Friday, July 29, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I gave birth to a goat.

There's just no other explanation.  Everything goes straight to her mouth.  No hesitation.  No observation.  And with such nonchalance on whether or not it is edible.

This kid can eat!  She eats as much as her brother, if not more.  She loves all the normal, healthy, natural fare like fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, pastas, legumes, etc.  There's not a food we've found that she turns down.  But it seems she has developed a rather bad habit of snacking on the inedible as well.

The top of the crib looks like it's been attacked by a pack of rabid beavers.  Teething, you ask?  Well yes... maybe... but it's not just that... 

Puzzle pieces, crayons, books, toys, blankets, crumbs... that "normal"stuff is inherently doomed to be chewed in any toddler's household, and our house is filled with these casualties.  But what I'm talking about here is the a-typical chew-toys... like paper, plastic, cardboard, wood, fuzz, rocks, grass, flowers, straws, money, batteries, cell-phones, cat food, cat toys, and garbage.  Basically anything that she can get her hands on and fit into her mouth or between her teeth, she will attempt to eat. 

This is not just a little biting or a nibble.  No, this is full on, chomping down, taking a bite, chewing and swallowing.  The swallowing happens if I am too late in catching her.  And "catch" is the operative word here because she takes off the second she hears, "Get that out of your mouth!" or "What on earth are you eating?" or my most often chanted phrase of "That's not food!".

Rarely, while fleeing, she will attempt to rid the evidence by pulling it out and throwing it aside, like a criminal.  Most times I dare to stick my fingers in her mouth, which is akin to sticking your head in the mouth of a lion, and I pull out the "Oh Good God what is that?" chunk of something she found somewhere.  And then there are the times that I am too late.  Who knows how many items she's managed to get down.

And as comical as this all seems, I really do fear for her safety.  Sometimes I fear that all of the gastric disturbances and diaper explosions are not really due to a milk allergy after all but from a bowel reaction from inedible objects.

I swear, I baby-proofed my house.  And I will swear upon my First Edition Harry Potters that I do pay attention to and watch my kids, sometimes like a hawk.  But she somehow finds these things.  Like my house is a treasure trove of unknown hiding places for forbidden objects.  I thought I knew every nook and cranny in this house until I found her gnashing a piece of plaster that she found behind a loose piece of moulding, which she also chewed.     

When not filling her mouth with sustenance or swill, she is gnawing on her fingers.  Biting her nails, chewing a knuckle, or molar-munching a fist full of fingers; she is forever orally fixated.  And if one were to psychoanalyze according to Freud, they'd say she either suffered a period of neglect or was weaned too soon.  Alas, I'm afraid I am guilty as charged.  I may have weaned her before she was ready but at least I made it to 13 months and that's long enough for me.  And there was a time when I could not be the attentive mother she deserved due to her brother's hospitalization.  Hopefully she won't grow to be a chain smoker or an obnoxious gum chewer because of my failures.  But I try to look past the guilt and just find a solution.  Sorry Siggy. 

I suppose the bigger picture here is effectively disciplining a headstrong and rebellious 17 month old.  My wild child.  I was once so proud of the near perfect, gently used collection of books and puzzles we had acquired with our first born.  I only had to tell him once, maybe twice, to not put something in his mouth and he listened, understood, and obeyed.  But this enigma of mastication is clever, coy, and very much a rebel.  Sadly, I now find myself sighing while taping, patching, and most times tossing away those half-eaten books.  I try to teach my children to respect their belongings, treat them with kindness, don't throw, destroy or heaven forbid eat them!  She looks at me intently for a moment, I know she understands what I am trying to communicate, then she goes right back to eating the spine of yet another book. 

I've tried all the usual techniques, that worked charmingly well on her older brother, but alas... yelling = deaf ears, the look = runs away giggling, time outs = no comprehension, hand slap = ignored, asking nicely = works for a moment then she smiles sweetly and returns to her preoccupation.  

What are my other options here?  Have I exhausted all sensible possibilities?  Am I now left to resort to drastic measures?  Do I coat everything in hot sauce?  Do I move EVERYTHING in my house onto four-foot high platforms?  Do I rid the house of any item smaller than a breadbox and not made out of tempered glass?  Do I just ignore the behavior completely and be on endless poop-patrol when it all comes out in the end? 

It seems that if she weren't so fixated on filling her mouth with miscellaneous materials, she might actually use it for speaking.  She mutters a mere handful of words.  Her brother does most of the communicating for her, translating a simple grunt or hand movement into an elaborate and eloquent pronouncement of her desires.  She is quite satisfied with his interpreting skills.  When prompted to repeat a word, she either grunts an "Nuh-uh", ignores us completely, or looks to her brother for rescue. 

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