JB and I woke up this morning to the sounds of Dylan fooling around with his aquarium crib toy and playing the tinkling little music that accompanies its electronic lights and burbles, which was a peaceful, lovely sort of way to start the day, at least until two minutes later when he suddenly downgraded his mood from Patiently Chilling Out to DEFCON 1 WARNING WARNING EXPLOSION IMMINENT.

Oh, what an OPINIONATED baby he’s been lately. I mean, still a good-natured, happy kid for the most part, but good lord, I’d almost forgotten how very small children are essentially roiling storms of emotion, with no warning or delay as they tumble headfirst from one state of mind to the next. Happy! Angry! Laughing! Screaming! One second they’re full of pure sunshine and joy and love, the next, they’re Clint Eastwood at the end of Unforgiven: “Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only gonna kill him, but I’m gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.” All because you wouldn’t let them gnaw your Macbook power cord.

He’s been doing this thing where if you take a Dangerous Object from him, attempt to redirect his attention, or otherwise thwart his constant attempts at self-mutilation, he collapses to the floor and buries his head in his hands and weeps inconsolably. It is piteous, dramatic, and more than a little bit hilarious. I remember Riley going through this stage and how I’d just stare at him, unable to process that he was seriously throwing THAT big of a shitfit over the fact that I’d just saved his damn life for the millionth time. What a thankless task it can be to spend your entire day trying to keep your child from harm, only to be rewarded with angry screams and rabbit-kicks to the belly.

Oh, and let’s not forget the backwards head-arch. Does your kid does this too, where if they’re pissed about something they THROW themselves backward in a curving fishflop, apparently in order to smash their skulls open on the floor? Jesus christ, babies are one big Darwinian FAIL. Actually, come to think of it, Riley’s not much better, what with his ongoing attempts to fling himself off couches and slip in tubs and run smack facefirst into walls. When exactly do children develop a sense of self-preservation? And when am I going to realize that yelling “BE CAREFUL” all day long is about as effective a mode of communication with these kids as waggle-dancing figure eights around the house like an Asian honeybee?

Moments before disaster, as usual.


48 Responses to “Preservatives”

  1. Eric's Mommy on February 1st, 2009 2:44 pm

    OMG the backwards head-arch! I totally remember that, and how hard it was to hold onto him while he was screaming and trying to arch his way out of my arms. Ah good times.

  2. Heather C on February 1st, 2009 2:56 pm

    When I was in my teens, I babysat a kid who was unbelievably talented at the backwards head-arch. And since I weighed 98 pounds or so, anytime he did that I almost went over, too.

  3. Amber on February 1st, 2009 3:19 pm

    My friend’s daughter, when upset, would carefully and calmly lay down on the floor and then launch into full-scale histrionics. It was the funniest thing. She didn’t want to hurt herself, but she certainly wanted you to know she was pissed off.

    As for my daughter, she has never understood the merits of carefulness, and she’s almost 4. She’s more of a try it and see what happens sort of girl. Which is why we have paid so many visits to the emergency room.

  4. kalisa on February 1st, 2009 3:21 pm

    I want to see a photo of the actual tantrum, please. It does indeed sound entertaining.

  5. Rowen on February 1st, 2009 3:32 pm

    I work in daycare and see the head-arch daily! Most of the kids seem particullaryily keen to do it while we are outside on the smallest patch of concrete we have….It’s like watching a whale breach the surface of the ocean and throw itself back down again. Not nearly as breathtaking to view though.

  6. Sarah on February 1st, 2009 3:43 pm

    Yeah, my twenty-three pound son has the backwards arch down to a science. I’m no small woman, but I don’t have much upper body strength, despite months of Nautilus training, so I pretty much count anytime I have to contain him while he’s arching as a second workout for the day! He also throws AMAZING fits while getting his diaper changed. You pretty much have to plan on changing his socks after every poo since he’s guaranteed at some point to kick his feet smack into his diaper while he’s fighting off your attempts to clean him.

  7. Sharla on February 1st, 2009 3:47 pm

    Oh boy, yes I remember this with my son, and my daughter is going through it now. I don’t even recall when my son stopped flailing himself backwards…but I hope the youngest stops soon!

  8. kristin c. on February 1st, 2009 4:54 pm

    My friend was babysitting another friends kid who was PERFECTLY capable of holding himself upright in a seated position, run around freely, or hide your car keys in a Pottery Barn bathroom….
    However, he was inexplicably incapable and unwilling to hold hiself up when you would hold him. You’d pick him up and he’d limp noodle over backwards. Where was HIS INSTINCT of self preservation??!
    It was the most alarming and ANNOYING thing a kid has ever done in the history of the universe….such a STRANGE child. Talk about Darwinian FAIL.

  9. Scott on February 1st, 2009 5:13 pm

    My favorite temper tantrum of Sofia’s was when she threw a five minute cinematic crying fit because the paper towel was not wrapped around her pickle in the correct manner.

    You know how in cartoons the kids lay on their stomachs and kick with their feet and pound with their fists? It was exactly like that. Nicole and I couldn’t help laughing, which just made her more upset, which made us laugh harder, etc.

    I feel sorry for anyone who ever serves her in a deli.

  10. Melissa on February 1st, 2009 5:38 pm

    I am constantly saying “be careful” too. My son hates getting changed. He lets me know this by throwing himself backwards and smashing his head. I remember my daughter doing the same…what’s with that??!!

  11. Naomi in Oz on February 1st, 2009 6:07 pm

    Ummm, my kids are 7 & 10 and I still call out “be careful” (ineffectively). They just keep finding more and more intricate ways to injure themselves when they have hissy fits. Just wait until they shout at you in anger “I HATE YOU!!” That bites. It bites more than the head arching, body slamming, inconsolable sobbing thing.

  12. Christina on February 1st, 2009 6:34 pm

    Holy cow, no kidding on the self preservation thing. My husband and I were standing down the stairs telling our son NO he could not play with his Leapfrog computer thingy any more. Our son was holding it and neither my husband nor I made a single move toward him when he took off running toward the staircase and rang SMACK into the wall. We, being good parents, laughed until we cried. My son was sobbing looking at us like we were crazy. Seriously though it was like a bad slow motion movie scene. Both my husband and I KNEW he was going to hit the wall but somehow he just did not see it coming. But seriously HOW?! Kids at this age at nuts!!

  13. sara on February 1st, 2009 7:06 pm

    I have a 1 1/2 year old and a 3 year old. The baby (yes, he will always be the baby) throws himself on the floor in shitfits STILL and it’s completely opposite as it was when the eldest did. I now find it funny. I can’t help but laugh when he throws things from the dinner table or hits his brother. I don’t know why it irked me so bad when it was the older one, but the little one can have a hissy fit and I am in hysterics.

  14. warcrygirl on February 1st, 2009 7:10 pm

    BOTH of my boys did the backwards head arch thing, only I’ve suffered two smashed noses, a fat lip and untold facial contusions. Captain Destructo split his head open via violent contact with our bathroom floor because Jr told him it would be fun to stand on the edge of the tub during their bath. Talk about Darwinian fail.

  15. Kathy on February 1st, 2009 7:16 pm

    My daughter thankfully missed the throwing-herself-backwards-fit-thing, but throws herself backwards in an attempt to have fun. Skull crushing is fun! Apparently.

  16. Anyabeth on February 1st, 2009 7:31 pm

    Oh god the backwards arch of DOOM. I especially enjoy it when she does it on the changing table. Just gives it a hint of danger.

    I think some kids are born with the self-preservation thing. One of my friends’ son will look behind him before he does that–to see if he will have a soft fall. Brilliant.

  17. Annie on February 1st, 2009 7:44 pm

    OMG the SCREAMING. You know how usually if you ignore the tantrums, they’ll stop. Not my kid! My 18 month old son Kole WILL NOT STOP. He’ll lay there indefinately and he will try to stare me down while he does it. While his almost 3 year old sister Avery is much easier… with her I say, “Do you want to be happy yet?” and she’ll sit right up and say, “Ok, I happy Mommy.” and go about her business. Hmmm…

  18. Robin on February 1st, 2009 7:48 pm

    Oh my GOD you crack my shit up.

  19. Sue on February 1st, 2009 9:08 pm

    I have 4 boys-age 10-12-14-16. They all did the backward arch thingy! They also still have no sense of self preservation- it goes with the boy thing.

  20. alexandra on February 1st, 2009 9:19 pm

    When I was in high school I had a boyfriend who was a few years older than me. I clearly remember him telling me “Kids don’t care. I used to jump off roofs, crash my BMX, all kinds of stupid shit … Then I had sex; that’s when I realized there was something to live for.”. I always think about that when I see kids doing things that they know will hurt them. I swear all those idiots on MTV’s “Scarred” must be virgins.

  21. Allison on February 1st, 2009 9:45 pm

    OH THANK GOD! I am so glad you exist Linda. It is 5:40 am in my world and I have just tortured. . .I mean changed the worlds wetest diaper on my SCREAMING fishflopping, flailing, FLIPPING the F#$% out 4 month old. I was just sitting here wondering WTF???? Do other parents have to deal with this. . . . and so I came to your site.. . . and like magic POOF! Behold the fishflop and thanklessness described in a way that makes me know I am not alone.

    I am not alone
    I am not alone
    I am not alone

    and this, is why we adore you Linda

  22. Kim on February 2nd, 2009 12:05 am

    That’s right. Yet again it’s like you peeked into my life. Screaming, the arching, the need to nibble on all things electrical.

    Oh, and Robin, “crack my shit up” may be my new favorite phrase.

  23. Abby on February 2nd, 2009 12:55 am

    Yes, yes and YES….we have all of that and much more in our house…. what a super-fun joyride it is. Thanx for the reminder that I am not alone.

  24. jen on February 2nd, 2009 5:57 am

    I had just starting asking a few parents I know if they knew anything about the backward flailing and they were all confused, no, why would a child do that? I was actually starting to worry something was wrong with Carter. Though he seems to have learned smacking his head on the floor is not fun and has taken to wailing and kicking more when I say NO POWER CORDS for the twentith time and try to direct him to the massive amount of toys he had.

    My husband likes to call the backward arching whale watching. He also said my son was just taking after me when he throws a fit but now I can say see honey, the internet says it is just a baby thing.

  25. jen on February 2nd, 2009 5:58 am

    Had just started. Grammar before coffee is a bad thing.

  26. Leslie on February 2nd, 2009 6:10 am

    Do the boys get along as well as it seems, or are your photos carefully edited so as not to draw the attention of Social Services?

  27. Jess on February 2nd, 2009 6:54 am

    As many have mentioned already….Thank you (and your commenters) for letting me know I AM NOT ALONE…Although I am on child #2(you’d think I’d remember this stage from #1 since they’re only 21 months apart) BUt I was just worrying last night that THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG since he continues to throw massive temper tantrums about…well, NOTHING! And of course with those temper tantrums come the backwards head flailing…and also occasionally the forward head bang. I was actually having trouble sleeping last night worrying that he’ll be 10, and STILL DOING THIS.
    Annnnnnnnnd, this is why your blog is my favorite……ever
    Thank you, thank you.

  28. Tiffany on February 2nd, 2009 7:47 am

    I LOVE the backward arch move…especially since my 14mo old weighs roughly 32+ lbs…I have some rockin’ biceps….

  29. Amy M. on February 2nd, 2009 7:59 am

    Boys are weird. My 3yo jumps in the air & lands on his knees & thinks it’s hilarious! And the baby does the arching. Usually when I’m off-balance from the 3yo running into my leg. Thank God for yoga & balance!

  30. Deb on February 2nd, 2009 8:34 am

    My 2 year old daughter does the stupid arch thing, too. Drives me insane. She does it when she is laughing or having fun. There is a part of me that thinks “if I let her fall a couple times, she would get a clue and stop”. But no, damn protective parental thing kicks in and I rescue her every time.

    On a side note – tiny babies who arch their backs (under 9 months or so), could be suffering from reflux. Both my kids had it when they were babies. I remember telling the pediatrician about it when, as a new mom, I went to see him to ask if he was sure this amount of puking and crying was normal. He was halfway out the door when I mentioned the arching. He immediately came back in and wrote a prescription for us and told me that was a huge symptom of reflux. That medicine was a miracle for the quality of life for everyone in our household.

  31. Alyson on February 2nd, 2009 9:11 am

    The self-preservation thing doesn’t kick-in until they are Thirteen…….ah……Eighteen…..ah, hell……I’m still waiting for it to kick in with my HUSBAND!

  32. Meg on February 2nd, 2009 9:38 am

    I used to care for a kid that did the backward arch and tantrum over nothing thing all the time. Seriously, 20 times a day, easily. It was horrifying. It’s nice to know I am not alone and wasn’t just making him angry by being a crap babysitter, but I was kind of hoping it was unique to just him so that I wouldn’t have to look forward to that in the future with my own kids.

  33. abb on February 2nd, 2009 10:39 am

    The bad news: the “be careful” doesn’t work at 22 http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=11415&l=501ec&id=1485621303 any more than it did at 2.

    The good news: they’ll still want and need you when they ignored your advice to be careful.

  34. Tia on February 2nd, 2009 11:09 am

    At 15 months my boy has a temper like no other. I get slapped in the face and when I put him down he freaks. But the other part of him is my kissy baby that loves on us and his dog. One minute he is holding a rubber ducky close to his face and making this cute little sound and the next thing you know he’s whiping matchbox cars at the poor dog. Ahh good days…

  35. wordygirl on February 2nd, 2009 12:07 pm

    Gwen is going through the exact same stage right now: hellbent on self-destruction, and cue the weeping/wailing/gnashing of teeth if I try to stop her. I love your blog for just this reason: you write about all the same shit I’m experiencing, only, you know, with wit and articulate sentences and shit.

  36. Joceline on February 2nd, 2009 12:42 pm

    Why is the MacBook power cord the preferred chew toy of babies everywhere? We’ve actually had to replace ours because of the sneaky, sneaky chewy baby.

  37. amber on February 2nd, 2009 1:25 pm

    I’m sure you hear this all the time, but equally sure you don’t mind, so I’ll say it now: You have two very beautiful, amazing children.

  38. Jennifer on February 2nd, 2009 1:46 pm

    I think for a couple of years my daughter thought her name was “Reagan ‘WalkPlease!'”
    or maybe “Reagan ‘Inside Voice'” and my son likely thought his name was
    “Taylor ‘GetDOWNFROMTHERE’!”
    And you are right, huge Darwinian FAIL!

  39. lindsayc on February 2nd, 2009 1:46 pm

    Lordy, my two boys do the exact same thing. Eamon actually would bonk his head on the floor ON PURPOSE when he was frustrated. We probably should have gotten him a helmet in retrospect.

  40. courtney on February 2nd, 2009 2:02 pm

    “Oh, and let’s not forget the backwards head-arch. Does your kid does this too, where if they’re pissed about something they THROW themselves backward in a curving fishflop, apparently in order to smash their skulls open on the floor? ”

    um yes. although not much anymore, since he hit his head on the wall. now it’s the screaming and crying. in fact, we just had an incident about 10 min ago. I took my keys away from him when he was hitting the dog.

    i love reading your blog, my kid is a couple months older than Dylan and I so relate with your stories.

  41. Jen on February 2nd, 2009 5:57 pm

    OMG I was just wondering myself if anyone else’s kids do the backarching thing! My kid not only does that, but he HEAD-BUTTS EVERYONE/EVERYTHING when he is in any way upset about ANYTHING. Also, it is more than a little hilarious, but GOB I wish he would knock it off!

  42. Melanie on February 2nd, 2009 7:39 pm

    Awesome post! I am experiencing every single thing you wrote!

  43. Anonymous on February 3rd, 2009 6:25 am

    “Jesus christ, babies are one big Darwinian FAIL” *snort*

    I think my kid might be an exception to that rule, as he was easily distracted from an early age and could be redirected fairly easily most of the time. He is also the type of kid who fell down two stairs ONCE and learned immediately how to never fall again. Not that we didn’t have our near-death experiences, it’s just that he seemed to learn from them.

  44. Red on February 3rd, 2009 7:22 am

    As usual 1. I can totally relate and 2. you are awesomely funny (or OSUM as a friend’s DD spells it). My son just started the backwards flip/dive thing. Luckily, we are used to his antics when in arms. He loves to be bounced up and down in your arms like Tigger. All. Day. My biceps must/should look like Ahnold’s by now.

  45. annie mess on February 3rd, 2009 7:56 am
  46. Emerald on February 3rd, 2009 10:04 am

    I call that head move the ‘Passive Aggressive Spine Slide ACTIVATE!!!!’ move. That was a rough first week at toddler daycare. Oh the anger that comes with thwarting!!! Nevermind the resulting safety, as soon as that orange-swallowable-toy/big-kid-scissors/dog-turd-from-the-playground gets knocked out of their tiny little fists of fury it is the END OF THE UNIVERSE!!!! For about five minutes. Then it’s all Bob Ross happy and calm. Until the green beans show up. Then it’s DEATH! DEATH TO THE BEAN!!! And so on, and so forth.

  47. victoria on February 3rd, 2009 11:17 am

    I started working out with a trainer at my gym, and my new mantra is, “My body is my partner, not my enemy.” Also, “If a mom with two little kids can do it, I sure as hell can.” See how your blog is a force for good?

  48. Josh on February 3rd, 2009 9:20 pm

    Screw Darwin man, kids never ever get any safer or watch out for their own safety more. I probably do more dangerous shit now than when I was a baby, and now I know better. In fact, I actively seek to make my life more dangerous. Safety is over rated. Give me liberty or give me death, can I get an amen? I think Evel Knievel said that. Are you picking up what I’m laying down? You can call me Darkwing Duck bitches. Let’s get dangerous.

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