Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Other Boy Who Lived, And Slept In A Closet, And Jumped.

We don't, as one post not long ago seemed to hint at, keep our children in drawers, but Mr F does sleep in a closet. 

That is not the only thing that makes Mr F comparable to Harry Potter; it's just one of them, two of the other things being:

1.  Mr F doesn't do much magic, either.
2.  Mr F has a little scar on his head from where he once fell and cut it and had to get a stitch, an occasion which caused Sweetie to call The Boy home from school so that he could come with her to the doctor's and help watch Mr Bunches while Sweetie held Mr F so that he could get his stitch, and
3.  Mr F likes cheese puffs.

I don't know if Harry Potter likes cheese puffs, but can we assume that he does?  Who doesn't like a cheese puff? 

I'll tell you who:  weirdosWeird people don't like cheese puffs.  What's not to like about them?  They are delicious:  cheese, or at least a vaguely cheeselike set of chemicals, which is the same thing, really, shaped into what looks like a piece of popcorn that didn't pass the physical, and dusted with more cheeselike chemicals?

Here is why I'm able to say that cheese and cheeselike chemicals are more or less the same thing, and why we as a society should just get over ourselves and stop pretending that "natural" or "organic" is any better than "chemical" or "made in a lab using beakers and other lab stuff, like maybe Bunsen burners?":

Life is chemicals.

When people say "oh, I don't like all that manufactured, processed food, it's all chemicals and genetically manipulated corn that has half the DNA of a salmon in it" what they're really saying is "I have a preference for how the chemicals in my food got combined," because cheese is nothing but a set of elements combined into this shape to get cheese

Which is to say:  when nature (e.g.: gravity, lightning, the cosmic background radiation, and/or Dom DeLuise) get together and mix some elements together and those elements then become grass which then gets picked up by another set of chemicals that have combined into what we call a cow and that cow mixes some elements to make milk which is then left in a box in the back of someone's refrigerator for forty years until one day someone finds it and instead of throwing it out like should be done with a 40-year-old box of chemicals, sells it for $10 an ounce, when that happens, (as it did), purists call that "cheese."  But that's just one way of assembling those chemicals and/or profiting off people who will pay $10 an ounce for stuff that's been sitting around a long time.

The other way of assembling those chemicals involves taking test tubes and a machine was call a "machine" and mixing them and then shaping them into cheese puffs and people get all bent out of shape over that, which is dumb.

I was talking about Mr F and his resemblance to Harry Potter that in part stems from how he keeps on surviving, and in part from how he sleeps in his closet.

We don't force him to sleep in his closet, mind you.  He just does.  He has a bed.  It's a perfectly good bed, or at least it's a perfectly good portion of a bed that we let him have because traditional beds have not been really a thing we want to indulge the boys in, yet.

We've tried, and we've planned to get them beds, but some things have always gotten in the way and those things are, to be honest, Mr F and Mr Bunches, who have not yet proven themselves capable of the responsibility that comes with owning an entire bed.

The first beds Mr F and Mr Bunches had were, of course, their cribs.  Those cribs were a nightmare even before they got put together, mostly because I had to put them together.  Remember how I mentioned that I'm not really qualified to make important decisions like "Should doctors cut open my son's head and mess with his brain, now or wait a while before doing that?"  That is not the only area in which I am woefully underqualified to be in charge of a life, or lives, including my own.  Another area is "putting things together," an area I have never excelled at because I am not handy, I am not patient, and I don't always do things like "read the directions first."

That's all well and good when  you're, say, putting together a Lego Avengers Jet, where if the pieces don't go together right and you lose some nobody's the wiser:  Sure, Lego Scarlett Johanssen might fall out of the back of the Lego Avenger Jet and be captured by Lego Loki because Dad lost the instruction book part that tells how to make the Lego Avenger Jet Cockpit fit together, but Lego Thor will be there to help and Mr Bunches doesn't know what a Lego Avenger Jet looks like, so he's happy either way.

But if you have to put something important together, like a crib, it's another story altogether, because when you put together a crib, you are acutely aware that your child will (hopefully) be sleeping in this crib each and every night of his young life, and you are acutely aware that he will die if you do this wrong because on every page, sometimes twice or three times a page, in the crib directions, there will be a large warning along the lines of:

[lightning bolt symbol][skull symbol][another lightning bolt][Mr Yuck symbol put in there because all people my age react viscerally to a Mr Yuck symbol by recoiling in revulsion and making the sign of the cross]




The cribs got assembled, and put into the boys' rooms, but as soon as the boys were able to stand up and move around a little, we learned that the cribs had two alarming design flaws:

A.  They were not welded directly into the structure of the house and therefore could be tipped over, and
B.  They were open on top.

That first part was dealt with by doing what we would eventually do to nearly every piece of furniture in our house: We bolted it to the wall.  We've done that with the cribs, the boys' dressers, their TV, desks, tables, and even our grandfather clock, which has three large bolts screwing it directly into a wall, and which doesn't work anymore, not because of the bolts but because one day one of the weights dropped off of it and cracked the bottom and we keep meaning to get it fixed but if we just went around fixing everything that got broken in our house, willy-nilly, we'd never do anything else, so we have a nonfunctioning grandfather clock bolted to the wall in our living room, and we can't get rid of it, either, because technically it was a gift from Sweetie's parents, and Sweetie's mom doesn't want anything, ever, to leave the family.

The latter part, the open on top part of the cribs, would seem not to be a problem in that it is a traditional feature of cribs, and beds, and in fact all furniture, since people need access to furniture and the best way to give them access is to not enclose the furniture entirely.  But this commonly-accepted feature of cribs was a problem for us because our boys were, are, part Tigger and as soon as they were capable of doing so, began jumping.

There's a time and a place for jumping, and as far as the boys go, that time is whenever they are awake and that place is right here and right here and right here and so on.  They would jump in their cribs, holding onto the sides at first and then being more bold, treating them like trampoline parks, which had first the effect of banging the cribs loudly against the wall they were fastened to, so that every night for several hours we just heard bang bang bang bang over and over, and then eventually Mr Bunches jumped out of his crib, doing so in front of Sweetie.

That led to an escalating arms race in which we, as parents, kept resorting to things like "crib tents," which are like more-solid mosquito netting only with plenty of places for kids to trap themselves, while the boys eventually landed on a strategy of using brute strength to simply tear their cribs apart.

Which led us, eventually, to decide that maybe cribs weren't the way to go, that maybe the boys needed a more natural habitat and one that couldn't become a smoldering ruin in the middle of the night.  So we went to get the boys their first big-boy bed, about two years ago, and that led to a debate between me and Sweetie, about what to get the boys vis a vis their safety. 

We have had numerous debates about things like that -- things that I or Sweetie think the boys should do but which thing raises safety concerns, concerns like "Will they fall out of bed," or "Will they fall into the river" or "Will they try to eat the dice that came with the game?"  Each of those debates takes this form:

Me:  I think the boys should [fill in innocuous-sounding activity like "go to the pool"]

Sweetie:  Isn't that [fill in synonym for dangerous]

Me:  No.  How could it be dangerous?

Sweetie:  The boys could [Fill in something completely outlandish, like 'have all their DNA replaced by tiny robot microbes that will make them into cyborgs otherwise indistinguishable from humans except they will become killing machines and eventually be hunted down by Marines]

Me:  How will that ever happen?  I'll watch them.

Sweetie: *pauses to remind me, silently, that once I technically lost Mr F while he was sitting in our house*

Me:  *thinks to self: Here's the thing. You're going to argue about this, and maybe win, and then you are going to go to the Carnival, and the boys will become killing machines on the run from Navy Seal Team 6, and you are going to feel terrible, plus you will never be able to win an argument with Sweetie again after that.  Is it worth it?*

Me:  Okay, we'll [fill in synonym for watch TV]

Sweetie:  Don't let the TV explode and kill them with shrapnel!

Me:  How will that... never mind.

So on the day we were getting the boys their big-boy beds, we opted to only get them roughly 70% of a bed, but we got them the important 70%, the box springs and mattresses, so that we could slowly introduce Mr F and Mr Bunches to important concepts like "sleeping in a big-boy bed" and "not jumping" and "fitting in with society, at least a little" while also making sure they didn't knock themselves (more) silly on a headboard or frame.

That plan worked beautifully, by which I mean it didn't work in the slightest.  Those box springs, representing the pinnacle of worksmanship, I thought, lasted about a week under the constant onslaught of jumping two-year-olds.  The boys jumped on these new, more open, more bouncy beds incessantly, and jumped from one to the other and back and flopped on them and sometimes stood them up

I have to remind you that they were TWO

on their sides, the beds and the box springs, and slid down them,  and then flopped them down for more jumping and once they managed to stack Mr F's set onto Mr Bunches, crookedly,  so they could slide and jump at the same time, and it was a nightmare that only got worse once they broke the box springs, which did not break cleanly or evenly, but broke into jagged pointy boards that were like spears waiting for a two-year-old to impale himself on them.

So the box springs were gone and they were down to just mattresses, living like little squatters in their room.  That didn't slow them down much at all: they jumped with an equal amount of abandon, perhaps slowed a little by the absence of jagged splintery 2x4s in their room but not perceptibly.

I will pause a moment to take a question from the crowd:

Man In Crowd:  What are you, hard of thinking?  Why didn't you just get them something to jump on so they could get it out of their system?

That is an excellent question, person who doesn't understand a single thing about kids in general and the boys in particular!  Excellent, but stupid, question!

Because we had done that.  We have singlehandedly kept the American Bouncing Industry afloat with our purchases over time, including but not limited to buying an inflatable bounce castle that we kept in our spare room -- it was 10x 10 -- and an exercise trampoline we kept in our family room and, after the box springs broke, we actually bought something called a "Jumpoline" that was inflatable and was a ring, about 6' in diameter, that looked something like a kiddy pool only you would jump in it instead of filling it with water. 

We put the Jumpoline in their room, and I said, sternly:  "Jump in this, when you want to jump.  Beds are for sleeping.  The Jumpoline is for jumping." 

And the boys ignored the Jumpoline, never got into it at all, and, worse, when I would put them in it, they would scramble out of it like it had a Sarlacc hidden in one of the recesses.

Was the Sarlacc the thing Luke fought in Jabba's palace? It doesn't matter. 

They would have jumped on a Sarlacc, provided that it wasn't built for that purpose.  They never cared much for the Bounce Castle, or the Jumpoline.  They liked the exercise trampoline but they both want to use it at the same time and so we couldn't put it into their room because they won't share, so we have to supervise them to avoid a series of concussions that would inevitably develop from them trying to jump at the same time. 

Still, they only had mattresses, so what's the worst that could happen, right?

Say it with me:  They could jump on them so much that eventually tiny, razor-sharp springs will start to poke through and jab them.

It's like there's not a single safety regulation out there.  Remember that one skit on Saturday Night Live where Dan Aykroyd was a toymaker that sold things like "Bag O' Broken Glass"? ("It's part of our popular "Bag O" line, which includes "Bag O' Acid").  That's not far off: peer under the thin veneer of civilization (i.e., mattresses) and you will find a dangerous world of spears, jagged edges, pokey things, and probably TNT, for all I know.

That was the end of the mattresses, but not before we bought another one, so that by that time, the boys had gone through two cribs, two box springs, and four mattresses, and when it came time to replace the second set, I made the decision...

... don't judge me too harshly...

... that we were going with air mattresses,  which at the time were on sale and we didn't have that much money available and my thinking was that if we are going to replace these things every few months maybe it's not the wisest thing to buy the most expensive one out there.

The boys by that time were four or so, and it wasn't clear to me when, or if, they would ever treat furniture like furniture instead of a basic training obstacle course.  They say when you die, you never look back and think "boy, I wish I'd spent more time at work," but I envisioned that when I died, I would look back and think "I was personally responsible for purchasing 90% of the world's mattresses over my lifetime," and so we went with air mattresses and tried not to think that our boys had just moved down the ladder, from squatters to hobos.

The air mattresses lasted about as long as you'd think, which is to say, about as long as it took to type "the air mattresses lasted about as long as you'd think."  The boys, who had objected to jumping on a Jumpoline filled with air, had no objections to jumping on a mattress filled with air (the Jumpoline by then had been given to their cousins) and air mattresses aren't really made to take that kind of beating, so we were regularly replacing their air mattresses, heaping a little more guilt on ourselves each time we went to Walmart to get a new one, guilt that wasn't made any better by the fact that often times, in the morning, we'd go get the boys up only to find Mr Bunches submerged in a half-deflated bed that he'd have to flail around in to get out of.

That guilt was also accompanied by a slight feeling of confusion in that by this time, Mr F had stopped sleeping in beds, altogether.

I'm not sure when that began, that he wouldn't sleep in his bed. I just know that one day, Mr F moved into the closet to sleep, and never moved out.

Mr F and Mr Bunches have two closets in their room, each about little-boy length. 

One used to hold toys and games, and the other was bedding and clothes.  That latter one now holds mostly Mr F, who sleeps in it, with the door open.

We didn't realize, at first, that this would be his thing.  We just started finding him, not sleeping on a bed, but curled up in the closet, blanket around him, sleeping soundly.  It didn't occur to us that he had opted to make that his bed, so each night, we'd put him to bed, laying him down on his (air) mattress and covering him up and silently praying to the saints that tonight, maybe, Dear God, they will actually sleep the entire night before beginning a two hour marathon of going in to quiet them down and give them a snack and put in a new movie and turn the light on or turn the light off or go find a new blanket or whatever it was, and Mr F would like in the bed for 0.0000001 seconds before getting up to go play and then we'd find him in the closet in the morning.

So eventually, we set him up a bed in there. The mattresses didn't fit -- by now, they've graduated to real mattresses again, but we use solid-foam mattresses that are unjumpable, HA! technology triumphs again! (If you are wondering when technology triumphed the first time, it was cheese puffs) -- and so we improvised, taking large, soft, plush blankets and folding them up into a mattress of sorts, and giving him pillows and blankets and letting him sleep where he chooses.

We are not monsters, mind you:  Mr F has a bed, it's right there in his room, he can use it whenever he wants.  We put clean sheets on it and make it and give him blankets and encourage him to sleep in it, but he prefers the closet, and he will take his blanket over there, the brown one that on one side is sort of puffy and wooly and on the other side is made of the softest material you can imagine, or maybe even softer than  you can imagine, and he'll go lay down in the closet.

(I think, personally, that Mr F prefers that blanket because of the variety of options it gives him for sensory input. Most blankets are just one level of tactile softness, so that no matter how you toss and turn, you get just the one feeling.  But this blanket presents two wildly disparate options:  Supersoft and fine, and somewhat coarse and puffy, so that your sleeping would be [I imagine] a smorgasbord of sensations that would make it easier for someone like Mr F, who constantly has to seek out greater and greater sensory inputs to keep himself on an even keel, to sleep through the night.)

 Mr Bunches, meanwhile, has taken to sleeping in Mr F's bed, so we have two beds in the room:  Mr Bunches, which he never uses, and Mr F's, which he never uses, because Mr F is in the closet and Mr Bunches is in Mr F's bed.  Usually.  Sometimes Mr Bunches will sleep in his own bed, and sometimes he will switch, mid-night, calling to me or to Sweetie to come help him because even though Mr Bunches is perfectly capable of getting up and walking the one feet to the other bed, and then laying down in that and going to sleep, he'd really prefer it if you'd pick him up, put him in that bed, and cover him up, all the better if you can do so with his SpongeBob blanket, unless that night he wants the snowflake blanket.

Mr F, meanwhile, is not so changeable as Mr Bunches.  He has slept in the closet every day for nearly two years now, and it's become just regular for us, the way so many things that we never imagined would happen have become regular.  You can get used to just about anything, if you go through it long enough, and if you think about it, you start to realize that all these rules that we have for ourselves, for our kids, for society, aren't really rules at all, they're just things we think.  The first time you decide that you can eat a slice of pizza for breakfast, or have a bowl of cereal at night, you begin to live in a world where you do things not because that's how they are done but instead because you want to, or they work, or both.

Kids should sleep in beds.  That's the rule.  Not closets. But, then, kids should sleep in beds, and Mr F and Mr Bunches were never much for that, never much for sleeping straight through the night.  They treated their beds as games, playthings, obstacles that got in the way of doing what they wanted to do, or as tools that would help them do what they wanted to do.  They never, though, treated their beds, or anything else in their lives, as just a bed, or just a thing: freed, maybe, from the traditional way of looking at things, able to create a life from scratch thanks to the unique way their minds work, they were able to begin, from their earliest moments, reinventing the way they would live their life, and helping me and Sweetie rediscover new ways of looking at things and thinking about things. 

From the moment they were capable of doing so, they began both physically and psychically breaking down all these rules that I'd lived by all my life, showing me again and again that when it comes to living your life, the only rule is just to live it the way you want.  Mr F and Mr Bunches live their lives, not anyone else's. 



Andrew Leon said...

Well, see, I think that's great. I wish I knew what all rules I have stuck in my psyche so that I could go out and smash them.
Yeah, this from the guy who will go off about grammar rules, but I don't believe in writing rules, and, yes, there is a difference, and there is a reason why grammar rules are important but why there shouldn't be any rules of writing.
But, yeah, I hate when someone says "this is how you should do it because it's -how- you should do it." Screw that. If you can't tell me why I should do it that way, then it's quite apparent I shouldn't do it that way.
Unless I decide I want to do it that way.

I remember the first time my oldest jumped out of his crib. Freaked us out. I mean, how the heck did he do it? He -might- have been 2, but I'm not even sure he was that old, yet.

The younger boy never even slept in a crib.

Oh, you should have done more models when you were kid. Then, you would understand about following directions. Model kits should be a thing again. It's too bad they cost a bajillion dollars.

Briane P said...

I actually did some models, and model rocketry, when I was a kid. Plus I had a Lego set or sets; the one I remember was the Lunar LEM that I built.

I've never LIKED directions, though. I like the new thing where when you buy a Kindle or a game or something, it walks you through how to play it while actually playing it.

Andrew Leon said...

Ah, the tutorial... I wonder if model kits would come back if they had online tutorials you could watch to learn how to build them.

I never had Legos as a kid :(

Briane P said...

No Legos? Were you Amish?

Don't say you were poor. I'll feel guilty even though I, personally, did not cause your poverty. stupid Catholicism.

Andrew Leon said...

My mom always said they were too expensive. At some point, she bought us one bucket of generic brix blocks, and that's all we had. One bucket of those, one container of blocks, one container of tinker toys, and one can of Lincoln logs. That was all the building stuff I ever had.