Yesterday, George had his eighteen-month check-up and he passed with flying colors. To no one’s surprise, he is huge all around – 97th percentile in height (taking after Will), 90th in weight (taking after momma) and 95th in head circumference (big noggins are on both sides of the aisle, poor kid). Short of some mild eczema, the doctor said he looked great – whew! Unfortunately, this has not been the normal doctor’s appointment with George who has suffered from ear infections, RSV, bronchiolitis, allergies and other all-too-common issues. His ENT doctor finally suggested we remove his adenoids (along with three, yes three, sets of ear tubes), which seems to have helped tremendously.
There's my baby - in his 3T sized clothing.
So, with much more time to talk to George’s pediatrician about issues other than his physical health, I picked her brain about my new stay-at-home status. Since taking George out of preschool (temporarily, we think), I have been privately concerned that I was not providing him the same kind of mental stimulation that Frances received at his age. Didn’t she know 20 words in Spanish by now? Didn’t she have 8+ other friends that she saw every day, expanding her world through changing experiences and various personalities? Didn’t she have an actual curriculum filled with books, songs, flashcards, and other learning tools? How could I possibly fill that gap for George?
George’s doctor just shrugged her shoulders. While all of that is wonderful, she said, that is not what helps them to learn. Bless her. Obviously, I need to continue to work with both children on various skills – reading, colors, numbers, etc. But George will learn a tremendous amount from just watching his big sister and his parents. Now the pressure is on me to make sure he (and his sister) is learning the right things – that is the hardest part.
By way of background, George was our happy-go-lucky baby (despite his health issues) – smiley, easy going and appeared to have inherited Will’s sunny disposition.
George, 7 months
All of this changed when he turned one and started walking. As it turns out, George is all me – he is temperamental, opinionated, demanding, and large and in charge. (To his credit, George is also exceedingly loving and sweet most of the time…just not all of the time. And during those off times – well, you get the picture). Disciplining George under the watchful eyes of Frances has been a great challenge. Not only does she always want to know if/how/why/why not I am going to discipline George for biting her, biting me, hitting her, hitting me, or other indiscretions, she is often the instigator of his behavior (as any good sibling would be).
I explained all of this to George’s doctor as well, who again looked at me with smiling eyes and a sympathetic grin. When George is behaving more like me than Will, I tend to excuse him, particularly to Frances. “He’s just a baby, sweetie; he doesn’t know any better.” Or worse, I expect Frances to deal with his behavior in her own way. “Frances, you know George has a temper; you need to deal with it.” You can’t do that, said the doctor. He absolutely knows better. In fact, if you label him as your temperamental child, he will live up to that expectation and will always be the temperamental one. What an epiphany; I completely understood her advice. I remembered reading long ago (probably during my pregnancy with Frances when I still had time to read a LOT!), that parents should make a concerted effort not to pigeonhole their children (“he’s my little artist;” “she’s the academic of the family;” “there goes our little athlete.”). By labeling children, they can grow up thinking not only do they need to fulfill that role in the family, but that there can’t be room for any crossover – the athlete can’t also be the academic because that role is already taken.
I was very blessed to have parents who refrained from labeling us. As the baby of four, it could have been very easy to just brush me off as the “dancer.” But for whatever reason (I guess just good parenting instincts), my parents never called me that – I did dance (a lot), but I was also allowed and encouraged to be a good student, to have a sense of humor, be a good friend, and read and write often and well.
Henry, Katherine, Johnny, Grandaddy and me at GD's 90th birthday.
So, I am turning a new leaf today in the discipline department. While I can’t change who George is, I can change his reactions to events and expect him to be the good boy that I know he can and wants to be. And isn’t that what we all ultimately want for our children – for them to retain their unique personalities all while learning to live as responsible adults and good stewards of this special planet.
George’s doctor closed by telling me that you can really tell how your children behave when you’re not around – whether it is with their grandparents, at school or on the playground. Thankfully, both children have always behaved like angels in school. And according to all accounts, Frances and George acted beautifully during their stay with my sister and her family last weekend– a huge relief.
I haven’t ruined them yet.
I think I see the makings of sibling love turning into sibling biting in George's eyes.
*Sigh*...time to practice my newly learned skills!