Friday, August 10, 2007

Force of Nature

So, this probably has no answer but...why is Jarrah like a shark, meaning it seems that if she stopped thrashing about for even one second, she couldn't live?

Sometimes at the mall, I observe the well-dressed, smooth-coifed ladies who are lingering thoughtfully in front of a display of capri pants, or serenely ordering a latte with lots of "no" this and "extra" that. And in front of them is a stroller, very much like mine, containing a small child, very much like mine, but with a crucial difference: the child is lolling gently forward or back, slightly glazed of eye and drooling of lip, sometimes holding a soggy snack but just as often holding nothing but his or her space in the cosmos, and most important of all...making NOT THE SLIGHTEST SOUND.

I wonder, did these ladies engage special tutors for their dear charges, or perhaps send them to a secret toddler finishing school where screaming and flailing were extracted through means stopping just short of inhumane? Is there some kind of "Mother's Little Helper" in their sippy cups and I didn't get the memo? Or (and here's where I get really mystified) were these children actually BORN this way, content to lounge adorably in their traveling chairs, gazing wide-eyed at all the wondrous, wondrous details of Mummy's world?

At home, do they perch in the corner on a velvet tuffet, gently thumbing the pages of a treasured volume, a sweet smile twitching the corners of their ruby lips? Do they respond "Yes, Mummy" when asked to put away their toys, immediately cease ramming their shopping carts into bare heels, refrain from digging their little digits deeply into Mummy's eye shadow? Perhaps these children don't inflict bodily or retail damage at all, EVER???

Because my child, lovely and diverting though she may be, NEVER STOPS MOVING. Scratch that: when she is passed out like a college student after an all-night kegger, she is still. Which is not to say I don't LIKE her moving about--she's an avid dancer, and makes some really priceless gestures when she's explaining something or telling a story. But she seems practically manic to me a lot of the time. In her stroller, she twists and slides, hurls things off her tray, cranes around to flip the shade open, or if I hold it closed, high fives me repeatedly through the plastic moon roof. If I stop to look at something, or even just to find my phone, she contrives to wiggle to standing position, or hunches on all fours like a frog.

When I try to take her to the mall, like I did this week, she begins screaming "Gee-out! Gee-out!" the second we hit better sportswear. She will then promise solemnly not to run away, but run away she will, and I'll end up chasing her (while she laughs maniacally) the length of a football field. On the rare occasions that she doesn't run away, she spends her time whacking all the clothes off the racks, then ordering me to put them back, or flings herself between piles of garments shouting "I can see you!" I end up perusing racks with 50 percent of my attention, and pretending to play games with the other 50, and I must be a bit slow because apparently I need 100 percent to locate even one item that I actually want to try on.

In the dressing room, she yells "Me! I try it! Me, me, me!" while stuffing her head into pants, jackets, anything she can find on the floor or near it, rattling the door and trying to figure out the lock, riffling through the diaper bag for snacks, removing all the items and repeating "Whas that? Whas that?" when she knows perfectly well she's holding my sunglasses.

If I actually pause to buy something, she thrashes and yells in the stroller, or if she's not in it, attempts to push it away or over my foot, or stands directly between me and the salesperson shouting "Fruit leath-uh! Want fruit leath-uh!" Or, she'll point to other people in the line and say "Whas that? They SILLY!" When all else fails or I am unable or unwilling to produce another fruit leather, she resorts to wailing in a studied way, producing a fountain of tears in the first sob, occasioning not a few conversations between shopping mothers and daughters in which the daughter will say "Did I used to act like that?" and the mother responds quietly (perhaps still a little shell-shocked?) "Yes, honey. That's how babies act."

Sigh. In the grocery store, she will not ride in the cart, unless it's one of those kiddie police cars, in which case she rides for a minute, then suddenly dives out one of the windows when I'm going around a corner or trying desperately not to buy the wrong relish again. If you see us shopping, I'm the one bracing myself behind a vehicle the size of a semi and almost decapitating my child, who has decided to stick her head out just as I narrowly pass an aisle display of tuna cans. In between short intervals of "driving," Jarrah yells "Snack! Want that one! Open!" until my head hurts.

At home, Jarrah follows me from room to room, asking "Wha doing?" even if I'm putting on socks. She insists on copying everything I do, going so far as to pretend to have knots in her hair if I'm combing out mine, or requesting the color shirt I'm wearing. If I am standing or sitting, she's not satisfied until she's draped over me like a fluffy skirt, so that if I move a fraction of an inch, she goes crashing to the ground like a creature with no vertabrae.

So, I guess what I'm really wondering is, is it me? Am I crazed fidgeter myself, and she's just picking up on my vibe? Is all that fruit leather overtaxing her neurons? Has she grown so accustomed to a daily schedule designed around her delight and delectation that she just can't bear any activity that isn't? Or maybe I'm just not paying enough attention to her?

Or I suppose it's just that she's two. Or, as she likes to tell me these days, "Mommy, I two half." I'm not worried she's going to need any drugs or anything, but I might.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious, but, gosh you must be exhausted by the end of the day!

If, by chance, this is not soley rhetorical, I think the "Love and Logic" methods and Montessori philosophies are amazingly effective....

Amy said...

I love the part about too much fruit leather. She sounds like a typical two-year old to me. No to worry..this too shall pass.

Mary said...

Hi Sammy,

This is a great one!

I especially relate to "GEE OUT!!!"

Off to see what "Love and Logic" is about. I could use the help!

Yours in toddlerdom,

Princess Sconecan's mommy

Jen said...

Sam, I am exhausted just from reading this! You capture Jarrah's spirit so vividly--and I'm sure this description still pales in comparison to the lived experience.

Whenever Sage exhibits personality traits that exhaust me, I eventually reach a point when I can realize that these same traits are going to make her a more interesting, successful adult. I am sure that this is the case with Jarrah's "force of nature"dness.

But in the meantime, I wish you the occasional moment of peace!

Miss J

Marlene said...

Holey moley, we have the same kid. Now, I know that this is totally exhausting, but--and this I promise you from a mother whose child has elicited hushed queries like, "How can you keep up with him?" from other parents (like I've got a choice)--it will get easier in many ways as she gets older. You'll be lying draped over the kitchen counter, gasping for air and thinking you can't go on for another minute, and you'll suddenly realize that your child is playing by herself, and that you've been granted a moment of peace. You may even have time to flip through a Parenting magazine.

I'm told that a day will come when I will yearn, nostalgically, for these frantic days, for a time when my kid actually wanted to spend time with me. So I'm trying to enjoy whenever I can beat the exhaustion enough to remember that.

Hang in there, and get the latte you want, girlie girl.

Caroline said...

See, now I have this theory that you secretly follow me around and write about my boys under the collective pseudonym, "Jarrah". ;) That is my day, pretty much! Hang in there. William is much easier to go out with since his third birthday. I love how much personality Jarrah has.


Alleen said...

OMG, I soooooooo could have written this post. I really sometimes wonder if it's normal or not. Shopping has become torture to be honest.