Wow - long time no write. Well, long time no write on this blog, though some decent work done on The Big Project and periodic long-winded comments written on other blogs (especially the addictive offsprung.com - nice people!)
Also, D is in a period of so much very rapid development and so much very rapid action that it's kind of hard to survive through it, let alone reflect on it. It's kind of like when he was a newborn and I spent so much time adjusting to the constant need and newness that I couldn't string two coherent sentences together. OK, like that but with more regular sleeping, thank god. But as it turns out, that failure of coherence back 19-20 months ago wasn't just due to the lack of sleep. It was the paradigm shift. We're in another paradigm shift, and it sometimes brings me to tears, it's so interesting and profound.
I mean, for instance, we're presently standing here at the division of ego and superego. I AM HELPING TO FORM SOMEONE ELSE'S SUPEREGO. There are few more frightening concepts out there than that. The people standing behind your superego, your neuroses, your anxieties -- those secret uberMenschen -- those people, the primal They -- they're now L and me, fer crissake. Recognizing that you are becoming someone else's subconscious forces is the very essence of the psychedelic acid trip that is parenthood.
Now, this process has of course been progressing since D was born and so isn't very sudden at all, but it is suddenly more verbal and overt. When he had less physical and verbal agency, he had fewer choices, and therefore less opportunity to do something "good" or something "bad." It's arguable how much choice he has now, but he certainly has some, and we try to listen to his opinions when we can. (Yesterday, for instance, he asked for a "wed" shirt. This was notable as he almost always asks for "gween" when asked, regardless of whether there is a green option or not -- e.g., the answer to "what kind of sandwich do you want?" is generally "Gween.")
So now that he has some capacity to choose what he's doing, we sometimes praise D for following directions (not pulling unripe tomatoes off the plant, letting go of the cat's tail, hesitating before pouring an open cup of water on the floor) with the phrase, "Good boy!" As in, "Good boy, D! Nice to pet the kitty gently!" or "Good boy! I like how you put your markers back in the bucket!" This may sound innocuous to you. But in my heart, I know it isn't. I'm certainly aware of studies which suggest that praise can be a double-edged sword, creating a please-the-praiser motivation rather than an intrinsic motivation, and that if praise is offered anyway, it should relate to task performance rather than to a child's essential qualities. So there's that.
But there's also hearing how your praise is heard. Not long after we started with the "good boy" business, he developed a new frustration word. Whenever something isn't going his way, he says "Gooby! GOOBY!" I at first thought it was a version of "Let go!" ("Wet go!", sadly, having enjoyed a far-too-brief moment in the sun at our house as D moved on quickly to saying "pwease!" when he learned that when a baby says pwease it truly is the magic word, at least around here.) But I realized that this word arrived after I told his fire engine to be a "good boy" and stay in one piece as I was putting its parts back together for the umpteenth time. D tries to mold the world as we try to mold him, trying to make it follow his directions in exchange for a couple of nonsense syllables. How to feel about that? I don't know. Dictatorship flows downhill, I guess.