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Nov 22, 2009

The concept of waiting, a toddler's perspective

Our 22-month old son Daniel started to understand the concept of waiting several months ago. It was a critical word for him to learn, especially at daycare where it's quite common to have to wait for his turn when other kids are playing with his favorite toy, or being cared for by a teacher, etc... In most cases, what Daniel had to wait for what somewhat immediate, and the reward came soon. His understanding of this concept made our life so much easier, and we really started appreciating it and encouraging it.

Over time, Daniel started to wait for bigger, longer-term things. For instance, when my husband had to travel for business for a few days, Daniel understood that he needed to wait and showed great patience during that week.
Most recently, Daniel has been waiting for us to leave for Christmas vacation, several weeks away.

His grandparents came to visit in October, and he really enjoyed reconnecting with them. It was the first time where he was old enough to really establish a strong relationship and to remember it once they were gone. He can remember them so well, that he keeps asking every single day when we will go into the plane to visit Opa and Oma. (answer: around Christmas). Unfortunately, this type of answer doesn't mean anything to a 22-month old, and the conversation usually ends with "Opa and Oma are in their house in Germany, we need to wait until we visit them"... and a deep sigh from Daniel.

Daniel and Opa discovering a big tree in October

How can Daniel understand that the wait this time will take 2 months? Compared with other things he has been waiting for, this is an awfully long period of time to wait. Is he going to be discouraged before the time comes? Is he going to give us and stop believing us? Is he going to continue to feel sad when thinking of Oma and Opa until we take off for Germany in another month?

We bought an adventscalendar as an attempt to help Daniel understand the process of counting the days. He is now mentioning Opa and Oma when seeing the calendar. But not sure he understands the specific purpose.

While it's great to see him becoming more patient, I feel bad that we are asking him to be so patient for something he is to excited about, yet without a good way to explain it to him.

Wondering if other parents have had a similar experience and how they addressed it?

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Nov 13, 2009

My poor toddler, bitten by a dog on the nose

These were for sure the most difficult 6 hours in my life. I thought taking care of a sick 6-week old baby when sick with the flu myself was hard, or that working 80-hour weeks was hard. But this was before last week's accident happened.

It had all started so well. We were visiting friends in their cabin in the Shasta area: awesome place, perfect weather, great company. This promised to be a relaxing and fun weekend, and our friends were treating us like kings. Daniel had quickly become friends with the dog (he *used to* love dogs). He had fed him and played with him all morning. It was so cute when Daniel started comparing his body to the dog's.
2 ears: check. 2 eyes: check. 4 legs: wait, I only have 2 legs. Tail: why don't I have a tail coming out of my back? So cute.

But then, it happened. Out of nowhere, the dog, who had been lying, stood up and bit Daniel on the nose. I honestly can't remember exactly what happened, it's all so blurry in my mind. I just remember feeling so shocked, scared, I mean, really scared, and incredulous at the same time that I got paralyzed and couldn't move.

With the most fortunate turn of events, the dog stopped biting after a few seconds (which felt like eternity though), and we found that the damage was not life-threatening. Daniel was bleeding a lot from his scars on the nose and from the mouth (he got bitten inside the mouth too). But he was breathing well and hadn't lost any tissue.

As we raced to the ER (about 45 minutes away), Daniel actually recovered pretty quickly. He stopped bleeding quite quickly and after 10 minutes or so of crying, he was even able to play iPhone games all the way to the hospital. He was even quite cheerful when we came to the hospital (this changed quickly as soon as he saw the nurse though).

Meanwhile, my head was racing. What had just happened? Why couldn't I prevent this? Why didn't I do anything to stop the dog sooner? And what if the dog had hit the eyes... the mouth... the throat? The thought of all these scenarios was so scary. These thoughts continued to haunt me several days after the accident, and I still get scared just thinking about it.

I can't imagine how hard this must be for Daniel to process. He loved dogs so much and had no reason to believe that something like this was even possible. Add to the surprise the scare of being attacked on the face by an animal bigger than him, and the pain of the bite. It's surprising he is showing so little impact of this (except for waking up a few times with nightmares the first night and mentioning the dog once or twice a day now ... that's it)

Back to the physical damage, the doctor was able to quickly apply stitches to the major wounds. Fortunately, we expect little to no long-lasting scar on Daniel's face.

The operation itself was tough to witness for me, though. While Daniel was quite happy as long as we were waiting (iPhone games saved the day), he panicked every time a nurse brought something to the room. This was a roller-coaster for about 30 minutes before the doctor was finally read. I felt so bad for him to have to go through the stress and calming down over and over again.
As the nurses sedated him before doing the stitches, I couldn't stand the sight of a motionless and wounded Daniel. This was so hard. And then, the 30 minutes after he woke up were terrible too. Daniel was so grumpy, tired, sick, thirsty and kept crying he was cold (an expected side-effect). I had just taught him to proactively tell me when he was cold at home, to make sure he was dressed properly. He was definitely using his words in the right context. However, this time, there was nothing I could do to take away the chills. His body had to go through them as part of the process, and I could only hold him close in my arms, talk to him and wait. I felt so helpless.

Fortunately, the story ended well. Daniel is recovering very quickly, and he has had very side-effects of the sedation if at all. 24 hours after our ER visit, he was already dancing, laughing and almost his normal self. He is still talking about the dog that bit him, and it will take time to reacquaint him with dogs. But this accident should soon be something of the past, and we will hopefully forget about all the bad memories.
As for our friends, they are not so lucky. They lost their dog in the process and feel really bad about what happened.

We promised ourselves to do a redo of the weekend in the cabin. Same location, same crew (except the dog), same great food... and hopefully a lot less drama.

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Nov 1, 2009

Daniel's new French-speaking toys

Somehow, my husband managed to receive a couple of hand-me-down French-speaking toys from a German colleague who lives in the Bay Area (not sure about the French connection, but not surprising given how multi-cultural the Bay Area is). When I say "French-speaking", I really mean speaking. The tractor in particular is very loud.

It says things like "Hello, Good-bye", but it also has a few educational games. One is about finding the right key among a set of different colors and forms to start the tractor. The other is about fitting various farm animals in the trailer. The game explains the rules in French, and gives a lot of emphasis to the key words (e.g. yellow key, horse, etc..) in French. Daniel has become passionate about this toy, and I am very happy about it too.

Obviously, the tractor + farm animal combination is a hit. All that Daniel loves in one package! Most importantly to me, Daniel loves to repeat the words he hears from the tractor. He had known most of the words in French for a few months now, but I think it's helpful to him to hear another source of French than Mama. It gives these words more importance, and he is so happy to repeat "cheval", "cle", "mouton", etc...) when the toy says these words.

I think that when we go back to France over Christmas, we will be getting a few of these French speaking toys, so that Daniel has many reasons to continue speaking French.

Another encouraging observation is that, even after spending most of the afternoon playing with this tractor in French, Daniel described the various pieces to my husband... in German. The one-person/one-language system seems to be working so far.

Since it's been a while since I posted, I also wanted to note some other progress: Daniel seems to know most colors and shapes now. He described to me a "triangle" today, completely unprompted. I was very impressed. He is getting more patient now... I sometimes feel bad keeping him waiting long, now that I can afford it because he doesn't complain. However, the tantrums have gotten stronger too. Definitely getting closer to the 2nd birthday!

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