Why does counting work? By this point in her life it’s apparent that Samantha is not something that I can control, like the various limbs attached to my body or a food processor with exact and discrete settings. Often her only purpose seems to refuse to do what we tell her, simply because we are telling her to do it. Something as simple as picking up her toys doesn’t become a struggle, it becomes a FULL SCALE, ALL CAPS BATTLE ROYAL THAT MAKES GETTYSBURG LOOK LIKE A TEA PARTY. A while back I discovered that threatening to count to three sometimes gets Sam to grudgingly obey, apparently because it sends the message to her brain that oh geez things are serious now and if she doesn’t at least momentarily acquiesce then there will be shouting and time outs and dear God maybe one less book read at bedtime. It often works, but I’m reluctant to use it since I think it has caused her to hold a grudge against counting and mathematics in general. She’s not going to become an astrophysicist-slash-celebrity-chef with a handicap like that.
Then my mom, who was visiting for Thanksgiving, struck on a particular bit of mental manipulation that I can only describe as pure genius. One night when the time came to pick up her copious crap from the living room floor so we could enjoy the evening without impaling the arch of our feet with brightly colored blocks, my mom said “Sam, I bet I can count to fifty before you can pick up all these toys. One… Two…”
Sam stood up with a stunned deer in the headlights look on her face, clearly uncertain what to do. She didn’t like picking up, but if there’s one thing she seems to like less, it’s losing a contest. By the time my mom hit “Five…” Sam started shrieking and rushing around the room, tossing plastic plates, blocks, and toy pianos into the toy chest at what I can only describe as a frantic pace. Whenever she got distracted or slowed down, my mom would just day “I’m gonna win, Sam! I’m gonna win!” and keep counting. This would result in renewed shrieking and putting away of toys.
I’ve tried this trick a couple of night since, and it still works beautifully. I never get past forty or so, because Sam always finishes, throws up her fists, and shouts “I WIN! YOU LOSE, DADDY! YOU LOSE!” I just shrug sheepishly and tell her that her reward is to get herself up there and take a bath.
This is not to say that I’m the only one enjoying my mom’s visit. Earlier in the week we took her to a place called “Bounce U” which sounds vaguely educational, like they’re going to teach the kids how to jump, but when we got there it turned out to basically be a huge warehouse that someone had filled with those giant, inflatable bouncie castles, slides, and basketball hoops. The idea was that you yanked your kids’ shoes off, tossed them in there (your kids, not their shoes), and sat back while they bounced around like popcorn kernels and you somewhat hoped that none of them get concussions until the hour and a half of playtime you just paid for was over.
Sam liked all this quite a bit, but it did put to the test the lesson of “waiting your turn.” When you’ve got a couple of dozen keyed up kids –many of them boys– screaming and climbing on these things like ants on a sugar cube, waiting your turn means not getting a turn. I climbed to the top of one of the big slides with Sam, then told her to wait while the two timid girls in front of her gathered their courage to go down. Before I could even get the words out of my mouth, though, a battalion of boys shoved past us, pushed the girls aside, and went down. After that I just kind of quietly booted the other girls aside and told Sam to go go go! She went.
Lots of Christmas themed pictures this week, because we got our stuff up right after Thanksgiving after I discovered that Sam is old enough to be preoccupied for a couple of hours by hanging tree ornaments. Mandy did her part by managing to find every one of those ornament hanging hooks and trying to cram it in her mouth like a suicidal fish. So we found a substitute in the form of one of those vibrating massage thingies. I like this and this pictures of Sam because they were taken less than two seconds apart and pretty well capture how her attitudes can fluctuate between “I will destroy you” and “Aren’t I sweet?”
And that’s all for this week. It occurs to me that this is the 200th weekly Parenting post I’ve done on this blog since Sam was born. Wow. Two hundred posts. I’m kind of surprised, honestly. This started out as just a way to share Sam’s birth with my family and a few friends, but it has really taken on a life of its own and developed into a written and pictorial history of my kids’ early lives and my first 200 weeks as a parent. I’m glad I’ve done it, and while 200 would be a convenient stopping point I find that I’d miss doing it even though it’s hard to find the time some weeks. So while I didn’t do anything fancy like I did for the 100 week milestone, I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.