image taken from the Learning Tower website.

Several people have mentioned using things like the “Learning Tower,” which is a wooden scaffolding that costs quite a bit of money. If we had the money and the space for it I’d totally consider it, but as it is, Niko is very happy on his 2-step stepladder. We pull it right up to the counter and we practice handing a knife back and forth handle first, and then I give him strips of red pepper to slice in half.

We work on paying attention to what he’s doing, to the cutting board and the peppers. We work on how to hold the knife in his hand. We work on remembering that the blade is sharp. We work on how to hold the food steady. We work on not going too fast. And then he hands the knife carefully back to me and we put the peppers in a bowl, and he eats them all because red peppers are basically the bomb.

I know there are dull knives that people use for toddlers. There’s some plastic lettuce specialty knife that a lot of people laud for its dull blade and inability to puncture skin. I considered getting one of those, but in the end decided that with close supervision using a real knife was the better choice. Knives are sharp. I want my child very aware of that, at all times. I want him to know knife safety, and I want him to develop cooking skills that will last him through his life. If you have young children in your life you may very well make a different choice, and I’d love to hear what you have chosen or will chose. But Niko’s enjoying cutting up his own peppers, and he’s enjoying helping me, and he’s learning a lot while doing so.

How old were you when you started using a sharp knife?

Would you let a 3 year old use a knife?

What would you do?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,


So, my kid called me a douche the other day.

So, my kid called me a douche the other day.

I have a medical condition commonly known as “potty mouth.” Since getting pregnant, I’ve made great attempts to curtail the stream of invective that flows from my lips at the slightest provocation, and I actually do a pretty good job.  So I was really, really surprised when, as I was tucking my not-yet-three-year-old boy, my darling, the joy of my life, into bed the other night… he called me a douche.

Specifically, he said “Butterfly mama, don’t be a douche!”

I’ve touched, previously, on the butterfly hand puppet he forces me to wear. He calls me Buterfly mama when I’m wearing it, and sometimes when I’m not.

Anyway, I tried to clarify his statement. Was he saying goof? Doof? A few other words I now forget but totally asked him about? No, he said douche. And honestly, I have no idea where he picked that up from. He’d spent the day with his baba, who does not swear, and the rest of the family doesn’t swear around her. So where?

My kid called me a douche while I was tucking him into bed. I thought this momentous occasion would hold off for at least a decade more.

Kids. They grow up so fast.

Technorati Tags: ,




Niko has a bedding set with a licensed character set, Thomas And Friends. They were part of the “please please please sleep in your own bed FOR THE LOVE OF GOD stop kicking me all night” incentive when we got his twin bed set up in his room. And he’d refer to it as his “new bed” and his “little bed” and talk excitedly about his “Thomas sheets” but until recently he showed no interest in SLEEPING in that bed. He’d sit on it, he’d play in it, he’d drag the comforter off and roll around on the floor in it, but sleeping? Not so much.

Well, that has all changed (knock on wood)! Which means nobody kicks me all night, or pulls my hair, or scrapes their toenails all over my stomach/thighs while trying to warm their feet under my body. It also means I now have two beds to make every day.

When I make his bed, I put the top sheet on the bed upside down, then the comforter. Then I turn both back, so that the front side of the sheet, the “right” side of the sheet, is facing out. I do this when I make our bed, too. Years ago, when I was a little kid, a babysitter did that and I liked it and have been doing it ever since. But the other day I remembered more about the circumstances surrounding that little lesson, in a very visceral way.

Said babysitter lived down the street from us, and my mom paid her to babysit me and my brothers. She had two kids of her own, both younger than us. Even though she was getting paid to watch (and feed) us, she expected me to do housework for her, including dishes and picking up after her kids and making beds. When she provided us with food we didn’t like, she would literally shove food into our mouths, pinch our noses shut, and hold our jaws closed while we chewed and swallowed. She wouldn’t let go until we did so, which meant we couldn’t BREATHE until we did so. Which might just explain some of my issues with food, IDK. She was a screamer, and a slapper.

She took me to task for making the beds “wrong” once, and when I asked WHY she put the flat sheets on upside down she dressed me down for my stupidity in not knowing the “right” way to make a bed. Our sheets at home were cheap solid colored cotton, there was no right or wrong face to them unless you scrutinized the hem or something. Her sheets, even the plain ones, were far more upscale, with fancy hemming and binding. She came from money, you see, and married a poor dude out of love (he worked construction, he wasn’t what most people would consider poor; her wealthy parents gave her shit for marrying “beneath” her and both talked down to her all the time but also gave her gifts of money and jewelry), so there was a definite element of class to her dressing-down of me. But the biggest thing, and this was actually a theme amongst adults in positions of caregiving and teaching in my life, is that she went out of her way to make me feel stupid and wrong for asking a question.

I quickly learned not to ask questions because if I did, I would be shamed and ridiculed in public for not KNOWING. Don’t know where my seat is? Or the bathroom? Or how to do a math problem the class learned the year before, when I was in a different school? Don’t know the words to a song everyone else learned when I was absent? Don’t know someone’s name, or title, or how to get someplace? Don’t know what a food is called? Try to pick it up from context, and fake it, because otherwise? Someone will call. you. out. in the most mortifying way possible and that person? Will be an authority figure setting the tone for everyone else, every peer, in their interactions with you.

My childhood was incredibly stressful (and FUCKED UP), in so many different ways.

I so don’t want that for Niko. He asks questions and I try to answer them as fully as possible. He isn’t in the chain-of-whys phase, but he is interested in his world and what he sees and hears and experiences. And we ask HIM questions as well (do cows eat grass? do chickens? do cats? do goats?) and talk about the answers. I want him to be comfortable questioning his world, his adults, his peers, his assumptions. I know too many people who had that beaten out of them early.


Technorati Tags: , ,


…And They Began To Cry

…And They Began To Cry

Niko’s had a minor vocab explosion lately, both spoken and signed.

One of the things he’s picked up has been the sign for crying.

He still narrates long stories about how the ball of yarn I have freaked his shit out, including fake screaming and then a Very Sad Face with the sign for crying. He also signs crying when I sing “3 Little Kittens” to him. “…and they began to cry” I sing, and he draws tears on his face.