June 2002 page 2 of 2
Sunday 16 June

Damian wanted to open Dan's Father's Day present while I was still asleep. Dan refrained somehow. When I got up, I gave it to Damian, who presented it to Dan and then started to tear the wrapping off. Didn't quite get the follow-through there.

He's become a good negotiator. When I brush his teeth at night, he usually says "Don't brush my teeth," so I say "Should I brush your nose?" (or lips or whatever is closest). And he says "Don't brush my nose, brush my teeth!" Well, the past couple of nights, he's switched to "Don't brush my nose, don't brush my teeth, don't brush anything!" He's realized he doesn't have to abide by my choices, he can make his own. Thinking outside the box I'd defined. This is a positive step, definitely. Today we said we'd go to the library and then a toy store. He told us we should go only to the toy store. He never used to think like this, it used to be all or nothing.

When we got in the car, he recited the itinerary and commented, "Tom's Toys has two play tables. There's only one play table here." (ie: at our house.)

When we left the library, he said "We're going to Tom's Toys!" When we parked the car, he said "We're at Tom's Toys!" We told him we were in the garage. At which point, he said "We parked the car, we're getting out of the car, we're going to walk to Tom's Toys." He's becoming very good at sequences. And very interested in discussing them. When we got to the toy store, Damian ran inside, shouting "We're at Tom's Toys!" The men behind the counter laughed.

What a pill he was today. Not all the time, but more than usual. More than I could stand. I'm usually fairly good at keeping my emotions out of it, but by evening I was snapping at him. The problem, though, was easy to detect. He had to poop and was trying to hold it in. So he spent the day in major discomfort and was therefore -- did I mention? -- an absolute bear of a boy.

I've discovered a few things: When Damian is trying not to poop, he runs in frantic circles. When he's grouchy, he will contradict anything and everything. Including, and perhaps especially, "I do NOT get Starburst when I poop, I get Starburst when I pee." Good try, kid.

He ended up waiting till night and a diaper to poop. Bad pattern to get into. And we'd offered a diaper earlier if he wanted it so he could poop in it, but he turned us down.

I know I said no more potty report. I was wrong.Potty training isn't over quite that simply. It may not be that interesting to read about, but it's incredibly absorbing to live through. Actually, we had a little breakthrough today: he peed standing up twice while we were out, which meant he can now pee in a normal toilet, not always the travel potty. Which means we don't have to take it into restaurants/stores/etc. A Good Thing.

Monday 17 June

Good day. What a relief. Linda's teacher report home said Damian stood in the doorway looking uncomfortable. When she asked him why, he said "I don't know," but when she asked if he wanted to go potty he said yes. And went. This is probably the first time he's been able to request it (albeit in this roundabout way) in class.

The second part of the report is more thrilling: he engaged in a sustained play session with one of the kids in the typical class. For the very first time. And I'm willing to bet there was little to no teacher involvement; this has been my constant complaint about that class but if he's engaging on his own now, that's absolutely wonderful. Stellar.

Good time at Rivka's too, verbal and engaged. Very unusual there.

When I went out to the car to greet my guys, Damian told me, "I peed!" "Where did you pee?" "I peed in the car!" In other words, he told Dan, "I'm starting to pee," and Dan pulled over, took out the travel potty, set it on the passenger seat, set Damian on top of it, and let him do his thing. Damian has been SO resistant to this until now, trying to hold it in till he gets home, having accidents, crying, being generally completely miserable. So for him to initiate and willingly go along with the program? Terrific. And he was so pleased about telling me, too.

Later, he started circling his room. I asked if he had to pee or poop and he said no, and I explained that sometimes when he has to pee he starts walking in circles like that. An hour later, he came to me and asked for a diaper. "I don't want to wear underpants, I want to wear a diaper." So I asked him if he wanted to poop, if that was why. He said yes. So I reluctantly accompanied him to his room. Dan and I talked about how he'd get a treat if he pooped in the potty but not if he pooped in his diaper, etc. He seemed pretty set on the diaper, though. I told him to hop up onto his bed so I could change him. He stood on the floor, motionless. I told him again. He got upset. He said "I want to wear underpants!" I think the diaper-for-poop idea was great in his head but not so much in reality. He's grown to like underpants much better. So I asked if he'd like to try and poop in the potty. He said no but walked to the bathroom. And did. Just like that. Back on track. Thank GOD.

I'm realizing that, from a developmental perspective, potty training is about so many issues. Control of self and environment, self-awareness, body awareness, communication, self-reliance and independence, ability to think ahead and to initiate. No wonder it's so fraught.

We bought Damian a Playmobil set at the toy store yesterday. Not surprisingly, he doesn't want to play with the human figures and substitutes his frogs and mice. He fills the little wheelbarrow with plastic rocks and declares his frog a "rock eating frog." So today, I had Mousey be a frog-eating mouse. Damian didn't like that much. So then he had Mousey be a Daddy-eating Mouse, and had it chew Dan's shirt.

Tuesday 18 June

I took Damian to school this morning. He was chatty and semi-irritable in the car but basically okay. Fine getting out of the car, fine going into the school. When we got to his classroom, though, he started whining. Ended up sitting cuddled in my lap for five minutes or so, refusing to say what was wrong. Finally he said, "I want to wear a diaper." He felt a poop coming on and didn't want me to leave him there to have a miserable morning. After I put the diaper on him, he was perfectly cheerful.

When I picked him up, he was back in underwear (he'd pooped, you see). He told me he had to pee as we were leaving, so we went back. He chose the adult bathroom over the kid potty room (it's got kid sized toilets but also has people coming in and out). He peed standing up, no problem.

He was a royal pill coming home. Mr. Contrary, arguing and crying and whining and being a complete pain. I still don't really know why.

Wednesday 19 June

Dan picked Damian up at school, then stopped at the Federal Building to get me (I'd gone in to get passports). Damian apparently objected to the stop. Dan told him they had to pick me up or I'd be stuck there. Damian said I could walk home. (It would be a very long walk... but I give him points for coming up with a viable solution.)

Still a pain in the butt today. Lots of crying. Lots and lots of crying. And he won't say why and he's nearly impossible to soothe. We've started ignoring him. It feels so strange, so unlike my parenting philosophy, but it's gotten out of hand. I don't know if it's manipulative or if he just feels out of control or what, but he's driving both of us insane and there seems to be no other way to deal with it. Today he started crying in the bathroom. Dan gave up and left him there. Damian cried for five or ten minutes, then got up and trotted out to me, perfectly cheerful.

His play has deteriorated lately too. He doesn't engage in long complex scenarios anymore and in fact has started requesting TV time, ie: spaceout time. It worries me, but then again, it's been hot and my brain isn't working that well either.

I think, though, it's all a symptom of something. I'm just not sure what. I'm glad he has only one more day of school, though, and then two weeks off. Maybe that will help him find his center again.

Thursday 20 June

Damian wanted a diaper on the way to school. He thought he had to poop. I had to stop the car and change him from underpants to diaper.

When we got to class, he did the same thing he's been doing all week: he clung to me and whined. Didn't want me to go. Seemed scared, unhappy. A throwback to his very first week at school 1 1/4 years ago. Separation anxiety redux.

Today was Damian's last day in the Mixed class. (And can I say a huge fucking HOORAY for that? Finally he'll be in a class of his true peers!) They had a little graduation party the last half hour. Damian did the same thing he did at their Mother's Day gathering: he stayed by me, very chatty and very involved with me. Ignored the other kids, the TAs, everyone else. The other kids were all acting like usual, going about their business, mostly ignoring their own parents. Some did sit in laps, that was the most they did. Damian was strikingly different. It was like he wanted to create this little cocoon where he was having a good time with me and the classroom could fall away.

Predictably, he had a meltdown in the car. It's becoming a habit. A very wearying habit. He grabs any pretext and goes off on a tear. I spent much of the ride either discussing his anger or ignoring him. We've started to wean him, so to speak, from his calming-down crutch, a sippy cup full of juice. This drives him mental. He demands juice so he can calm himself down, we say yes, when you calm down, and start talking to him about his feelings. Ho boy. Not fun.

Still, some good moments today. More than moments. Damian's mood was variable. Highs and lows, little middle ground.

He asked Dan for a tortilla to eat. Ate a few bites in the dining room with me, went back in the kitchen, told Dan I wanted a tortilla. A lie. He knew Dan wouldn't give him a new one till he'd finished the first, so he said I wanted it. Clever kid. I love lies, they indicate his theory of mind is fairly on track (theory of mind: you have a different mind than I do, you know different things and have different experiences. A lie indicates that I'm aware that you don't know everything I do.)

Friday 21 June

Damian's first day of vacation.

This morning he said it wasn't daytime. Turned out he wanted to take a nap. So he and Dan lay down together. Then Damian complained that the light was on. So I turned it off. Then he wanted it back on. We persuaded him it was better off. Then he wanted me, not Dan. So then we lay down all three of us. Then he wanted to be in his PJs instead of his clothes. And he wanted juice. At which point, we said either you accept things as they are and take the nap, or we get up. So we got up. Fun, huh?

He wanted to help a lot today. We're easing back on countering his demands, letting him be a boss a bit more. This seems to be a corollary: he's more willing to be independant and active. Swept the back porch (till he got bored). Spun the lettuce dry. Held the little plant pots up for me to fill the dirt. My favorite helper moment of the day was when he helped me make oatmeal: he stirred with the wooden spoon, then put blueberries in. So very carefully. Berry by berry, placing each one just so and pressing it into the hot cereal.

He and I had a good play session. Dan's been talking about how disjointed Damian's play has become and I saw that too -- he can't seem to sustain a scenario; he jumps from idea to idea with no bridging concept. One minute he was voicing his police frog, chasing my snake criminal and arresting him, the next he was shouting "Almonds!" and having his frog leap in the air. So I tied it in -- had the snake agree that it was hungry and that they could stop chasing each other for a bit to eat almonds (after which they resumed the chase). It's a little concerning, though, because a month or two ago he was engaging in long, involved storylines. It's either a symptom of a general disorganization or maybe just that some things can fall apart while others mature. I personally think it's the latter, but then I usually do. (And it usually is, come to think of it.)

What I liked about this play session is hard to articulate, but has to do with a general feeling that we were engaged with each other in a nice way, riffing off each other. We ended up in my bedroom with the flashlight. Damian called it the moon. I started singing "I see the moon." Damian loved that and wanted me to sing it again and again. I started singing other songs. He nixed most but fell in love with Reville. Called it the "it's time to get up song" and started running down the hall (getting up, you see) every time I sang it.

After that session, he was calm and upbeat all afternoon. Which made me feel good, like I'd helped him get back on an even keel just by being silly and accessible.

We had a wonderful moment in the evening. I was washing dishes and broke my favorite mug. Damian was with me. I sat on the floor to retrieve the pieces. He wanted to help and as we were collecting the shards, he was talking about how I broke it, etc. Concrete stuff: what had just occurred. Nothing special there. I said, "Yes, it broke and I'm very sad." He climbed into my lap, said, "Mommy, don't be sad," and leaned against me so I could hug him. Then he kissed me and said, "A kiss will make Mommy feel better." It felt so good. Not so long ago at all, he'd be absolutely oblivious even when I spelled out how I felt. Just couldn't relate. This feels so amazing.

Not long after that, I was on the couch with him, rough housing and having fun. Out of nowhere, he said "I'm afraid." "What are you afraid of?" "I'm afraid of losing Mommy." I asked him why, he told me "Mommy's going to move to a different house." So I talked about how we will move someday, though not for a year or more (and how long that was) but we will move together when we do and I will always be here for him. I was puzzled about this until Dan explained later: Dan had talked to him about being more self-reliant, how one day -- a long time from now, when he was grown -- Damian would want to live on his own, wouldn't want to live with Mommy and Daddy anymore, and that he needed to learn to do things for himself. Damian had obviously internalized this but with his own interpretation. He was scared of the idea. Which is so appropriate for a kid his age. I think I would have felt the same -- probably did feel the same -- at age four. Growing up, moving out, what a scary concept. I'm oddly delighted that Damian had that reaction. It means he processed what Dan said, and then broached it with me so I could reassure him. That's major emotional growth.

We ended up getting dinner on the table very late. Damian's bedtime, in fact. (We'd fed him earlier, figuring he couldn't wait as long.) Damian came up to us and said "It's night time. It's time to go to bed." We said we'd put him in his pjs soon. He got upset, said he wanted to go to bed now! So I put his pjs on. Asked if he wanted books. No, he wanted to go straight to bed. I was shocked. My ritual-bound kid skipping an important ritual? Amazing.

Saturday 22 June

While I was lying in his bed last night, waiting for him to fall asleep, Damian said, "Mommy will stay with me all night. Mommy stays with me all day and all night." So sweet. (I snuck out after he fell asleep, just as I always do, and he was fine about it the next morning.)

We've been giving him chocolate recently. Dan thought it didn't have a bad effect on him. I think it does, though: he's been flapping his hands and banging his head against furniture (not violent head-banging, just sort of gently knocking his head back against a couch or chair back). Particular stims we haven't seen for a long time. I'm fairly certain the onset coincides exactly with the chocolate introduction. Time to lose the chocolate.

We went to a party today, given by one of his classmates (well, the kid's parents). Damian both wanted and didn't want to go. Yesterday and today he's refused to leave the house. Today he revealed why: he's on vacation. When you're on vacation you stay home. This is because we just postponed a trip east. We told him instead of going on the plane to visit Grandma Leya, we were going to stay home and be mellow. He took it absolutely literally.

So we had to drag him out of the house very nearly kicking and screaming. (It didn't work to explain that staying home didn't mean staying home 24/7. He wasn't buying it.) But once we got there, he had a good time. He trailed his hands in the pool but wouldn't take his shoes off to put his feet in. Not surprising, that. He didn't interact with the other kids much at all, but then again, they weren't interacting with each other much either. They all had fun, though, and as I watched and talked to the parents I started to realize that these kids all have their own strengths. Most aren't that badly off, really, and they're all developing, albeit not all at the same rate. I've felt odd sometimes that Damian's the most verbal/responsive kid in the class, but today the other parents seemed very accepting of that, not jealous. And that felt good too.

Sunday 23 June

Damian loves to find me lying down. It gives him ample opportunity to lie on top of me, to roll off me, to basically treat me like a jungle gym. Me, I'm not so crazy about it. Good proprio input, I suppose. Today he was doing all of the above, but then he grabbed a nearby (large) (but paperback) gardening book. He placed it on my chest and lay down, squishing me. Said "I'm squeezing all the water out." Then added, "Mommy is tofu. I'm squeezing the water out of tofu." The funniest part of this was actually later. We'd started talking about something else, and he asked me a question, eg: "Mommy, can I have some juice?" only he said, "Tofu, can I have some juice?"

Monday 24 June

Some signs of rigidity returning (or perhaps never gone). Damian must have things a certain way. One instance (of many): Tonight I couldn't find the whale towel we always drape over him when he gets out of the bath. So I said he'd be a red boy tonight instead of a whale. He got absolutely indignant. I said the whale towel was in the laundry, then spotted it draped over the bed's footboard. So I said, "Okay, I'll switch now." But that wasn't good enough. No, I had to retrace my steps and put the whale towel on him in the bathroom. Lucky he didn't insist on getting back into the tub!

Tuesday 25 June

Last night in the tub, Damian told his froggie, "Three minutes!" I asked why. He said Froggie was going to go in the bath in three minutes. And sure enough, he had a countdown. After a bit, he said "Two minutes!", then "One minute!" I was amused that he'd incorporated our counting technique into his play.

I wanted to come to Heidi's with Dan and Damian. Damian didn't want me to. I suggested I might wait in the car or walk around while they were at Heidi's. He acquiesced. In the car, he said again that he didn't want me to come in. I said I'd come say hi and then go -- if that was what he truly wanted. But I love to watch him on the swing. Could I watch him on the swing? He said yes. Then he said "Mr. Frog loves to swing." (He was holding his blue frog (Mr. Frog) at the time.). We all went to Heidi's: Dan, me, Damian, and Mr. Frog. Mr. Frog got in the swing with Damian. So cute: Damian was in the lycra sling swing, completely enclosed, and he kept sticking his arm out (the one holding Mr. Frog) and exclaiming (speaking for Mr. Frog) "I love to swing!"

Damian's attention span was terrible at Heidi's, which mirrors what we're seeing at home with his play. He would do a task she'd set him, but only for one iteration. IE: while he was in the swing, she had him collect the right colored beads and put them on the appropriate spots on a card. He did one set of six, then just checked out when she asked him to do another set. Just ignored her, went on spinning around in the swing and making goofy faces at me. Later, when the task was on solid ground, he kept running over to sit in my lap. It's possible he was distracted having me there (I haven't brought him since April) but it's of a piece with an overall distractibility of late.

He got huffy at Heidi's a couple of times, I forget why, but she made the same comment Cheri has, that he's now in his terrible twos -- late two edging toward three. Thing is, there's no predicting how soon he'll grow out of it, since he's not on the normal developmental curve. Could be more extended, could also be faster. Some areas he moves forward so fast, others go slower. Just no way of telling. I hope we survive this, is all I can say.

Wednesday 26 June

This morning, Damian saw Gloria (cleaning person) about to use one of his old shirts as a rag (I'd given it to her). He grabbed it from her, said "That's mine!" and ran out of the room with it.

Damian had a severe crying fit this afternoon. Came out of nowhere. Hard to get him to tell me why. Finally he did: his mouth hurt. Specifically the inside of his left cheek. I gave him ice cream, which helped. Kahuna came to play with him, but Damian wasn't able to engage in much play and had another fit of crying halfway through. He wanted more ice cream -- this was earlier than the big crying attack -- and we all thought it was because he'd discovered a way to get ice cream, that he was lying. But when he started crying in earnest half an hour later, his cheek definitely hurt again. He wanted ice because I'd told him the cold helps. I felt inside his cheek; I think he has a cold sore. Not something you'd consider cause for a meltdown, but he's especially oversensitive in and around his mouth. So we gave him advil and sat in front of the TV for a couple of hours. He recovered well once the advil kicked in. I just hope it was truly the cold sore and not a tooth. Dentists are going to be hell for this kid.

Dan was drilling holes in the porch ceiling. Damian commented, "The floor is the basement ceiling." I have no idea where that came from.

While peeing, he told me "The juice turned to pee in the potty." He loves thinking about process. Then he asked me to tell him a story about pee.

Thursday 27 June

Last night Damian woke up about an hour after I put him to bed. Woke up crying. Dan brought him to our bed and Damian had a cow. Kept crying to "Go to a different room." We weren't sure what to do, because of course he didn't want to be alone. Eventually, Damian said he was "Done with a nap, no more napping," and declared "I want to play with Daddy." Dan brought him into his room and they read books for a while, after which Damian agreed to lie down and go to sleep. Slept most of the night in his own bed, came into our bed in the early morning, at which point it was apparently okay to be in our bed because he'd decided of his own accord.

Dan said this morning he thinks for the rest of this vacation, we should be very laid back and basically go along with whatever Damian wants, as long as it's reasonable. Put no real demands on him, really make it a low stress time. I agreed wholeheartedly. And you know? It was a pretty good day. Notably better than it's been.

Damian and I played in the morning. Froggy lives in the Fisher Price garage, it turns out. He invited Peeper the Mouse over to play (called on the garage phone). Turned out Peeper was dirty, needed a shower (the car wash). Then Froggy took Peeper upstairs to the drying room and pressed various buttons all over the garage; these were the "drying buttons." All this was Damian's imagination. I voiced Peeper but was completely passive and agreeable. I'm so pleased his imaginative play is reemerging. Not that it was wholly gone but this is more sustained than I've seen from him in a while.

When Kahuna came, Damian greeted him warmly. They played well, I think, though Damian got somewhat cross after he went to the potty (which went fine); he got very contrary: "Damian, you did a good job." "No! I didn't do a good job!" That sort of thing. What we've been facing a lot lately. Maybe something about the potty experience brought up school-related stress?

Late afternoon: Damian said "I don't wear underpants," which has become his "I have to poop" overture. It's becoming harder and harder to get him to sit on the potty to poop. And he's become constipated. A bad cycle. So today I put him in diapers. And you know? As soon as he'd pooped, he told me he wanted me to change him into underpants. So it's not a complete backslide. Just not ready for pooping in the potty. I can live with that.

Damian's become overly enamored with videos. I know this problem is endemic with preschoolers but it's never been a real issue around here. Now it is, I think because he doesn't want to think. He wants mindless entertainment, it's easier. So we do have to put a cap on how much he can watch. We switched him over to playing a computer game with Dan. That worked well; he objected to the idea but got drawn into the image on the screen and was perfectly happy playing.

Tonight Damian grabbed a foam sword and started beating me up with it. So I grabbed the other and defended myself. Which was fun for a while, but then Damian spotted easier prey: the swordless Daddy. So he went for him. I tossed my foam sword over, Dan defended himself. Damian ran to me. Etc. Eventually Dan grabbed the big stuffed salmon and defended himself with that. What's noteworthy about this? Not the activity itself but the giggles and the brightness in Damian's eyes. I don't know if it's the low stress day or the diaper-clad poop, but something's turned his mood around. I haven't seen him this relaxed and happy in days, maybe weeks.

Friday 28 June

We brought Damian to see Dr. Jay today. He's still complaining about his mouth hurting, he's still irritable, and finally today there was tangible proof: his left cheek was swollen. Dr. Jay says it's probably adenosis, ie: viral, and hot compresses should help.

It's such a relief to find out there's a solid, physical reason for Damian's recent impossible behavior. We'd started feeling scared and sad about it, afraid he was regressing. His imaginative play has worsened, he's been stimming a lot more (stimming was almost gone for such a long time, too), and he's been so volatile. Today while Kahuna was here, I closed the door to my office and Damian burst into tears. Hard to take. So yes, I'm horribly glad it's just a physical ailment. A true regression terrifies me.

Saturday 29 June

Damian didn't want to leave the house. Dan and I wanted to go to Pasadena. We enticed him with visions of a bookstore with a train table (Vromans). He got excited and was perfectly happy leaving the house. It unfortunately backfired: we forgot to tell him the exact order of events -- we needed to eat lunch before heading to Vromans. Which meant that Damian declared "I'm not hungry!" and vociferously protested all the way to our table. While we were sitting down too, naturally. We got a lot of sympathetic looks. The busboy brought books and crayons and we eventually persuaded Damian it was worth sticking around for a bit. Of course, after he read and colored and ate, he jumped up and said "I'm done! I want to go!" We'd barely begun to eat.

He was, however, okay with a detour to a local park, where he ran down paths and pushed water fountain buttons (perseverative but good hand strengthening) and got his yayas out. He's flapping his hands as he runs these days, which is odd but I think may be a dimunition from a few days ago, when it seemed like he flapped his hands just because.

Unfortunately, when we got to Vromans, the train table was crowded and Damian backed away after a few minutes. This is old behavior. These days he can handle it, but I guess not right now.

We ran into Diane & Darin in the Vromans parking lot. When I told Damian Sophia was there, his face lit up. She's his first real friend.

Sunday 30 June

Disaster of a dinner tonight. We had Diane & Darin over. Damian looked forward to seeing Sophia and they ran around the house together when she got here, but he got extremely possessive of his toys, refused to play with her, and had a few meltdowns around dinner. I think he's still enough under the weather that he just can't handle anything that requires him to call on new skills. He regresses in illness.

The rest of the day was good, though. For what that's worth. (Not enough.)

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