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Birthdays, Bouncing, and Books

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As of last Saturday, Theron is now two years old. He doesn't look like a baby, or even a toddler, any more. He looks like a little boy.*

...I'm not quite sure when that happened.

His latest bit of development is that he now tries to sing along with songs. This is very exciting for him. It's also insanely cute to watch. It might not be the Cutest Thing Ever, but it's not off by much.

Also, it vastly increases the likelihood that his first complete sentence will be, "That's Elmo's World!"

Small boys and Renfaires
A couple of weeks ago, we took Theron back to the local renfest. Last time he was there (a year or so earlier), he was still in his stroller; he was either not walking yet, or he was barely walking. I really don't remember.

This year we brought the stroller again, but Theron got to do a lot more running around. For a baby, a renfaire is basically just another case of sunburn. For a small boy, it offers a lot more possibilities. We didn't try to dress him up; in fact, we were a bit of an odd couple, since I went in costume while Theron and the Beautiful Woman both dressed 'normally'.

So Theron got a chance to ride on an elephant, a chance to ride on a camel, and the opportunity to jump waaaaaaay up in the air. He found all of this completely thrilling, and came away from each experience demanding more. ("Mo ef-fant! Mo Bounce!") He particularly loved the elephant; we went back to that several times.

And, of course, I had the camera. Personally, I think the results (at the bottom of the page) fall under the general category of Really Cute Things; but they may also be the evidence that CPS uses to put me away for good.

Birthday parties
Theron is only two, so we didn't go overboard this year. (Once he enters school, he'll probably want bigger parties with lots of friends; I figure we can save our energy.) So we basically just kept it in the family.

He had a birthday party last year, but I don't think he even remembers it. This year, his mother primed him with the Elmo's World: Birthdays video. This was supposed to help him understand what his party was about. I'm not sure how well that worked, but he had a good time anyway.

(I should point out that this is only half of his birthday celebration; one set of grandparents was unavoidably out of town, so we'll be doing something with them as soon the schedule allows.)

So, yes. Family, cake, ice cream, presents, swimming, playing in the sandbox, and a popsicle: these are the things that make a small boy happy.

The things you forget to mention
Day to day life is moving along pretty well right now. We're still a little tired, but nobody's actually sick. Theron is sleeping through the night (usually), and his bedtime routine has stabilized again. It still involves a certain amount of pooping in the bathtub, but hey -- you can't have everything.

I mention this because it just occurred to me that I only ever talk about Theron's health when he's sick. It would be very easy for the casual reader to get the impression (mostly correct) that having a child is nothing but lost sleep and frequent illnesses. So, for the record, at the time I'm writing this, Theron is actually healthy and sleeping regularly. And it only took us two years to get there.

See? Parenting's not that hard.

The difficulties of critical reading
As most of you already know, I majored in English. (Explains a lot, doesn't it?) I read a lot -- compulsively, in fact -- and I have this horrible, irritating habit of actually thinking about the things I read. This gets me into all sorts of trouble -- which leads to my next observation.

Children's entertainment and literary criticism do not mix well.

Take, for example, the classic story Guess How Much I Love You. This is basically the story of a young rabbit (Little Nut-Brown Hare) who wants to tell his father (Big Nut-Brown Hare) that he loves him more than anything. So he starts doing things to demonstrate: "I love you as high as I can hop." "I love you all the way down the lane to the river." Unfortunately, Big Nut-Brown Hare responds to each attempt by outdoing it: "Really? Well I love you as high as I can hop." "I love you all way across the river and over the hills." I'm sure this is meant to be reassuring to small children. After all, it's good to know that your parents love you more than anything. But it comes across as weirdly competitive and slightly hostile. I keep expecting Little Nut-Brown Hair to say, "Christ, Dad. Can't you just say, 'Thanks, I love you too.'?"

How about another example? Goodnight My Duckling. This one features a cute little duckling who keeps getting distracted while following Mama Duck back to the nest. Eventually, of course, he gets completely lost. The turtle finds him, and takes him home, and everyone settles in for the night. Pretty harmless, right? It looks that way, until you realize that the turtle appears on every single page. He is, obviously, stalking the duckling. So now I can barely read the page where he asks, "Are you lost, little duckling?" without adding, "Would you like some caaandy?"

...And children's television is just as bad (and sometimes worse). Quick example: Elmo's World: Mail. The segment features a little animated piece on the joys of being mail... as narrated by a letter. So the letter explains (in stultifyingly cheerful terms) about how yesterday Little Joey wrote a letter to his grandmother. "Then came the moment that every letter dreams of: Little Joey put a stamp on me." In the mailbox, she meets other letters and packages bound for different parts of the world, who explain how the process works. They're gathered up by the mailman, sorted, and flown to their destinations. Finally grandma opens the mailbox -- she's so excited to get a letter from Little Billy that she kisses the letter, but let's leave the Freudian implications of that bit alone -- and waddles into the house with it. The segment ends with the letter sitting in a comfy chair, talking about how being a letter is just great.

...Which is fine, but they obviously left off the real end of the letter's journey. Grandma might have been happy to see the letter, but she hasn't opened the envelope yet. So I'm stuck picturing what happens after the cameras leave. The interview's over; the letter is still sitting in her chair, but now... "Grandma? What are you doing with the knife, Grandma? Grandma? NOOOOOOO!!!" {slice}

And those are just the obvious examples -- taken from the good books. We have one book that was so annoying that I took a black magic marker and rewrote the ending.

I think we need a new kind of children's books: the Life By Hobbes** series, or somesuch. It would have titles like Why Tiger Ate Mister Antelope, Nobody Hugs A Porcupine, and There's An Alligator In My Yard (And He Doesn't Want To Be Friends).

There are days when I wish I could turn off my brain and just enjoy things.

Pictures:

 

Feeding the Podling.

Popsicle!

Bouncing!

 
As usual, click
for larger images

The Elmo Cake.

  Riding the Camel.
 

Elephant
More Elephant Still More Elephant

Videos:

I am the Cat's pillow now.

A Natural Climber

Growing up, redux.

 

Red Egg Chair (b-day present)
More Bounce! Singing along

* A friend of ours says, "He's finally grown into his head."

** In honor of the philosopher, not the stuffed tiger.