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the great manipulator

No sooner did we settle into our new home, get over jet lag, and establish a routine than Munchkin decided to shatter our new equilibrium.

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Considering how early he had rolled over and how little he likes to sit still, we consider ourselves fortunate that we made it midway through Munchkin’s third year before he decided to climb out of his crib. The comparatively cramped set-up we had had in DC certainly helped. We had put Munchkin’s crib into a walk-in closet so as to free up the second bedroom for visiting guests. As a result, it was so dark in his “room” that not only did he sleep more soundly, but also he was not tempted to escape his bars when he did wake.

Unfortunately, now that he has figured out how to climb out of his crib, sleep has once again become elusive in our household. Two nights ago, Munchkin wound up sleeping in our bed with S while D got exiled to the guest bedroom. And last night, he did eventually go back to bed in his own room, but not before keeping us up for more than an hour in the dead of night. “My dear,” Munchkin called after S in mouse-voiced imitation of our habitual term of affection. “My dear, where are you going? It’s time to wake up,” he insisted as S handed him off to D and closed the door to our bedroom.

Compounding our headache is that Munchkin has perfected the craft of manipulation. We had heard that toddler resistance could be overcome through the illusion of choice. “Do you want mama or papa to put you to bed?” S asks, but Munchkin is much too smart to fall for that false dichotomy. He simply changes the subject, asking for a bedtime story, or a cup of milk, or to say goodnight to nana over Skype – and how can we say no to that? As soon as we manage to put him to bed, he’ll pop up with tears in his eyes, whining that he is hungry and needs food in his belly. S repeatedly falls for this ruse because not infrequently Munchkin only picks at his dinner and then wakes up hungry in the middle of the night. Of course, as soon as she brings him downstairs he says he does not want the very food he was begging to eat, and the process starts all over again.

It’s not just bedtime struggles, of course. When Munchkin does not want to do something, he makes no bones about it. His no definitely means no. For example, seeing how little traction we had in getting Munchkin to use his potty, S’s mom suggested we try to entice him with a more interesting receptacle. Trying to capitalize on Munchkin’s recently blossoming love affair with trains, S bought a Thomas the Tank Engine potty that plays music whenever it is filled. Munchkin loves the potty as much as we thought he would, but for all the wrong reasons. He remains steadfast in his refusal to sit on it. However, after taking the little bowl apart several times he figured out that he could get the music to play if he simply flipped the toy toilet upside down and pushed the sensor button.

We haven’t given his potty training more than a half-hearted effort since, trusting that he’ll figure it out when he starts school in September.

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