Monday, December 12, 2005

Object Lesson

Mary and I discovered Kasia attempting to climb over the babygate that protects her from the stairs last night. Kasia had pushed a box up to the gate, and was using it to provide the height necessary to scale the gate, though it was unclear to us how she expected to get down the other side, which is not only a steep staircase, but tiled. We bought our home from a master builder who had used it to demo his tile technique, so there are 3600 square feet of tile in our house, which is great right up to the moment you drop your first glass on it and watch it turn to dust. Tile appears to be an even more unforgiving surface than straight cement, which we had not taken into account when choosing to move here when Kasia was born: baby safe it isn't.

So the thought of Kasia falling down our staircase is one to fill our hearts with dread, because it would be way worse than just falling down carpeted or even normal wood or linoleum stairs.

Mary, realizing that we had to convey the danger to Kasia in a way she could understand, decided on an object lesson. She took an egg out of the fridge, carried it to the top of the stairs, and explained to Kasia the similarities between the egg and Kasia's noggin. Satisfied that Kasia got the analogy, Mary proceeded to toss the egg over the babygate and we watched as it went "splat" on the stairs. "Do you understand now?" Mary asked. Kasia nodded gravely.

Then Kasia solemnly proceeded to the fridge to get another egg so that she might participate in the apparently very serious, albeit mysterious, 'Egg over the Stairs' ceremony. Which was not exactly where we were going with this....

Kasia is a much more cautious child than Tigana ever was, but far more tenacious, so is sometimes harder to dissuade from dangerous course of action than was Tigana. This same demo worked successfully with Tigana at that age -- she totally got that if you fell from the stairs you died. Of course, in Tigana's case we found her hanging off the banister over the atrium (of our previous house) two days later, and when I asked had she not understood the danger, she somewhat cavalierly explained that even if she fell, she had two more lives to go. Shocked at this reply, I inquired what gave her that idea, and she explained how on the videogames at Daycare you always had three lives, more if you did well.... "So if I die, I'll just start over as a baby again, right?" Fortunately, Mary pointed out that althougth that may well be true, there was no guarantee that she would be coming back as our baby... that she only got one shot at being 'Tigana' and next time round she would be someone else's kid, probably in another part of the world.... Tigana has been more respectful of heights ever since...

Corn Pops and Pickles

…is what Tigana had for breakfast again this morning (though not, I hasten to add, in the same bowl). This demonstrates two phenomenon of interest to me as father and researcher: First, that the Venn diagram of “Foods Tigana is willing to eat” and “Foods Tigana’s parents are willing to feed her” have almost no remaining overlap. Indeed, I’m not even sure ‘Corn Pops” makes Mom’s list. When one adds the circle of “Foods readily available for breakfast when we are already running 10 minutes late”, we’re pretty much down to our title items….

The second phenomenon I’m interest in here is tracking how long it takes Google to add entries from my blog to its search results. Currently, “Corn Pops and Pickles” is a phrase for which there are zero search results, so it’s a pretty easy test… Feel free to add the phrase to your own blog so we can track whether Google indexes blogger blogs faster than say Moveable Type blogs. So far I’ve found that Google is able to find my blog entries in about 10 days, but I wanted to do an actual test case before starting my cybercourse next term so I could talk about the phenomenon and its implications….

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sibling Rivalry

Kasia has, as many toddlers are wont to do, gotten into the habit of taking a doll to bed with her at night.

Now when I say ‘a doll’ I actually mean that she takes two to bed with her – currently a plastic baby almost as tall as her and a soft cuddly one-eared bunny rabbit. She would, for preference, take three or four or forty teddies to bed with her, but my wife and I have drawn the line at two. (Besides the obvious problems of overcrowding, any additional dolls would quickly find themselves incorporated into an escape ladder, and I’d be coming back to an empty crib.) The word ‘doll’ is also something of a misnomer, because she has on an equal number of occasions chosen to go to sleep cuddling one of her beloved books, her raincoat, or whatever other object happened to be the focus of her attention immediately prior to bedtime (though we again drew the line at the wire trash can from our home office she had been pushing around the house one evening).

Her typical nightly routine, after bath, fresh diaper, PJs and nursing, is to lay down in the crib for about 10 seconds, then sit up again so that she can put her dolls to sleep. She will carefully cover the baby with a blanket, then pat its back while saying “night night”. Once she has ‘settled’ the first doll, she turns her attention to the second, similarly covering it with the blanket, stroking its back, and then, if all is well, laying down herself to receive the same treatment from Dad. Unfortunately, it is as likely that in covering the second doll with the blanket, that she will have uncovered the first, causing her to turn back to that ‘baby’ with a scolding for its having gotten out from under the covers. She will then restart the routine to ‘resettle’ the first baby, only to find that the second has ‘gotten out of bed’ while she was again attending to the first. And so on, for as long as my patience will stand it.

I generally intervene after the second or third iteration, to settle a blanket across all three of my charges, and get them all settled at once. Kasia usually goes along, provided that the blankets are just so, and everyone is exactly in the proper places, etc. For the most part, the routine is harmless, touching, and only notably peculiar when that evening’s objects are books or raincoats, rather than dolls.

This week’s favorites have been, as I mentioned, a largish baby doll and a soft bunny. Sunday night, having satisfactorily settled both her dolls, Kasia lay down to sleep, but banged her head into the protruding arm of the large plastic baby. Sitting up in bed, Kasia indignantly denounced her bedmate for poking her in the eye. “Baby not nice! Mean baby!” Being in something of a hurry to get Kasia to go to sleep, I simply laid her down in the crib again, though this time somewhat removed from the doll on that side. Kasia obligingly curled up to go to sleep, but reached out to cuddle her doll, which -- unfortunately -- again resulted in Kasia getting a poke in the eye. Before I could react, Kasia had struck out at her erstwhile sibling, and knocked the protruding arm away. Which -- being in fact a large inanimate object -- slowly, majestically, but inevitably swung back to strike Kasia another blow on the head. There followed a frenzied three-way brawl as the two combatants quickly ended up standing on, and so falling off, the poor rabbit.

A less sleep-deprived father might have been able to intervene more quickly to end the havoc, but I confess I was too taken aback, and well, choking back the laughter, to be much use. Kasia, of course, failed to see the humour in the situation, and was very put out that I did not take her side, but made both her and the doll promise to stop fighting. Carefully tucking the offending arm in under the doll, I eventually restored order and got everyone to sleep.