Thursday, July 14, 2011

Little boy, BIG personality!

One of my favorite surprises about parenting is how early we've gotten to see Ethan's personality develop.  Before having a child of my own, I always thought that, give or take a few extremes, babies were just babies- they didn't really differentiate for me until they could walk and talk.  I am learning that's not the case!  I thought it would be fun to record some of my observations about E's very early personality here to see if they hold true as he gets older, and if nothing else, to just have a remembrance of this fleeting moment of his life.  I still can't believe he'll be one in less than a month.  Can't. Believe. It.  Wasn't I in labor last night!?

So far, our Ethan is definitely:

GREGARIOUS.  I am only slightly exaggerating when I say that Ethan is a minor celebrity at our Publix.  It helps that homeboy loves the grocery store (like his mama!), so he's always in a good mood when we're there.  And it probably also helps that I am there so often we are actually recognized by the staff.  But it's not just the employees who love him.  And it's really not just Publix.  When we're out running errands, shoppers always stop and talk to him, and he just eats. it. up.  You've never SEEN such a ham!  And the thing that's crazy is that even men flirt with him!

One day I just watched Ethan, to try and discover the secret to his popularity, and I figured it out.  Ethan actually seeks out the attention.  He WILLS people to look his way.  He sees people walk by, and he locks his eyes on them, smiling like a maniac, hoping they'll see him and return the smile.  I've learned that whenever he's cranky, and just not having anything when we're at home, a quick fix is to take him somewhere with a cart, where he can ride around and greet his adoring public.   He's just outgoing!  He wants to interact with people; he likes making new friends. He has never gone through the separation anxiety phase, he's never met a stranger, and he will let ANYONE hold him.

He is also starting to learn how to read people and situations so that he can be a part of them.  If a group of people is laughing, he laughs too.  It's the fakest, funniest thing you've ever heard, so you laugh more, and then he laughs more, and so it goes.  Cute cute cute.  It's so neat to see that he's already a social butterfly- definitely doesn't get that from Clay! ;-)

STRONG-WILLED: When he sets his mind on something, that's it.  For example, he never really liked pacifiers, but we tried really hard to make him, since they help so much with sleep training, etc.  For the first few months of his life, he'd take them only to go to sleep (never once could he be kept quiet in church with one, to my dismay), and once he was old enough to put a stop to that, he did.  He started sucking on his middle two fingers around 3 months old.  Visions of braces danced in our heads, so we tried to give him the paci instead.  One night he finally looked at us, grabbed the pacifier out of his mouth, and threw it at us.  On purpose.  Got it, son.  Fingers it is.

He has never been a child that can be distracted with a toy.  I have friends whose babies can be guided to a more appropriate toy or activity by its mere presentation: "Oh no, Timmy, don't chew on that electrical cord!  Here! Look at the shiny baby-appropriate toy!" and problem solved.  Ha!  Ethan views those attempts as either humorous and infuriating, depending on the day, and/or how much he's enjoying the activity you're interrupting.  First, he'll either completely ignore what you're telling/showing him, or look at you, smile sweetly, and then return to whatever shenanigans he's up to.  Then, once you actually take something from him, or remove him from a situation, he throws a fit.  More recently, he's started to learn the sweet art of tantrum throwing: he grits his teeth, tenses up his little arms and legs, arches his back, and turns beet red.  It's a magical time.

Since he's getting old enough that we need to start some form of discipline, I've started to figure out what works with him.  Here's what gets the best results- let him make the choice.  Here's an example of a frequent battle of wills that occurs in our house over the dog bowls.  Getting into them is a no no, since he stuffs his cheeks full of Buddy's food like a chipmunk getting ready for winter, then drinks from/baptizes himself in the water bowl.  He would do this 25 times in a row if I let him!  If I see he's crawling toward the bowls and I just walk over and snatch them up, or close the laundry room door, he flips his lid, wailing and beating his little arms on the door like I've separated him from his one true love.  It's pitiful (and also kinda funny- I really hope I'm not the only mother that has to bite back a smile in the midst of my child's misbehavior...)  But here's what does work:
           - If I follow him over there and wait until he's sitting in front of the bowls, and say, "Ethan...."  He'll freeze. (If there was a caption bubble over his head, it would say, 'If I don't move, she won't see me!"  SO funny).
          - Then I say, "Ethan, no no.  Leave those bowls alone." And he'll look at me and smile, oh so sweetly, and then look back at the bowls, and then back up at me (If there was a caption bubble over his head at this point, it would say, "Look momma, look how sweet I am. Don't you want to let me do this?")
          -Then I say, "No sir, come here," and I squat down to his level- and 9.5 times out of 10, he'll crawl over to me.  And of course, when he does this, I act like he's just done the most awesome thing ever: "Good choice, Ethan!  What good listening!  What a good boy!" Problem solved, no tears.  And I really think the difference is that HE decided for HIMSELF to leave the bowls alone.

This type of disciplining obviously takes longer- it's certainly easier to just go over and close the door (and sometimes, on long days, I cave and do just that- I'm certainly not perfect!).  But I think teaching him to choose the right decision, while more work for me, is best for us.  It works with his strong-willed personality (I'm really against one-size-fits-all punishment- I think you've gotta take your kid's make-up into account), and also sets up the framework we hope to have for future discipline.  In other words, as he gets older, he'll see that any punishment he receives is the result of his active choice to disobey/misbehave, instead of  the result of our whims, bad moods, stress levels, etc, which is really important to me.

INQUISITIVE: In this way, he is definitely Clay's son.  He is constantly trying to figure stuff out!  From infancy, people remarked at how alert he was, and he's still that way- nothing gets by him.  He's like a little scientist- he loves seeing the results of his actions, very into cause and effect these days.  If he sees one of us do something, he tries to replicate it.  He really likes flipping switches, turning knobs, flushing the toilet, turning on faucets, rolling objects across the floor, seeing where he can fit and where he can''s so neat to see the world through his eyes in this way. Clay and I always say we wish we knew what he was thinking and saying!  Imagine what we could learn!

I'm loving being this little boy's mommy more and more every day!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A good parenting tip

I read this quote tonight, and it really spoke to me: "All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle."  Samuel Johnson

It just really gets to the heart of why parents discipline and correct their children...or at least why they should be: to increase good and/or decrease evil.  Everything else is a waste of effort.  I hope I use this as a rule of thumb in my own parenting.  I often think that kids are scolded to death, and a lot of what they're doing isn't really's just annoying, or isn't what an adult would do, etc.  I'm talking about things like skipping instead of walking through the mall, wanting to wear clothes that don't match somewhere non-important, talking in a funny voice, etc.  I'm certainly not saying parents shouldn't have standards for their children, not at all!  I just need as many "don't sweat the small stuff" reminders as I can get in life, parenting included.