On the Prairie

I loved to read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was young.  Laura Ingalls Wilder had me hooked with her vivid imagery.  I imagined myself on the ride as the Ingalls family forged their way to Kansas to build their little house.  I visualized the fields, the horses, the food (mmm, hot cakes and molasses), and even their life in the little house.  Every night the Ingalls women would don their night gowns and brush their hair as they prepared for bed.  Oh, what it would have been like to live during this time and to witness this simple life.

Oh wait, I can easily visualize the nighttime ritual at the very least.  I just have to think of Imil.  See, she wears a prairie nightgown to bed every night.  It is a “dress” that fits the length from her neck to her ankles.  Seriously, she sleeps in this.  I am not sure how it is comfortable as I would get tangled up into the dress every single night.  Perhaps Imil lies perfectly vampire-like still in her sleep.   Perhaps the nightgown has disciplined her to sleep motionless.  Perhaps she likes the fashion of prairie couture.  I am not sure why she sleeps in this nightgown but it makes me smile as I drift back to the prairie days of yore.

All-Points Bulletin

Imil goes into a panic if my husband does not answer his cellphone immediately when she calls him.  Every. Single. Time.

Most recently, she called when we took our son to swim class this past Saturday.  The class is at 9AM and she called at 9:30AM, which is 8:30AM Imil time.  She always calls early.  I guess she wants to make sure we have not died overnight before she goes about her day.  Anyway, we were in class and then we stopped by the playground before heading home.  Once we got home, we fed our son a snack and milk and then put him down for his afternoon nap.    As he often does on weekends, my husband napped along with our son.  I recount all of this to show that he had yet to call Imil back and it was already 11:30AM.  As soon as our son awoke, we fed him lunch and then hurriedly ran out the door to catch the train to Long Island where we were meeting friends for a barbeque.  It was now 2:00 at the train station and my husband noticed that Imil just called again about 4 1/2 hours after her previous call.  He immediately called back but she did not answer.  It was 2:40Pm before we got reception on the phone and my husband was able to reach Imil.  Five hours had passed since her first phone call!  She was now in a state of complete panic and had assumed something terrible had happened to us.  She was upset that he had not called sooner.

When we got home, I noticed that she had called our home phone and had called my cellphone.  When I spoke to mother the next day, I learned that Imil had called my parents to find out if they had heard from us.  She told them that my husband had not answered his phone and that something must be wrong.  My parents told her that they had not heard from us.   Then, they calmly went about their day without assuming the worst.

Now, I understand that mothers worry.  I certainly do.  But, it seems unreasonable to start planning a memorial service because your son and family have not called back within five hours.  Not to self to not have a breakdown if my son doesn’t call me back within a few hours, or a day, or even a couple of days.  And even if I am worried, I now know to remain calm so that my children do not think I am crazy.

Baby Talk

Everyone has their version of a baby voice or baby talk that they use with small kids.  I have a way to talk to my son although I’m not one to talk cutesy.   I may change the pitch of my voice and say things like “doggie” or “huggie” but I say silly nonsensical things.  I use real words and sentences because I want him to learn the English language properly.

As expected, Imil has her version of baby talk that she repeats every time she visits and every time, her baby voice grates on my nerves.

“You’re a busy bee.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.”  (repeat 20 more times…in a row)

“You like cars.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.  Yes you do.”

AAARGH.  I am especially sick of “busy bee,” which she utters repeatedly every single visit. But, poor Imil.  She desperately wants to teach my son anything.  How does repeating “yesyouareyesyouareyesyouareyesyouare” not teach a child??

“He’s clapping.  Has he ever done that before?”   Yes.

“He’s dancing.  Has he ever done that before?”   Yes, my mom taught him that.

“Look, he’s putting his toys away.  Has he ever done that before?”   Yes, I taught him that.

“Oh, he’s wiping up the water he spilled on the floor.  Has he ever done that before?”   Yes, the nanny taught him that.

After 17 months, Imil had not taught him one thing during her visits.  She picked up the flash cards and ran through them in  60 seconds in hopes that she could get him to say one new word.  No luck there.  She tried unsuccessfully to get him to say the Telugu word for grandmother, a word that she never taught her own son, by the way.  She tried to get him to sit down and read.  Not a chance.

On her final day, she got him to imitate a clucking noise that she was making with her tongue.  We have a winner!  She repeated “he just learned that” about ten times in the hour before she left.  Hooray, she taught a child something!   I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he had already made that noise before.

Water Conservation

My son has a tendency to throw his sippy cup.  I have told him not to throw his sippy cup.  At dinner, I have told him I will take it away if he throws it a second time.  He knows not to throw but sometimes he will throw it anyway.  Of course, he is a 17 months old child.  He will learn how to behave through repetition and patience and age.  In fact, most of the time, he places the sippy cup back onto the table.

Four days after Imil arrived, she had an eureka moment.  My son threw his sippy cup at dinner and she said, “You know the reason he keeps throwing it is because you keep picking it up and giving it back to him.”  I should have explained to her that he was acting up while she was visiting because she laughs at his misbehavior and provides a willing audience for his highjinks.  Instead, I explained to her that he knows he should not throw the sippy cup but he will do it anyway until he learns better.

Unbeknownst to me, Imil decided it would become her mission to teach my son not to throw his sippy cup in the remaining few days she was visiting.   Never mind, that I already explained to her that he knows that he should not throw it.  When Imil has a moment of enlightenment, she believes that no one else in the world has ever thought of the same thing before.  No parent has ever found a solution for their child’s sippy cup throwing behavior ever before.

So, the next morning, the nanny arrived and decided she should take my son out in the morning before it got too hot.  (There was a heat wave during Imil’s visit and several days reached temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  My son gets upset if he does not get outside time, so we figured we let him out int he morning before it became unbearable).  The nanny mistakingly and regrettably asked Imil to join her.   I later learned that when my son wanted his sippy cup while out at the playground in 85 degree heat, Imil refused to give it to him.  She kept repeating, “No he will just throw it.”   Several times, my son reached his hand out for it and Imil refused.  Finally, the nanny begged her to give him his water and Imil relented.  After my son took one sip, Imil snatched it away and put the cup away in the stroller.  When they were coming back home, Imil held the sippy cup in her hand and refused to give it to my son even though he wanted it.

I was furious.  Normally, I laugh at Imil’s ideas on parenting and her odd controlling behavior but I was outraged this time.  My son is outside in hot weather on a day that has a heat advisory and Imil will not let him drink water…after he asks for it!  And Imil finds this an opportune time to teach a lesson about throwing sippy cups.   Outrageous.

Taking the Play Out of Playground

Carbo Overloading

The Nanny Diaries

One-Foot, Five-Foot Rule

Imil has a one-foot radius rule.  She will not allow my son to move beyond one foot of her and preferably she would like him on her lap.  Let me point out that my son is 17 months old and that he learned to roll over at five weeks, to crawl at five months, and to walk at 12 months.  This is not a kid who likes to sit still.  But, Imil chooses to ignore this.  It’s nice that she is enthusiastic about him and wants to to be close to him.  I do appreciate that.  However, it becomes quite disconcerting to watch.

Imil comes into the living room in the morning and plops down on the floor in the center of the room.  And then…she refuses to move from that spot.   Before she sits down, she collects all of the loud toys that play various sounds and flash colorful lights.  If my son is playing more than a foot away from her, she will entice him to move closer by frantically pushing the buttons of these loud toys.  As soon as he comes near to investigate (which he will since he is after all 17 months old), she grabs him and pulls him onto her lap.  Sometimes he will sit on her lap for five minutes before resisting and sometimes he resists immediately.  When he resists and tries to get away, Imil grabs him and pulls him back.  He will attempt to get away two more times and Imil will pull him back.  Finally, he will use all of his strength to get away from her and Imil will lose her grasp until she only has him by the ankle and finally has to let him go.  He usually is crying and screaming at this point to get away from her.  Then she calls him a “busy bee” and says he cannot sit still.   This scenario repeats itself several times throughout the day.

When he went to play with a puzzle that was maybe three feet away from Imil and so she started yelling at him “Come here.  Bring it over here.  Come here” over and over.  She could have just scuttled her butt over to him.  One time, he sat down at his toddler table and started scribbling with his crayons.  The table was about two feet away from where Imil was sitting; thus, she began furiously smacking the head of a toy giraffe that makes loud sounds and flashes lights.  Imil could have sat down at the table herself and encouraged him to continue the activity that stimulates his brain and teaches him how to draw.   But, I guess that would place him to far away from her.  Let me also point out that Imil practices yoga and pilates and goes for walks every day when she is at home.  She is incredibly fit for a woman of her age and more than able to move around a living room that is about 500 sq ft.

We cannot figure out why Imil will not let him play and move around to play with him.  Why does she try to force him to play with toys within a one-foot radius of her?  What goes through her head when he is crying because she has grabbed him?  Why does she think he runs away from her?  She either wants him on her lap or she will pick him up while he is playing with something.  This leads to him struggling against her and her almost dropping him.  We do not understand her strategy for spending time with her grandson.  We would think she would want him to be happy and laughing.

What’s worse, Imil will not move from that spot that she stakes out in the morning.  Even if my son does something that could result in injury, Imil will not move.  For example, if he climbs onto the furniture or runs into the kitchen or plays with the outlet, Imil will say “No, no.  Don’t do that,”  but she will not move to stop him.

That led my husband to declare the “One-Foot, Five-Foot Rule.”  Imil will be within one foot of our son and one of us has to remain within five feet of Imil.

Southern Hospitality

Selective Memory

When Imil visited in January, I finally asked her how long she stayed at home with my husband after he was born.  Her answer was three years.   Three years!  How is that possible?  She has no memories at all of him as a baby.  We always assumed that she had been working full-time and that was the reason she didn’t remember his first words or when he started to crawl or when he started to walk or what he ate as a baby.  Yet, somehow she was dedicated to him for three years with nothing to do but take care of him and has retained no memory of that time.

Going back even farther, she also has no memory of birth.   She woke up and a nurse told her “It’s a boy!”  We think she must’ve been given an amnesiac drug, but she claims no one told her that they were giving anything to her.

Yes, I know it was a long time ago, so give her a break.  And I would, except…

She even forgets stories she’s told me in the last year.  For example, months ago she told me that my husband was a terrible napper as a baby.  She remembers when she would go pick him up at daycare and he would be sitting straight up while all of the other kids were sleeping because he knew that she would be coming to pick me up.  When we visited her in April, she changed her mind and said my husband had no problems with his sleep.  When I reminded her of the napping story, she laughed and said “that’s right.”  Which one is it, Imil?

I suppose I should be thankful that I’ve been keeping track of my son’s development…and that I have a memory.

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