Potty Training Frustration

I am sure that given time I will revise this opinion, but so far potty training has been THE most difficult parenting task I had with Robbie.

First of all it was very hard to convince him to sit on the potty or do without his nappy. Second it is near impossible to get him to understand that No.2 belongs in the potty and not in the nappy, or underpants or on the couch and flo0r for that matter.

I tried various strategies, from bribery and cajolery to brute force persuasion – the latter resulted in the both of us spending a whole afternoon “stuck” in the bathroom, because we were only allowed to get out once the potty is used successfully.

Initially I tried to put him in underpants : He thought the underpants were a good substitute for a nappy and used them as such.

I tried bare bum – and I am still doing it, which resulted in the accidents I mentioned earlier on the floor and the sofa.

In the evening I used to put his sleep nappy after a bath and just before I tucked him in, but he quickly learned to time his poo for this, and sometimes filled the nappy from the horizontal position, which is a great feat in my opinion for someone who claims that doing it on the potty is “hard”.

Meanwhile the tricks of rewards have done very little to convince him: So far my child has done without chocolate, and his beloved radio, and he still hasn’t graced the potty with a substantial product – He did not have any bowel  movement for the last 48 hours and I finally resorted to a mild laxative. Hopefully I will not regret this.

What is finally working for No1 is a potty toy. A small musical wind-up box that plays a German song : Hänschen Klein. It has accompanying colorful cards, which contain a few dozen of other songs, most of which are familiar to him from the German tapes and CDs he loves. At least this worked magic for the appeal of sitting on the potty to make a wee. At the creche he also has no problems or accidents and they have their own methods of convincing the children to do what they are supposed to. Also the peer pressure (or should I say pee-er pressure) of other potty-goers probably helps. But we are still waiting for the other monumental achievement, of actually making a poo on the potty.

So exasperated I was from all of this that I actually promised my boy to tell the stories of potty-training failures one day to his girlfriend, to which he replied smugly : “Gina is my go-fend”, so it seems like I missed that one.

Another little thing he told me today while arranging his table and chair to resemble a huge speaker (have no idea how he saw they did) – he said: This is “fuss-tate-ing” – I am sure he picked it up from my up-beat vocabulary during this experience.

PS : I was interrupted while writing this by another accident of major proportions on the floor. All I can say is thank god I have no carpets in my flat. And the battle continues, this is now week three.



Originally uploaded by momranda

Robert got hold of an onion today from my shopping bag. The following conversation took place:

Mom : Robert is the onion nice, do you like onion ?
What are you doing with the onion ?

Robert: Take the onion off the peal, take it off, take it off

Mom: And then what are you gonna do with it.

Robert (chomps up on the onion and starts chewing for an answer)

The onion is missing a little chunk and sometime after his first few bites his enthusiasm waned. I am amazed that he put up with the sharp taste of raw onion. He still smelled of onion as he went to bed.  I wonder what his teacher will think if he still reeks of it tomorrow morning.

Incidentally, this is not the first time Robert displays a liking for the strong biting taste of onion. Last year, during our holiday in Germany he happily crunched a green onion, perhaps it gave him a anesthetizing sensation on his gum as he was teething.

20 Months : The Chatter Box

I will remember this phase in Robert’s life most as the phase of developing conversation. He is now at the stage where he watches people and things and gives running commentary about what he sees.

The other day I was walking with him at the beach front and one of the information billboards was about seals and how they can be strangled by fishing ropes or even plastic bags if they get stuck in them, since they have no arms to release themselves. I was amazed that he explained it to me by saying : rope hurtin’ seal… I think that his dad showed it to him before. It doesn’t take long for him to register information and new vocabulary. After a brief introduction to pitta and Humus he now regularly asks for : pitta bread (bed) with Humus or pitta with avocado. He also learned the word “cucumber” in one afternoon after filling up on it at his dad’s place.

At night he gives me a run down on his day, or remembers past events. Last night after he mentioned his teachers and his friends in class, he said suddenly : Noma .. gone. Noma is his teacher from last November who left without notice at the beginning of this year. I think his memory and power of observation in already better than mine. He knows exactly where to find certain signs on our daily walk from the taxi stop to the house, and he points without fail the gate behind which the “doggy dog”  is to be found.

It is very hard to fool him as well. While he was sick last week I tried to give him effervescent cough tablets by adding them to his juice. I thought the taste of the juice would mask the medicine, but he always detected it at the very first sip, and gave me back the sippy cup with the single comment : medimed,  so there was no cough medicine for him.  Yesterday he made me laugh when for some reason he flashed back to these incidents as he was enjoying a drink from his sippy cup, and he said : no medimed !

Another amusing behavior he started this week was wearing my slippers and trying to walk with them.  It is funny for me because I remember my younger sister doing that very long ago. He is also starting to get bossy, trying to impose his sense of order on me – for example he tells me to : put cap on.. or  orders : “sunglasses on”, “shoe on”. These orders do not always imply that he wants to go out, he just feels that this is how it should be at a particular time.

Although his development amazes me on some aspects, he is still far behind on the subject of toilet training. He knows what the toilet is for, and he observe me (and other kids at school I believe) while using it – so he knows sitting toilet (toiten), but it is something that other people do at the moment, and he does not associate it with himself yet. So it seems that more effort is required from my side in this area.

Winter For Sure

Today it rained almost for the whole day and Robert and I stayed at home. We listened to oldies on the radio, we built tower, and I tried to knit.. I had soup for lunch and finished with chocolate pudding with custard – not healthful at all. I hate to admit it but Robert liked the pudding and finished almost half the custard by himself, I hope I am not developing his sweet tooth too much.

Just before sunset there was a little break in the weather and we went out to the shops. Shopping used to be uneventful with Robert, but now it is starting to get more interesting because he is now noticing the things that I try not to buy… Today he said again : want chocolate bar (in his own pronunciation) and I successfully diverted his attention until we headed towards checkout, passing through temptation alley, where all the sweets are strategically placed, and then it became a nonstop call for “open chocolate bar.. open chocolate bar” and this time I ignored his whining completely – it was a small whine really nothing like some children’s tantrums I had the misfortune to observe. Yesterday I bought him a nut and fruit bar when he did the same stunt at Woolworths, and he ate it all on the way home. But even though I would love him to eat more I am not turning this into a habit.

Playing Catch up … Again

I had so many plans for my time off which started on Monday, but apart from an almost complete thorough cleaning project, defrosting a fridge that closely resembles an ice-age glacier and scheduling long-delayed dentist and ob-gyn appointments,  I managed very little progress elsewhere. Needless to say that my blog is one badly neglected area.

For one thing it seems that I do far more reading than writing, and reading the web has become one major time-suck for me, and my problem is that I am addicted to my reading from Slate, Salon and the New York Times in addition to a number of “selected” blogs in my numerous areas of interest, it is the curse of the curious I suppose.

Apart from this little window for my curiosity and my little ray of sunshine I have a very boring life, so lets move on to the real and metaphoric sunshine.

After a brief cold spell, then a few baking days of 30+ temperatures that are more worthy of summer, the weather has now mellowed into my favorite seasons, the beautiful autumn, we have settled on pleasant mid-twenties with golden warm sun and just a whisper of sea breeze cooling us down early morning and late afternoon.  Perfect day at the park weather.

Robert has come out nicely from a nasty episode of ear infection, flu and cough, but just as I thought we had the worst behind us he started on with an eye infection which I treated with a little of left over eye-drops from a previous episode. Once the eye cleared I decided to keep him home an continue treating the eye with an over-the-counter ointment, because I cannot stomach taking him to the doctor again, we have been there twice already this month.

The teachers at school are all very nice to my little one, and school seems to bring out the sunniest parts of his personality,  giving him a lot of space to his curiosity and urge to explore without allowing him to wreak havoc in the surrounding. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for our home environment, where the limited space and the existence of “adult” tools make it a potentially dangerous grounds. I either have to frustrate his every effort at explorations, or put up with collateral damage. This week’s list include:  Breaking an almost full bottle of my favorite bubble bath, smearing bum cream all over our duvet cover, and of course the very frequent accidents with food.  So I find myself constantly wiping up greasy hand and thumbprints from table, and all baby-height surfaces. The clean-up of my late beloved honey-almond bubble bath was a little less complicated, but at least I got to enjoy a sweet-smelling lounge for a couple of days.

Apart from being a mess generator and a very physically demanding toddler,  I am proud to notice Robert’s developing social and mental abilities. I bet this is the reason why his teachers love him so much, because he is an absolute charmer. One of his teachers said that he learns new words every day, and it does not take long for him either. Yesterday he insisted that I give him “denta foss”. I can hardly remember teaching him the word.

His observation of the world and his surrounding has also improved. When I went to pick him up from school on Monday, he was sitting in the hall in the middle of a row of children, watching some cartoon movie on the large-screen television. He was so absorbed in it, he never noticed me at the door. This is the first time I see him showing any interest in television content, and his teacher said so as well.

He has also taken to watching and noticing what other people are doing. Whereas in the past there were only isolated observations of likeness – I still chuckle when I remember the story his dad told me : Robert pointing out the picture of George W. Bush and saying: dada-  He still does that of course, when he calls any oriental woman he notices : A-man (his name for my neighbor May-Lan). Now he also points out people in action, yesterday morning he pointed out a man walking ahead of us “man walking”, then a woman eating a banana in the minibus : “eating a-bana” and then when she finished “A-bana gone”. I am waiting for the day when he points out potentially embarassing things… He always comments that “bus boken”, but that somehow escaped the notice of the proud taxi drivers/owners.

He might be developing some sense of humor as well. Today I took a picture of him which I called “peanut butter face” and it amused him so much he wanted to see it on the camera time and time again.  The picture of course is cute, but it gives an idea why a toddler mother does not have much time for anything else when the little ones are awake. Yet like every mother I am torn between taking him to school for the day or enjoying his company on my day off.  I am all too aware that these toddler days are very short, so I might as well enjoy them while they are here, mess and all.

Names and Conversations

My boy knows everyone by name.

His teachers are : Teesa, and mawi ( Theresa and Marly), and the gardener is sissa (Fisher) – that last one comes out with a lisp so it is somewhere between thitha and ziza

A few weeks ago I started to teach him the concept of names: your name is Robert, your papa’s name is Ron and the cat’s name is Petey… etc..

Lo and Behold when I ask him today “what’s your name?” he answers me… “wohn” , he obviously thinks he is his father, that is not a very sign for me…

On a happier note here are some of the conversations we had recently:
Mommy: What is Fisher doing?
Robert: Sissa wot-ahwit
Translation: Fisher is watering

Mommy: Did you see the moon?
Robert: Mouhn up da wol
Translation: The moon is up the (above the) wall.

The Way We Talk: Introducing the Adjective

I have been doing more reading than writing in the past week. I waste my time reading a large blogroll consisting of must read news articles and analysis, knitting blogs, parenting blogs, language and translation blogs. I should perhaps cull this unwieldy flock and start over, but I cannot bring myself to do it. The bloggers I read have become like friends, and it is not easy to cut them out of my life after following their trials and tribulations for so long.

In addition to this electronic reading addiction, I have succumbed to procrastination syndrome. I always feel I have time, it will be done some day, but that someday never really comes. I still have a large hole in the blog that needs to be fixed and updated, and I have my notes about many missing posts, but it is all some day. Now yesterday I got this huge translation job that will keep me busy for the next month, but instead of putting my head to the grindstone and starting to work on it, what do I do? I feel this irresistable urge to update my blog, so here I am.

I think Robert’s first adjective used correctly merits a post by itself. One of the knitting bloggers I follow has a daughter who is approximately two months older than Robert, so it is interesting to read about her development and anticipate what will come next. Around 18 months the little girl made up a sentence that went like : flower .. pretty.

Robert is very much a boy, so he is not interested in flowers. I doubt that he has a word for plant either, and his interest there stops at pulling parts from growing things. The poor jade plant sitting just outside our door bears sad witness to this activity.  So it is normal when his choice for a first adjective was  typically male as well : it-di-gadin (it’s disgusting). This came about while Robert and I were having a bath. He was happily playing in the warm water while I washed my hair. Because my child is such clean freak (at this tender age, and he does not get it from me either) I continuously fish out my stray long hairs from the water while we bath. I roll it into an unappealing but perfectly harmless hairball for later disposal.  My son however, caught this thing, wrinkled his face and nose at it and exclaimed : it-di-gadin. It did not take me long to understand what he was on about, because yesterday this word was cause for much amusement. I told him that his nappy was disgusting, and gave emphasis to the pronunciation. It’s obvious that he liked the sound “disgusting” made, because we repeated it time and time again to the chorus of his laughter. Today he remembered the word and used it appropriately.

Babies apparently start to remember more and more things at this particular age and I am beginning to notice that. A week ago I pointed out the waxing gibbon which rose just before Robert’s bedtime. Yesterday he pointed to the direction where the moon was and said clearly : moon.  Maybe he thought I was pointing to the palm tree which is in the same general direction, but still the fact remains that he remembered something I showed him once a few days back. I still fail sometimes to understand him, paper and pepper sound exactly the same for example, and there are things that he remembers or connections he makes that I do not know anything about.  In our daily commute, for example, from home the kindergarten and back we pass the Sea Point library on Main Road. And if Robert happens to look towards the library he would get excited, and start shouting Ki-kah, Ki-kah repeatedly until something else catches his attention. I have wracked my brain for the meaning of this ki-kah, and I even asked his father but we both remain clueless. It could be the library, the fountain in front of it, or even an experience he had inside it,  but I cannot figure it out.

We are also at the very early stages of combining words. Yesterday Robert was climbing the steps barefoot, when he suddenly stopped and started whining and pointing to his foot. I think he said: bain..foot (pain..foot?). He might have stubbed his foot in his rush, but it is also possible that I misheard or overinterpreted his reaction.

Seventeen Months

My baby is growing into a toddler and his personality is developing rapidly. The re-introduction to school at the beginning of the school year was much easier, but I hope his health will not suffer much this time around. Today I had a scare when the school supervisor called me to fetch Robert because he was not feeling well and had a fever. As I walked to the school I was so despondent and unhappy and started seriously thinking again quitting work. It is really not worth it to make my little one suffer in this way.

Robert’s father is now working full time and I cannot rely on him too much for looking after Robert and even the situation with my nanny Lucy seems a little tenuous as her employer(s) do not like her to come and help me out even in her off time, so I really did not know what to do. When I arrived at school my spirit was somewhat lifted when I saw that Robert was fine and I did not feel that he was feverish. His teacher told me that he perked up as soon as he heard that I was coming to get him. I don’t know what could have been wrong this time, the adverse effects of teething should be gone because his fourth molar cut already last week. He has a little bit of a runny nose but I am hoping that this time his body will fight it out, we will wait and see.

His teachers at school say he is always busy in class especially pushing the little chairs around. This is his favourite activity at home as well and it is quite unpleasant for me and my next door neighbor when he starts at it first thing in the morning. Also I am noting his increased independence; the daycare encourages that, for example at snack or meal time the children sit in on little tables and chairs and start feeding themselves. Robert is starting to get good at eating by himself, but I can still tell what he had for lunch by examining the stains on his shirt. He also insists on “brushing” his teeth on his own. I usually start out the proper brushing then I leave him to bite and suck the toothbrush for a few minutes.

Robert’s verbal skills and his diction continue to improve. Instead of Naah for no he now says noo, it sounds quite cute like a little kitten miau. I still speak to him primarily in English but I encourage German vocabulary sometimes whenever I feel he is receptive.
The most obvious advantage to his growing verbal skill is his ability to tell me what he wants. He names the books he wants me to read “oppodi” (Opposites) and tells me that he wants “gam” (jam) or egg.

It is interesting to note also the way he perceives things and people. His father told me that he exclaimed “dada” when he spotted a picture of George W. Bush in a magazine. I am surprised that my ex even mentioned the story to me because I am sure he was not impressed. I cannot ask Robert why he made this comment but maybe he sees his father as an older person who is not too bright.
One morning he watched me write his name with a marker on his milk bottle and sippy cup as I was preparing his school bag. I pointed to the writing and said Robert, and the next thing I know he surprised his father by pointing to the writing and saying : “bobbet”.

Another area of marked improvements from previous months, is Robert’s appetite. He eats regular meals and does not snub his food after the first bite. The experience of feeding him is still quite messy, because he loves to try feeding himself, and explore the texture and substance of food with his fingers, but most of the food ends up in his stomach rather than on the floor and the furniture.

One thing that I am still procrastinating at seventeen months, and this might come as shocker to my family, is complete weaning. Robert still has a nightly breast milk dose and sometimes he wakes up twice for a little sup.  I believe that it is time for him to move on, but I do not have the heart to go through with it. For one I still enjoy the special loving connection of breastfeeding and secondly I find it easier just to give in to his demand at night, rather than tolerate his prolonged crying. I think I should get some backbone and be firm about it, I do not want to break any records on extended breastfeeding.

Robert’s Adventures at Sixteen Months

The most remarkable progress Robert made in the last month was with his vocabulary and with recognizing himself as a separate entity.

When I recently ask him where is Robert, he points to himself and says: Ah-Peh, which is what he calls himself these days.

Among other words and vocabulary: , Out, hat (at), ball, up (refers to both up and down for him), water (Ah-ti), book, back (he orders me to put back the food he does not want), bike – the new toy he received from his father(sounds exactly like back), Apple (ah-pi, and refers to all round fruits), open (ah-pi), baked (for baked beans), head (ed),  hug (ug), kaka (anything dirty), tick tak (his name for the clock or anything that looks like a clock) bucket (bah-ki refers to the small play buckets he has), cup (for his play cups) and baby. This in addition to his favourite sentence : don’t go down (dungoda).

Britt gave Robert a big picture book of all the animals and among those he recognizes are : dog (pronounces it like duck), and puppy. The cat in the book looks remarkably like Petey, and perhaps this is why Robert points at it and just grunts. Him and the cat do not like each other that much.

There are other words that he says, that I do not remember at the moment. He says car (cah – which is the same sound he uses for cow referring to the milk bottle), and he says papa, but unfortunately whenever he says mama he is referring (and demanding) the part of my anatomy that still provides him with a comforting snack. Lucy said that perhaps this is his pronounciation of nana (with a Xhosa click sound) which is their baby language for food, but I do not think my son is that gifted to speak Xhosa as well.

Gregarious as my little one is, his new flair for words sometimes only makes for new frustration for both of us.  There are many words that sound the same in his diction, and for them I go through a process of elimination. Robert’s patience sometimes runs out and he does not understand why it takes me so long to get him what he actually wants.

Apart from the words he can actually say, there are many more he understands. Today when I said Christmas he turned and pointed to the Christmas tree, and when I asked him whether he wanted music he pointed to the radio.

I am starting to notice patterns of behaviour as well:  He gets very impatient and frustrated when things do not work, and this is when he has a fit with a pointing finger. He also cannot tolerate any dirty hankies in his vicinity, this includes the paper towel which I keep handy at feeding time. He keeps, however, throwing it to the floor with the exclamation: kaka !

When he wakes up and finds me working on the laptop he starts trying to get my attention, and usually demands : Back ! ( I should put away the laptop I guess).

During these days we spent at home Robert’s appetite returned and he started picking up weight again. Maybe it is because he is away from the daycare and all the germs from other kids, but it is could also be attributed to less teething pain, as two more molars have already cut through (he now has a total of three). When it comes to food, Robert is very hands-on. He opens the fridge himself taking out the food he wants (or the food he thinks he wants).  Baked beans are by far his favourite food and he calls them by name, or finds them in cupboard, fridge and pantry and brings them over. He amazes me by holding the can from the top using only one hand.

Today and after our busy time at Christmas and Boxing Day, we got to the beach, and this coincided nicely with Robert’s 16 months birthday. It was an outing sponsored by Robert’s father who bought him a bucket and a shovel to play with. We went there in the morning and it was a perfect day for the beach, the sky was clear and we could even say the cable car on Table Mountain from Clifton Beach. Robert enjoyed the cold water, he still hasn’t learned the word for ocean but he recognizes it as a body of “Ah-ti”. His favourite game was to fill the bucket with water and then walk with it back to the shade of the tree where we set up our temporary camp.  He made quite a few walks back and forth and was whipped tired by midday. I let him sleep sandy nappy and all until three in the afternoon.

Progress with a side order of Setbacks

Little One Sleeping

It is this time of night again when all is quiet except for the mosquitoes buzzing around my head. I feel a sense of peace and accomplishment today; little one is sleeping, the dishes are done, the toys are picked up from the floor, with all bits and pieces accounted for, and I have fixed one of Robert’s toys – the stacking rings which he destroyed recently. I still have a stack of books that need urgent care and attention after a close encounter with toddler terror; it is hard to catch up.  However it is nice to know that I am ending the day a tiny bit ahead, who knows what setback tomorrow will bring.

I was at work yesterday and I handed in my sick leave, and had a generous helping of humble pie with management in the ivory tower. I saw with my own eyes the form where I filled in my part time option incorrectly; pretty stupid eh? The guy I called the blond cretin was on duty travel so at least I was spared his gloating. I really haven’t changed my opinion about the planning side of our office.  Even in the five minutes I spent there waiting for the person in charge to show up, I was acutely aware of the shallow intellect and inefficiency.. life is a never ending tea break up there,  while below deck, we strain and slave away so that the ship stays afloat, so unfair really. But staying with ther here and now, I have blown my chance to show superiority over the incompetents of the ivory tower; I was just as bad, I am even worse than them because I assigned myself, not somebody else, with a wrong option.

Today I had the day off, and Robert and I set out for some errands. We walked as far as Moullie Point, where I got some paperwork from Robert’s doctor and got to the police station where I signed a proof of address and inquired half-heartedly about the wallet that I really lost two months ago. On the way back I went to the library and got myself a replacement for the library card. Robert was asleep so I spent some pleasant time browsing in the library.  Membership to the library is free to South African citizens and permanent residence, which is pretty good, but the quality and the age of the books is not top notch for lack of funding, I would actually prefer to pay a membership fee if it means access to better and more varied books. The Sea Point library has a corner for kids and there is a children’s librarian who has a reading program every Wednesday and I am hoping to take Robert there next week.

We walked quite long today, but it was a sunny and warm day; a perfect day in Cape Town and a great day to be South African. We bumped into a friend and may people stopped to talk with Robert, and he had such a ready smile for everyone. This was such a contrast to my experience in Europe, but I guess it is easy to be friendly when the sun is shining and everyone is in a holiday mood.

Before we got home I also managed to do some shopping, and filled my backback with fruit and vegetables.  Last week I bought some peaches and nectarines and they were both really tastelss, so I almost skipped the nectarines this time, but I am glad I didn’t; they turned out fabulous.  Robert got his first taste (and sticky feel) of plums; I let him handle them and mess to his heart’s content.. Later he ate fruit yoghurt and then sausage, and contiued to sample with me everything I put on the table.

I am always happy when Robert eats well. His appetite hasn’t returned to normal yet, and the culprit this time might be teething; he is cutting two molars at the same time : top right and bottom left ( he already has one bottom right molar). Maybe I can also blame teething (in addition to my own sickness on Sunday) for his renewed interest in nursing. Even when he is ready for his daytime nap now he comes up to me and grabs my shirt saying : Mama. The funny thing is that he never called me this name before, so I think he uses the word to refer to the breast, really funny.

Today I also noticed that he is saying something that sounds like : danguda, dagoda,  as if he was speaking Chinese. Later I figured out that he is  repeating a sentence he hears from me all the time : don’t go down. Also today I think he reached a very important mile stone. He was playing with the pots and pans and using their lids as a mirror. He usually looks to his image and says baby ( baba or babbi) – and I said to him : Yes, baby Robert.He responded by looking at me and pointing to himself; he understood the  reference, and could identify his name.

So this is all fine and well, my little boy is growing and his cognitive skills are developing, it is wonderful to be able to watch that every day..

While we are still on the subject of progress, I received a phone call from the furniture shop and my things are ready in the warehouse, and all I have to do is wait for them to be delivered (and pay the balance of course). I will close on this progressive note, and will talk more about setbacks some other time.