Winter of Babel
We didn’t get any real snow this winter. Which I am really bummed about because I love playing with you in the snow and I was really looking forward to it. The rest of the country got snowed on quite a lot, but Derby just had a few snowy sprinklings this year, nothing stuck. We even had a weekend of very warm and sunny weather, during which we had a picnic in the park, in February! We took the ‘Babel in Winter’ photo above on that day as well, and yes you are right, there’s nothing wintery about it.
And look at your hair! It’s very short again. Previous haircuts have been quite traumatic for you, so we decided to not cut your hair again unless you asked for it. Your hair was getting really long and I loved it, I was imagining it even longer. You liked your hair too, but it was getting in your way. Every morning, I had to wet it and comb out all the tangles, which you didn’t like at all. One day, after seeing a video of you with short hair you suddenly said you wanted me to cut your hair. I was really surprised and skeptical that’s what you really wanted. Since you have always been very adamant about not wanting it cut. But you wanted the hair out of your eyes. You told me you wanted to sit on Papa’s lap while I would cut your hair with the Flowbee. And so that’s exactly what we did when Papa came back from work. It was much harder to cut your hair than Papa’s because it was so long and soft, but we managed it and you were very brave during the whole long process.
You have been brave a few more times this winter. The day before your haircut, we took you to the doctor’s for two vaccinations. I was not looking forward to it at all. The last time you had vaccinations, you screamed and cried, you were one year old. But this time the only one crying was me, at least I have the ‘pregnant-with-triplets’ excuse. You simply looked at both needles going in and didn’t give a peep. I couldn’t believe it! Wow. Afterwards in the waiting room, seeing me still crying, you did give me a deep hug and cried a tear or two. When we were walking home you asked me why I was crying. You told me it wasn’t scary, but it did hurt though. It made quite an impression too, and every time we’ve been to the doctor’s since you always ask me if you’re getting another “spuit” [🇳🇱 injection].
We had another dentist appointment this winter and you did even better than last time. You climbed on the chair all by yourself, sat there cool as a cucumber, with dark glasses over your eyes and a large paper cover over your chest, and patiently waited for the dentist to be done chatting with us. When it was time for her to check your teeth, you opened your mouth without hesitation and she had a good and long look. Wow, Babel, just wow!
Another big change: you don’t wear diapers anymore, you use the toilet instead. We like to follow your lead, and so far child-led parenting has served us all well, on all fronts. So we had planned to wait until you told us you were ready, but you need to be potty trained before you start elementary school in September. My belly is getting bigger and bigger, and more and more in the way, and things will only get more chaotic this summer with the arrival of your siblings, so we decided to potty train you over half term in February.
Potty training is the worst ‘parent’ thing I have ever had to do. I am ashamed to say that during the first few days we used full-on bribery with stickers and rewards. It got you to give up your refusal to use the toilet at home, but forcing you to do something you clearly weren’t ready or willing to do, created a very uncomfortable dynamic between us. Even though it was completely unfair to you, your toilet accidents made me feel upset and disappointed in you. You could clearly sense it and it was not fun seeing the hurt on your face. Especially that day you had 3 big poo accidents, and we had a broken boiler and no hot water to clean you or your poopy underpants. A spray of ice-cold water does not get poop out of underpants, no it actually cements it right down into the fabric… awesome.
Obviously, things started going better once we gave up the extrinsic rewards. You’re doing quite well now, you still have the occasional “wee” [🇬🇧 pee] accident, usually when you don’t have immediate access to a toilet, like on the way home from nursery. It’s still hard to convince you to go to the toilet, just in case, before we leave somewhere. At home, we usually manage to manipulate you to go by pretending who finishes going to the toilet first “wins”, which always makes you zoom to the bathroom.
When you’re home with easy and quick access to the toilet, you don’t have accidents anymore. You simply jump up and announce either “I need a wee” or “I need a poo” and hurry to the toilet to do your business. When it’s poo time, you usually watch a video on the iPad because it can take you a while to finish. Now all that’s left to teach you before school in September is how to wipe your own bum.
The potty training story books for sale here are pretty awful, but we found a very nice one online, by Leslie Patricelli. Unfortunately, Amazon took months to deliver it, so we ended up watching YouTube videos of other people reading the story. You loved those videos. When your book finally arrived, you opened the book and started ‘reading’ it to us, almost perfectly. You were using the video’s American terms like ‘diapers’, while our British version of the book has ‘nappies’ in it. You still know exactly what’s being said on each page and you still enjoy ‘reading’ the book to us.
There was a short period you were into ‘Supernanny’ on YouTube. Not sure how you got interested, but you were pointing out those videos so we watched quite a few of those together. Supernanny is quite extreme and uses techniques like ‘crying-it-out’ and the ‘naughty seat’. Not our style at all, but hey these videos were more fun to watch for me than Ryan’s toy reviews or Blippi, so I happily watched with you.
I had no idea how much you were really understanding of what was happening on the show. Recently, there was a short period in which you would get really upset or angry, and act out by hitting or kicking us. One time it got bad enough for me to pick you up and plop you down on our kitchen stool and tell you: “Sit here until you cool down.” After you calmed down and had some milkies you said: “You put me on the naughty seat.” I was very surprised. Wow, you did understand what was happening in the show.
I would have never introduced the ‘naughty seat’ into our house, but now you suddenly had. And I have used the concept a few times since. Whenever you would start to get really angry again, I would warn you if you hit or kicked us you would end up on the naughty seat. Except one time, this worked. That one time, I had to actually follow through and put you on there and you were yelling and crying for 3 minutes, while we tried to ignore you. That was really tough and hard for all of us. Mostly, a quick warning has worked and thankfully now your angry outbursts have practically died out.
The kitchen stool is still referred to as the naughty seat though. Sometimes you tell people they need to go on the naughty seat. I have heard you tell Papa to go on there when he isn’t doing something exactly to your liking. Sometimes you sound annoyed and other times you tell him matter-of-factly: “and now you go on the naughty seat.” Once on FaceTime, when Oma kept telling you to take a drink of water when you didn’t want to, you sternly told her she needed to go on the naughty seat. She asked you why and you replied angrily: “Because you’re unbelievable!” That was super funny.
You talk so much, even in your sleep. You prefer to speak in English. You often tell us that we are in England and therefore we ought to speak “Engelands”. Your English is also quite different from our English. Papa and I use American English when we communicate and I speak with an American accent. But your friends and teachers all speak British English, and this is where you’re learning English, and to us you sound so British. To your teacher you sound different again, she hears some kind of accent as well. It doesn’t matter, we all understand you.
If we don’t understand you, or when you want to make something exceptionally clear, you gesture us to get our face near your face. You then hold our face and push your cheek against ours and tell us whatever you were saying again. It usually doesn’t clarify things for me, but it is super adorable.
We speak our own languages to you and you will understand every word, and sometimes respond back in Dutch or Japanese. Usually you will just translate out loud what we just said into English and then respond in English. It is hard for me to keep things Dutch all the time, when you switch to English I automatically switch with you and often don’t realize I am doing it. But I am trying my best to keep it all Dutch. Papa is doing a great job with keeping it Japanese. Your grandparents also help by speaking their own languages to you.
You love asking “why?” I try to answer to my best ability and will get a follow-up why question, and obviously this keeps happening. My way to end it, is to say “I don’t know why. Do you know why?” And you always have an answer, usually with a heavy dose of kiddy logic, but it does end the series of ‘why’ questions for a while. A new favorite question is “how?” And I have found this even more difficult to answer, actually. What also doesn’t help is that it seems like you don’t fully grasp the difference between “why” and “how”. You often get frustrated with my answers.
You are very communicative to the babies. You started talking to them a while ago, without anyone ever telling you how. The first time, we were walking to the elevator and you suddenly stopped in the hallway to touch my belly to say “hi babies” and then you kissed my belly! That was so surprising and so sweet. Another time, during story-time before bed, you out of nowhere touched my belly and said “hi babies, what are you doing?” Papa has joined in on the belly talk since then. It is really cute when you talk to them and try to listen for an answer. I can feel the babies move and Papa felt one of them move this week as well. I tried to let you feel it, but it’s confusing to you and you keep trying to listen instead.
You’re having two brothers and one sister, we’ve only known this for sure for less than two weeks, but you’ve known this much longer. You used to say “One boy for Babel, one boy for Papa, and one girl for Mama.” A week before we found out the genders, one of your teachers came to me, telling me she knew it was two boys and a girl, because you had told her. She was surprised to hear that I had no idea about the genders because you had told her on several occasions and you had seemed very confident. Well, you were right! I don’t think you have any idea how impressed we are with your prediction.
In the morning, you want milkies when you first wake and are still sleepy. While you’re nursing, you often ask me to “wake up your face” by playing a video on my phone for you. Once you’re awake and done nursing you hide under the comforter and yell “Papa, come on! Come in my room!” Papa will come and pretend he doesn’t know where you are, and you always make funny sounds and wild movements to clearly give away your location.
I need a Clexane injection every morning to avoid blood clots during my high risk pregnancy. Papa administers it, and sometimes I bleed when he takes out the needle. Then we need your help. You rush to the kitchen, get out the first aid kit, select a bandaid, and you put it on me. It always makes you very proud and feel really important. You will refer to yourself as Doctor Babel. It also makes you hover around Papa when he injects me and hope for me to bleed, every morning.
I love the way you smell. Because of your eczema we don’t use soap on you, we shower and wash you with just water. But you always smell so lovely, I love sniffing your head and hair, oh and your feet! Anyways, one day when you were wet after a bath I was soaking up your smell. You said “smell my hand.” So I smelled it, and then suddenly remembered you used to touch your chin chin [🇯🇵 penis] and ask people to smell your hand. So I asked a bit worriedly: “did you touch your chin chin?” Your answer: “no, I touched my bum bum.” Great, even better. It was hilarious though.
One time, you were shaking my boob right before you nursed. I asked if you were making a milkshake. “No” you laughed, “that’s not a milkshake!” Then you told me your recipe for a milkshake: “You get milk and ice cream and stir it. Then add soy sauce and honey and mix it. Then put on a lid and put in a straw.” Hmm? Not sure I would like that kind of milkshake.
You’ve developed into quite the personality in these last few weeks. You love making funny faces, doing silly dances, and making people laugh. This is how I imagine your Papa as a little kid. This is a very new development and I think it means you’ve become more comfortable in your own skin. You used to seem a little shy at nursery, especially when your friends aren’t there, but now you seem comfortable enough to let the silly you come out. Even in a silent room of waiting parents of kids, you have no problem being the center of attention with your silly dances and funny songs.
It is really interesting to see you become you and at the same time a clear mixture of Papa and Mama. You’ve got the active and silly from Papa, and the precise and creative from me. You are also very competitive and very kind. You love winning, and race to win anything and everything. But when the other people are sad about losing you quickly declare everyone a winner. You also often make us happy with big fat kisses and long tight hugs.
You say the cutest things and often declare your love for us. Recently, you were looking at me and saying the sweetest things. “I love your hand. I love your hair. I love your teeth. I love your lip.” I was feeling really happy and adored by you and then you said: “I love this toilet roll.” That priceless declaration plonked me right back down to earth.