Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Incredible One-Armed Woman

I would have posted this a couple of weeks ago when it actually happened, but I've been so busy working on the sort of writing I actually get paid for over the past month that I haven't felt like I should have time to blog. Of course, this somehow hasn't stopped me from leaving my typical post-length comments on other people's sites . . . LOL.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I decided I would convert Isaac's crib into a toddler bed. It's not that he had been trying to climb out of the crib-- STAIRS freak this kid out-- I fear he has inherited my acrophobia (Get it?I fear he has a fear of heights! Haha. How clever. This is what happens when I spend several hours writing advertising copy. Watch out!).

Instead, for several weeks, he had been expressing a desire to play in the crib when not sleeping. He kept dragging me into his bedroom and asking me to lift him up over the crib rail so he could play "Night Night," a game he'd invented which proceeded as follows:

1.) I put him in the crib.
2.) He says "Night Night, Mommy. Bye bye!" and motions for me to leave.
3.) He pretends to be asleep.
4.) I leave the room and shut the door.
5.) The moment the door shuts, he cries.
6.) I come back.
7.) Return to Step #2, and repeat, until Mommy loses her patience, takes Isaac out of the crib, and insists that instead of playing Night Night we are going to go watch Finding Nemo/Clifford/Baby Einstein again for the 500 billionth time right now.
8.) Play again from Step#1 every two hours.

I figured he had invented this little role-playing exercise as a way of working out some nighttime separation anxiety issues. Since Isaac has been a terrible sleeper since even before he was born (this kid seriously kicked or somersaulted violently every ten minutes 24 hours a day in the womb, and slept less than 10 hours for every 24 as a newborn), I am pretty receptive to almost any activity I think might just possibly help him sleep better. So, I had been gamely playing along for days and days, in the hopes that this self-guided theraputic activity might eventually help him make it through more nights without waking.

The problem with this game (other than the mind-numbing repetition, of course, but that's par for the course with any activity invented by a 21-month-old) was, I have a bad back. And a bum shoulder that likes to pop out of the socket. And a I've been suffering on and off for months from this funny little thing called costochondritis, an inflammation of the sternum and ribcage, a repetitive motion injury, which, if you aggravate it, basically feels like an elephant sitting on your chest all day long-- i.e., like a 24-7 HEART ATTACK.

So, as you might guess, even if my numbed mind was willing, my creaky body was beginning to tire a bit of this in-and-out of the crib all day situation. Somewhere around the about 45th or 50th game of Night Night, as I felt my whole ribcage start to groan in protest, I experienced a brilliant epiphany:

My child is now, in fact, a toddler. This crib converts to a toddler bed. If this kid wants to climb into his crib to play ONE MORE TIME, by the stars in the heavens, he can damn well DO IT HIMSELF!

Of course, I was hit by this bolt of inspiration in the middle of the morning on a weekday. My husband was at work, and probably would be for several more hours. Still, I thought, this was surely something a handy woman like me could handle on her own. After all, I'd put this crib together with my husband while I was eight-and-a-half-months pregnant and IN LABOR (true story). I'd read the instructions for converting the crib before, and as I recalled, they'd seemed very simple. It was a couple of hours before Isaac's usual nap time; I had the basic tools I needed (a hex key, a screwdriver, pliers) close at hand. Why not just do this thing and get it over with before my husband could come home and insist on helping me so we could argue with each other the whole time over which one of us was doing it wrong?

Isaac was busy drawing pictures, anyway. This was a twenty-minute project, tops. How much trouble could he be?

My fellow mommies see where this is going.

Maybe it was the writing-project-deadline-induced sleep deprivation. I don't know. But some momentary lapse of judgement, some freakish state of mind made me, mother of 21 months, experienced older sister, and former nanny, FORGET a fundamental truth of child psychology:

The MOMENT you start trying to do something you don't want a child who is in the same house with you to interfere with, no matter how happily distracted the child just appeared-- no matter how perfectly content that child felt minding his own business a tenth of a second ago-- at that very moment the child will sense your determination to do something without his involvement, and he will ATTACK.

Of course I had to finish this project once I had started it-- couldn't wait until my husband came home, because if I did, there would have been crib pieces all over the floor in Isaac's room for hours, not to mention the fact that there would be no good place for Isaac to sleep come nap time other than my bed, which happened to have its clothes in the wash.

I wound up doing almost all of the crib conversion with a tool in one hand and a thrashing child who kept screaming "I want screwdriver!" in the other.

It took me almost two and a half hours. MORE THAN TWO HOURS. To take one side and some wheels off the crib.

I would not recommend this method of furniture assembly to 130 lb women with bad backs and a history of costochondritis.

But . . .

Almost immediately after I tightened the last bolt, Isaac leapt into his "new" bed and proceeded to bounce and roll there happily, holding elaborate conversations with his stuffed animals, for the next half hour. His newfound bed-access freedom put him in a fantastic mood. He beamed wildly at me and slapped me repeatedly with fierce baby kisses for the rest of the day.

It's amazing how the same person who drives you absolutely *chain of extravagant expletives deleted* insane one moment can in the very next moment make every instant of insanity seem worthwhile.


Lisa said...

You are so right! They drive you so crazy but you love them SO much.

So are you writing for a newspaper or mag? Will we get to read the fruits of your labor? If so, I can't wait!

Andrea said...

Just be careful. With his newfound freedom, Isaac might scare the pee-wad-in heck (my mother's words) out of you by sneaking out of his room at night and tucking himself into a hidey hole. When you get up to check on him and find him missing from his bed, the panic and fear that someone snuck in and stole him from you will grab your heart and not let go until you find him. The rest of the time he might get out of his bed in the middle of the night to come torture you with games and a version opposite the Night Night game at 3 a.m. Hopefully this works better for you than it has for my Gleeful Unsleeper. But then again, maybe this is the ticket you need to get him okay with sleeping in his own "big boy" bed.

Jaelithe said...

Hehe no Lisa, I am still writing advertising/web copy-- just a bit more than usual of late. If you're in the market for an elegant, spacious, solid wood Shaker-style bedroom armoire in a rich, durable cherry finish, though, I'm sure you'll find my internet catalog descriptions positively heart-stopping.

I'm so busy writing internet catcopy lately, in fact I don't know where I'd find time to write magazine articles.

HOWEVER, I have made some very good progress recently on the text for a children's picture book I'm collaborating on. If that gets published, I'll be happy to send you a copy :)

Peter said...

isn't it amazing that we get this feeling that kids have this 'evil' spirit ??? like 'as long as you are not doing that you enjoy or really have to get done.... its ok' ...

Julius expects me to fry food one handed .. and he can be totally ok with the Jungle Book for long stretches of time .. as long as he is sure I am not doing anything useful ..