Parenting Week 154: Names, Naps, and Neatness

Fun fact: Amanda was almost named Abagail “Abby” Madigan. Not “almost” as in “we thought about it, and that was our second choice.” More “okay, we’re pulling up to the hospital, Ger’s in labor and we still haven’t decided.” We literally decided on the way to the big event, throwing in as the tie breaker that we would name her after a life-long friend of my Mom’s who had died just a few weeks earlier.

Kind of a downer, I know, but it made my Mom happy and we liked the name. After a week or so of accidentally calling our newborn “Sammy” we’ve gotten used to it. Picking a name out is a weird affair, though, since any names shared by someone who you (or your significant other) have less than happy feelings about are pretty much out. This includes former girlfriends/boyfriends, as well as machete-wielding madmen as I learned when I floated the name “Jason” before we knew it would be a girl. These associations seemed to be particularly objectionable the further back one went to one’s childhood, so that “Claire” was out because of that girl who used to live down the street and always beat me up.

Acting on a flash of inspiration and thinking to take the inverse of this rule, I had also cheerfully supplied names that had immense, positive personal associations from my childhood:

  1. COBRA Commander Madigan
  2. Atari 2600 Madigan
  3. REO Speedwagon Madigan
  4. Ms. Pac Man Madigan
  5. Dungeon Master’s Guide Madigan

Alas, none of these were found acceptable or worthy of more than a glare. Probably for the best, though I still take private pleasure in knowing that Samantha was at least partially named after my favorite character from The Lord of the Rings. Don’t tell Geralyn.

And speaking of Sam, she has been developing a few annoying habits in the last couple of weeks. Strangely while Amanda has been a blessedly good sleeper at night (and, come to think of it, most other times as well), Samantha has decided to break her long streak of proper sleep behavior. Last night she got up five times after we put her down, contriving all kinds of excuses ranging from “I want something more to drink” to “Hang on, I need to clip this fingernail.” Naps are even worse. During those blessed islands of free time Ger and I usually go down to the basement where our main computer and TV setups are. Lately it’s not uncommon for us to sit there and hear thumping and crashing from the upper levels of the house, followed by several moments of silence, followed by a visit from a smiling Samantha who comes sauntering down the basement stairs as if out for a mid-day stroll. So we take her all the way back upstairs, put her back in bed, go back down to the basement, and wait for the whole process to repeat itself two or three more times.

This new routine has placed a cold fear into our hearts: perhaps Sam doesn’t need naps any more. The idea of this precious source of unstructured free time drying up terrorizes us like you wouldn’t believe. It’s like waking up one morning, drawing the curtains, and finding that the sun has finally depleted all its hydrogen core and winked out. Also, all puppies are gone. You just kind of stand there, still holding the curtains in one hand and muttering “Aw, man! Now what am I going to do?” And then Sam is there, because it’s 6:00 a.m. and that’s what time she wakes up these days.

The getting up from naps isn’t the only bad behavior we’re trying to curb lately, though. After Christmas hit, we were left with a bewildering number of toys, most of which Sam took great glee from spreading to every corner of the house. Each night we’d ask Sam to clean up, but she’d flatly refuse, telling us to do it. This earned her a time out while we picked up the toys ourselves, but it didn’t take long to figure out that we were doing all the work while Sam reclined in the corner and watched us –though I have to admit that Sam apparently figured it out before we did and found it to be a perfectly agreeable arrangement.

So I decided to rectify things by procuring two items: one kitchen timer and one large, clear, plastic storage bin. Then, that night, I explained the new routine to Samantha:

  1. Step 1: I set the timer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the mess
  2. Step 2: Samantha picks up her crap and puts it away
  3. Step 3: The timer goes off
  4. Step 4: Any toys that aren’t where they belong get thrown in the bin which stays closed up but out in plain sight
  5. Step 5: For each night that Sam puts away ALL her stuff, she can “rescue” one item from the bin

The first night I tried this things didn’t go too well despite the thorough explanations I offered. Sam just kind of went into spaz mode and actually took out more toys. When I pointed at the ticking timer and told her to get a move on, Sam ran over and grabbed the timer. She then made some kind of sputtering sound and threw it into the air, where it sailed across the room in slow motion, gleamed in the fluorescent lights, landed scant inches from Mandy’s head, and shattered the resulting silence by finally going off. This promoted a Class Five Freakout on my part and Sam got her usual time-out for not picking up, but this time I just shouted a lot and dumped all her remaining toys into the bin.

Sam was hysterical at first, but let me tell you something: The next night she jumped up, cleaned up her toys with minutes to spare, and took great joy in choosing an item to free from its acrylic prison. And the same the night after that and so on. We hardly even need the timer anymore.

I knew I could outsmart her if I tried.

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9 thoughts on “Parenting Week 154: Names, Naps, and Neatness

  1. I would bet you a doughnut that Sam getting out of bed during naps and at bedtime happening right after you brought her baby sister home is not a coincidence. Even if she’s been pretty nice to Mandy, and even though you and Ger are probably doing everything you can to make things easier for Sammy, she’s experiencing a major world change. She is having to find new, creative ways to be the center of your attention. (The not cleaning up is probably partially caused by the same thing. Your tactic for handling it is genius, though–I might have to use it myself.)
    I have a good friend whose older daughter, Morgan, was totally potty-trained before her 3rd birthday. When Morgan’s sister was born three months later, Morgan started wetting her pants almost daily, and sometimes worse. And it didn’t seem to be caused by stress–Morgan just didn’t seem to care if she went in her pants. Her parents were totally baffled by this regression till their pediatrician pointed out that it went back to the baby’s birth. Morgan just turned four and they’re still working on it. Sorry if this story scares you. 🙂

  2. My condolences on the death of your mom’s friend, by the way. I think naming Mandy after her is a lovely gesture, not a downer at all.

  3. With my daughter it was, “Mommy I need a drink.” then, “Mommy I have to go to the bathroom.” followed swiftly by,”Mommy, I forgot to give you a hug.” This was the repeated progression of bedtime for six months.
    One of my favorties was the time I asked her to pick up her toys, she said no. I replied, “Let me rephrase that, pick up your toys.” (Cleverly thinking I had removed the doubt a question might raise.) My four year old then looked at me, smiled and said, “Let me rephrase that, No.” I laughed so hard I fell off the couch.
    Trust me, when your daughter is 13 and making you crazy with huffy fits over nothing, long hours in the bathroom and the rolling of eyes in front of friends, you will look back on this time in fond rememberance. Have fun!

  4. Bethany, I buy that. I haven’t discussed it because of a self-imposed moratorium on writing about poop, but Sam still isn’t completely potty trained. So at least regression there isn’t a problem. Hooray?
    viciousrumors, That’s hilarious. Sam does that kind of thing, too. She’ll say stuff like “Well, maybe we’ll watch one more Curious George show now.” when we’ve told her she’s had enough TV for the day. We just noticed one day that that’s exactly the turn of phrase we’d been using, as in “Well, maybe we’ll watch more Curious George tomorrow.” Your story is funnier, though. 🙂

  5. Jamie, Annalie does the same bargaining thing. I’ll tell her she can play for two more minutes and and then it will be time to clean up, and she’ll say, “Three more minutes?” Or I’ll say she can have five M&M’s, and she’ll say, “I can have ten M&M’s?” She always phrases it as a question, though, which gives the impression that she’s like, I didn’t quite catch what you said, Mom–was it this?

  6. My son is entering that phase now,he’s just about to turn three. His favorite phrase at the moment is, “I cry” this includes the full on pouty face and just barely withheld tears. Breaks my heart everytime. I’m such a push over.

  7. Well, maybe for now! You just wait! Good idea about the mess…Todd has suggested I use it. I fear it may not be as effective here though. Y’all have a mansion where Sam probably has a play area. Emma and Henry, well. They are kind of spread out everywhere and if I want any sanity, I’ve got to pick it up. Probably enforcing the night time trick is best.

  8. I still do some tidying up during the day if I’m around and it gets bad, but starting with a toy-free house each morning makes a huge difference. Especially in a smaller house, I imagine. And even if you only get to get out of the end of the day cleanup, that’s still something.

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