Imaginary Friends

The first time we discovered Isaac had a dream life was over a year ago, when Isaac was just starting to become more verbal. One night, in the midst of night terrors, he cried “Isaac don’t want eye-fire, Isaac don’t want eye-fire!” Later on, while watching Lord of the Rings, we realised that eye-fire was… the eye of Sauron. (It was curious though, because until that nightmare, we didn’t think Isaac had ever seen a picture of the eye of Sauron nor other depictions of what would pass as eye-fire.)

Other than that early episode, Isaac seldom displayed signs of an active imagination. He did not pretend play at all until around a month or so ago, and even when he did, it was to pretend that a basket was a vacuum cleaner and the rope of my yoga mat was its wire. It is very amusing to watch him pretend to explain them as if he were on YouTube but hardly the sophisticated fare that his peers are engaged in.

Then around two to three months ago, we became acquainted with “Tiko and Tako”. The first time he referred to them was during bedtime, when after saying his usual goodnights to us, he added “Goodnight Tiko and Tako!” I asked him who they were but he mostly just found it funny that I was asking and kept laughing. Because he gestured vaguely at the ceiling when he said goodnight to them, I assumed that he had named the two lights in our room ‘Tiko and Tako”.

Tiko and Tako would continue to make random appearances. Sometimes Isaac would say goodnight to them. Sometimes he would repeat our whole conversation with him saying goodnight, me asking who they are, then going into laughing fits at the reenactment. (As I type this, I realise that this makes Isaac sound a little deranged! Perhaps all toddlers are.) Sometimes, he would answer my question of “What is your Chinese name?” with “Tiko and Tako!” So I never really thought very much about them. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if they referred to two characters or possibly one character named “Tikoentako”.

Then a few days ago, I came across the topic of imaginary friends in an early childhood article and it struck me that perhaps Tiko and Tako are Isaac’s imaginary friends! So I began to question him about their characteristics and antics and managed to surmise that they are two black-haired boys who like to “run and play around”. Isaac could also answer when I asked what they were doing at any given moment such as, “Tiko and Tako are just playing in the rain outside and getting wet!” (This was first said when it was raining outside our room fourteen levels up in the sky and slightly creepy to hear. Later, he would clarify that they were actually playing on the balcony.)

Because there were some inconsistencies and sometimes Isaac sounded like he made things up on the spot, it reassured us that they were products of his imagination, rather than um… ghosts hanging out in our house.

Anyway, last night, I thought of the eye-fire, eye-of-Sauron episode and decided to test if Tiko and Tako had literary origins as well.

“Are Tiko and Tako boys or girls?” Boys.
“What colour are Tiko and Tako’s hair?” Black.
“What colour are Tiko and Tako’s eyes?” Green.
“Do Tiko and Tako wear glasses?” Yes.
“Are Tiko and Tako taller or shorter than Isaac?” Taller.
“Can Tiko and Tako fly?” No.
“Do Tiko and Tako ride on broomsticks?” Yes.
“Can Tiko and Tako fly when they ride on broomsticks?” Yes.
“Do Tiko and Tako have lightning shaped scars on their faces?” Yes.

So Isaac’s imaginary friends are *drumroll* … … Harry Potter! 🤣

Of course, I think I asked a lot of leading questions to begin with, but it gave me a good laugh on a Sunday night!

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Their Own Person

 

After a pretty eventful day yesterday, Isabel slept for a 7.5 hours stretch last night, the longest ever! Then this morning, she flipped for the first time from her tummy to her back! By now, it’s quite clear that Isaac and Isabel are very different babies. Perhaps it’s partly due to birth order and partly due to gender — but what it all means is that there is no one way to raise a baby.

Isabel has always been a better sleeper — right from the start, she woke every three to four hours. Even as a newborn, she only woke twice a night for feeds, except during short bursts (probably growth spurts) where she would wake thrice. On the other hand, Isaac was always waking every two to three hours.

By the second month, Isabel was clearly on a longer sleep trajectory — three to four hours became four to five hours, and two feeds a night dropped to one feed a night. Crucially, this change was very reliable in Isabel. She sometimes woke slightly more often but it was usually in relation to a growth spurt. If you plotted her sleeping hours on a graph, there would be minor fluctuations and dips every so often but there would be a clear trend towards longer sleeping hours. Isaac never really could go longer than three hours until he was around eighteen months and in between, he had longer periods where he would wake up every one to two hours.

In the end, parenting made very little difference to how long or well they slept. We did almost exactly the same thing with both of them. The only two things we really did differently was to keep Isabel in a swaddle for the night since she was born, and to keep the lights dim throughout the night for feeds and diaper changes — they may have helped Isabel sleep better but I doubt these little changes contributed to the stark and persisting differences in Isaac and Isabel’s sleeping patterns. So it’s really down to the differences in the two babies.

Isabel is also far more average in her developmental milestones whereas Isaac was all over the place with his. He was slow to flip (5 months), fast to sit (5.5 months), fast to pull to stand (6.5 months), slow and never liked crawling (8 months) but fast to stand on his own (10 months) and to walk (11 months). Then he was fast to run (12 months) and climb stairs confidently (14 – 15 months) but slow to jump (still hasn’t jumped yet at 34 months!). He was slow to speak (first word at 14 months, less than 20 words at 2 years old) but fast to do whatever he is doing now, theorising and giving long lectures and making long complicated sentences. And he’s pretty much slow in everything else, penmanship, colouring, self-feeding, self-dressing, potty training.

On the other hand, Isabel seems pretty average for all the things she’s doing — smiling and lifting her head and flipping. She’s even quite textbook for being able to sleep well at night, which was once she hit the 5kg mark. Overall, she’s just an easier baby, for now.

Which makes me very very grateful — because it makes taking care of both of them a lot easier when the demanding (but quite sweet) toddler is matched with a less demanding baby. But also, I have to keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t take her good nature for granted and to give her the attention she needs even if she doesn’t demand it quite so vocally as Isaac. And in any case, I’ve recently discovered that it’s quite possible to lounge around with two kids on the playmat and have a good time together!

So here’s to more moments with both my children, and them with each other — the days are long but the years are short.


10 Weeks.

 

Isabel is 10 weeks old, and as of last week, we have finally made the move to have her sleep with us!

When we first had Isaac, we had every intention of keeping him in his cot and quickly moving him out into his own room once he’s old enough. Unfortunately, Isaac turned out to be a fussy, terrible sleeper and because I was nursing him, it became far easier to just have him in our bed so I could nurse him to sleep and more easily nurse him throughout the night.

Later on, Isaac began to sleep better but by then, both of us had gotten so attached to each other that he certainly didn’t want to move into his own bed and room and neither did I! Even now, I love our morning snuggles and bedtime chats and can’t imagine kicking him out until he’s a bit older.

When Isabel came along though, we took a while to figure out the sleeping arrangements, mostly because we wanted to be with her, but yet not have her constant wakings disturb Isaac. We eventually settled on Ning rooming in with her in a separate room, while I continued to room with Isaac.

That worked well while Ning was on leave, although it was not a very efficient arrangement, since both Ning and I had to be woken to attend to Isabel although one of us (i.e. me) would have sufficed. Once Ning began work, it simply didn’t work very well because Ning had no opportunity to catch up on sleep during the day anymore. So for the next month or so, Isabel slept alone in the room at night.

Although Isabel turned out to be a fairly decent sleeper and did not reject the cot, I felt terrible about leaving her alone in the room. Of course, I know that she probably has no opinion either way right now, but I just felt horrible about the clearly unequal treatment between the Isaac and Isabel. And I actually like sleeping with my babies!

So last week, we did a bit of reorganisation in our room and brought Isabel in to sleep with us. As it turns out, Isaac isn’t too disturbed by her since I can usually attend to her before she starts crying full on — and in any case, Isaac used to wake when Isabel was in the other room, and if I happened to be there feeding her, he would start bawling for me, which probably disrupts his sleep more!

Most of all, as odd as it sounds, I am so happy to be able to sleep with both my babies. Late at night after feeding Isabel, I would often just turn from Isaac to Isabel, then back again, feeling perfectly blissful and content to have both of them with me — Isaac with his still chubby cheeks and long lashes, smelling of fresh laundry and lavender, and Isabel with her downy hair, rosebud lips and powdery scent of milk.

At some point, they will start getting smelly and kicky and I’ll probably be happy to have them out of the bed and finally share a bed with the long suffering Ning again. But for now, it’s such sweet blessing to be able to sleep with them every night.

In other news, Isabel has been growing well! Look at how Isabel’s arm is larger than mommy’s wrist!