Thursday, March 31, 2011

the best way we know how

It started when Bean would point to the ceiling in her room and tell me that she was scared. I couldn't figure it out at first, but after a while it became clear that she was talking about the smoke detector. It seemed ominous, I guess: the small unblinking green light, its constant presence in her room, a gimlet's white round face.

I tried to tell her what it was, a smoke detector baby---- it helps us to stay safe. But that didn't appease her, only gave her a name for the menace. After that it was a small cry in the darkened room: Mommy! The smoke detector! It scares me!

Which is when I started The Smoke Detector Chronicles. Small stories of what the smoke detector does when we leave the room. He loves to roll around in Bean's bed and play with her toys. He likes to take naps and read books, especially books about Olivia. He eats dessert first: cupcakes and ice cream and chocolate. He watches movies, too. It's a strange coincidence that his favorite movies are also Bean's: Up and Meet the Robinson's and any episode of Super Why.

After a while, Bean started to tell me things about Smoke Detector all on her own. She tells me he plays hide and seek and likes to tell her stories long after I've turned out the lights. Which is why I hurry to listen to the room monitor at bedtime, doing my best to hold tight to her childhood, listening to her laughter in a darkened room.

- - - - -

These days I am preoccupied with another childhood transition, this one about the Big Girl Bed. She still sleeps in her crib. She's so small for her age. My mom tells me it's not a big deal. So I haven't felt any need to rush it. But lately I've wondered if it's time. I will break the First Rule of Fate Tempting and say this: she's fully potty trained. All the way down to naps and bedtime. I take no credit for those last bits - it's all Alice, the way she wants so much to do what I've asked her to do. For a while I was putting her in trainers at night, a just-in-case thing because everyone said that they might continue to have accidents at night. But it never happened, not even once. If she needs to go in the late night hours, I'll hear a plaintive cry over the room monitor--- sometimes only a whisper: Mommy, I need to pee.

So now it truly is All About the Underpants. We haven't touched a diaper in weeks and weeks. Which has me thinking again about the Big Girl Bed.

I was talking to Bean yesterday afternoon and asked if she'd like a bed, a bed like mommy's and daddy's. She was agreeable, but reserved, "Like mommy's?" I told her yes, like mommy's and we will say goodbye to your crib. Which was the wrong thing to say, because she insisted that we couldn't say goodbye to her crib. We just couldn't. I've been thinking about it ever since, how I don't want to rush something just because everyone else is doing it, just because the books give me a timeline.

So many of the transitions come down to an arbitrary decision made by me as I'm sitting on the couch, or a passing comment by a friend that gets me thinking that maybe it's time. I'm not sure if I ever understood that little strangeness of motherhood until now: how there is no rulebook, no true determiner of what we should do or when. How we make things up as we go along, doing our best to do by right by these small creatures in the best way we know how.


Melanie Condie said...

We just moved Alexis into a big girl bed. I wanted to do it with plenty of time before the baby was born, so I don't rock her world too much. I was scared to death the first night we moved her. I am shocked at how well the transition has gone. She sleeps so much better than she did in the crib. I think it helps that she doesn't get her feet stuck between the bars in the middle of the night. If you make it as exciting as possible, Alice won't even think twice about missing the crib.

Alicia said...

I potty trained Kieran at 3 1/2 because we were going to a friend's house who had a daughter one year younger than him who was potty trained. I was basically embarrassed that he wasn't trained. I still feel guilty about it. I mean, he was FINE. He was physically ready; he just didn't WANT to. I don't think he ever had a single accident; he just didn't WANT to give up his diapers. He was scared, and he cried. I've tried to never do that again. It's the best way I know to respect them when they're this little.

Jayme said...

Every kid, every family- has their own timeline. No reason to go by anyone else's :)

Bird said...

Yes, its these arbitrary moments that I decided he's "big enough" to start doing something and I just start doing it with him. I wonder how he feels, suddenly I break out some new routine, or allow him to do something he's never even thought of, is it magical or further proof that a kids life is so ever-changing its scary? But yes, trying to do the best thing for the little cubs. Wish we knew that we were.

tearese said...

my mom waited until we were three to move us to a full size bed. Our kids have a toddler bed thats the same size and uses the same mattress as the crib. With each kid I worry about moving them, whether they'll stay in the bed, or fall out at night, or still take naps.
Each was different. We moved both Elora and Josh around age two, partly to make way for a new baby, partly for the potty training thing.
It usually took a week or two before they stayed in their bed after I left the room at night. Elora still took naps for several years, in fact she only stopped naps after Josh moved to the bed and would only stay in bed occasionally- he stopped napping almost completely by age three.
Jonah will be two this summer, but I don't feel he is as ready as the other two seemed. But maybe with a new baby I'll change my mind?
Good luck!

tearese said...

I should clarify, there is just the one toddler bed. Once Josh was big enough for it, Elora moved to a twin bed. So if I move Jonah to it, then I'll have to buy another twin for Josh!