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Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me: February 2015

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Yes, I Bought my Son a Dress

Tyger loves Frozen.  I already mentioned his love of the film - and the infuriating gender stereotypes this threw up for me - in my first blog post here.  Tyger especially loves Elsa.  In fact, one of the nicest compliments you can receive from Tyger is 'You're Elsa' because, by that, he means you look pretAty and he likes what you're wearing.  He really likes Elsa's dress...as do thousands of other little kids (and probably lots of adults) and - just like thousands of other kids - he has a little dress-up version of his own.

Yes, I bought my son a dress.

Most of my friends and family are of the more liberal and/or educated persuasion so I don't have to put up with many comments from people I know but I go on forums, I read the news and I know pretty much every workman/engineer/delivery man/random person in a cafe who has spoken to Tyger has assumed he's a girl simply because he has long hair.

Oh yeah, my son has long hair as well.  And, in an age when it's generally pretty socially acceptable for teenage boys and grown men to have long hair, I really wasn't prepared for just how baffled people would be by it!

There have been a few 'he needs a hair cut' comments (ha! - I'd like to see you try.  When I trim his fringe I strap him into his dining chair booster seat, give him a biscuit and then hack away as much as I can before he finishes the biscuit and starts thrashing his head from side to side so I don't know how anyone would manage to cut more off) but for the most part people simply don't consider the possibility he could be a boy.  They see his hair and assume he's a girl.  And, no, none of these times were when he was wearing his dress.  When he's dressed in typically 'boy' clothes (jeans, a t-shirt with cars on, navy and green dinosaur trainers) all anyone seems to look at is his hair.  I mean, both the clothes and hair are based on silly stereotypes, obviously, but apparently one massively outranks the other.

'She's lovely.'

'Ha!  She's chatty, isn't she?'

'You're a very confident little girl!'

These are pretty typical.  And what - ypu might wonder - do I say in response?  Nothing.  Because there's nothing wrong with being a girl so I don't see it as an insult and because Tyger doesn't care.  He's only just started to be aware of gender/sex.  In fact, yesterday morning's conversation was as follows:

Tyger: Daddy's a man.
Me: Yes, Daddy is a man.
Tyger: You're a girl.
Me: Hmm...a girl or maybe a woman?
Tyger: No, you're a girl.
Me: Oh, okay.
Tyger: I'm a boy.
Me: And what's Baby Bear?
Tyger: A monkey!

Plus - and let's be honest here - all babies and a lot of toddlers look pretty androgynous.  Babies look like wrinkly, purply bald men whether they're male or female and toddlers often look pretty indistinguishable in terms of gender (if you remove all the markers like hair clips and gender specific toys and clothes...and hair styles!).  So, I don't get angry about Tyger being called a girl, I don't make a fuss, I don't say anything at all.  But it does perplex me.  I currently have short hair (well, right now, I actually have a mess of hair that was short and has now partly grown out into a bit of a bird's nest) but I have never had someone mistake me for a man.  People accept adult men can have long hair and adult women may have short hair but small children must always fit into to comfy gender roles society has laid out for them.

This is the same reason some people would object to the fact Tyger has - amongst his train set and cars and dinosaurs and rocket and cuddly tiger - a toy kitchen, a doll and buggy, a doll house, a cuddly unicorn and pink slippers.  You know one of the worst arguments I've read on a forum?  Having dolls might turn a little boy gay.  (Yeah, seriously.)  Now, let's think about this for a minute.  I'm going to go ahead and assume the sort of person who thinks a plastic toy can change a person's sexual orientation is probably the same sort of person who objects to gay marriage and LGBT people having/adopting kids.  Given this, they probably associate parenthood with heterosexuality  Sooo...they are saying a boy pretending to be a parent - generally achieved through having sex with a member of the opposite sex - will somehow make them want to have sex with members of their own sex.  That's on a par with boys calling each other gay because they show an interest in girls.  It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

Now, I feel I should point out that whilst I in no way think Tyger playing with these toys or wearing pink or dresses or a Goram bin bag or anything else will turn him gay/bi/transgender, the Wolf and I would not be in any way upset or disappointed if it turns out he is.  Because a) we're his parents and we love him no matter what and b) who cares??  What harm does it do anyone?  Why is this even an issue in 2015?

So, I'll carry on buying Tyger (and Baby Bear as he gets older and has his own preferences) whatever toys he shows an interest in because there are no 'boys' toys' and 'girls' toys', there are just toys.  And, I'll keep his hair long until he is of an age when he can decide for himself what length he wants it.  And, I'll carry on letting him wear a fracking dress if he wants.

The dress is actually sat on a shelf right now because Tyger managed to rip it and I'm patching it up.  My sewing is functional, if not necessarily as aesthetically pleasing as it could be, but luckily Tyger won't care if the stitching is visible because he'll feel special when he wears it.  He'll feel like a princess, which I can only see as a good thing.

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Mystery of the Missing Miscellaneous Items

I've mentioned before about Tyger's ability to lose toys here, though that was specifically about his small farm toys.  I hope this didn't give the impression his skills are limited to those toys alone because they most certainly are not.

Tyger, like all children, has many abilities.  His acting is pretty good when he wants to distract you from a telling off.  For a while he'd point towards a corner/the wall/the floor shouting, 'Look, a spider!  Oh no, a spider!'  I'm ashamed to admit I fell for it the first couple of times before I cottoned on to what he was doing.  When he realises one tactic has stopped working, he moves on to something else.  So far, his various distraction techniques have included: shouting 'pine cone' very loudly, pretending to sneeze, pointing at imaginary spiders, saying he has a sore tummy, and proclaiming he's 'really tired'.  Although, when all else fails, simply shouting 'go away' or 'I don't like Mummy' suffices.

Another skill Tyger possesses is opening baby gates.  We have three baby gates and two have a pretty simple opening mechanism where you pinch a bit on top and a bit below.  It wasn't really a great surprise when Tyger figured out how to open those (and came barging into our bedroom at 5.30am shouting, 'It's morning time, Mummy!' - I guess technically he was right).  We tried locking it at the bottom, too, with bits that flip down but he soon figured those out.  The more impressive gate flummoxes most adults.  Many a friend, family member or workman have been stuck on one side of that gate even after being shown how it works.  I know lots of toddlers defeat baby gates by climbing over them but Tyger has never been a climber.  He never climbed out of his cot and he was quite late to climb onto the sofa.  Whilst I knew other parents who had to use stair gates much earlier than they'd planned because their five month old was climbing the stairs, I couldn't convince Tyger to climb the stairs when he was a year and a half and I was pregnant so didn't want to carry a toddler up and down the stairs.  Tyger will use chairs to climb and reach things now but I still don't think it would occur to him to try and climb over something, especially if he could figure out how to open it or simply move it instead.

That leads me on to his next skill.  The reason he manages the gates so efficiently is because he is always watching and listening to everything, even when you're convinced he's not.  My youngest sister was exactly the same.  You'd swear she was sat playing, completely oblivious to the grown-up conversations taking place the other side of the room, but it became apparent she was constantly listening.  My sister has known what she or my other sister are receiving for Christmas and birthdays countless times without ever needing to raid my parents' bedroom or any such cliche.  All she did was sit quietly and unobtrusively playing and pay attention to any conversation taking place in the same or next room.  Tyger knows what you're saying when you go out of your way to disguise it.  There are times I've spelled out C-A-K-E only to have him say, 'Cake?'  I often think I'm talking in code about something but it later becomes clear Tyger knew exactly what I was saying.  He certainly does a good impression of someone not paying the slightest bit of attention to anything but I'm gradually realising he is aware of everything happening around him.  If kids in general are sponges then Tyger is...something more absorbent than a sponge.  Is there anything more absorbent than a sponge?  Ugh, now I have disgusting images of 'feminine hygiene products' in my head.  I should really avoid metaphors altogether.

Anyway, Tyger has lots of such 'skills' but perhaps his biggest talent is for losing things.  I know every parent has probably experienced some variation on the keys out the letter box/remote control in the bin/something shoved in the DVD player scenario at least once.  It's a well-known fact toddlers enjoy putting things that belong in one place in a completely different place.  In that sense, Tyger is perfectly normal.  But the sheer number of things that go missing and the fact so many of them never resurface is impressive.

Items he's lost but have subsequently been found include (but are not even close to being limited to): a plate (tucked away in a rarely used cupboard behind a chair); one of my sister's school books (Tyger had helpfully put it in the other sister's school bag); various items of clothing - both his and other people's (generally found in his toy oven, which apparently doubles up as a 'washing machine'); plastic cutlery from his play kitchen (this is hard to explain but he pushes them into the middle of the kitchen roll and into the kitchen roll holder, which is shaped a bit like a narrow whisk); two of Baby Bear's teething rings (placed in the shoe cupboard amongst all the shoes because apparently Tyger likes to wear these teething rings on his feet as shoes...), the engine and two carriages from his wooden train set (stuffed behind a radiator).  I could go on, and on, and on.

But for every item we find, at least one is still missing.  Some haven't been seen for six months or more.  Tyger got a wooden shape puzzle for his first birthday and eight out of the nine shapes have been gone for a long time.  One, lonely, green circle remains.  The end of his Henry Hoover (the attachment part) has also mysteriously disappeared, causing the noise Tyger makes when he's 'hoovering' to change from a 'vvvvvvvvv' sound to more of a 'cchh' noise because, obviously, the sound changes when you take the attachment off the end of a vacuum cleaner.  Other missing items include: half an egg from his toy egg box, a small purple car, several bits from his toy kitchen, the spoon he normally has for his cereal in the morning, a couple of plastic balls from his ball run toy, half an egg from Baby Bear's Russian doll style eggs (what is it with halves of eggs?) and the top of the plastic work bench from his toy tool kit set.  Of course, there are several small animals missing as well but Santa - being a smart chap - gave Tyger two packs of small plastic animals in his stocking so there are always plenty left.

Now, my parents' house is large but Tyger is restricted to the living room, dining room and part of the hall during the day unless he's with one of us big people.  Sofas are regularly lifted to check underneath, I know to look down the backs of radiators, our fat cat brings live mice in often enough that other bits of furniture/speakers etc. get pulled out fairly often, and the bin in the living room is wide so easy to see into.  I don't know where these things go.  There has been the odd occasion when a toy has been missing and has been found in several pieces in the garden courtesy of the demon husky but no trace of any of the above has been found in the garden.  Tyger's skill isn't even 'hiding' things because that implies he does it deliberately and knows where they are.  However, he often asks where his purple car is, or where the end of his hoover is.  He is simply very skilled at losing things.

So, suggestions on a postcard as to where the missing things are (or maybe in the comment section. I don't know, I'm not good with technology - send them via carrier pigeon if you like).

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Friday, 13 February 2015

I Have a Confession

I have a confession to make.

I'm not a baby person.

I know, I know, that doesn't seem like a big deal and it goes without saying (except this is the internet so I'll say it anyway to ensure there's no misunderstanding (except this is the internet so there's always a chance of a misunderstanding)) I love my boys.  I'd do all the usual clichés parents would do for their kids: I'd die for them, I'd kill for them, I'd fly to Paris to rescue them from human traffickers and murder a load of gangstas on the way.  You know, all the usual parenty stuff.

But - and this is where I feel I deviate from the norm - I don't 'miss' the baby days with Tyger and I don't think Baby Bear is 'growing up too fast'.  All I seem to read in baby groups and from friends with babies is how upset they are their nine-month-olds aren't tiny babies anymore, how they're in tears over the thought of a first birthday, how nostalgic they are about teeny tiny sleepsuits and how morose they are at their baby moving up a nappy size.  I feel bad for them but I'm left wondering if I'm the only person in the world who just doesn't really like the baby stage.

I'm not saying I spend/spent the whole 'baby' part of parenting resenting my children or being indifferent towards them.  Of course, like any mum, I felt an overwhelming sense of love when they fell asleep on me whilst I fed them.  I felt all gooey inside when they started smiling.  I was convinced they were the smartest babies on the planet when they learned how to clap or sit up unaided or move around.  I was elated when they stopped pooping in the house and started doing it in the garden...or was that one the dogs - it's all run into a bit of a blur?  I even thought they looked cute and not like weird bulbous headed, purple, wrinkly aliens.

However, breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful to start with (and for months and months with Tyger) and every time one of the boys fell asleep on me I desperately needed to pee.  The smiling was lovely but the crying happened far more often.  They learned how to do things like clap and move around but got horribly frustrated before they managed (which resulted in more crying).  They may have tricked my hormonal, sleep dprived mind into thinking they were cute but looking back at photos I'm not convinced and they certainly look better once their heads aren't all squishy and bald.  And there's the crying.  Plus: the lack of sleep (oh, God, the lack of sleep), having to carry around a dead weight all day, the crying, the lack of sleep, the stress of starting solids, the crying, the lack of sleep, the crying...

Yeah, I know toddlers cry too.  I know sometimes they cry a lot, too.  Tyger tends to cry at least five times before 8am so I get it.  He can, however, generally let me know why he's crying, even if the reason is all the breadsticks left in the box are broken or one of his toys won't fit in another one or I won't hoover or I take too long hoovering and he wants his 'turn' or he wants to help me with the laundry but I'm making lunch or he wants lunch at 9am.  And, yes, it may be the case that most of my responses to his crying are met with, 'but why??' and more crying but at least I can respond and at least I know what's distressing him, no matter how baffling or bemusing I may find it.

With Baby Bear I have to guess.  Unless I see him fall or see Tyger smack him over the head with a ukulele (yes, that happened and the jury's still out on whether it was an accident or not) I have to assume it's tiredness or trapped wind or teething or...something.  It's incredibly frustrating.  I admit Tyger inexplicably spitting on all his toys/himself/the floor/the sofa/other people is also frustrating.  Tyger asking - several hundred times a day - if I'm going to do the hoovering and trying to dictate to me which hoover I use is frustrating.  Tyger refusing to let anything resembling a vegetable or a full meal or just...food pass his lips is frustrating.  Yeah, the tantrums, throwing things, hitting other people and himself, shouting all time are all really frustrating but not in the same way as Baby Bear's crying.  He cries when you pick him up as if he wants to be down and then cries when you put him down like he wants to be held.  And I can't ask him why or...bribe him with a biscuit (well, I'm sure I could but I'm not quite at the point of giving a baby biscuits to shut him up yet).

Baby Bear has recently started crawling, after weeks of almost but not quite part-crawling-part-rolling-part-commando-crawling-part-flailing where he'd just get himself worked up into a rage because he couldn't quite manage what he wanted.  Far from feeling sad he's now crawling - and by extension growing up - I'm soooo relieved he can finally do it because it's meant he's a little happier and easier to deal with.

The other thing that makes Tyger's behaviour easier to cope with is the fact he may pinch me one minute but he sweetly tells me he loves me the next.  Or I know five minutes before he throws himself on the floor in a rage over his Duplo 'castle' breaking he went around the room pointing at every one of his toys saying 'thank you' (or 'gankoo') for them.  He gives me hugs and kisses, he makes me pretend cups of tea, he says some of the funniest things I've ever heard.  As lovely as it is when Baby Bear gives me a high five or smiles or giggles, I can't wait for him to start talking (more than his current ability to say 'again' and 'Dad').

I guess what I'm trying to say is: whilst I love my baby, I don't look longingly at tiny babies in the supermarket, I don't sniff babies' heads (I think my two must have been faulty because I still don't get that whole thing), I don't well up over little blankets.  I'm not a baby person.

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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Tyger the Tiger is Being Referred

It's been several months since Tyger had his initial visit from the health visitors who employed the tried and tested 'wait and see' approach to his suspected ASD.  We had a second visit from a different health visitor a couple of weeks ago.

She was nice but almost immediately made the rookie mistake of assuring me Tyger made 'really good eye contact'.  This comes up time and time again when talking about ASD and it's such an outdated thing to focus on.  Whilst a child avoiding eye contact is certainly something to take note of, it's just one of many many traits and behaviours that could indicate ASD but certainly doesn't need to be present for a diagnosis of ASD (lots of autistic people make eye contact perfectly well).

I guess it's the same with anything people start to become aware of and talk about.  If you're actually pretty knowledgeable on the subject, you notice the misinformation or incomplete information everywhere (you know, like when you hear someone discussing Jon Snow's parentage and they don't even know about the L+R=J theory?...anyone?...no?).  I saw a thread on a parenting forum yesterday about a lady who sounded potentially autistic to me.  However, another poster assured me she couldn't possibly be autistic because she had a habit of massively overstaying her welcome and autistic people hate being in social situations so wouldn't do that.  This reminded me of when my mum initially took my ASD sister to the GP the doctor said, 'The good news is it's unlikely to be autism because she wants to have friends.'  This whole 'autistic people hate being around other people' myth is pretty pervasive but it is a myth.  It's true that the mishandling of social situations is a big part of ASD but an inappropriate social response/understanding isn't the same as hating all other people!  Of course you do get the stereotypical autistic person who just doesn't like spending time with others and prefers to spend all day every day on their obsession but you also get the ones who desperately want to spend time with others but find social situations hugely stressful, the ones who enjoy being around other people but possibly don't realise they're being inappropriate or hogging the conversation, the ones who find one person they like and just want to spend all day with that person.  It varies greatly as each one is different - almost like they're, you know, people!

Now, Tyger loves people.  He loves talking to people.  He loves saying 'hi' to people in the street...every single one of them, regardless of whether they say hi back or look at him or acknowledge him in any way.  He loves it when delivery men come to the door and will invite them in ('come in, come in!').  He loves talking to people in the doctor's waiting room and will make instant friends with some unfortunate little old lady who he'll then demand stands up and goes with him to the children's books in the corner.  He loves it when one of my sisters has a friend round and will immediately attach himself to the poor unsuspecting teenager and cry when they disappear to my sister's bedroom.  He loves people.  Except when he doesn't but that's probably another blog post.

The health visitor seemed taken aback by his forwardness and bemused by his responses to her attempts to engage him in putting puzzle pieces into the right slots.  My mum - who has extensive knowledge and experience with young children - said toddlers tend to fall into two groups when they meet a strange adult.  They are either shy and unwilling to engage or confident and eager to please (which isn't to say either group won't end up cheeky/chatty/difficult etc. given a little time to get to know the adult).  Tyger is confident and friendly...but also knows his own mind and will freely tell it to anyone and everyone.  The health visitor asked him to put one puzzle piece in the right place so he did, whilst chatting away.  She asked him to put the next one in place and he told her 'no' and started playing with the piece (it was a car) despite all her encouragement .  She asked him to point out an animal in a book and he did.  Then next time he indignantly told her it was her turn and refused to co-operate.

I don't think she knew how to take him.  I'm not sure she was convinced he has ASD but she's referring him to a child psychiatrist anyway so it doesn't really matter.  The appointment will probably take months to come through but that's fine.  He doesn't particularly need a diagnosis right now since he spends all day every day with me and I already know about his needs but since it can take years in some cases, I'd rather start the whole process now before he's at school and might actually need the support a diagnosis would give.

Not that I always find it easy to support his needs.  For instance, Tyger has sensory issues and one of the ways this impacts on him is he doesn't like wearing clothes.  In particular, he doesn't like wearing jeans.  I think the restrictive nature of them and the waistband are uncomfortable for him.  I'd let him run around naked all day if I could.  I like to think I'm a pretty liberal parent and nudity isn't a big deal - or it wouldn't be if Tyger could leave...himself alone.  I know, I know, it's totally normal and natural for kids to do some 'fiddling' and the like.  As I said, I'm open minded.  However, Tyger will play with his penis until it's red and inflamed.  He also started trying to put various things up his bottom.  Now, I know he's my first but I'm pretty sure the 'let them explore their bodies' attitude only applies so long as you don't think doing so will lead to a trip to the GP (which it did) or possibly A&E.

So, for now at least, clothes are a must.  But the fight of trying to get them on him in the morning and back on him after every toilet visit was tiring and he also learnt if he claimed he needed the potty he could take his trousers and pants off then run away (we're in the UK so 'pants' are always underpants, not trousers).  I tried jogging bottoms instead of jeans but whilst Baby Bear can only wear jogging bottoms because jeans are too tight to get over his huge thighs, Tyger is too skinny for jogging bottoms and they just fall down (the drawstrings on his age range seem to be decorative only and aren't functional - I can only assume this is due to fear of strangulation, which is probably also why you can't get mittens on a string anymore now I think of it).  Dungarees caused more problems than they solved because he got very stressed out by the buttons.

He doesn't mind his onesies at night, though, and often asks to wear them instead of clothes so I had an idea.  I didn't really want him wearing the ones he has for night during the day - partly because they're quite thin and since he also refuses to wear socks he'd likely be cold and partly because I want a distinction between what he wears in the day and the night to help with a sleep association.  I had a look on Amazon and eBay (I'm sure there are other places to purchase things but their existance has slowly faded from my memory) and found a fluffy tiger onesie.  The fabric was similar to a Frozen blanket Tyger has, which he loves.  He especially love to lie on the blanket when he doesn't have any pants or jeans on and...well he really likes it.

The tiger onesie arrived and we were both excited I got him undressed and put the onesie on and...he went mad and told me he wanted his clothes on.  After making a fuss about his jeans for frack knows how long, he was begging to wear them and refused to wear the nice soft onesie with no waistband.  This sort of thing comes up a lot.  Later, after leaving the onesie lying around for him to get used to (like how you introduce a new cat to an existing one slowly and a bit at a time) he said he wanted it on..woohoo!...over the top of his clothes...ah.  I couldn't help but think this was defeating the whole point of the thing and was ready to write it off as a failure but I think he gained encouragement from everyone's reaction to how cute he was and the next day he allowed me to put it on him with only pants underneath.  The Goram zip was a bit scratchy on his chest, though, so I had to add a t-shirt as well.  And that's what he's been happily wearing for two days now: pants a t-shirt and his tiger onesie.  No fights after the toilet and he actually brought the onesie to me this morning when he got up so I could put it on him.  I've ordered a Gruffalo one in similar fabric but I'm a bit worried about how I'm going to wash the tiger one before it arrives.  Evening laundry, perhaps.  Or...I don't know.  I'm sure cleanliness is overrated.

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