Sweetness and Monkey

My younger child, who I will call Monkey for the sake of her privacy (and it is an actual nickname of hers - I'm big with nicknames for my children), is here to challenge me.

Our older child (I'll call her Sweetness) was a born angel - she slept all night as soon as we brought her home from the hospital, picked up nursing immediately, decided she wanted to wear grown-up underwear a few weeks after she turned 2 and *bam*, she was potty trained. When we went out to eat, people would stop by our table to compliment us on what a well behaved child we had. She was friendly, charming, and lovely. We called her our goodwill ambassador, because she made us look good. And because she was such a great kid, we convinced ourselves we were great parents.

Since we were such great parents, clearly we should have another child, we thought. So we did - during the Republican National Convention in 1996, we conceived the Monkey (it's not like we were going to watch Bob Dole accept his party's nomination.)(Sidebar: isn't it funny how the current administration makes you feel nostalgic for Bob Dole?). Because of the circumstances of her conception, her in utero nickname was "Baby Dole".

I had a pretty good pregnancy (unlike my pregnancy with Sweetness, when I suffered from massive progesterone poisoning and basically didn't eat for 9 months), and a good delivery, and Monkey was born early in May, weighing 6lbs, 13ozs.

Monkey did not want to ever be put down, she was a poor nurser, she lost a whole pound in a week and it took her 2 months to gain that one pound back. We had to have her tested for a whole host of horrible things because she didn't gain weight - the worst was any test where they had to take blood - the whole bunch of us would leave the lab in tears. I knew in my heart that Monkey was just fine, but I wanted to make sure. Her last test was for Cystic Fybrosis, which was the best test - they put a little heater on her arm and collected sweat, and she slept through the whole thing.

Monkey was a challenge right from the start. She never slept, she cried if *I* wasn't holding her, when she was a week old, she started making a "mean face" at everyone (she still does this face) - people would look at her with a smile and she would put on her mean face as if to say "don't even think about coochicooing me, lady!" Once we got her to latch on (which took the help of a lactation consultant), she decided she liked nursing so much that she wasn't ever going to let go.

When she was around 2 years old, we started potty training. She decided she didn't care for the idea of using a toilet, and stayed in diapers until she was just about to start pre-school (3.5 yrs old). We stopped going out to eat, because whenever we took Monkey out in public, people would say things like "Oh, my, she's quite a handful!" or "I'm glad those days are over for me!"

Monkey is a great kid, though. She is interesting, she challenges the Mr. and I to be better, more creative parents, and she now gets comments like: "what a character!", "she's a hot ticket!" and "she's a sketch!"

Last night, I was washing the dinner dishes and Monkey was playing in the living room, when I heard a bloodcurdling scream. I ran into the living room to see Monkey sitting there as calm as could be. I asked her what was wrong and she said "Nothing's wrong, mom - I was just practicing in case someone comes up behind me and grabs me."

It turns out that Sweetness told Monkey a scary story yesterday that involved a china doll coming to life and eating people and grabbing children off the street. Which is why my tough little Monkey got into bed with me at 12am (the Mr. works at night)- closing her bedroom door so her dolls would stay put. She nudged me awake at 2:30 or so to ask me to get up and check that there were no dolls walking around. I made a mental note to have a few words with Sweetness (who is still, at 15, sweet as can be to everyone who isn't her younger sister) and dutifully reassured Monkey that her dolls are safely secured in her room. Like most people, I don't care for being abruptly awakened at 2:30 in the morning, but this is one of the ways Monkey challenges me - she is here to push my buttons, to figure out where my weaknesses are and exploit them. My challenge is to not lose my temper, to try to stay a step ahead of this kid and not diminish her spirit. I never would have thought that I'd find it easier to parent a teenager than a 6 year old, but there it is.

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