Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Noah the Negotiator and Other Adventures in Parenting

Noah makes me smile.  I love him.  He also makes me completely crazy, and this may not be the best week for me to write an update because parenting has been a beast lately, and you, dear blog readers, are about to get an earful.  Please leave advice or ideas in the comments.  This strong-willed little boy often reminds me that I have no idea what I am doing!

I'm so glad he's my firstborn, my buddy, my parenting guinea pig (poor kid).  We test each other's patience daily!  But we also have so much fun together daily, and I couldn't love him more.  Here's a little bit about our Noah these days:

He imitates everything that he hears adults say, and it is hilarious to hear such grown-up things come out of such a little person.  For example, in the midst of a loud family dinner recently, there was a momentary pause in the chaos and he said to my sister-in-law,  "So, Aunt Alli, how are things going with your new baby?" We all burst out laughing--he just sounded so grown up! 

I also heard him playing with his toys the other day, making them interact and "talk" to each other, and one robot said to the other, "Dang, Brother!"  This is a total Nielson-ism, and apparently Noah has been listening to his daddy and his uncles interacting. ;)

He has also picked up some phraseology from the Westover side.  My sisters and I have a habit of
making a lot of words diminutive.  We put a "y" on words to show affection, and Noah does too.  I heard him playing with his Thomas trains the other day, and he said, "Oh sweet little Jamesy, did you fall off the tracks?" Jamesy! Ha!  He also says things to me like, "Let's take a shortcut-y, Mom!" when we are riding our bikes. 

And his imitation of me doesn't end there.  A few weeks ago he randomly went on a cleaning binge (this is SO unlike him) and started joyfully picking up his toys and straightening his room.  Perplexed by this sudden burst of helpfulness and cheer, I asked him what he was doing, and he said in a sing-songy voice, "Oh I'm just practicing being a parent; I'm getting totally organized." ;) I wish this organizational urge would strike his fancy more often!

He's still as dramatic as ever.  When I gave him a skeleton t-shirt at the beginning of October, he declared, "Oh Mom!  I've wanted one of these for years!"

He's equally dramatic when he's not pleased and throws himself on the ground in a shrieking fit when things don't go his way.  He often shouts, "You're a bully!" at kids who won't give him what he wants.  (Hey, I suppose he could call them worse things.)  I'm often declared a bully and a "mean mommy" too.  How dare I not let him watch four hours of TV a day? ;)

Tonight he was being so disobedient and got so many warnings that I finally just put him in bed without any stories.  I don't like using this punishment because story time is our special time every evening, but tonight this consequence was definitely merited.  "No scripture story either??" he cried in dismay as I put him in his bed. "But how will I learn about Jesus??" I stifled a laugh as I hugged him and said, "I love our story time too.  It makes me so sad when we don't get to do it together.  I'm sorry that you chose not to listen tonight." His response: "And I'm sorry that you chose not to teach me about Jesus tonight!" Oh my.  The master manipulator for sure!  How can a parent keep a straight face around this kid? 

He is a picky eater, and it stresses me out.  It makes me feel like I have failed him as a parent.  I am not an adventurous eater, and I have a huge sweet tooth, and it makes me sad to think that my bad habits have rubbed off on him.  Granted I certainly eat more than just PBJ and mac and cheese, but I'm not a huge fan of vegetables and I have too many sweets in our house for him to fall back on.  I know that my food habits aren't the sole reason he is picky--plenty of parents who are great eaters have picky kids--but I have also noticed that most of my friends who are adventurous eaters have kids who will eat anything.  Sorry, Noah--I guess we will learn together!

There is literally not one vegetable that he will eat.  Not one.  Over his four years of life, we have sometimes "forced" him to try foods, but it ends in huge battles that include multiple trips back and forth to his bedroom to put him in timeout or hours of him sitting and crying at the dinner table, and I've just decided it's not worth the fighting.  I want family dinner to be an enjoyable time for all of us, not a time for threats and tears.

I don't make him a separate meal if he doesn't like what I am serving, but I don't force him to eat it either.  I try to deconstruct the meal a little for him so he can eat what he does like from what is being offered (just the chicken from the soup but not the broth, etc).  At the suggestion of our pediatrician, I also try to make sure that there is one thing on the table that he will eat, even if it's just some fruit that I offer everyone as a side dish.  I encourage him to try all of the various dishes served, but it's not a mandate. Since he knows I won't force him to try foods anymore, he's often surprisingly willing to take a nibble.  Baby steps. 

He sometimes tells me that he is hungry before bed, and I say, "Boy I wish you would've eaten more dinner!" and he says, "Yeah, me too," and then we move on.  I don't make him a bedtime snack, and he doesn't die of starvation in the night.  I wish I could say that this has transformed his willingness to eat dinner, but it hasn't. Sigh.

One thing that I do insist upon is politeness.  Oh it makes my blood boil when he whines, "Eeeeeew, I don't like that!" when we all sit down to eat.  It's so rude and uncalled for, and I would die of embarrassment if he ever said that at someone else's home who made him dinner.  We are working on just saying, "No thank you!" when he doesn't want to eat something (he remembers to be polite about 60% of the time), and if he is respectful, I try to be respectful back by allowing him his preferences with food.  Who knows if I am doing any of this "right," but I prefer it to huge battles at dinner every night. 

He loves preschool.  He was so confident starting again this year.  No tears, no trouble adjusting.  His first-day-of-preschool photo made me laugh because he looks "too-cool-for-school," like, "I did this last year, no big deal."  And that's kind of how he acted--didn't even want me to walk him up to the door on his first day.  He just hopped out of the van, ran up to school, tripped on the step while he was opening the door, and fell into the classroom.  Noah knows how to make an entrance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enrolled him in two different preschools this year, one that meets in the morning MWF and one that meets in the afternoon TR, and he loves both. This was such a good decision for both of us.  I love his teachers, and he learns a lot.  And it gives me a couple of hours every day with just Sally or, if she is napping, with my computer. ;)  It's so hard to get any computer work done with little ones underfoot, and I truly love to blog and write for Power of Moms.  So while Noah is at school doing his learning, I'm at home doing mine.

He adores his teachers (especially Mrs. Stevens from his TR class), his classmates, and the cute art projects that they do together.  I'm glad he has somewhere to do crafts--because it's not happening much at home with his mother!  We read lots of books and do other fun things, but crafts is just not my forte.

He is learning to be independent.  I wouldn't say this is natural for him.  I hear about some toddlers who insist, "I do it!"  Noah was never one of those.  He'd prefer that I do most things for him, and I've had to deliberately teach him to do things on his own.

In order to help him start buckling and unbuckling his own car seat, I put a sticky note on my dashboard, and anytime he got the buckle done or undone himself, he got a mark.  When he got fifteen marks, he got a treat. This system was so simple, and it worked like a charm.  On the days he couldn't get the buckle done or didn't want to try, I said, "That's okay," and I did it for him but he didn't get a mark.  He started really wanting those tallies, and within a week or two, he was totally independent on this task.  I worried that the treats would continue to be expected, but he doesn't ask for marks anymore--that interest faded almost as soon as he had his new skill mastered.

And can I just say, having a kid who no longer needs my assistance with his car seat is truly heaven.  Do you hear the angels singing the Hallelujah chorus?  Because I do--each and every time I no longer have to do this loathsome task!

He's also learned how to make his own PBJ sandwich recently.  This one took a bit of reverse psychology.  I started to ask him if he knew how to make a sandwich, and then I said, "Oh never mind, what am I saying? Four-year-olds can't make their own sandwiches.  Silly me!  When you're a big five-year-old, you will be able to do that, but you couldn't do that now."  Boy was he quick to hop up and prove me wrong.  Sneaky mommy.

I know I've mentioned this before, but it remains true: Noah is a negotiator.  Everyone who spends anytime around Noah mentions this to me.  He likes to debate, negotiate, discuss, and explain his point of view.  Maybe he will be a lawyer someday; he'd be a good one.

He has asked "Why?" for every rule I make since he was about two years old, and I don't mind explaining my reasoning; but when I do, he always has a retort.  He explains why my logic doesn't apply to him or to this particular situation, or he explains what he will do to avoid the problem I am describing. It is exhausting, hilarious, and infuriating all at once.  I've taken to just saying "Because, it's a rule" and refusing to dive into the discussion further.   He often says to me, "Mom, let's compromise" when he's not completely satisfied with my answer. Need I remind you that he is four years old?  Heaven help me.

I'm sad to admit it, but Noah is a whiner.  His default voice is whiny, even when it doesn't need to be.  "Please use a nice voice" is my constant refrain, and I wait until he rephrases his request politely, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. 

His favorite response whenever I ask him to make his bed or unload the dishwasher is, "But that's going to take forever!!!!" Then he goes into his room and pouts for 30 minutes until finally making his bed in 2 minutes.  Maybe that's why it feels like forever to him. ;)  I think I may pull the reverse on him one of these days: When he asks me to make him a snack or help him with something, perhaps I will wail, "But that's going to take forever!!" Ha!

I don't want to raise an entitled, bratty child, and it's hard to know what to do when acts this way.  The other day I made him macaroni and cheese before preschool, and as I pulled out a plastic bowl from the cupboard, he screamed in the most awful, demanding, nails-on-chalkboard voice ever, "I DON'T WANT THAT ONE! GET ME A DIFFERENT ONE!" I wish I could say this was the first time that had happened, but I am hearing these reactions more and more often from him lately, and it honestly concerns me.  I said, "Noah, you cannot talk to me like that. I will be happy to get you a different bowl as soon as you ask me nicely." He proceeded to scream, howl, wail, and yell mean threats at me for 45 minutes.  45 minutes!  I texted his preschool teacher and told her that he would be late, and then I just waited it out while he raged.  He finally emerged from his room and said in a slightly whiny but at least controlled voice, "Mom, can I please have one of the white bowls for my macaroni?"  "Of course!" I responded, as if I was totally unphased by his huge tantrum. "Thanks for asking me nicely." And that was the end of it.

Does anyone have advice on how to deal with situations like this?  Is he going to grow out of this entitlement?  It's giving me gray hairs, and I'm only 31 years old, and he's only four years old!  We have a lot of years ahead of us, and I don't want our relationship to be combative.  I want to love being together, and it has been rough the last little while. 

In spite of his strong will and his whining, Noah really can be a sweetheart.  After episodes like the one described above, it gives me so much hope to witness the moments when he runs to hug his sister after she falls down or asks me about people whom he sees who homeless.  I love seeing his empathy and compassion developing.

Ryan and I recently went on an anniversary trip to Mexico (much more on this in another post!), and unfortunately my iPhone got stolen while we were down there.  When Noah heard about what happened, he said, "Oh, Mom--I feel so sad for you that someone took your phone and didn't give it back!"  Then he went into his room and got out his allowance envelope and came back to give me all of the money that he had: $3.23. He asked, "Is this enough to buy you a new phone?"  It completely melted my heart.  It was so unexpected.  He usually wants to use his very minimal allowance money to buy candy or toys at the store, yet he didn't think twice about giving all of it to me when he thought I needed it.  I took the money and told him how much better it made me feel to know that someone cared about me and wanted to help.  He beamed from ear-to-ear.  Sweet boy.

Finally, as always, Noah is a comedian.  He doesn't mean to be.  He's just so smart and so hilarious without even knowing it.  Here are a few of his classic lines from the past couple of months:

-He was playing Jenga with his little friend, Alanna, and I heard their conversation from the other room.  "Wow, you're really good at this game, Noah," she said.  "Thanks!" he responded, "I learned from the best: My daaaad!!!"

-And speaking of this particular friend: We often listen to Justin Beiber's Baby, and there's a line in the song where Ludacris says, "When I was thirteen, I had my first love."  Noah informed me the other day, "I had my first love when I was four.  Her name was Alanna."

-He had a stomach flu bug when were were driving home from Sun Valley a few months ago (kid vomiting in a car=no fun), and he said miserably while clutching his barf bag, "I know I'm not supposed to say hate, but I hate throwing up!!"(Oh I do too, Noah!  Go ahead and hate!)

-For his preschool "homework" the other day, he had to tell me five things he was thankful for.  He said, "Trees because they give us shade, fences so dogs don't run at us and get us" (I have no idea where that one came from) "parks to play at, friends, and Sally because she's so cute."

-Another preschool assignment was to talk about authors and illustrators and identify both in one of our favorite books.  We looked at Where The Wild Things Are, and when I told Noah that Maurice Sendak was the author and the illustrator, he got these wide eyes and said, "He wrote the book and drew all the pictures?? He must have been so tired! He must have been tired for over a week!" 

-I heard him calling from the garage one day, "Mom, come quick!  Two besties are riding a tricycle!"  I went out to see this sweet scene.  I'm so glad he considers his sister his "bestie."

-He loves Show-and-Tell at preschool because the kids give him a "roundible clause."  I think it's so cute that he calls it that, so I don't even try to correct him.  And when he gets home I always say, "Did you get a roundible clause after your show-and-tell today?" ;)

-Yesterday morning I was picking up the kitchen and singing loudly when Noah looked up from his library book and said, "Mom, please be silent.  I'm trying to feel the Holy Ghost over here."  Okay then.

-When we were playing the Game of Life for our daily "special time" recently, Noah ended up with six kids.  He named them John, John the Baptist, Icky, Icky the Second, Funny, and Baby Boy.  When I got my one baby toward the end of the game, Noah exclaimed, "Mom!  You're finally living the good life!"

It really is the good life. What would my life be without these crazy kids of mine? 

One thing is certain: There's never a dull moment with Noah around.  He keeps me laughing, learning, and lecturing.  I wouldn't trade him for any kid in the world. 


  1. This post makes me miss Noah sooooo much!! You are a GREAT mom! Keep at it and TRY not to get down on yourself. I think that's the hard part! Miss You!

  2. Will you come move next door to me. My two year old is mimicking your four year old, and my seven year old leaves me thinking that I have NO ideas left as a parent at all! If you'd kindly move next door, then at least we could bounce ideas off eachother or trade kids for a 20 minute reprise!

  3. Pardon the swear right at the beginning, but this article I read a few years ago came to mind.

  4. Oh my goodness, your Noah is hilarious! My two year old son is an incredibly picky eater. His sister was never like this and it kind of stresses me out too! We almost always force one bite (it's the only way he will even eat the stuff he actually likes) but I still question whether it's the best choice or not. He seems to finally be learning though so it's not much of a battle anymore. One bite and you can be done. I think what you're doing is just great (not that you really care what I, a complete stranger, think ;)) and I really do think they will grow out of it. Maybe I just tell myself that to help me feel better, but I don't think so. :)

    My almost four year old daughter was an "i do it" toddler but has recently regressed in that department. It drives me crazy when she asks for help with EVERYTHING. I'm definitely going to try something like your ticks on the post it note. Thanks for the idea.

    Anyway, you're not alone with difficult kids and it is not at all a reflection of your parenting. Which you know, of course, but it's impossible to not sometimes wonder, right? Noah seems ridiculously bright which probably contributes to the difficulty at times but also adds to the hilarity. He's a cute, sweet boy and I love reading your blog.

  5. Glad we could have our weekly therapy session today. As we discussed, it's all a phase, these are the easy problems, and Noah is hilarious and smart and will be just fine, despite whatever flaw he will be working on through every stage of life. Just remember to take a deep breath and that you are not alone in feeling these feelings. You are doing great and Noah is doing great, too!

  6. I love Noah! You are a terrific mom and doing a terrific job!! Motherhood is exasperating but so worth it and bring on the gray hairs :)

  7. I love reading your blog. You're a great mom and do such great things for your kids.
    One thing I thought of when you were talking about struggles with Noah was the book "the child whisperer". She also has podcasts and it has helped me so much to understand my children and know the best way to respond to them. Maybe you'll find something that will help.

  8. It sounds like you are handling him like a champ! He is hilarious. I wish I could be around him just to see him in action! Miss you.

  9. A few quick thoughts about your food concerns, I have done some occupational therapy working with kids with food aversions. Firstly, parents usually worry more than necessary and I think you are doing great by having one thing he likes at each meal and I agree don't make it a fight, it will backfire. Anyhow, we would start sometimes by just playing with food- making a vegetable house, food faces..... Sometimes I would hide a preferred food in a non preferred food and if they would get it out they could eat it. Another progression we would do is touch, smell, lick, bite, eat. He may not be ready to eat something but could he touch it, then smell it and maybe even lick it. And if you only got to one of those it is okay. You are such an aware parent, no stress you are doing just fine. Sending love!

  10. I love reading your updates so much. You are so, so good at focusing on the good, sweet, silly things your kids do, all while being honest about the harder parts of parenting. Your pots are just so funny, real, and relatable!

    I felt like I was reading about my own life as you descried Noah and negotiating. Mason does that same thing. "Why" was one of Kellen's first words, and I know EXACTLY where he learned it! Mason's preschool teachers have commented on his negotiation skills, especially when it comes to bargaining for more books at story time.

    Noah reminds me of Mason in several ways, it would be so fun to get together and chat again some time while those two wild boys played. Anyway, I love hearing about the things that have worked for you and Noah because it gives me ideas to use in my own parenting.

    Also, I read this post lately: http://www.storyofthislife.com/blog//the-white-crayon and I can't stop thinking about it. I've reflected on it a lot, ESPECIALLY when I'm struggling with my three year old. You are doing a good job Rachel.

  11. Bah, this is Whitney obviously :)


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