May 2002 page 1 of 2

Wednesday 1 May

I've been working toward something with Damian in the bike yard when we hang out after school. He loves to scoot in a police ride-on car. I've gradually helped him turn it into both an imaginative game (he's a cop) and a way of getting him to be comfortable with other kids (bumping into their cars). Today Dan picked him up from school and reported that Damian tootled around picking up his walkie-talkie and telling kids things like "You're driving too fast!" and bumping into their cars and ordering them to "Move!" This play has a little bit of aggression in it, obviously, and we need to modulate it, but he's acting very typical now. Interacting with other kids of his own free will.

Damian hung out with me in the back yard while I hosed his outdoor toys down (they were filthy). He got on a trike, rode it over, and said he was bringing it to the "car wash." He then asked me to wash it for him.

Later, he watched, fascinated, as Dan peeled off the ancient plastic coating from one of Damian's windows. We had to leave the room when Dan used a toxic spray to get off the glue residue. Damian didn't want to leave. I persuaded him with the promise of TV and snuggles. So we snuggled and watched. Then Dan said he was done and we could come back. Damian said, "Mommy, tell me to go to my room, and then I'll say 'No! I want to stay here!'" I didn't act out the scenario. Instead I asked why he wanted to stay. He told me it was because he liked watching TV. So we watched for another 15 minutes or so and then he hopped down and ran off to his room.

Thursday 2 May

Dan and I picked Damian up together. Robin told us he had a great session, best ever. He played with three different kids (sequentially) and was assertive and vocal with all three.

Damian had his four year checkup. He's 34 lbs and just shy of 40 inches tall. Small for his age: approx (I don't have it in front of me) 15%ile for weight and about 30th (or 35th?) for height. They did a vision test. The nurse said 4 year olds don't usually cooperate for long enough. Damian did, though. He has 20:30 vision, which is better than most kids his age. I have to find out when nearsightedness kicks in, though. I got glasses when I was nine.

Damian laughed at Dr. Jay's speech about how broccoli makes you jump high and cookies make you run slooooow. His delivery is exaggerated and meant to provoke kid enjoyment. I was glad that Damian could appreciate the silly tones, etc. It's fairly recent that he can get an auditory gag. Used to be just visual ones.

Dr. Jay thinks Damian will grow up to be absolutely fine. Normal, whatever that means. I do too.

We went toy shopping afterward (for his birthday on Sunday). Damian didn't see anything we bought -- he was busy at the train table and we ducked behind toy shelves to discuss what we were getting. But he knew what we were doing, and he saw the bag we brought back to the car. When we got home, Damian started to drag the bag into his room. Dan had to grab it away and then run through the house, with Damian on his heels. I distracted Damian while Dan hid the bag, and we both explained the importance of waiting and the great pleasure of birthday presents that you open on your birthday. Which, of course, he didn't buy into. He said, "I want the Brio ambulance!" Except, um, we didn't buy the Brio ambulance. He'd been playing with it in the store (along with other toys) and I guess he thought it was obvious we should get it for his birthday. I don't know if we'll have a chance before Sunday. He did eventually settle for playing with his boring old toys and waiting for Sunday.

Friday 3 May

Damian's toy mice have names. Mr. Mouse and Squeaky and Peeper. And sometimes Mr. Mouse goes by Mousey. Mr. Mouse was shouting to Peeper today. Peeper was in a Bob the Builder excavator. Mr. Mouse said, "What are you doing?" Peeper replied, "I'm building a garage!" This yelling conversation went on for a while. It was pretty funny, because Damian would say in a perfectly normal tone, "And Mr. Mouse said," and then bellow, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?"

Dan spoke with Bird, who said that Laura reported that Damian did great in class today. Very loud, very verbal. She also said she herself had a problem with him: he wanted her to hold his hand walking from class to her office. She didn't want to give into this insistence on ritual. He got mad. Had a bit of a meltdown, and they talked about how he felt, etc. This is an ongoing thing. He's been insisting on these things for a while now. It gets more extreme when he's being challenged or challenging himself on some other front. Right now his imaginative ability and his social ability have just taken an enormous leap forward. Not surprising he's needing more control, therefore being a pain in the butt. The trick is figuring out how far to let him go with it.

Damian had a small police van and a blue rubber frog. It was a police frog, you see. And it kept announcing it was going to save Dante Cat, and then Damian would crawl to Dante, pushing the frog car. I'm not sure how Dante then got saved. I can tell you I got a ticket from the Frog Cop, though. Not sure what I was doing wrong. Earlier, Frog Cop told another car to "Stop blocking traffic!" Cop fits Damian so well right now. He gets to be bossy.

I kissed the blue frog goodnight tonight. I was rocking Damian and, um, the frog. I said goodnight to Damian. The frog said goodnight to me and Damian held it -- him? -- up to my mouth for a kiss. Damian fell asleep in bed a few minutes later still clutching his frog.

Sunday 5 May

Damian had a great birthday. I'm so relieved. He liked the presents, he liked the party, he blew out the candles... and you should have seen the smile on his face when everyone sang happy birthday to him. Lovely. More later, with pix.

This morning when I was blowing up balloons (with a helium pump), Damian kept running off with bunches of them. When I peered in his room, I found a flock loitering around the toy chest. At least fifteen of the things.

Monday 6 May

Dan asked Damian what his favorite birthday present was. He said "The police car. When I'm in the police car, I can rescue people who are stuck."

Damian was alone in his room while I was talking to Silver at the end of her session. He started yelling, "I'm having trouble taking my shoe off!" So we came in. He'd untied one shoe and pulled it off but the double knot on the second confounded him. I offered to help. He was pissed enough at his shoe that he got mad at me and rejected my help, but got upset at the idea of the shoe staying on. "I do NOT want Mommy to help! I do NOT want the shoe on! I do NOT want to do it together!" (togezzer, as he says it) "I do NOT want to do it by myself! I do NOT want Mommy to do it by Mommy's self!" Etc. You get the idea. I took the offending shoe off. And of course he wanted it back on (but simultaneously didn't). I offered to soothe him. Got rejected. Kept offering various things. He finally said yes to juice. I got juice, he sat on my lap, everything was fine again. I think for now the trick is to sustain the conversation and remain very calm, and try to get to the core issue: he was upset, couldn't find a way to calm himself down. Needed guidance. We all have to learn self-soothing/regulating techniques, they don't just happen on their own.

One of his birthday gifts is a Wizard of Oz playset. He loves it. He hasn't seen the movie yet, so Dan described the action. Afterward, Damian picked up his frog and had Froggie say "I'm bored!" and then get swept up in a tornado (complete with Damian providing the wind noise). He wasn't so sure what happened next.

Later, he had Glinda the Good go inside her bubble and come out. He said "The happy witch says 'I'm outside!'" (Dan had told him Glinda was the "good witch.," and Damian translated this as happy.)

Wednesday 8 May

This afternoon we were all sitting outside. Damian was enjoying his sandbox. Dan and I were discussing home renovations. Damian said, "Mommy and Daddy are fighting!" We denied doing any such thing. His response? "Mommy and Daddy, fight!" So we fought. Along the lines of "Yes you did," "No, I didn't." Damian was pleased. He's been fascinated by arguments lately. Arguing with us, having his toys argue with each other, and now having us argue. I think he's trying to understand aggression and anger and all the things that used to make him withdraw in fear.

Thursday 9 May

Last night Dan and Damian watched The Wizard of Oz. Damian stayed with it nearly the entire time, only falling out a couple of times. This marks the very first time Damian got that involved in a live action movie. It helped that Dan explained everything. He also periodically stopped the action and showed Damian how his Oz playset reenacted the scenarios.

Today he kept playing out parts of the story with his mice and frog. I overheard something about Scarecrow Mouse, I think, and he sang snippets of songs. Also a first. He's never been that interested in a movie; he's not been one to love the action figures from Monsters Inc, for instance. I think having the playset before seeing the movie gave him a way in to that world.

Friday 10 May

Damian got pissy with the cat. This happens sometimes. He orders the cat out of his room (cat, for some reason, doesn't obey). This time he said "I want Dante to leave my room without keeping trouble." I think he meant "making trouble." He was trying on the colloquialism but got it slightly wrong. Which I like. Shows a certain verbal flexibility, I think.

He got upset last night when I tried to clip his toenails, so I told him I'd do it tonight. So tonight I reminded him and pulled out the clipper. He told me to trim his fingernails first. My theory: he wanted to approach it in stages. Fingernails are easier to deal with. Very smart kid. Then he made little "eh eh eh" complaining noises while I did his toenails but he didn't put up a fight.

He forgot about getting his socks on after that. Forgot till he was sitting in Dan's lap preparing to have books read. He suddenly burst into tears and cried out for his socks in great anguish. He was that thrown by not having them on. Ugh.

The past week or so after I brush Damian's teeth he says, "Mommy, don't brush my teeth." And then he asks, "What happens if Mommy doesn't brush my teeth?" and then answers himself, "Germs make holes in my teeth. The holes get bigger and bigger and bigger and I have to go to the dentist. The dentist drills cavities in my teeth." It's become a bit of a ritual. To the point where he even gets the wording of the "What happens if" question wrong so it doesn't parse properly, because he's forgotten the original meaning. So we've started to try and break the habit. I give wrong answers, Dan interrupts with "Are we there yet?" (which Damian likes to say jokingly when we pull into the driveway). So tonight Damian forgot to ask and answer the question. Yay us. (Still, it was a cute little ask-and-answer routine. Just hate to see anything become ritualized.)

As I started to rock him, Damian said, "Once I was a little boy, then I grew and I grew and I grew and then I was a big boy. Now I'm a big boy, I'm not little anymore." I said, "Well, big boys use the potty. Are you ready to use the potty?" He said no, and then said "I'm a big boy and I'm not ready to use the potty." A pause. "I'll use the potty tomorrow." (I'll believe it when I see it.)

Saturday 11 May

We went to get haircuts this morning. We brought the bag of restaurant toys for Damain. He enjoyed them. On our way back home, he got upset, saying he didn't want to go home, he wanted to go to a restaurant. We acquiesced; it's still not that common for him to voice his choice unasked (at least, not out of the house). Well, of course it turned out the reason he wanted to go to a restaurant was to play with restaurant toys. He's not into eating much lately. He just wants to play. I think we're going to have to ban toys from the table -- and yes, from restaurant tables too.

After the restaurant, we headed home. Damian still didn't want to go home. We'd told him earlier that we were going to go to a friend's house for a party later in the afternoon. Damian decided he wanted to go to the friend's house immediately instead of heading home first. He told us the friend's house had a front and back yard. We've never been there, he'd have no way of knowing. Guess what? When we got there, it turned out that yes indeed, this house has front and back yards and Damian loved playing in the back yard and in the house, going freely between the two. In fact, Damian thorougly enjoyed being there. If he's psychic, which we think is possible, he may have known he'd have fun there and that's why he wanted to go early. It's extremely unusual for him to want to go somewhere new like that. These days he mostly wants to stay home and play his pretend games. So it really stood out and made us think yes, maybe he knew.

Something else about this evening at the party: Midway through, one of the partygoers left and came back with his two sons: a five year old and a one year old. This made me nervous -- you never know these days how Damian will respond to another kid. Used to be, we did know and what we knew made us unhappy. Now it's unpredictable. So we held our breath.

It worked out. Incredibly well. The five year old -- William -- was sweet with Damian and Damian responded well to him.

A few moments:

William and Damian sized each other up and then William left the room to go outside. Damian followed. He wanted to be around this other kid.

William and Damian out in the back yard. William asked Damian if he had any toys out there. Damian responded "I have toys inside." Significance: Damian responded with a full sentence to another child with no adult prompting. Probably for the very first time.

William was in the hammock. Damian didn't want to get in too but did willingly and of his own accord start pushing William.

Damian and I in the hammock. William pushing. Damian laughing and shouting "Faster!"

Damian and William inside now, in the living room. Damian's toys scattered across the floor. Both boys pushing wind-up train cars across the floor. Bumping them into each other and -- both -- exclaiming and making train/crash noises.

I didn't watch that much of the living room interaction, but I got the strong impression that William was leading the action but that Damian was not only going along with it but elaborating. They were playing TOGETHER.

Sunday 12 May

We had my cousin and her family over for dinner. Damian handled three year old David reasonably well. He was vocal when David took toys away. He let David play with most of his toys but set limits on the ones he most wanted for himself. No interactive play, but the two boys aren't completely in sync: David is sweet but his particular physicality scares Damian. But they did talk to each other a little. Damian was fascinated with David's six month old sister Nina, though. She was lying on a blanket in the living room. Damian stood by the couch sizing her up, then ever so cautiously walked -- more like a stalk, like you'd walk if you were trying not to scare a skittish animal -- to the blanket to be closer to her. He then ran his toy motorcycle across the blanket, playing near her. He wanted to be nearby.

Tuesday 14 May

Floor time clinic this morning. We talked about Damian's renewed desire for ritual (hand-holding, primarily) and how to handle it. Cheri said he's now in the terrible twos, at the upper end (ie: maybe 2 yrs 9 months or so) developmentally/emotionally, so he's caught in that "I want to be independent and grown up" "but I want to be a baby and be taken care of" internal tug of war. Which makes him a pill, of course. Trying to exert control all over the place and trying to get us to do things for him and give him extra support. So he's in the "No!" stage, only he's far more articulate about it because he's got the vocabulary of a four year old.

Damian said tonight that "Mishima is a good restaurant." Yes, we were at Mishima at the time. We were pleased that he gave a spontaneous, unsolicited opinion. It's still fairly rare.

A guy at the next table started making faces at Damian. Damian stared and smiled with pleasure. I took his response for granted until I started thinking about the first time he responded to a stranger's overture and realized it wasn't that long ago.

Wednesday 15 May

A tree crew came today to get rid of the two dead trees in our back yard. Damian, unfortunately, only got to see the tail end of the process. He was intrigued by the leaf blower they used to clean up the debris, though. Asked a lot of questions about it. After the guys left, Damian picked up his popper and asked, "What's this?" "I don't know. What is it Damian?" "A leaf blower." Then he amended this: "A leaf blower that makes popping noises." Ah. Of course.

We had to cut Damian's bath short tonight -- a battery powered boat got water in it and the battery compartment leaked brown water out. (Turns out the battery itself didn't leak but we'd rather err on the side of caution...) Damian was upset but recovered. Thing is, though, he started crying again midway through reading. Cut that short so I could go rock him. And he seemed okay then, but then started crying softly again as we lay in his bed. I got scared that he might have gotten some toxic battery acid exposure. It's so damned hard to get him to communicate stuff like this. One minute he said his eyes hurt, the next it was his head, the next nothing hurt but he was upset. Why? He said he didn't know. So frustrating. And at times like this, more than frustrating. How can you know what's wrong when he can't communicate it? His communication has come up so far but it's still clearly not all the way there yet.

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