The Nugget Chronicles: Fear

This post is not about Nugget’s fear. She’s thus far demonstrated so very few of them, and she pretty much charges at things head-on. Heck, Halloween was something she loved because she thought all of the scary stuff was super awesome. Instead, this post is about my fears, and how I’m hoping to meet them with the same kind of attitude that Nugget shows.

Let’s face it, folks. The world is a pretty scary place. I’m not one of those people who try to apply rose-colored lenses to things, so I’m not even going to pretend that it wasn’t scary when I was younger. Instead, I think I’m just paying closer attention, and seeing things happening that I might have glossed over before. However, seeing what’s going on now, both in the city I’ve chosen to call home, and in the global community, I’m feeling myself becoming more and more afraid.

Look at the details. In just recent history, we’ve seen gun violence strike so often that people are no longer outraged or surprised that it happened again. A recent terror attack has got the entire world once again on edge, fearful that the next one could literally be just around the corner, both in geography and timing. And that’s just a part of the things going through the world. We’ve got people sowing hatred of “others”, for what purpose I can’t fathom. Instead of reaching across lines and coming to a consensus, people are actively looking for reasons to demonize those with an opposing viewpoint. Look at the views people espouse towards Planned Parenthood, or Black Lives Matter, or transgender, or religion, or sexual preference, or or or. It’s scary, it’s pushing us further apart instead of drawing us together, and it’s making the world a seemingly darker place.

Yes, I use “seemingly” above for a specific reason. See, my world got changed when Nugget came into it. I discovered fears that I never thought I would have. As she’s grown, some of those fears have abated, and others have popped up in their place. However, the one overarching fear that has been carrying through with all of this is the fear that I’m bringing a child into a world that is attempting to look like the setting of the Fallout series, as opposed to the world I would hope for her. These fears have only been magnified with the fact that Nugget is going to be getting a little brother soon. It’s a fear of being selfish, only having children because I want to pass on my genetic markers for the world. It’s a fear of not being good enough, because I haven’t changed the world fast enough for them to grow up in the kind of comfort I dreamed of. And it’s a fear of somehow, steering them down a path where darkness seems like the not just the best answer, but the only one.

To be clear, most of these fears don’t cripple me. Most of these fears are there in passing, not actively driving my attention. I get scared when Nugget gets a cold, because my brain starts immediately wondering if it’s something worse than a cold, but that doesn’t mean I start getting her ready for a trip to the hospital. When she starts climbing around on furniture, or playground equipment, I get a little scared she’s going to fall and hurt herself, but that doesn’t mean I’m preventing her from exploring her boundaries. It just means that I’m there for her if she should happen to fall. I’m keeping a close eye, and I’m ready to catch her if she needs. As she has been growing, the amount of space I’m noticing myself give her before wondering if I’m too far has definitely increased, and I think that’s how it should be. I’m still there, ready to support her if she needs.

And I think that’s how I need to look at world events, especially as they relate to Nugget, her brother, and the rest of my family, either blood or chosen. I am here. I will extend a safe space to those that want or need me to offer one. And I will stand for what I believe is right, and just, and try to improve the areas where my life touches, hoping that I can spread that outwards.

Look, I’m scared. I fully admit this. The world doesn’t look like the kind of place where I want to raise children. Except when it does. Except when I look around and see the outpourings of love that people can give to each other, both in times of need and in times where it’s just appreciated. I could choose to revel in fear, and let it control my life. Or I can choose to try and spread a kinder emotion, one that stems from a place of deep love.

With regards to Nugget, and to her brother, I will do everything I can to teach them to be open, and accepting, and loving of others, regardless of any supposed difference that might keep them apart. I want to teach them to find ways to use the privilege that they are being born into, and spread that to help make things better for everyone, not to flaunt it or deny it. I will strive to make sure that they are kind, and caring, and looking out for each other, so that they can be strong enough to look out for more than just each other.

I will teach them to love. Not to fear. Because fear is not doing any of us any favors, but love truly can change the world. Even if it is just a little bit at a time.

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The Nugget Chronicles: Opinions On Opinions

For those of you who have never experienced the joy in life that is living with a 2-year-old, I’m here to break some news to you gently.

People refer to the “Terrible Twos”. What they really SHOULD be referring to is the “Incredibly Opinionated About Anything And Everything Twos”. Yes, I know that doesn’t really fit on a t-shirt, or as part of a candidate’s stump speech.

But seriously, either Nugget is the best behaved child in the history of the world, or the age of two isn’t really all that bad. What it is, instead, is frustrations being heaped on top of each other, because she’s definitely showing her opinions, and they don’t often make a lot of sense.

Take, for example, an activity that Mama or I are going to do. Most of the time, us doing such things is just fine, and doesn’t meet a word of protest. Every once in a while, Nugget decides that she needs to loudly proclaim how we should not be doing whatever it is we’re in the middle of. Even when that something is eating. Or using the restroom. Or trying to sleep.

So we calmly tell her that she doesn’t get to control what other people do. I’m sure that some point of Nugget’s brain is confused by this, as we’re often telling her what she should and should not do. I’m also fairly certain that she hasn’t quite figured out the household rankings of who gets to tell who what. So she tries, but she will generally relent when it’s pointed out that she doesn’t control us in that way (anyone who has a child knows that said child controls their parents in subtle ways, but that’s neither here nor there). There are also plenty of instances where she decides that picking up is the last thing she wants to do, possibly because she’s concerned that her toys have disappeared forever when they’re put away. There are also times where she dances the exact opposite side of that coin, and decides that she wants to put everything away, even when she’s still supposed to be using it. The most frequent time for Nugget to do that last one is when she’s out at a class. Clearly she knows the importance of impressing people who aren’t family.

I say that it generally isn’t too terrible. Yes, there are frustrating moments, but those frustrations usually abate pretty quickly. However, this past weekend really made it clear why some people constantly talk about the “Terrible Twos”. We were planning on going out for dinner, because tacos sounded pretty good to us, and we knew that Nugget would eat heartily from seasoned meat and rice. Now, this was the first time of the day that we, as a family, were preparing to leave the house, and, because Nugget has recently been finding a new love of running around without clothes, she was still wearing just pants and her diaper, no shirt as of yet.

So, clearly, before we can get tacos, we need Nugget to put on a shirt, right? No problem. It’ll take mere moments, because she likes running around with just a diaper, and she also loves wearing shirts and being told how awesome said shirts are.

Yeah… we clearly forgot that she was going to have opinions. Loudly. For over an hour. Try as we might, we just could not get her into a shirt. We tried to reason with her. We tried to muscle a shirt on, but stopped because we didn’t want her to actually get hurt. We tried to give her a selection of all of her shirts to choose from. We told her that not wearing a shirt meant she wouldn’t get tacos. Through it all, Nugget was adamant, and was not relenting in her stance regarding getting a shirt put on. Finally, it was determined that Mama would go out the door to get food alone, and that Nugget and I would stay at home. This is a pretty big step, because Nugget knows that weekends are when she gets to spend a lot of time with her mother, and any time away is a pretty big, and tear-inducing, deal.

This is where the final tactic came into play, and one that I’m actually still somewhat surprised worked. Upon seeing her mother about to walk out the door, Nugget fell to the floor in tears, crying so hard she was gasping. And yet, we knew we had to remain strong. Instead of letting her get comfort from Mama at that point, I asked again if she was willing to wear a shirt. Sobbing, she nodded her head, let us put a shirt on her, and then took her out to the car. The taco excursion was back on.

Now, to be clear, had she not relented, it would have been a miserable time for me, and for Nugget, as we stayed home while Mama went out to get dinner. This was not an empty threat, but instead a situation where I wanted her to actually see and process the consequences of her decision. And it’s also not something I really want to fall back on too often, because I don’t really like the idea of traumatizing my child.

She clearly doesn’t feel the same back towards us. After all, within mere minutes of being in the car, she loudly proclaimed from her car seat that she was “so happy”, because she was going to get tacos.

Glad you’re happy, sweetheart. Now keep your shirt on, please.

The Nugget Chronicles: Poppy Thoughts

Yesterday was October 15. It was also Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. It’s a day that actually filled me with a jumble of thoughts and feelings, and one that I shied away from writing on, because, well, I’ve got an amazing Nugget that I get to spend so much time with, and I’ve watched her grow from a squishy lump to a pretty confident, self-aware, and opinionated child.

In fact, in some ways, a part of me says that having Nugget in my life means that I don’t get to have those moments of remembrance. After all, I certainly don’t want to take away from those I know personally, and those I’ve only met in passing through the web, that don’t get to hug their children, and maybe never got to. A part of my brain says that, because we’ve got Nugget, that erases any loss experienced before.

That part of my brain is really stupid.

See, having Nugget in our lives doesn’t take away Poppy from us. No, we never got to hold our first child, but she (we’ve always assumed “she”, although we lost her before it was even too early to be able to tell), was there. She was present in our lives, and at the forefront of our thoughts. We became parents when Poppy was created; from that point forward, even if we’d never had another child, Mama and I would have been a mother and father. There was nothing that was going to ever take that away from us, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still think about that first child, what they might be doing now, what their personality would be, and how much trouble they’d be getting into.

I think that’s a good thing, and I truly believe that’s important. We’re getting ready to usher another new life into this world (due right around Christmas, for those playing at home), and we’re incredibly excited about what’s going to come down the pipe. But neither of those children remove the concept and knowledge of Poppy from us. In fact, just a few days ago, Nugget was talking about how she could see her sister. Given that the impending new baby is a boy, that caused pause, and we immediately believed she was talking about Poppy. Now, when asked to give us a description, Nugget described Anna from Frozen, but still, that moment brought the whole range of emotions surrounding Poppy’s short time back to the forefront of my thoughts.

I said above that, from the moment Poppy was conceived, we became a mother and a father. I truly, deeply believe that. It doesn’t matter if you’ve carried a child on your back, in your arms, or never even got to hold their hand. You become a mother or father. I only also hope that everyone who becomes a parent gets the chance to be either a Mom or a Dad, as well, but that isn’t always in the cards, unfortunately.

If Poppy was still with us, she’d be two and a half. She’d be running around, probably getting just as excited about Halloween as Nugget currently is. She might not have the same desire to get scared of things as Nugget does, but I’ve got a feeling she’d be just about as adventurous. She’d be testing my limits with each passing day, all while teaching me new ways to experience the world. After all, Nugget is doing just that, and Poppy would have had a couple of extra months on her.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade Nugget for the world. I am so very proud, and amazed, and filled with love, all because of the things that little girl shows me every day. But I will also always hold Poppy in my heart, because that’s the only place that she fits for me.

So yes, I have experienced the loss of a child. Does my loss compare to the losses I’ve seen others go through? No. But it doesn’t have to. Nobody should get into the game of saying “I lost more than you”, or “My pain is greater than yours”. Because they aren’t comparable. They are different. And they should be, because our experiences, especially along the lines of loss, are personal, and not truly for public consumption.

What we should be doing is offer support to those who have suffered, or are currently suffering. We should be picking people up, instead of watching them crumble. And, while we may not truly comprehend what someone is going through, we should at least have the empathy to let them know that we’ve had a similar experience. After all, we are expected to share in our highs, so why can’t we also share in our lows.

To those that have lost, I offer you my love, and my support. No matter what, you are always parents in my eyes. Thank you.

The Nugget Chronicles: Ask a Question, Give an Answer

There’s a relatively new activity that has been taking up large portions of Nugget’s brainspace as of late. See, somewhere in the last week or so, she started asking questions. I’ve got friends with children older than Nugget, and I was once a child of her age, so I knew that this stage was coming. Honestly, I was actually kind of looking forward to the onslaught of “Why?”, if for no reason other than the ability to work on my improv skills (yes, we’re going to try to tell her the truth about things when she asks, but sometimes it’s just going to be too hard to not want to make a joke and see how long I can run with it). I figured that was the point we were staring to enter when I presented her with a spoonful of peanut butter, a typical after-breakfast treat, and she asked why it wasn’t a sting ray.

That question wasn’t completely random, by the way. She apparently thought that the peanut butter looked somewhat like a sting ray, so I told her that it was peanut butter, and not actually parts of a sting ray.

She immediately asked, “But why?”, and I knew that the time had come. I started brushing up on information, or at least believable, funny lies. After all, I want to be prepared for what Nugget might throw at me, and I have a reputation in this house as knowing things that my daughter doesn’t. I wouldn’t want to ruin that.

So, imagine my surprise when Nugget started going around and asking questions that began with “why”, but then moved on to being things only she could answer. For example, she’ll ask why she’s laughing so much. Or she’ll ask why she’s petting the dog. Or she’ll ask us if she’s sleepy.

Apparently, Nugget has decided that answering our questions of her isn’t as interesting as it could be, so she’s asking the questions now. Of her. She almost never asks us about us.

She also won’t answer until we repeat the question back to her. When she feels like answering at all. The laughing question is a prime candidate for not getting an answer. This question gets posed by Nugget when she’s generally being fairly quiet, idly playing with her toys or reading a book. She’ll then get a sly smile on her face, look directly at me or Mama, and ask us why she’s laughing. We’ll repeat the question back to her, she’ll smile wider, and only THEN will she start rolling with laughter.

Clearly, she’s discovered the basic elements of comedy, and is still trying to figure out a punchline that makes as much sense to her audience as it does to the teller.

So yes. I now have either a tiny comedian walking around my house, a little actor preparing for their first big audition, a small scientist that is working their hypotheses out loud for all the world to hear, or something of the sort. Sure, you could go ahead and say that I’ve got a toddler who’s figured out enough of how language works to know that questions need answers, while still not having a grasp on how to make the questioning accessible to those of us around her, but that’s just crazy.

Although probably not as crazy as a parent actively looking forward to their child following them around all day asking “Why?”.

The Nugget Chronicles: She’s Got the “Hamm” Part Down

I don’t recall if I’ve specifically alluded to this or not, but Nugget is in soccer lessons. Yes, at just barely past the ripe young age of 2, she’s running around, kicking soccer balls, and doing it all with other kids under the watchful eye of her coaches. She’s even got an adorable little jersey of her own (face it, folks, sports jerseys on tiny children is cute. It just is), even if she doesn’t really ever want to wear it. Clearly, this kid is going to be a star, and will eventually be a member of the USWNT.

Okay. A few things.

First off, I do not in any way hold the illusion that Nugget, at her current age, is in any way indicating that she is going to be some sort of soccer superstar. If she turns out to be one, that’s fine. But I’m not banking on it. That would be silly. At present, she’s liking the activity, but it could all vanish in the blink of an eye. Never mind the incredible odds against being one of the best in the world at anything. I will never discourage my daughter from trying something that she might enjoy, and may sometimes push her to a new experience that could be fun, but I won’t ever push her with the insistence that she is going to be amazing. Now, if she turns out to BE amazing at these activities, that’s pretty awesome. But I’m not going to let her self-worth ever get caught up in whether or not she’s good enough at a certain activity, because people are more than one dimension.

Secondly, this whole concept of “soccer lessons”? I’m sure that they’ll get a little more intense as the sessions go on, but right now, it’s pretty much semi-organized chaos, with a few soccer balls and nets thrown in for good measure. The kids get to pop bubbles. They get to play with a parachute. There are rousing games of “Red Light, Green Light”. Sometimes, they make contact with a ball, and sometimes that contact is even made with the foot. More often than not, this is completely accidental, and surprises no one more than the child who landed a solid kick.

Third, her “coaches” are probably high school kids with some free time and a desire to hang around a bunch of toddlers and their parents. I say “probably” because I’m old enough that seeing 21-year-olds at the bar makes me wonder how a bunch of 13-year-olds fooled the bouncer. Anyway, they’re perfectly nice kids, they clearly have some understanding of soccer, and they want to try to organize a group of tiny energy balls for around an hour. I commend them. They should do well if they ever get called to manage a professional soccer team, although the behavior of the players will probably be worse.

Anyway, all of that said, Nugget is taking soccer lessons! She’s super good at kicking the ball! She even did back-heel kicks today, out of nowhere, and clearly intentionally! Sure, she’s also complimenting herself and repeating instructions to other kids, but that’s besides the point. She’s an international superstar in the making! Nugget is the kind of player who is going to go places!

As long as Mama or I are driving her to those places. And right there to remind her what she’s supposed to do. And cheering for her when she puts a ball down one inch away from the goal, and then kicks it into the goal.

Hey, at least she isn’t carrying the balls around as often anymore. I wasn’t quite ready to handle the idea of my daughter playing in goal.

The Nugget Chronicles: I Loves You, Noun

One thing that Nugget most definitely is incredibly affectionate. She hugs with ferocity. She gives toddler kisses with meaning. She snuggles happily, and closely. She is a sweet, affectionate, kind little person. Heck, most of the time, she even freely exclaims her affection.

That “most of the time” is pretty important.

At least, it is to me. But that’s just because it seems like getting her to say, “I loves you, Daddy” is almost as difficult as getting her to not use broccoli as a vehicle for delivering ranch dressing to her mouth.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubts that she does love me, and love me at the same levels that she displays her love for other things. She doesn’t shy away from the tight hugs, and bedtime just isn’t bedtime unless she’s able to give me a goodnight kiss. It’s just getting her to actually say the words that’s difficult. It’s like she’s already a teenager, except shorter (not by too terribly much), and she still displays SOME affection towards her parents.

For example, on Monday, Nugget and I were taking a walk. During this week, we passed a great many trees. And, for probably at least 2/3 of these trees, Nugget walked up to them, wrapped her arms around tight, and whispered a quiet, sweet, “I loves you, tree”. Then, when she was sure the tree had heard her, she would move on to the next tree. This process repeated for the entire walk, including her moving to give a hug to a tree that she’d already hugged once. Clearly that tree just needed a pick-me-up, and Nugget wanted to help it out with good feelings.

Then, on Tuesday, at soccer practice, Nugget made a point of hugging some of the soccer balls, expressing her love for them (maybe that’s why she doesn’t want to kick them?), and this continued when some foam noodle gates were set up for the kids to kick balls through, or run under. To make sure that the point was really driven home, she also spent most of this week saying “hi” to the dog before hugging it with a strong “I loves you”, and she has said it to Mama a bunch of times.

Now, again, I know that she loves me. She doesn’t say it often, but she shows it in her own way pretty much every day. That said, I’d be lying if I said I don’t long to hear those words from her more often. After all, it’s only a matter of time before she reaches an age where saying that to her parents, in public or in private, is a huge faux pas that cannot be allowed to stand. Trust me, I know, because I’ve lived through it, myself.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep being jealous of those darned trees. Not only do they produce oxygen, but my daughter tells them how much she loves them. Sure, I’ll never be turned into paper, but let’s just call that a wash, shall we?

The Nugget Chronicles: An Adjustment

I just recently spent 6 consecutive days away from Nugget and Mama. It’s the longest streak of days that I’ve been away from the both of them since Nugget was born. Sure, it could have been slightly shorter, but I made the silly decision that I wanted to drive from the north of the country to the south, and I also wanted to swing over to see family living in that particular state. So, 6 days it was. Over those six days, Nugget saw her schedule change dramatically, as she went from her usual schedule of waking up late and spending the time hanging out with me, to waking up early (for her, which is still apparently late for her age group) and spending the time hanging out at daycare. As social as she is, she actually loves these days. Sure, if given a choice she’d rather spend her time with her parents, but she’ll pretty happily take a day enjoying the company of other kids, too.

So, when I returned late Tuesday night, I expected that things would be a little off for a couple of days, as she got used to me being around again, but I figured that she’d adjust back to her sleep schedule pretty quickly. True, she still had to wake up earlier than previously, due to music classes, but I still figured that it would be me waking her up, and her fighting it the entire way.

Nope. So much nope.

Apparently spending six days with only Mama as the parent has caused Nugget to start adjusting closer to Mama’s schedule. So, the last couple of days, a small child who usually doesn’t see single digits in the a.m. hours, unless she’s STILL awake from the previous night, has actually been out of bed and ready to engage the world before the clock has even ticked to eight. The timing is very specific, too, because it gives her a chance to spend some extra time with Mama before she goes to work, and then she gets the time to hang out with me the rest of the day. Plus, she’s been nicely awake and aware for her music classes the past two days, so there hasn’t been a concern that she isn’t herself to be around the other kids.

Honestly, it’s kind of nice. Yes, it does result in me waking up earlier than I would prefer, too, but I’ll take it. It shows just how adjustable this kiddo is, and let’s me know that we might not have that difficult of a time getting her to adjust to the needed earlier hours when it’s time for her to enter the school system. Since I’ve also been convinced that the impending new baby will ALSO be a morning person, this means that I just have to slide my schedule a couple of hours, and everything should be fine.

Of course, nothing comes incredibly easy. Even though she’s waking up earlier, we haven’t quite gotten her to go to sleep any earlier than normal as of yet. But that I’ll happily attribute to excitement over me being home, since I was gone for almost a week. Besides, adjustments will keep happening, and she’s just going to keep surprising us with all of the things she just rolls with.

I’m just going to hope that I haven’t surrounded myself with nothing but morning people. Because that would show a dramatic lack of planning.