Monday, August 21, 2006

Next step... baby straight-jacket

There are times when a man is tested. His skill, his resolve, and sometimes even his sanity are pressed by the forces of fate marshaling against him, plotting, even teasing him with the possible assaults, the schemes devised but not unleashed, the well crafted moves and countermoves being leveraged against him. How a man handles those threats, those taunts from fate, says a lot about him. If character is what you are in the dark, adversary is what you are when you're too stressed to check to see if anyone is looking.

What? What am I babbling about? We had one of those days on Sunday.

It started well enough. Chunk slept in a little and when he woke up, he and I went to the market, then came home and make a traditional, if indulgent breakfast for the family. After some spirited hide-and-go-seek games with my son, which resulted in lots of giggling and full body tackles (mostly from him), we went out and bought him a "potty."

A potty? For a twenty month old? Well, in a word, yes. His day care has all of the kids in Toddler 2 getting some potty training time, whether they're really ready or not, so we thought we'd back up these early habits at home.

How did it go? The kid is obsessed. He spent, literally, an hour in the bathroom, sitting, lifting the lid, carrying around the "deflector shield," opening and shutting the door to either get some privacy or announce that he still had the deflector shield if we were looking for it. He even used his new potty, twice, both times very proud of his... umm... production.

It's strange, because I didn't really expect him to be interested in the potty. We bought it thinking that it would sit, unused, until he decided that he wanted to check it out. We weren't going to pressure him. Potty training was going to be up to him and we were prepared to wait until that day, sometime in the future, when he would start expressing an interest. We thought it would be months. We were wrong. He's very interested, and with the few sessions at day care under his belt (so to speak), he seems to know the drill pretty well. I would never have anticipated that the stress of potty training would come from not being able to keep up with him, but there you go.

So far, a pretty positive day, eh?

Wait for it.

So, nap time rolls around after lunch, like it usually does, and we put him in his crib. As usual, he starts screaming and crying, a ritual which usually only lasts for a few minutes (think of it as the toddler equivalent of fluffing one's pillows). This particular screaming lasted a good fifteen minutes, going on twenty, with his desperation growing louder and more frantic. Something was wrong. Since I was busy loafing on the couch, Denver Mom went in to check on him and... he opened the door for her.

That was weird. We had a long conversation about the probability that he learned how to get out of his crib. More likely, I didn't know what I was doing when I put him down for nap and I actually laid him on the floor. It's crazy, but it was the only explanation I could come up with. So, we calmed him down, put him back in his crib, then continued scratching our heads. He was out in the living room within five minutes.

Stunned, we both checked his room, looking for some obvious route of escape. We devised several intriguing theories, most of which required removing various toys and stuffed animals from Chunk's crib. We checked for a rope, fashioned from torn crib sheets, under his pillow and found nothing. So, finally, we decided we had to see what was going on.

Chunk was placed in his crib and we huddled across the room, snickering to ourselves, in the dark. He yelled at us, called out to us, then tired of waiting for his uncooperative parents, walked to the corner of his crib and climbed over the bar, slowly and carefully lowering himself first to the mattress, then the frame, and then the floor, with all the grace and precision of a practiced mountain climber. I was speechless. I was in awe. And, most of all, I was scared to death. If Chunk could get out of his crib, it meant that the precarious order of things we had developed over the last twenty months had been smashed to pieces. It meant that no where was safe from the wraith of our cranky, hates-to-sleep toddler.

We discussed our options. Do we get him a "big boy" bed? Going from the most toddly of toddlers to potty training and big boy beds in just one day was too much for me. And, after confirming with Denver Mom that I wasn't underestimating our son, we decided he just wasn't really for a toddler bed. With his continued sleep issues it would be too much of a battle. Our only other option was to get a crib tent, which is just a nice way to say, crib-sized straight-jacket.

Have you seen these things? They look nice and reassuring on the package, but once its set up in your child's crib, it resembles exactly what it is... a prison.

His first reaction was overwhelmingly positive. He kept asking, "Wassthis?" and saying, "Wow!" as he explored it with his eyes and outstretched fingers. He demanded to be put in his crib so he could see it from the inside. We nearly had a meltdown when I had to take him out, so we could have dinner. Come bedtime, however, the new crib prison went from being intriguing to conjuring the kind of reaction I expect people have when they wake up and discover they've been buried alive. His usual, several minute long crying fit erupted into the kind of display that summons Social Services and neighborhood gossip. When I finally went into his room, he took at least a half an hour of calming, mixed with his "Sleepy Baby" CD and some slow, soothing iTunes visualizer on his computer to get him to finally calm down enough to sleep.

The crib prison? He made it clear that he didn't want it zipped up. I left it unzipped. It was either the strange shape of his new, tiny cage that kept him inside or the knowledge that his parents didn't love him any longer. I don't know which but it worked. He stayed in his crib.

Denver Mom and I made a few jokes about wanting to take up heavy drinking. Then, we started going through the bottles in our kitchen looking for something, anything, to make those jokes a reality. We found a six year old bottle of green apple "Pucker," some Red Wine vinegar, and a can of wasabi peas we didn't know we had. So much for that plan.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just the drinking plan that was thwarted Sunday night. With the excitement of a new thing in his crib, the stress of missing a nap that day, and what I can only assume is post-potty elation, Chunk woke up every two hours... all... night... long.

We'll try again tonight. This morning when we got up, he was still excited about his new crib/solitary confinement cage. Maybe it was a mix of other things that had him on edge.

I forgot to mention the best part! The crib penitentiary cost me $70, plus tax, and a little extra for some new sippy-tumblers he simply had to have. A lot of money? I thought so. For a little more, we'd almost have enough for a toddler bed, but it didn't seem like we had much choice, so I paid it and we left. When we got home and I tried to set it up, it became clear that the crib tent we bought had been returned and simply put back up on the shelf.

Now, I'm not one of those snobs that needs everything to be virgin and pure before I touch it. If I knew a place where I could buy a used crib tent on a Sunday, I probably would have gone there, but I don't like paying full price for something that is torn and filled with crumbs.

I called the manager at Babies 'R Us and explained what happened, knowing that I'd be told to bring it back (impossible, as bedtime was fast approaching and he was already skipping gleefully past psychotic into frothing, rabid, jungle animal). The manager, much to my surprise, said we could bring it back any time that week to exchange it for a new one, plus she would give us a discount for our trouble.

It's easy to pick on the "big box" stores, like Babies 'R Us, but we seldom say something nice when we're treated right by them. In this case, I have to say, I'm impressed. The staff have always been friendly and helpful and this recent situation, although still annoying, was handled better than I expected. Well done, Babies 'R Us! Well done!


Pickle's Papa said...

You so glossed over the potty advances. That may be worth letting chunk put you in straight jackets at bed time and do full body tackles on you until he falls asleep.

p.s. our babies r us rocks too, but they just opened a new Target not too far away that has like a floor of baby crap that's like 20% cheaper . . .

Anonymous said...
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Denver Dad said...

Pickle's Papa... I agree with you, Target is usually a lot cheaper. We go to the one near us more than I'd like to admit, but for some of the stranger baby products, we haven't had much luck with them. Babies 'R Us is our "in case of emergency" stop.

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