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The state of the (family) union

Started: 2012-02-14 08:09:24

Submitted: 2012-02-14 09:06:35

Visibility: World-readable

Next month, Calvin turns three, which means that we might be able to classify him as a "preschooler" rather than a "toddler", though we might want to hold off making that particular distinction until he actually enters preschool in the fall. This also means we've survived nearly three years of Calvin, and he's survived nearly three years of us as amateur parents. The "terrible twos" were a non-event; Calvin was always sufficiently strong-willed that he required a lot of attention, and as he became more capable of expressing himself it generally got easier for us to figure out what he wanted, even if we weren't actually going to give it to him. He still has the tendency to get upset and start whining if we don't want to provide whatever he wants at that moment (more television, or more of his favorite imbalanced snack foods), which we can usually stop by merely threatening him with time-out in his room. (Kiesa is better at imposing this sort of discipline than I am.) When eating, he's not very good at cleaning up after himself, or recognizing the correlation between some of his eating habits and the mess he creates, but he is often fastidious about the food he gets on his hands and clothes. We have a rotating set of spare sheets we put under his place at the table, over the not-toddler-approved dining room carpet, for somewhat easier cleaning.

Calvin pushes a Duplo train over a viaduct
Calvin pushes a Duplo train over a viaduct

He loves building with his Duplos and roll-playing with the minifigs. He'll build trains and fire trucks and tell stories to himself about them. (Most of the time he simply speaks the words the minifig-characters he's playing with are saying; one time I thought I heard him speak as if he were reading a story: "'We need to help,' Thomas said. 'Ok,' Percy said.") The Duplos reside in the living room, and we pick them up every night (occasionally with a little help from Calvin himself), so every time he starts playing he has to pull out the Duplo bin and start rummaging through the bin to find the pieces he wants. I can recognize the beautiful, terrifying moment (that I remember well from my childhood) when he decides that it's much easier to dump out the entire bin of Duplos and sort through them on the floor. Calvin likes playing with Duplo structures I build; on Saturday night he wanted a rocketship (from one of the pseudo-educational children's DVDs Kiesa found at the local library), which I was happy to build, though I couldn't find all the pieces I needed in Duplos, so I had to augment with a few Legos around the edges.

Calvin likes the Duplo rocketship I built for him.

After leaving Calvin with his grandmother for two days after Christmas, Calvin has been especially clingy. Sometimes this is endearing, but when he started refusing to go to sleep unless Kiesa was next to him it got a little obnoxious. For most of 2011, our bedtime ritual was for me to read him stories (staring around 19:30), put him to bed around 20:00, and wait for him to fall asleep (usually while I listened to podcasts) before leaving. After returning from Christmas, he started complaining about the "orange light" in his room (the ceiling fan, with its not-especially-attractive fake-gold gild around the center) and demanded to sleep on the queen bed in the guest room. We didn't actually have any other use for the guest room (at least until our next visitor arrives, currently scheduled for the first part of March) so we let him sleep in the guest room (which I usually pronounce as "[the distant land of] spare oom"), despite the queen bed being comically oversized for him. We eventually figured out that he was scared by the five-fingered shadow cast by the five fan blades; he likened it to a hand reaching down from the ceiling. (It's clear he has dreams, which might have been the source for this particular paranoia; I remember him telling me about one of them when he woke up in the middle of the night but I don't actually remember what he said.) Kiesa changed the night light so it no longer cast a shadow but he still didn't want to sleep in his room. We'll need to break him of this habit eventually but we're hoping we can postpone it until we move, at which point we've promised him a big-boy (twin) bed to replace the toddler day-bed.

(Calvin's distress at being abandoned with his grandmother for two days called into question our original plan to leave him with some combination of his grandmothers for a week after Christmas this year when we visit Hong Kong, so our tentative new plan is to drag him with us. (He will be three-and-a-half and therefore old enough to get more out of the trip, including remembering more of it.) He's flown domestically several times, and he likes the book My first airplane ride, but I haven't yet found My first long-haul international flight to prepare him for the joys of flying across an ocean.)

We've told Calvin of our plans to move to a new house Gunbarrel (for definitions of "new" that mean "new to us", since the city of Boulder doesn't believe in actual new development, preferring instead to force its workers to commute from the outlying cities in Boulder County, and also refuses to update the transportation infrastructure to support these commuters), and he's begun to assemble a shopping list of features he wants in a new house, starting with a fire truck. He declared one morning that we need to give our house to other people and get a new one, and when we replaced the kitchen sink last Friday he said he didn't want the new sink to get old.

Calvin gets more interesting every day, and I'm looking forward to watching him grow up, especially if I can convince him China is a worthwhile place to visit (and, optionally, live).

A standard question in the Commune, "Study well?", has absolutely
nothing to do with how well one learned the designated material,
but rather to the individual's interactions with the one with whom
he is studying.
- Jaeger, journal entry 28 October 1999