August 2002 page 1 of 2
Thursday 1 August (in NYC)

Last night Damian was in bed with me. Slept well for an hour or two, then started moving across the bed, tossing and turning and rolling. I kept reining him in whenever he got too close to the edge. But at some point, I fell asleep. Woke up minutes later to hear a THUD. Yup. Damian fell off the bed. I rescued him. He was too sleepy to be upset, and I guess he wasn't really hurt. I woke Dan (asleep in Damian's bed), told him we needed to switch places, I couldn't keep alert enough to watch, explained what happened ("Damian was thrashing, I fell asleep and he fell off."). Dan lay down with Damian. Silence reigned. For a minute. Then Damian started giggling. Dan asked him why. He didn't reply. Then Dan had to use the bathroom, so I lay down beside Damian. Who giggled again. I asked what was so funny. He told me. "I thrashed and I tumbled right off the bed!"

Morning. Damian still sick. Two big questions: go out to dinner as planned, leaving him behind with his grandparents? Would he be okay? And do we go on to Nova Scotia tomorrow as planned? He seemed more or less okay in the afternoon once he was dosed up with Motrin, so we decided to go ahead with dinner. Which turned out to be fine. They watched Dumbo and he ate half a serving of lasagna. No huge repercussions.

Friday 2 August (NYC to Nova Scotia)

Woke up badly and far too early. We had to get going to the airport. Damian was still sick. Looked and sounded miserable. We thought again about postponing the flight but it would have cost $300. We went. Damian asked for medicine. We had to withhold it until an hour before the flight. Poor little guy. We took turns carrying him through the airport, at check-in, through the security check, etc. Hard on us but worth it. He perked up gradually after he got his medicine. Ate and even drank a little (still boycotting juice, though).
When the plane taxied on the runway, Damian said "I love this kind of ride." Which was encouraging. Thankfully it was a short flight (an hour and a half in the air). He watched Wallace & Gromit on Dan's laptop and did okay.

More misery in the car on the way to my mom's. But an interesting thing happened. The moment we crossed the threshold of her house, he changed. It was like he shed his illness. From then on, he's been fine. More tired than usual, but fine. Amazing.

Saturday 3 August

Irritable child. Had a meltdown over returning to the house from the nearby brook (but wouldn't go for a walk through the woods either). Tired child. Took a long nap this afternoon and was chipper afterwards.

Yesterday he declared his intent to never drink juice again. Turns out he'd decided he didn't like it watered down. I'm thinking it's about the New York water. Problem is, pear juice is a diuretic. He had the runs today from drinking it undiluted. So we're back to diluting, but gradually so he won't notice. And he's back to drinking juice. Thank god. I was having nightmare images of hospitalizing him for IV rehydration.

Dan was playing the piano today, enjoying my mom's Steinway grand; Damian wandered over and joined in. They sat together on the bench, playing a duet. Damian was more or less holding his own, too. It was the most musical I've heard him on the piano. Sounded like he was playing on purpose, not just having fun with the keys.

Sunday 4 August

Damian met my brother Aaron for the first time. They have a certain silly energy in common. Damian often reminds me of what Aaron was like when he was a kid. So it was interesting to see them interact. Took a while to completely warm up -- on both sides -- but late in the afternoon the two of them had a lot of fun playing a hide-and-seek variant using the storm door and the regular door; they're both glass so Damian wedged himself between the two doors and pretended it was his house and kept shutting us out. So Aaron went outside and surprised him from behind. Damian got into it after a short bit, and there was much peeking and sneaking.

We went on a paddle boat ride. Damian donned a child's life jacket, then put an adult one on top of that. He looked like a roly poly blow-up doll. (He shed the oversized jacket once we got to the boat.) He declared (before we went out on the dock) that he loved bumpy rides like boat rides. And he did.

Monday 5 August

Went into town. Watched street theater -- an actual play, with lots of slapstick. We were nervous about how Damian would respond. Would he be bored, fidgety, start trying to get up and run around? But he sat and watched patiently even though there's no way he got all the story. And when the going got silly, he loved it. Laughed and exclaimed. I think this is the first play he's seen. Well, no, there was Lion King a few months ago. Let's just say, the first play he's enjoyed.

(Days went by -- we had fun. Didn't write anything down. Can't remember. )

Friday 9 August

A genuine play date. My mom has a friend around my age with a three year old daughter (and a 1 1/2 year old son). We went over there mid-afternoon. Julie (the girl) approached Damian right away, but he was standoffish with her and I got nervous about what that might mean. They did some parallel play in the basement playroom, though, and seemed okay. Then they had a cookie snack at the little kid-sized table. Maybe that warmed him up, because not long after that, they were chasing each other around the house, laughing. Damian was actually the chaser, not the chasee; I consider this significant because it's the more active, intentional role.

Later, in the back yard, was even better. They both drew on the brick patio with sidewalk chalk. Parallel play again. Then Damian went to the far wall, which was ripe for more drawing (Julie's mom said it would be a fun place to draw). Julie followed suit. They interacted more there, drawing on each other's lines, sharing chalk, sorting through the chalk bucket together. Then Damian picked up a shovel. They both dug in the dirt. Before long, it had turned into a raucous game. The bucket was emptied of its chalk and turned into a mud bucket -- or rather, a chocolate pudding machine. Damian flung muddy dirt into the bucket with exuberant gestures, they both laughed, and Julie asked him to do it again.

It's become apparent that he does best with interactive play when there's a physical/sensorimotor component to the play. Otherwise, he still tends to parallel play. It's a start, though. A fantastic start.

Sunday 11 August

We took a motorboat ride in the bay today. A fast motorboat. At first, Damian was into it: "Faster!" But then we hit choppy water and he got scared. Frankly, I got scared too. The boat's driver (captain?) wasn't slowing down and we were bumping and bouncing in this tiny boat. Damian cried. So I sat on the floor with him in my lap, clutching my neck. He never really relaxed after that, even after the waves calmed.

After the boat ride, we adjourned for lunch on a picnic bench outside my mom's friends' house (the boat's owners). Damian ate a whole grilled cheese sandwich, leaving one tiny smidge of crust. Then he spotted a green inchworm on the table and was enchanted. He wanted to know what it was and, with coaching, persuaded it to climb onto his hand. His resulting smile was priceless.

Monday 12 August

Went to a playground for the first time since New York. Damian wasn't in love with the tall slide -- probably too much for him after so long away -- but he had lots of fun running back and forth between two smaller slides. Narrating the whole while and stopping between the two at our bench to inform us of his next move. When a little girl started to climb one of "his" slides, he got mad at her and tried to bully her away with words. We persuaded him two could use the slide, but he wasn't real pleased with that idea. It's a pain to deal with, but I must admit part of me is still tickled that he's so assertive now with other kids, even when it's not appropriate. We can teach him manners. Getting over his former passivity is a much bigger victory.

Met Aaron and his girlfriend Jessica for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Damian was wired. Dominated the conversation. At one point early on, he got down from his spot on the bench between us parents and announced, he wanted to "sit with friends." He sat himself down in Aaron's lap and proceeded to decimate the table, stacking chopsticks and pouring soy sauce between dipping trays, only occasionally spilling them. My mom gave him a pencil and he dipped it in soy sauce and then drew on a napkin. The second napkin was more of a pointillist effort,with a lot of jabbing motions. And afterwards, he and my mom went for a walk while we -- finally -- got to talk. She said later that he was practically running the whole time, completely keyed up.

Tuesday 13 August

This morning marks a first. Usually Damian trots into our room when he wakes up; he climbs in bed with us and either goes to sleep (if it's very early) or wants to play. And if we're tired, we get a little grumpy about the playing part. A few days ago I was actually able to send him off downstairs to play without us, but that's rare. (He ended up playing with my mom, completely controlling the session: "Mousey is hungry. Mousey needs to buy food." Etc.) So this morning, he stood in the door to our room, saw that we were asleep, and then left. He went downstairs and played with my mom till I got up. Dan pointed out later that this showed that Damian wasn't just acting on impulse, that he reasoned through the situation and made a choice. His first impulse was clearly to do what he always does: come to bed with us. But he realized that wouldn't be so rewarding, so he changed his plans.

Know how Damian sometimes makes up his own labels for things? He did it with my mom. Wasn't happy with "Grandma Leya" so he dubbed her "Mommy's Mommy." When he talked to me, he called her "your mommy." Aaron was likewise Mommy's Brother.

Dan read Damian The Velveteen Rabbit. We've shied away from chapter books or even long picture books; we weren't sure if Damian could follow a story for that long. But someone leant us the book and Damian asked for it, so Dan obliged. He sat through the whole thing, often looking away but not fidgeting. Immediatelly afterwards, he started playing with Mousey on the floor. He took a red toy telescope and said, "Mousey pushed the telescope and something strange happened. Red buds opened. Inside were red fairies. The fairies made Mousey a Real Mouse." So it seems he'd been listening rather closely to the story and really processing what he heard. This is a new development and frankly something I thought would take a lot of intensive work to achieve. This kid is amazing. Slip sliding his way right off that spectrum.

Wednesday 14 August (Nova Scotia to LA)

On the road again. I was nervous about the trip home: we were scheduled to take one plane to Newark, then wait in the airport for three hours before the longer flight to LA. Getting into LAX around nine p.m. Pacific Time (one a.m. Halifax time). Was Damian going to be a mess? Was he going to get bored out of his skull? Would we survive the trip intact?

We let him sleep in till 9:30. He'd been getting up around 7 or so every morning so that was unusual, almost like he was preparing himself for the journey. Jessie and Geoff joined us for breakfast and were there when I brought Damian downstairs. Damian took the new faces in stride; in fact, he got very silly. When something he did or said got a reaction, he repeated it. And repeated it. Playing to the audience, my little ham.

So how did the trip go? First challenge: the flight from Halifax to Newark. No DVDs needed. I read him books, he looked out the window, he played a tiny Light Bright game we'd just bought at the airport. No hassle.

Second challenge: Navigating Newark Airport, going through customs and so on. Endless miles of corridor. Damian trying to race ahead of his slow pack mule parents. And because we were so bag-heavy, we couldn't run after him or with him. This meant a lot of scolding and reining in. We were all frustrated and out of sorts by the end of it. It is not a cool thing when your kid tries to slip past the customs officer before he's officially welcomed you back into the country, y'know? And he had a bona fide meltdown in the diner we found in the terminal. But a milkshake and some Daddy cuddles brought him back (I was too irritable to be much use, I'm afraid). And the two of them ran around a bit while I waited with our stuff at the gate. Next time, we'll try to pack more efficiently, bring less stuff and certainly carry less onto the plane. It's just too damned hard this way.

Third challenge: the long flight to LA. Made longer by the half hour we waited on the runway. But between the view out the window during takeoff, books, little toys (a small lego set was the big hit here), and DVD screenings on our PowerBooks, he did great. Really great. Dan sat next to him and kept him involved the whole time. Damian especially enjoyed the Tigger Movie. He laughed at the right moments and was thoroughly engaged in the movie. Nice to see. It's still so recent that he can engage that much with a screen story.

Fourth challenge: get off the plane, collect our luggage and get into a cab while juggling tons of baggage and a kid now up waaaaay past his internal clock's definition of bedtime. Dan carried Damian and some bags, I carried most of the other bags, we got a cart and managed the rest. No meltdowns. Not even any whines. I was impressed. And relieved.

He got a second wind when we got home. I've never seen him so excited. He greeted Dante with great warmth, ran into his room and kept exclaiming about being home in this voice I'd never heard before. A little high pitched but throaty too, with a tremor. He was thrilled to be home. It's like he was rediscovering the pleasures of the familiar. Which is a relief in a way, because everywhere we went -- Dan's folks' house, Cathy's house, my mom's house, he kept saying how much he loved it there and how it was better than our house. So I was worried coming home would be a letdown. I underestimated the cozy feeling that accompanies the return to home turf.

It was tough persuading him -- at 10:30 pm LA time -- that it was bedtime. He flat out refused. Ran into his room, came back with two letters from his play mat. Laid them out on our bed: N and O. Said, "N O spells no." I nearly fell off the bed.

Thursday 15 August

Too little sleep for all of us last night. Therefore a volatile day. Can't remember anything specific, though Damian was full of conversation at various times, and very inventive with his play.

Two events from the trip stand out the most for me; they show Damian's development the best.

The first: One morning at my mom's. Dan and I still in bed. Damian came in, as he usually does. He was restless, though, and wanted to play roughhouse with me. Which meant mauling me, pushing my breasts, etc. I rolled onto my stomach to protect myself. Damian was pissed. He started hitting my back. I got angry, gave him a warning. He didn't stop. I left the room. Behind me I heard Damian yelling and Dan explaining why I left.

About twenty minutes later, I came back. Damian was now quiet and composed. "Hi, Mommy." "Hi, Damian." "I'm sorry I hit you, Mommy."

Dan says he did not tutor Damian, did not suggest he apologize to me. This came from Damian. An awareness of what he needed to do to make things right with me. Theory of mind, understanding how I might feel and what I needed to hear.

The second: I had some kind of intestinal problem one evening; I was in major discomfort and mostly lay on the couch and bed. We told Damian I was sick and he was mostly okay with that, though he did periodically try to coax me to play with him. The next morning, he got up earlier than Dan and I did. Came into our bed, but quickly left to go play with my mother. When I came downstairs, Damian looked up at me. The first thing he said to me? "Are you feeling better today, Mommy?"

Again, I checked with my mom, who said they hadn't talked about me at all. It was on Damian's mind, so he asked. Empathy, concern. Theory of mind again. Absolutely thrilling.

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