Sunday, April 26, 2009

Long story shorts

Even though I know how difficult change and transition are for Bud, I am continually surprised by how difficult change and transition are for Bud.

They're difficult even when they come wrapped in lovely packages. Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday was a delightfully sunny Saturday - a rare treat in April in this part of the world. Bud and I set out early, visiting two libraries and the town dump before noon, as the temperatures climbed and the delightfully sunny day became unseasonably warm, with a jump of about 25 degrees over what we've been experiencing lately. It was a welcome change for me, but, I soon discovered, less welcome for Bud.

We stopped at home for a quick lunch before setting out on our next round of adventures, and I changed into shorts and a t-shirt. I brought clothes down for Bud to change into as well - and that's when the trouble began.

He wasn't changing, and that was that. He was sticking with the heavyweight jeans, t-shirt, and long-sleeve sweatshirt he'd put on that morning, and no amount of coercion from me was going to change his mind. It was all I could do to keep him from putting on his coat as well. I decided to choose my battles and packed a change of clothes for him, hoping that he'd want to change once he got uncomfortably warm.

He didn't.

I let it go until the temperature hit 89 degrees and the threat of heat stroke outweighed my fear of battle. I convinced Bud to change by telling him that if it was warm enough for him to wear shorts and a t-shirt, then it would be warm enough for us to stop by the lake so he could put his feet in the water. He donned his shorts and took off his sweatshirt, but he kept complaining at a low rolling boil until he'd had a successful foot-dipping excursion to the lake. Then the real battle began.

In retrospect, I see that Bud's perseveration about his clothing had taken over and that a portion of his preoccupation was really out of his control. In the moment, though, it felt like one of those wars Bud was waging simply because he wanted to call the shots. There's been a lot of that lately, as Bud has begun to assert himself in all his almost-ten-year-old glory - the "I can't possibly eat peanut butter if you say I'm having peanut butter" moments; the "what do you mean I'm taking a shower when what I really want is a bath" moments; the "we can't go to the pharmacy and then the grocery store - we should go to the grocery store and THEN the pharmacy" moments. And though, in retrospect, I see that perhaps I should have dropped it and let him wear whatever he wanted to wear, in the moment it simply annoyed me, and I ended up going toe-to-toe with him as the minutes became hours of "I need my long pants! I need to cover my arms! I'm going to get cold! My knees will get covered in bug bites! Can I have my pants on now? I need to have my pants on. I need a sweatshirt. Will you get me a sweatshirt? I can wear my coat. Where is my coat? I need to have my coat. I know! I can wear your coat. But I can't wear shorts. My knees are sticking out. Here, I'll just put these bags on my arms."

It was, to say the least, an unpleasant afternoon.

After dinner, in hopes of salvaging the rest of the day, we struck a deal. Though it was still in the 80's outside, I agreed that he could wear his winter-weight jeans if he agreed to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt with them, and then we headed out for a walk around the neighborhood as we made peace and enjoyed each other's company.

Today, we woke to another beautiful day and I resolved to do whatever it took to keep the day from escalating into another fight to the finish. If he wanted to wear winter clothing, I thought, then we'd just stay in the house, since it seems that our house was built on a glacier and it's typically ten to fifteen degrees cooler inside than it is outside. I decided that I wouldn't even bring up his choice of clothing - I'd just follow his lead.

In mid-morning, I told Bud it was time to get dressed, and he wandered off to find his clothes. He reappeared after a few minutes in his underwear, with a pair of lightweight pants in his hand. "Let's see," he said, ostensibly to the air, "What can I wear today? Shorts or pants?"

I didn't reply. Neither did the air.

"Now let me think," he repeated. "Should I wear pants... or should I wear shorts?"

"I'm wearing shorts," I answered. "You can wear anything you want."

"Okay, shorts," he said, and he left the room. He returned a few minutes later, still in his underwear, pants still in hand, and mused "Hmmm... now, what will I wear today...?"

"Wear your pants, Bud," I said.

"Pants?" he asked happily.

"Yes, wear your pants," I said.

"Okay!" he chirped. "I'll wear my shorts later, okay, Mom?"

"Okay, Bud."

He dashed out to dress, then came back in his pants and a t-shirt, with a sweatshirt in his hand. "And I'll wear this too?"

"You'll be too hot in that, Bud."

"I'll get a red face?"

"Yes, you'll get a red face."

"I don't want a red face," he said. "I'll wear it another time."

"Good idea," I said.

And then, though I had earlier resigned myself to staying in the house on this beautiful spring day, Bud asked "What are we doing today?"

"I don't know," I answered. "What would you like to do?"

"Let's go for a hike," he said.

So we did. We spent the whole afternoon on a long hike in the woods, the sun shining through the branches, the breeze blowing through our hair, and not a bug in sight. And though I wore shorts and Bud wore pants, we were both comfortable and we didn't spend another minute discussing wardrobe. Instead, we hiked and climbed, while Bud listened to Dierks Bentley on his iPod and I listened to Bud sing along. Then we played a game that Bud developed that I like to call "Every Style a Memory," in which Bud names a Dierks Bentley track and I have to guess whether Dierks originally sang it with long hair or short hair - which may sound tedious, but was actually a welcome relief given the conflict of the day before. We spent the final half mile or so of our hike playing "What's your favorite?," with me asking and Bud answering - What's your favorite Brad Paisley song? Celebrity; What's your favorite Sugarland song? It Happens; What's your favorite Lady Antebellum song? I Run To You. That one never gets old.

And so, despite the rocky transition, it's a joy to finally welcome spring to this frozen tundra we call home.

Which reminds me of one other somewhat-related update. Those of you who were around here last year at this time may recall the Ice Out 2008 competition, in which readers placed bets on the day when the last traces of snow would disappear from my yard. I couldn't get my blogging act together enough this spring to do a repeat (though there's always 2010), but I thought you might like to know the status anyway.

So, you recall that yesterday it was almost 90 degrees outside, right? This is what my yard looked like at the end of the day:


Yes, that's snow. But these days, I like to think of it as nature's cooler - a place to put your beverages to keep them cold while you're outside, enjoying the sun and wearing shorts.

But, really - is it any wonder that my poor linear thinker is confused by it all?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some bunny

Earlier this month, as Easter was approaching, I found myself thinking about Bud's stated preference for the very real Dierks Bentley over the very pretend Teletubbies and how it all related to the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. I wondered where Bud was on the developmental path of drawing distinctions between fantasy and reality, and what the belief-rate was among his typically-developing peers. I wondered if it would ever occur to Bud to question the veracity of the Bunny/Fairy/Santa legends or if he would simply continue to accept them at face value, as he does with most things in his life. I wondered if I was doing him a disservice by perpetuating the myth and allowing the gap between Bud and his same-age peers to grow, or if I was providing him harmless joy by extending the magic just a little longer.

I decided to down-play the Bunny business this year, to not really bring it up one way or another, and to talk about the egg hunt and the basket, but not about where they come from. But the day before Easter, Bud brought it up on his own - the Easter Bunny would hide the eggs, he told me. The Easter Bunny would bring his basket. I neither confirmed nor denied - though, in reality, Bud wasn't looking for confirmation. It seemed he was just stating fact.

As we got closer to bedtime, though, Bud's anxiety began to grow, the same way it does at Christmas, when he experiences the push-me/pull-you of simultaneously looking forward to presents and being a little freaked out by the idea of a bearded man creeping through the house at night.

"The Easter Bunny is a man in a bunny suit?" Bud asked as he settled into his bed.

"Do you think so?" I asked back.

"Yes," he answered.

"Who do you think it is?" I asked.

"Neighbor Jim?" he guessed, as I suppressed a snort at the thought of the man across the street, who we pay to plow our driveway in the winter, sneaking through the neighborhood with floppy ears and a basket of eggs.

"I don't think it's Neighbor Jim, " I said, still wondering if it was time to come clean. "Do you think the Easter Bunny could be a woman?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Who do you think it could be?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said.

The conversation ended, and I tucked him in and said goodnight. A few minutes later, he called out to me in a frightened voice. I went back in to him, and he said "The Easter Bunny crawled out from under my dresser!" I turned on his light and sat down next to him, conflicted about what I should do and concerned by his needless anxiety.

"Bud, that would never happen. The Easter Bunny would never scare you. You don't have to worry. I promise."

"You promise?" he asked.

"I promise," I said.

"The Easter Bunny will not come in my room?" he asked.

"Not if you don't want the Easter Bunny in your room," I said. "How does that make you feel, Bud?"

"Worried," he said. "Because... I'm just a little... shy." I put my hand on his chest and felt his heart racing.

"Bud, what if I did the egg hunt for you instead of the Easter Bunny?"

"You did it?"

"Yes."

"Instead of the Easter Bunny?"

"Yes. If it makes you nervous, then I could do the egg hunt for you instead."

"You do the egg hunt with the Easter Bunny," he suggested.

"With the Easter Bunny?" I asked. "You want us to do it together?"

"Yes," he yawned, his nighttime medication having kicked in and overtaken his anxiety.

"Sure, Bud," I said. "I can do that."

When morning came, Bud bounded out of bed and set off excitedly on an egg hunt that led him to a treat-filled Easter basket. He was delighted with it, but made no mention of our conversation from the previous night. I wondered if he remembered it, or if his almost-asleep state had made it fade from his mind completely.

Later that morning, as Bud took inventory again of the things he'd found in his basket, he turned to me and said, "I love my Easter basket things! Thank you, Mom."

"You're welcome, honey," I said, wondering if he'd elaborate or clarify or give me any indication of how he thought the basket had come to be in the house. But he didn't.

Still later, he talked to his dad on the phone. "The Easter Bunny came, Dad!" he crowed. "I had an egg hunt! I got a basket!" But still, no mention of a Bunny-Mom collaboration; no hint that he wasn't a full-fledged believer.

And then, at bedtime, as he gathered up the books he'd gotten in his basket to bring them up to bed with him, he asked, "You gived these to me, Mom?"

"I sure did, hon," I said, waiting for a reaction.

But the only one I got was a heartfelt "Thank you, Mom."

And that has been that. There's been no further conversation about the Bunny or the hows and whys of Easter. I don't know how he's made sense of it inside his mind, but he seems perfectly comfortable with whatever explanation he's settled into. And there's a part of me that wants to push - wants to delve - wants to know - but there's a bigger part of me that thinks it's important to give him space to sit with this and to continue to work it out on his own.

In the meantime, he's got a tooth that's getting wigglier by the day - and when it falls out, I can't wait to see what happens.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A real developmental milestone

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, then you probably know that Bud's very favorite thing in the world since the time he learned to walk has been the Teletubbies. For years, the Teletubbies provided Bud's frame of reference for the world; they were his shelter from the storm - his retreat when life was overwhelming; they were his very best friends and his go-to "guys."

And if you've been following this blog for any length of time, then you probably also know that I've been increasingly unsettled by Bud's continuing obsession with the Tubbies. I've tried to be supportive, but just below the surface I've been worried about my nine-year-old boy's undying commitment to a two-year-old's television program. I've worried that he would never move on. I knew he would keep exploring new interests, but I worried that he would continue to view the Teletubbies as the sine qua non.

Until tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new number one.

Tonight, Bud told me that he likes Dierks Bentley better than the Teletubbies.

This is HUGE.