Over the Christmas break, my husband and I went on a Sasha-less overnight excursion and left Sasha with my parents at their house. This is the second time we’ve done that, but Sasha was too young the first time to remember it. Word has it, she had a blast. Playing on the playground at the beach, dragging out lunch for an hour-and-a-half, splashing like crazy in the tub. When we returned, Sasha gave me her signature squeal of glee and ran to hug me, but quickly seemed to remind herself that this wasn’t an ordinary return and that she should behave accordingly. When I offered her a snack she pushed me away. She got pouty and refused to talk to me. This cold streak continued into the next morning, when she refused to let me dress her, kicking at my hands and screeching at the top of her lungs. But if Grammy tried? Oh, yes, that was fine.
Luckily, I anticipated that something like this might happen. On our way back to my parents’ we stopped at the fantastic bookstore R. J. Julia and in my browsing I found a beautiful book about baby owls, who, as it turns out, experience pretty heavy duty separation anxiety. I knew immediately I had to bring this home to Sasha.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell may not have eliminated the feelings of abandonment Sasha felt when her dad and I went off and had fun without her, but it sure seemed to offer her some comfort. She has been requesting it nearly every day for the last couple weeks. Each time she hands it to me she swears she doesn’t know the story. But then if I leave out a word, she spouts out an entire paragraph. Not surprisingly, her favorite page is the one where the mother owl comes back. My favorite is the one where mama owl reminds her babies that they knew she’d return.
Another one we seem to read daily is Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace—artist of LST’s video! We have the boxed set that comes with Little Hoot and Little Oink. If you don’t know these books, they are a really fun look at struggles over eating veggies, bedtime, and cleaning up. So far we don’t have too much trouble with any of those things (knock wood!), though I could really use some books in this series about the potty, the pacifier, and hitting! (Can I specifically request one about biting one’s mom in the ass?) Anyway, Sasha is really wild for these little dudes. I’m not sure she gets the joke, that a pea wouldn’t like candy or a pig wouldn’t like making a mess, but she loves the repetitive structure in the books—the counting, in particular. And she always likes to remind me (herself?) that Little Pea should say, “No, thank you,” when he doesn’t want his candy because “whining is not polite.”
While we’re on the subject of getting your kid to do something they don’t want to do, Rabbit Ears by Amber Stewart has been on loan to us from LST podcast guest Karina and her son Max ever since Sasha refused bathing. Baths are no longer an issue but Sasha still loves reading this book. She’s very interested in the end, when Hopscotch learns to wash his own ears, and I’ve noticed her starting to try to wash herself when she’s bathing. It’s nice to watch your kid pick up new skills on their own, without your suggestion, especially when you’re struggling with other skills like potty usage.
Pacifiers Are Not Forever. Now there’s a title that doesn’t hide its intention. Elizabeth Verdick’s toddler manual on letting go of a beloved object is a book that Sasha sometimes requests that I read, but more often I find her reading it in her bed before nap or bed—while sucking on her pacifier, of course. I bought this because we’ve made a pact to get rid of her “nukkie” when she turns three and I just wanted to have a reminder around that this is really going to happen and we need to prepare. The book offers a lot of good alternatives to sucking and gives us a launching pad for discussing what she’ll do instead of sucking when she needs comfort. Our plan is to set her nukkie off on an orange helium balloon, inspired by Mathilda and the Orange Balloon, which I’ve mentioned here before, and is also illustrated by Jen Corace. I will let you know how the launching and its aftermath go when we get there. Wish me luck! The last time we attempted this it ended in a four-hour screaming and crying session. My memory is foggy on whether that was me or her.
All Asleep by Joanna Walsh is a dear old friend we’ve come back to. Back before Sasha was capable of choosing her own books, I used to read this to her daily. It’s an ideal choice for putting babies to sleep because 1) it’s about sleeping babies, 2) it encourages talking in a whisper, which feels nice to do in your baby’s ear, and 3) it’s very short! We needed a short book tonight because of all the partying with bubbles and self-washing in the bath, and we picked All Asleep. All of the things that make it a great baby read also make it a great toddler read. Funny, Sasha asked me why one of the babies in an airplane was flying upside down. Last time we read this book she couldn’t talk, so it was surreal to hear her questioning the logic of the illustrations. Which I have to say are pretty sweet. Thanks to Kirsten, the inspiration for the title of LST, for giving us this one!
Your turn. What can’t you and your child stop reading? Any skill builders?
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We Can’t Stop Reading
We Can’t Stop Listening To
1. One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found
Disk 4, Track 6: "Peanut Duck"
2. Peter Pan
Track 4: I've Gotta Crow
3. Wild Flag
Track 1: Romance
Podcast Theme Music