Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I have two things primarily on my mind, two things that I want to write about. These things will probably not be linked by any kind of coherent, unifying narrative arc, because it is the eve of fall break and I've, my thinker? What's that thing called? Ah, my brain off for the duration of break. To that end, I have been reading a best-selling book for pleasure, a book that was a best-seller in this very century! I enjoyed it, as I am wont to do, but found that I enjoyed it with a different part of my brain. The part that doesn't multitask as I read, firing up synapses that trigger thoughts of relevant critical articles or essays or cultural and historical context. It was lovely.

So, anyway. Brain: off. Blog: on.

The two things:

1. Sam can talk!

When Charlotte said her first word at ten months, I was pretty surprised. In fact, I was so surprised that I thought I was hearing things, and ignored it for a few days. But then she kept saying it, and saying it in the appropriate context, so finally I just shrugged and got out the baby book and the nice black ink pen. "Charlotte's First Word: Duck. April 2007." From there, it was the veritable language explosion one reads about. Within a month she had an arsenal of a dozen discernable words, and just as many signs.

Sam suffers from second-child syndrome in many areas. I am not as diligent in updating his baby book. I randomly noticed that he had another tooth (his fifth) poking through at dinner yesterday, an event that would have been much anticipated with Charlotte. I haven't put together a single photo album for poor Neglecty Sam.

And it follows that I haven't been as hypervigilant about teaching Sam baby signs, about carefully using language and reinforcing the language use with a visual. I am really sorry to say that I hardly ever read just to Sam, although he frequently benefits second-hand from the reading we do with Charlotte.

So if you asked me to predict, I would have said that Sam would probably talk later than Charlotte, since by all accounts Charlotte's language acquisition was so early as to be kind of freakish. And yet, last week, Sam said his first word.

The situation mirrored Charlotte's first word quite closely. There was the random noticing of "hey, he seems to be saying something, and saying it appropriately." Then there was the setting up of test situations, where we would show him random other objects, and then the favored, named object, to see if all objects ellicited the response, or only the correct object. I wish, in hindsight, that we had videotaped these tests, perhaps in a plain, windowless room, with Sam seated in a folding chair under the light of a single dangling light bulb. In other words, it felt very scientific. And the test results proved the hypothesis: Sam is talking.

Of course, I have yet to get out his (dusty) baby book and the black ink pen, to record "Sam's First Word: Ball. October 2009." Maybe I'll get to that this (glorious long) weekend.

2. Charlotte's Skin

Oh, this part is painful for me to write. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it, which is really kind of ridiculous. But I am a woman, and I know what it's like to be a female in this world, and I also know what it's like to be a female in this world who is (overly) sensitive about her appearance.

My daughter is a beautiful, lovely girl. Her eyes, her hair, her smile, her sweet little hands and feet, her round you think I can get through this without crying? If you said yes, you don't know me. I get choked up thinking about this lovely, amazing creature and that I was privileged enough to contribute some DNA to her manufacture.

Charlotte has sensitive skin, and always has. She has a skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris. I also have KP, although much less severely, and only on my upper arms and occasionally my thighs. Charlotte has these little bumps all over her upper arms and (sob) her cheeks. It comes and goes on her face, and sometimes is better than others, but frequently she has these pimply bumps on her pretty little cheeks that just make me sad to look at them. Why? I don't know. I mean, I do has to do with beauty standards and not wanting Charlotte to be self-conscious of her skin the way I was growing up (and even now, to be honest) and wanting people to be able to look past the KP to see her beautiful face and eyes and smile.

Charlotte's also suffered from eczema on occasion, particularly in the winter months, although we've found we can keep that in check with the liberal application of eucerin lotion. She also has a tiny wart on her thumb that I made the mistake of pointing out and asking if she wanted mama to get rid of it for her. She hid her hand behind her back and wouldn't look at me and said "no, I wanna keep it" all ashamed like she had done something wrong. I wanted to kick myself. I explained that that was totally fine, and I just don't want it to bother her, but I also don't want people to look at my little daughter's sweet hand and see a wart and think "Gross" or something. So now I gave my poor little girl a complex about a stupid wart.

And then, this week Sunday, she woke up with a weird red splotch about the size of a quarter near the right-side corner of her mouth. Over the course of the day, it got worse and more pronounced, and eventually developed the distinct blistery appearance of a cold sore.

It was huge, and really nasty, and we kept her home from school Monday in part because cold sores are contagious, but also because I wasn't prepared to send a three-year-old off to school looking like she just ducked out of the Particularly Grody Skin Lesions ward of the leper colony.

Jeff and I talked a bit about the cold sore, about what to do to treat it (not much we can do with a three-year-old, unfortunately), and our reactions to it. And, of course, Charlotte heard us. I noticed her acting a little strangely, kind of hiding her face, and at one point looking at herself searchingly in the mirror. It clicked at that moment: What am I doing? What kind of an idiot would talk about someone's owie in terms that made it sound gross and perhaps like it was her fault or something?

So after that point, I made sure to just call the cold sore her owie and to treat it like I would any other scrape or bruise, with, of course, the added care a contagious sore requires. Today she went to school with a little band-aid over the cold sore, which apparently lasted almost the entire day, and helped keep her from touching it, checking to see if it was there, and then smearing her germy fingers all over her poor unsuspecting classmates.

I hope I didn't ruin her self-esteem already. This parenting thing is really hard sometimes.

Like I said, no tidy ending or satisfying conclusion that ties up loose ends. If I were grading this blog entry like I grade my freshman comp essays, I would give it a C+ at best.


Dale Deur said...

A - for honest sharing, and exceptional grammar, sentence formation, and spelling.

Miz Jean said...

First of all, yay for Sam! Those second children are resilient, observant little creatures, aren't they?

Secondly, your little Charlotte is just so beautiful. Such a cutie, that one. I have some of the same sensitivity about Reagan's skin. She also struggles with dry / goose-bumpy skin and I never had a "name" for it, but this KP stuff sounds awfully similar. I have always struggled with my skin and I really hope she does not have the same issues. I am going to be extra careful about what I say about her skin in front of her from now on. I would hate for her to think badly of herself just because her psycho mother worried out loud about a patch of dry skin. Sigh.

Amy Tracy said...

I appreciate your honesty here as it is extremely relatable. I was filled with thoughts about Jack's appearance short and long term when he got his stitches just above his left eye and, as his mom, will probably always see that scar the rest of his life, even as it fades and most people have no idea it is there.
Don't beat yourself up. You are so loving with your kids. That is outstanding that Sam said his first word. I can't wait to see the kids in a few months.

jewels said...

Oh Jana, you keep me laughing. Not that your life is laughable. You just have an uncanny ability to keep the humor in hard things. Like parenting. Which I will say again is not for sissies. Your kids are beautiful (and handsome, as the case may be) and it's clear what a stellar mom you are to them. They are yours for a reason. Funny how God really knows what he's doing in that department. Also, we've all experiened lack of verbal filter around our kids. Good thing that they seem not to remember most incidents before age 5.