Here is Part VII: James’s First Non-Sister Kiss, Almanzo Stinks, and Dog Fears and Tantrums Begin
James is my handsome boy who has the biggest giggly smile when happy. He has a cowlick that causes him to have some wicked bedhead every day that is impervious to a comb and even styling wax. He often breathes noisily and sounds congested at night and I hear his tongue clicking against his palate (just like me, poor kid), and he seems to not have as much control over his face as he might like. Often when he’s focusing on a task his tongue goes on a journey just outside his mouth.
While James is serious and tends to be more of an observer when we’re out of the house, at home he’s very giggly and loves physical play, especially walking on Daddy and wrestling with Papa.
James can get very focused and is very mechanical. One day while I prepare lunch, I can hear the twins playing with toys and when I come in I discover that James has emptied a box of hand-me-down toys from our friend April. The big toys are already upright and being played with. He’s like a dad assembling toys on Christmas morning. James loves to open and close things. He separates the high chairs and says “open” and then pulls them together and says “close.” One day he opens and closes his legs and announces “open” and “close.” He constantly wants me to lift him up to see everything on the kitchen and bathroom counters.
James is fretful and gets anxious about a lot of things. Cutting his fingernails is always traumatizing and he wants me to cuddle him afterwards. Haircuts are arguably worse. He screams and climbs me and tries to turn around to avoid the scissors and buzzer. I start following haircuts with a reward trip to the park. One day James pees on me while sitting on my lap during his haircut. I wonder if that was because he was just that scared, which breaks my heart. Later that day I check on him while he’s napping, and while still asleep he says something when I come in that sounds like, “No haircut!” It sounds like his traumatic experience is spurring nightmares. After his nap James doesn’t want to go on a walk with Papa and Julia and after they leave he says, “Julia haircut,” as though he didn’t want to go because he thought she was getting one. (At some point after this, it occurs to me to start instructing the stylist to not use the buzzer.)
Going to see the doctor is a big ordeal. In December I take James to see the doctor about his mouth rash and he cries as soon as we enter the parking lot. A few months later when I tell him we’re going to a doctor he bawls as we leave the house. James is quite sad that day while sitting in the waiting room, and while reading a book about animals he unprompted raises his air in the air and makes a trumpeting elephant sound with a big lower lip and heavy breathing from crying. The dermatologist is male (which sometimes makes James more anxious) but is a calming presence and James is okay once the appointment starts. After the appointment I take him to Grant Park where James chases birds (“bird!”) and when he gets close they fly away (“fly!”). He also jumps in puddles for the first time.
James hates the new thermometer that takes temperatures at his temple. Although it’s non-invasive and takes only seconds to get a reading, he cries at the sight of it. Meanwhile, Julia asks for us to take her temperature.
James is scared of new things and some are pretty benign and unexpected. When I show them a ladybug and a potato bug on the sidewalk, James is scared of both. He also is fearful of a feather on the end of a pen at a restaurant.
While in San Francisco we discover that James is afraid of parking garages and elevators (perhaps he is claustrophobic?), and he also is very fretful in the public restroom. Other fears not yet mentioned include loud sounds (vacuums, hair dryers, mixers), baths, the green light behind the TV, shuttle buses, chickens, and carousels. To a much lesser degree he also dislikes men (other than Daddy and Papa) and getting his face cleaned.
In February James gets upset when I go to leave, and it’s the first time this has happened with either kid. I think it’s because I’d been gone a lot lately since a grandparent was in town. I tell him I’m going to get groceries and that seems to make things better.
James loves his Papa and starts to have a lot of attachment issues and sadness with Papa leaving since Papa plays with them so much for the week he’s here and then goes home for several weeks. One day he cries when Papa leaves to get lunch. James tells me Papa and Gaga are on his phone. I ask what they say and he responds, “Holy moley!” and “Up up up” - two phases he learned from Papa. After Papa teaches him the phrase “See you later, alligator,” James says it to Doggy, but James says it “See you later, alligator, Doggy.”
|James loves pretending to talk on the phone.|
|James holds his two doggies and wears his doggy pajamas while he gets a new diaper.|
|James plays football with Papa.|
While Julia was the one most into their stuffed animals before age two, now James is. He always uses Doggy as a pillow, and plays with him all the time.
|James is making Puppy Dog stew.|
In addition to being often being very fretful, James often gets very frustrated. This happens when something doesn’t follow the laws of James physics, like when toys won’t fit in the container he’s jamming them into. He gets very negative easily (my mom says like Uncle Michael) when this happens or when Julia takes things he wants or when she ruins one of his projects.
In December (as soon as James enters the “terrible twos”, I notice that he keeps getting upset over things and we often can’t understand what he wants. Some of the things he gets mad at include his baby corn breaking in half (I try to help him put it back together with no luck), and wanting to wear a blue jacket (he saw mine)... but he doesn’t have one. One day he even gets mad at the pants he’s wearing.
While Julia will say a word over and over until you acknowledge it and repeat it back, James does the same but in increasing volume and fretfulness until you respond (“shirt shirt shirt shirt SHIRT! Shirt! Shirt! SHIRT!!!”) I also discover James is bothered when it’s wet outside. He says, “Wet! Wet!” in a distressed tone.
James hits a stage where he doesn’t want to stop playing at any cost. Unfortunately this entails a struggle every diaper change, nap, and often, meal. It’s particularly hard when he wants to keep playing and DOES NOT want me picking him up and I have to outwit him so he doesn’t get put down in his crib crying. One day he thrashes while I try to rock and sing to him and finally I just have to put him down in his crib, and he stands and screams. He’s like Donkey Kong and if he could he’d throw a barrel at me about now.
|James looks just like Donkey Kong when Donkey Kong stomps and bares his teeth.|
James often comes up with an interesting idea for a project and then Julia wants in, which can upset him. One day he has an idea to bathe Doggy and he find objects in his room to be Doggy’s hippo towel (the name for James’s post-bath towel) and comb. He also stacks plates or bowls and announces that the whole stack is a food - one day it’s ice cream, another it’s mac and cheese. Occasionally he puts books or toys on his feet while he gets a new diaper on the changing table and then kicks them off onto the floor, saying, “Into the water!”
MusicalJames loves to sing along to everything (kind of like me), enjoys singing to himself, and adores watching videos and hearing music. Sometimes he’ll sing along to songs he’ll play over and over on his toy laptop. While Julia kind of recites songs and talks through The Alphabet Song thusly: “Now ABC. Next time won’t sing with me!” James can mostly stay on key and seems to keep rhythm fairly well while singing and dancing. He also likes to hit things together and say “music” or “Jingle Bells” like he’s playing a song.