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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Swell and the Suck. The Rise and the Fall. The Pee on the Floor.

Ever since California, life has seemed all upside down. The crazy drive, the nonstop touristy schedules, the fact that the second week after we'd returned, I was still thinking we'd just come back that Sunday. Add to those things the fact that Alexandra, who had completely nailed the potty training thing, regressed so far back she's back in pull ups now.

And what is up with that? That simple, drunken, wolfish-grin fact of life that, if a kid is in underpants, she'll pee all over the place, but if she's in pull ups, all that pee and poop go right into the potty? Who wrote that law of nature? Because I'd like to go pour visine in his rum and coke.

Actually that's not true, she's peed in her pull ups maybe three times since she's been in them for a week. BUT STILL. It was getting to the point where she'd have at least one HUGE accident every day. Every goddamn day. And it all started in San Diego, and I really have to blame Todd's uncle's dog, Ivan.

Alexandra was absolutely head over heels for him, and all she wanted to do was play with him outside in the grass. Yeah, grass. I think that had to be a small factor too, getting to romp around with a dog, you know, not on gravel. Her calloused little feet were probably weeping in joy and disbelief. Anyways, sure enough, after twenty minutes of play, out she calls: "I'm peeing!" or just a stated "I peed."

The first time it happened, I went outside while Todd was packing up a cooler for the beach, and there's a big puddle on the sidewalk and she had already moved on to another part of the yard, playing with Ivan and Patton.

"Alex," I said slowly, staring at the puddle, the mockery of all our accomplishments, "Did you go pee out here?" Todd whips around and stares at the puddle and just goes, "Oh, wow." And I guess my favorite part? Was that Alex looked at it too and was just sort of like, oh well, yeah, I guess, whatever. "Yes," she says. And continues to chase Ivan.

So, you know, look. I get it, and I got it then. There was a LOT going on in San Diego. I mean, there was a lot going on on the nearly seven hour drive there. I had wisely put her in a pull up then, but alas, not an overnight pull up, so after a few hours of holding it and holding it and holding it, she finally burst into tears, wailing "I'M PEEING, I'M PEEING." and I tried to reassure her it was okay, until we got to that rest stop, and she was totally soaked through.

There were unusual circumstances, there was that damn awesome dog to play with. I get it. When we all came home though, I stupidly figured life would slip back into routine. Sleeping well, peeing in the toilet, all those awesome things that parents cling to like a person clings to flotsam while drifting out in storm-swelled ocean.

Yeah. None of THAT happened. For whatever reason, that vacation triggered a few things in Alex, namely with sleep and toilet training. I've already gone into detail with the pee thing, but there's also the sleep thing. If you'll recall, we have awesome rolling shutters, or if you want to get real accurate, zombie shutters. They're fantastic. We're talking pitch black environment, when they're shuttered up, day or night. It's miraculous. And Alex has enjoyed them ever since she was six months old.

Well, not anymore. She wants two lights on now, she never wants to go to bed anymore when it's time even though she has always loved her crib, her big girl bed, her bed buddies, the storytime and snuggles, all of it.

Now, if you visit that rolling shutter link, or if you recall the story, I will whip myself into a frenzy convinced that zombies are totes shuffle-stepping down my street, hungry for me and my family's brains. I CAN CONVINCE MYSELF, folks. So please understand when I say that my first thought, indeed my first panicked comment to Todd after that first night of struggling against the darkness and the bedtime, was "Oh my God, she's being haunted by a poltergeist."

Once you've stopped laughing, I'll have you know that quickly the situation cleared itself up, at least as far as we can tell. In San Diego, Alex slept in uncle Steve's office, and while we tried blocking out all the light that could still seep in through the shutters by hanging a sheet over the window, which Steve graciously accepted for eight days, it was still a very light hazy gray every morning. Starting at like, 5am, and I think she got used to it.

After the first night of fighting bedtime, Todd was reading our Dr. Ferber book, and the good doc reminded us both that right around this time, one or two things happen:

One, she becomes very aware that we are letting the good times roll once she's tucked in bed. She hears us in the kitchen and thinks "they're eating ice cream!" or she hears us watching TV and is all "they're watching Curious George!" and I'm like no, Alex, we're eating baked chicken and watching survivor shows. I see enough of that goddamn little monkey during the day.

Two, and this I think is more the thing, is that she's more cognizent of the darker things in the world. She knows now that there are things to be scared of. That the world is scary. Our backyard is full of dead lizards and birds, thanks to the cat, and that's only one source of the macabre that any three year old could stumble across. Scary commercials, a mean kid at the park, people yelling at each other in a store, falling down and seeing blood come out of your knee.

All those things can cause fear and insecurity. Mommy crying over spilled pee on the floor? Sure! I could have totally been an inspiration for a nightmare. I mean, hell. When she's in high school, I'm going to be the inspiration for 75% of them.

It's just funny, because it was so smooth for so long. I was used to constant changes the first 18 months, the growth spurts and developmental milestones. These two took me absolutely by surprise, and wore me out in a way I'd not experienced in many, many moons. We figured it out for now, sure. Todd put a very low-wattage bulb in her little ladybug lamp, and we got a teapot night light to add a second layer of protection against whatever tiny little toddler demons run around that darling headspace of hers. Back to pull ups and stickers and candies. We got this (for now).

But still, having such a relatively easy kid for so long was almost like a setback. I'd just about lost my adaptability, and finally this past weekened we had a night off (it had been so long), thanks to my mom and stepdad and dad who took the reins Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. I didn't realize how exhausted I was until they left and I just collapsed on the couch and watched three episodes of 30 Rock while Todd was out for the afternoon. Like, I couldn't handle anything of a higher caliber.

And my God. Just... sitting on my couch, no pee spills to clean with a trembling chin, no having to wrangle a wiggly thing into her chair for dinner, none of the bathing routine, the brushing hair, teeth, getting water, fighting-the-bedtime-thing... It was nice. We didn't need a dinner out or a movie out to feel recharged and like ourselves again. And when my girl came back on Sunday, I was ready to tackle life again.

I'm also more aware of how life with children is extremely mercurial, and how foolish I was to rest on my laurels of tackling the first couple of years. There is no game changer in life. Life is the game changer and once more, I am serenely and happily at her mercy. Just... no more pee on the rugs, okay?

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