When Girls Play with Dinosaurs

My daughter loves dinosaurs. I don’t know why because she plays with them wrong. Everyone knows that the correct way to play with dinosaurs is to grab one in each hand and bash them together over and over again while making noises in your throat that sound like a Rottweiler devouring a badger. My daughter prefers to tuck them in…

IMG_9959…dress them in tutus (even if they’re only puzzle piece tutus)…

IMG_0236 (2)…treat their boo-boos in her “Get Better Center”…

IMG_0325 (2)…make houses out of books for her Mama sauropod and turn Nerf bullets into hats..

IMG_0366 (2)…feed her T.Rex grape muscari blossoms, because everyone knows a T. Rex’s preferred diet consisted of flowers served with a splash of tea from a musical pink teapot… IMG_0434

So when I came upon this apparent feeding frenzy one day I had a glimmer of hope. Elmo’s days of infernal giggling had come to end. These adorable herbivorous dinosaurs from the Land Before Time had heard enough. I could almost hear his ligaments snapping as Petri tore flesh from his carcass. I could smell the stink of death upon Littlefoot’s breath. I could feel the bloodthirsty rage in Cera’s eyes. I looked down upon Elmo’s sad repose, imagining Ducky’s bill grinding his little red furry bones into dust. When I turned toward my daughter, with mocked concern for Elmo’s well being, she corrected me. “No! Kissing Dada! They’re kissing!”

IMG_0199 (2)Oh well.

Her dinos peaceful existence will come to a close soon enough. Soon my son will be able to crawl. Once he does, by the laws of sheer probability, the first thing he will put in his mouth will be dinosaur, and  I have a feeling that when that happens a battle will commence between the two of them that will rival anything ever seen during the Jurassic. And soon after that, unfortunately, some playmate of Josie’s will make an innocent comment about dinosaurs being “boys things” and they will be cast aside to Grant. He will undoubtedly pick them up with both hands, bash them together, and make sounds in his throat that will cause me to have the irrational fear that Clover is attacking a badger in the living room.

And I will be left in a pretty pink princess world awash in the nostalgia of the days when Josie was my baby Diplodocus and I was her Dada.

 

Entropy

If you remember from your high school physics class, there are three laws of thermodynamics.  The second law concern the tendency in isolated systems for the amount of energy available for work to decrease.  In other words, everything slowly degrades into a uniform state of disorder.  This basically describes the efforts of a one year-old, so I can assume that Rudolf Clausius, who first put forward the concept of entropy, was a young father at the time.  He had only to watch his son or daughter wander through his house for a few minutes to observe this phenomenon.  If the wake of destruction my daughter could cause and were left intact, my wife would find, upon returning home, the following:

  • From the kitchen sink cabinet, a pile of dishwashing detergent mixed with a pile of filth from the compost bucket, overturned nearby.
  • Every pot and pan, tupperware, tea bag, zip lock bag and spice container scattered on the floor.  Later, we would find a muffin tray in the bathtub and a measuring cup behind the firewood rack.
  • If it weren’t for the dog, there would be a hardened crust of fruit, yogurt, cheese and bread below her highchair.  And frankly, if you take adult supervision and the doggie clean-up crew completely out of the equation, she would eat it later on her own.
  • A layer of children’s books, her cloth diapers (which I had neatly stacked), and every baby blanket from the drawers would eclipse the her bedroom floor.  Luckily the dresser that holds her clothes has sticky drawers.
  • Stuffed animals and toys would comprise a landmine field for the nocturnal wanderings of barefoot parents.

The second law is a law, so you can’t prevent entropy from increasing inside your little universe, but you can change it’s composition.  You can pick up clothes and books, and dutifully put them back in their hamper or shelf, all the while converting calories from breakfast into work and giving off heat.  It’s this heat, the inefficiency of our cells, that is final stop in a system’s accumulation of entropy.

In fact, we’ve evolved to take advantage of this law.  Freed from relying on the sun’s direct rays like our reptilian predecessors, we could expand out of the Rift Valley, into the higher latitudes and converting Mammoth meat into heat, survive the Ice Ages.  And given the current weather, I rather don’t mind a little extra heat, even if it comes from sweeping up a spilled bag of lentils on the kitchen floor.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting hungry and have to go sharpen my spear.

 

The Binky Chronicles

Looking back, I don’t really remember why we decided to give our daughter a binky. We tried from the onset, hoping it would soothe the small banshee masquerading as our baby.  It was somewhere around four or five months, in the thick of that bleary-eyed-we’ll-do-anything-for-more-sleep period that it took.  And it worked!  Pop that thing in and Wah La! – silence.  Since then we’ve never really let her use it much outside the bedroom, just during meltdowns and perhaps on a walk when she’s clearly done.  For the most part, she just uses it to fall asleep, but it quickly cemented its place in her nap and nighttime routine.

Certainly, we’ve met other babies whose parents are probably going to have a much harder time breaking the habit, but our daughter is clearly an addict.  We, as her parents, are also clearly responsible as her ‘dealers.’  So, it’s up to us to wean her of this with the least amount of trauma as possible.  When you Google “breaking binky habit,” you mostly get people like me with a 12-16 month-old asking other parents for advice on what worked for them.  For whatever reason, it seems that the parents who respond are those with 2-3 year-olds telling how they negotiated a solution with their fluent toddler.  The favorite techniques seem to be:

  • Sabotage: poke a hole in the end of the binky, which prevents it from ‘working,’ and the kiddo will give it up, deeming it ‘broken’
  • The Binky Fairy: kind of like the tooth fairy, but she passes it on to younger babies who need it more.
  • Build a Bear: a store in malls apparently allows customers to build their own teddy bear, and kids can deposit their binky in the bear’s heart, so they still have it – sort of.
  • Bribery – mostly around birthdays and Christmas in exchange for a specific desired present.
  • Cold Turkey: just throw them away or “forget” to bring them on a trip.

Now I did read Ferber’s book, and although I really gobbled it up when I read it, in practice I felt more and more like a monster listening to my daughter scream in the next room as my wife glared at me.  But he was right about putting your baby to bed still awake, and with sleep associations.  We all prefer there to be certain conditions in order to fall asleep.  I, for instance, need to be lying on my stomach, with a ridiculously flat pillow, in the dark with no noise.  If you put me on my back with a hotel pillow and a light on with a TV blaring in the next room, I will watch the sun rise and won’t be very fun to be around the next day.  But, I don’t need a binky, and it’s not so acceptable for kids over three to need them.  Personally, I don’t want to have to negotiate an armistice with my toddler.

If it were me, we’d do this cold turkey.  She would cry for a few days, and that would be it.  When I have a band-aid to take off, I rip it off – done.  Considering I don’t have clear memories before I’m five years old,  I have a hard time believing that we’d be doing any long term emotional damage that would land her in a pschoanalyst’s chair when she’s 24.

My wife on the other hand is much more gentle.  If it was up to her, she’d let our daughter have it until she just decided on her own that she didn’t need it anymore.  I’ll accuse her of being an enabler to an addict, and she’ll paint me as a callous drill sergeant.  Together, we’ll balance each other out, and find a humane way out of this.

Until then though, when I go into to check on my daughter during nap time and find her peeking over the crib rail grinning, with her binky halfway across the room, she is not getting it back.

 

 

 

 

Culture

For her first birthday my mom gave Josie a toy that plays Mozart and Beethoven.  She loves it.  When it starts to play she grins and does this little bobbing dance.  I’m pretty sure, though, she would do the same if it was ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ or ‘Row row row your boat.’  I find it pretty funny that we try, as adults, to instill ‘higher culture’ into small children.  Besides the debunked effectiveness of the Baby Einstein line of education toys, we drag children to all sorts of cultural activities, hoping that through some sort of mysterious osmotic cultural transmission, they will become tiny eloquent versions of our better selves.

We dress up little boys and girls in tiny suits and dresses and drag them to the Nutcracker during Christmas.  I think my parents took me to this, but I don’t really remember.  My parents also drug me along the dirt roads of Old World Wisconsin – a historically accurate reenactment of what life was like during the 1800s in Wisconsin.  I remember that, but not necessarily fondly.  And speaking of ‘museum knees,’ don’t you remember when you would dawdle behind your parents through museum wing after museum wing, rolling your eyes as your parents stopped before yet another painting of fruit, bringing their fingers to their chins?  The only thing that would ossify my Jell-O legs back into functioning limbs. would be the natural history wing full of dinosaur skeletons.  Or maybe a sabertooth tiger.

I remember in middle school we took a field trip to the Seattle Art Museum, probably because there was a traveling Van Gogh or Monet exhibit.  I don’t remember.  Wandering the 3rd floor of the museum, mostly unsupervised, I noticed two of my friends on a bench by a window watching intently something on First Avenue.  I walked over.

“What are you looking at?”
“Check it out.”

I sat down and grinned as I watched a guy in gorilla suit wearing pink high heels beckoning pedestrians into The Lusty Lady, the infamous downtown Seattle strip club.  It must have been near Halloween, and I’m sure the marquee had some clever pun like “Costumes: 100% off!”  We must have sat there until a chaperone ushered us out, having waited for some stripper to walk out absentmindedly into the cold street without any clothes on.

On the way out I must’ve have walked past countless priceless works of art.  I was too busy though debating theories with my two friends on what the inside of The Lusty Lady looked like.  Now if the teachers who had planned this field trip were smart, they would have waited for a Gauguin exhibit.  Perhaps then we would have trailed off, brought our fingers to our chins, and paused to take in those paintings.  I would have remembered that.

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