Oliver is nearly half way through his fourth year. As such, he is changing even more rapidly than his siblings. This post is a summary of things we have observed recently.
He talks. A lot. A tsunami of words at all times, often preceded with, “Hey Mama!” or “Hey Daddy!”
He likes to tell stories that meander from place to place with very little rhyme or reason.
He says “last night” to mean anytime in the past. For example, when referring to a trip we took in December, he might say, “Last night when we were at Grummy and Grandpa’s house.”
He prefaces many sentences with “I think so.” For example:
“I think so, Mama’s at the store.”
“I think so, tomorrow is a school day.”
“I think so, we need to buy some more bananas ‘cuz I like bananas.”
“I think so, we need to buy a new house because we have a hole in the wall.”
He regularly comes up with linguistic gems that we imagine we’ll remember, but then can’t quite reconstruct. I recall one from this morning when I think he was trying to describe something evaporating: “Maybe it just winded away…”
He loves it when we set timers. Before bed, he will often ask for a timer so that he can have “five more minutes!” to play. Usually, when the timer goes off he is happy to go upstairs.
He has ups and downs with emotional regulation. Sometimes he is easygoing and chill with changes of plan. At other times, he is stubborn and gets wildly upset over minor things: “But I wanted to put my toothbrush away MYSELF!!!!”
He loves to help in the kitchen and is getting better at it. He can often pour things into mixing bowls, stir things, count things out, or chop vegetables with his special chopper.
He is entirely potty trained except when he isn’t. We have trouble understanding what the key factors are. Sometimes he has no trouble for many days in a row. At other times, he’s on his third pair of pants before lunch. He can’t quite clamber up on the big potty yet, but loves to use his little one.
He still naps for 1-2 hours in the afternoon. Naptime and bedtime routines are straightforward: read a few books (or chapters from longer books) and then say goodnight. He often asks me to stay for “a little bit.”
Some additions from Griffin and Maggie:
He’s really annoying.
Maggie: He hits, kicks, and pinches a lot for no reason. (Griffin adds, “Actually, for a reason, because you do it.”)
Maggie: “This morning, Oliver was kicking me on the bed while I was doing HouseParty. I didn’t do anything!”
He interrupts a lot, saying, “But I’m talking!”
He’s a DUPLO master and is pretty good with regular legos too.
The Mandalorian was too scary for him. She-Ra is just right.
He often doesn’t finish his food and says that he wants us to “save it for tomorrow” but then never eats it.
He always wants to play with you in the least convenient times.
He always touches the screen when me and Griffin are playing on our iPads.
It feels especially hard these days to find the beauty in everyday moments, but I’m trying harder to look at my world each day and find something to make me smile. These kids, man: they’re pretty great.
Weaning off the bottle is a tough step for us. We embrace lots of other tough parenting moments with gusto, but both Sarah and I love the bottle of milk before bed. Partly, bedtimes are so hard already. Our system is smooth and it’s still hard. I’m tired. Sarah’s tired. There are dishes to do. The kids are exhausted and needy. Being able to snuggle up with Oliver and a bottle is a lovely way to close out the day.
But, we’ve been putting it off for six months (maybe more?) and we know it will just get worse once school begins. So, on Monday we told Oliver that the bottles were going bye bye. He said farewell to them. We introduced a sippy cup of milk that we can have downstairs before brushing teeth. Then we took him upstairs, read a few books, and put him to bed.
It’s been shockingly painless. He’s had one or two hard ones, but mostly the week has been straightforward. Knock on wood.
One weird thing: he’s not interested in the cup of milk. He sorta sipped at it for the first day or two, but by the end of the week he was heartily rejecting it. He just wants some water and maybe a snack. Then he’s ready. Not sure what that’s all about since he was accustomed to guzzling a solid 8-oz bottle at naptime and bedtime.
In the evenings at our house, in those interminable minutes while we try to finish preparing dinner, the two older kids are often “bored” and don’t know what to do with themselves. Recently, Griffin shuffled into the kitchen and asked me forlornly, “Daddy, what can I do right now?” He wasn’t asking, “How can I help?” No, this was a bitter expression of hopelessness in the face of far too few minutes of screen time.
I usually reply with something snarky like, “Go stare at a wall!” (Never very effective, but surprisingly satisfying.) Last week, however, I came up with something new. Perhaps a parenting lesson from ECFE finally sank in. Or maybe it arose from the fact that I was facilitating an immersive “design thinking” week at school. Instead of snark or exasperation, I said, “YES! Quick, get a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a shape that represents you in a color that represents your mood!” (I was riffing off of an icebreaker from a recent workshop.) Startled by my specificity, Griffin immediately went to his desk and did it, coming back with a multicolored blob that included a variety of emotions (including “hungry” and “bored,” but also some positive ones). Then he asked for another “art challenge.” And I heard the distant sound of angels singing.
Art challenges have become a fun new activity to keep the gremlins of our witching hour at bay. Maggie, of course, joined in too. Below are a couple of examples of their responses to my challenges from the last few days.
I’m not deluded enough to imagine that this will work forever, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. And I do love watching their artwork evolve.
Sarah wrote this up for our first non-family babysitter for Oliver. It sums up where our bedtime routine stands now. We’re loving it–short, simply, and successful.
Oliver’s bedtime is anywhere between 6-7:30pm, depending on how tired he seems. Signs that he’s ready for bed include crankiness, rubbing his eyes, heavy eyelids, general discontent, arching his back, etc. Once it’s clear he’s ready for bed, here’s what we do:
Make a bottle to take upstairs. We usually make a 6 oz bottle, which is 6 oz of water mixed with 3 scoops of formula.
Get into pj’s (we’ve left some out for you)
Read him a book (“I Like It When” is my standby) and give him the bottle, if he’ll take it. We usually lay together on our big bed. If he’s really eating a lot, you can read him more stories. I’m sure Griffin and Maggie can find some to read. Sometimes we skip this part if it’s clear he’s ready and doesn’t need any milk.
Once he’s done eating and you’re done reading a story, we say goodnight to Maggie and Griffin, and enter their room. We say goodnight to objects in the room (“Night night, clock! Night night closet! Night night, alphabet! Night night, Maggie’s bed! Night night, Griffin’s bed!”)
Lay him down and give him his lovie.
Say, “Night night, sleep tight! I’m right outside! I love you!”
Leave the room, closing the door.
If he cries, please set a timer for 5 minutes. Crying is continuous crying, not whimpers, moments of silence, whimper for a bit, silence for a bit. If he cries hard for 5 minutes, enter the room again, give him his lovie if it’s out of reach, and repeat, “Night night, sleep tight! I’m right outside! I love you!” Please don’t pick him up. He’s used to this routine now, and we’ve only had one or two times of really hard crying. He’s learning to soothe himself to sleep, and he’s gotten very good at it!
Maggie & Griffin
Bedtime for these guys is 7:30pm, unless Oliver is still falling asleep. We try to put Oliver down before they’re ready for bed, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. We start them getting ready for bed around 7 or 7:15pm. Their jobs are:
Get into pj’s
Put dirty clothes down the chute
Brush teeth for 2 minutes
Go to bed
Their routine sometimes includes time for read aloud, but if you are busy putting Oliver to bed, I would encourage them to get into their pj’s, brush their teeth, and take a little quiet reading time on our bed, if it’s available, or the back bedroom. They are sometimes really amped before bed and goof off in their beds, which sometimes wakes Oliver. Please remind them that it’s silent time once they’re in their room!
First, as mentioned on Monday, Oliver is now sleeping in his new crib in the kids’ bedroom. We were planning on a more gradual transition, but Griffin and Maggie were so excited to have him move in that we went for it. It’s been pretty miraculous so far. Every night this week, they’ve all gone to bed at the same time, with no special rituals for Oliver. We generally hang out near the crib for a little bit while he falls asleep, but it’s pretty quick. Honestly, the whole thing is a bit spooky; he just lies down and falls asleep. Crazy!
Oliver has been out on a couple of bike rides now in the iBert seat on Sarah’s bike. He loves it, and we love the fact that we have a new way of getting around town with him. The older kids enjoy riding their bikes, too, so this increases the whole family’s range of car-free transit. It’s hard to believe that this little guy will be riding his own bike in a few years.
This one might be better titled “Grasping” or “Manual Dexterity,” but they don’t have the same alliterative pizazz. Oliver has been getting better at using his little hands over the past month. He reaches for things intentionally, grasps objects we put in his hands, and likes to touch things within reach. (I like to walk around with him and let him touch different things—the bark of a tree, a smooth stone, a fuzzy towel—and watch him react to the different textures. On a more practical note, he can hold his bottle when he’s in his bouncy chair. He drops it frequently, but he loves trying to hold it and it gives us just a bit more leeway when we’re prepping a meal or trying to accomplish other tasks that require our hands.
I live for these moments of Zen: I overslept (because baby wakes up a lot still, and apparently when I get a chance, I am a log) and walked downstairs to my two oldest reading, one on the couch, one on a chair, baby bouncing in the bouncer, Regina Spektor on the stereo, and greeted with “Good morning Mama!”