Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ringmaster in Control

I never go into the city on Tuesday mornings. Tuesdays are my days with the kids. We have music class, a tradition I have shared with them since they were 5 weeks old, and I spend the rest of the morning attending to their needs, whims, and desires. It’s five wonderful hours of being a mom.


Because of my work schedule, I rarely do all the morning routine duties by myself. During the week I am often out of the house before or just after they wake up, and on the weekends, my husband usually takes part of the burden. But on Tuesdays, the routine is all mine.

The morning routine is rather predictable. The kids wake up sometime between 6:45 and 7:15. Lately, they haven’t cried out to us, but rather they talk to each other. Yesterday I listened through the monitor to my daughter, Megan, call her brother by our pet name, “Ry-guy.”

He responded, “No, I’m Ryan.”

She countered, “No, Ry-guy.”

“No, I’m Ryan.”

As they continued the banter, I questioned whether my two-year-old son really cared that he had a cute nickname. Is he embarrassed that his mom calls him that? Or was he just asserting his control over his twin sister?

Control is the key word in any family with a two-year-old. Parents struggle to maintain it. Children struggle to gain it. And in our case, the two-year-old siblings struggle with each other to claim it.

After both kids are awake, we usually watch a half hour of Playhouse Disney or Noggin. It’s safe to assume that my son won’t budge until I turn off the TV and make him go downstairs for breakfast. My daughter, on the other hand, often abandons the tube and dances down the hall to our room where my husband and I are getting ready for the day. I think she inherited the gene from my dad’s side of the family, the one that makes it so we can’t sit still for very long.

She is also my picky eater and doesn’t consume the number of calories she should during lunch and dinner, so by breakfast in the morning, she is hungry, very hungry, and it is she who asks for breakfast first.

The rest of the morning routine consists of eating breakfast, cleaning up the mess from breakfast, changing out of pajamas into play clothes, brushing and flossing teeth, and, most recently, earning potty-chart stickers.

Perhaps because I was tired from a 12-hour Monday at work and perhaps because I have been fighting the cold my kids have so generously spread around our house, as I juggled all of this activity myself on Tuesday, I felt like an underpaid ringmaster in a 3-ring circus.

We started with potty time, and both kids earned stickers, which they happily placed on their charts while they danced naked around the bathroom. My son likes to “tinkle on the big potty” so he can flush it, and as I laid out their diapers and clothes in the nursery, I heard the toilet flush again. My stern voice told him I meant no nonsense when I said, “We only flush the potty after we tinkle or poop in it.”

He giggled at me.

I corralled the two naked bodies back into the nursery where I diapered and changed them as we sang the ABC’s (my son’s choice for the morning score). Then we were back in the bathroom for the rest of the morning hygiene.

The dentist recommended that we floss our son’s teeth because of the way they are positioned and because he had some plaque build-up at only two years old. I found colorful plastic flossers that make this task easy. Because one child gets to enjoy the fun of flossing, the other one wants to as well. So even though my daughter’s teeth do not yet require flossing, we dutifully, at her request, take the time.

While I was flossing my daughter, my son jumped off of his stool and hopped in the bathtub. He knows he shouldn’t be in there. Just the other night he told his sister they had to wait for Mama before they got in the bathtub. But for some reason, he loves to climb into the dry tub and hide behind the curtain.

I dropped the flosser, flew to the tub, pulled him out and scolded him.

He laughed at me.

By the time I turned around, my daughter had moved the stool where she was sitting to brush her teeth over to the sink and had climbed up to get a drink of water. Since she can’t reach the faucet, she was teetering on the edge of the stool, and I lunged to grab her before she fell.

As I got the kids their water and found a comb and hair bands for my daughter’s hair, I heard the toilet flush.

“Ryan… WE DO NOT FLUSH THE TOILET UNLESS WE TINKLE OR POOP IN IT.”

“Oh… OK.”

He ran past me as I took my daughter's water cup from her and climbed up on the stool to try to reach the potty chart stickers from the counter.

I grabbed him and sat him on the floor. “Sit here while I do Megan’s hair.”

Putting a two-year-old’s baby fine hair in pigtails is a challenge in and of itself. Hearing the toilet flush AGAIN while I was struggling with my daughter’s hair…

Let’s just say I was done being the ringmaster for the morning, and my kids were very happy to watch another half hour of Playhouse Disney before we left for music class.

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