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little Jekyll & Hyde

On the eve of his second birthday, Munchkin has honed to perfection all the delightful contradictions of a complex little person. He can be engaged, polite, cuddly, and cooperative one moment and implacable the next. The exasperating thing for S is that he seems to save the bulk of his whining for her, behaving very differently in identical situations depending on which one of us happens to be with him.

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For example, we take turns taking Munchkin to daycare and picking him up in the afternoon. With D, he behaves like a model citizen, putting his toys away when D says the time has come to go to school and holding D’s hand the entire walk to the bus stop or to the parking garage. He also puts his toys away for S, but he adamantly refuses to let her walk him by the hand. As a result, the same scene plays out pretty much every afternoon on the way back from daycare: Munchkin says goodbye to the car, walks to the exit, but then refuses to leave the garage, forcing S to carry him upstairs kicking and screaming.

When he was younger, Munchkin went through both a mama and a papa phase. These days he does not choose between us, per se. Instead, he favors the person with whom he happens to engage first. For example, if S starts reading to him, he won’t let us switch, wanting her to remain by his side for hours on end. If she so much as steps away from his play table, he gets incredibly upset. On the other hand, if D gets Munchkin up from his nap, then he only wants to engage with D and wants nothing to do with S.

The kicker for S is that D manages to multitask when he interacts with Munchkin. For example, if Munchkin is playing with his cars, D can usually do his French exercises on the couch at the same time. As long as D directs a few words Munchkin’s way every once in a while, their physical proximity suffices to reassure him. The Munch does not afford S the same courtesy, however. If he notices that she is devoting less than one hundred percent of her attention to him, he immediately screeches his displeasure.

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Considering his pedigree, Munchkin is a pretty good eater. Both D and his mom were notoriously picky, and while Munchkin can be pretty explicit about what he wants at mealtime, he usually eats well. Even so, feeding him at times can be a trying experience for S, especially when Munchkin gets into an indecisive mood, asking for one thing after another only to push the plate away when S gives him exactly what he had just demanded.

He also has developed several oddly specific and amusing food-related quirks. He loves bananas, for example, but will only eat a freshly peeled banana and only up to the part that has been peeled the first time. Peel too little, and he’ll only eat that little bit, pushing the banana away when it is peeled further. Peel too much, and you risk the banana breaking before he’s had a chance to eat it. When that happens, he attempts to put the broken piece back inside the peel before pushing the whole thing away in disgust when he fails.

Recently, he has taken to eating with both hands, demanding more of whatever he happens to be eating until both hands are full. This works fine with apple slices or pieces of bagel with cream cheese, which remains his favorite breakfast meal. It works a lot less well with the aforementioned bananas – as if it wasn’t bad enough that he leaves half the banana unfinished, he now demands two of them!

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Walking down the hallway at FSI, D recently overhead a depressing conversation between two older colleagues, one of whom lamented that his son was practically a teenager before he started sleeping through the night. Munchkin sleeps through the night every now and then, but nowhere near often enough for us to claim success in this respect.

When he wakes just before dawn – as is not infrequently the case – and it’s clear that he cannot be coaxed back to sleep, D takes Munchkin and all of his stuffed animals into the big bed in the guest bedroom. If it’s still dark, Munchkin will usually lie still for a bit while D sleepily recounts a fairy tale. Sometimes D can eke out an extra twenty minutes in bed this way before Munchkin pops up and starts chattering, “This is bolshoi (big) zebra; this is be-ah (bear); this is Camuey (his penguin). Papa seeepy (sleepy). Come on, papa!”

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