almost 3yo gets bored easily, not into repetition, tends to "play dumb" - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 09:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just wondering if anyone has any ideas for my almost 3yo DS...

I guess he is pretty advanced, his EI eval (for social/emotional issues) at 2yo put him at about a 4yo level (the highest they test for, he outdid most of their tests, so maybe beyond that) -- His biggest strengths are language & fine motor skills, plus just cognitive skills in general.

He gets bored very easily... he isn't interested in repetition. So if I come up with a fun game -- say an action song, or a word game, or a sorting activity, or a physical challenge, or whatever -- he will do it once and then he's done. This is the same whether we are home or out & in a group of kids. It's almost like he does something once & masters it, so just has no interest in continuing it. He also "plays dumb" (for lack of a better term) pretty much constantly. He won't do a puzzle by himself, for example... and when we do one with him, he keeps saying, "I need help!!" or "Where does this go?" etc. even though it is very obvious (both to me and to others) that he knows exactly where it goes. He has virtually all of his books memorized, but he won't 'read' to himself because, he claims, "I don't remember the words." Or if you ask him "What is Jane's favorite color?" (or some other question he definitely knows the answer to), he'll respond, "I don't know, what is her favorite color?" This is all day long ("Why did that book fall?" "I don't know, why did it fall?") He just seems to like pretending he doesn't know things.

It's frustrating because I don't know how to engage him... and not engaging him isn't an option because he doesn't really entertain himself (except in destructive ways) and has limited play skills. Most of his play is imitative. In fact, a lot of everything he does is imitative... these are not things that are apparent to others. The other day, he was pretending to talk on the phone and recited DH's phone number twice. But if you ask him directly what DH's phone number is, he can't tell you. I share this just to explain the discrepancy sometimes between what he appears to know & what he actually knows -- but most of the time when he's 'playing dumb' it's totally different than this & he DOES know whatever he's pretending not to. He has a crazy-good memory... he remembers things from 2 years ago, he remembers things he only saw or heard once (youtube is our best friend & worst enemy, he requests songs he heard just once 6 months prior and then we have to find them based on the lyrics he remembers, and they have to be sung by the same person, same background instrumentals, etc... these things are totally beyond me, I can't recognize the sounds of instruments well and voices aren't my strong point either).

I guess I'd just like to be able to engage him on a deeper level (or at least for more than 2 minutes!!) I often think he needs a bigger challenge, but everything I try either ends up being too overwhelming for him to even try, or too simple. There's no middle ground... as I'm writing this, it occurs to me that he probably likes to watch & observe until he knows he can do something right the first time... he doesn't like to practice, maybe, and doesn't like to fail??

IDK, am I even making sense here? Can anyone relate??


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#2 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 12:20 PM
 
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I can relate to the pretending not to know things part.  I don't remember where I heard it, but someone once explained to me that kids will do that in order to practice hearing how other people say the answer they already know.  That it is a language practice device.  Taking it that way it didn't drive me quite as crazy as it did without that explaination.  I still will often prompt an attempt at a reply with "what would you guess?" or "what do you think?"  Sometimes that works.

 

As far as the one time thing - my kids tend to repeat things ad nauseum, so the grass isn't always greener...  But one thing my kids do with repeating stuff is they alter it just slightly - they will sing songs again, but change the vowel sounds in all the words.  Or they'll make up new lyrics to be funny.  There are songs out there like that (I like to eat apples and bananas, comes to mind).  If you want your DS to do things repeatedly, that might be a fun way to introduce it to him.  It's the same, but different.

 

Stuff like puzzles - my kids will purposefully do simple ones wrong just for the humor of it.  And when they were smaller I would show the kids to try it with their other hand.  Or with their eyes closed.  Or upside down.  It's ways to make the same thing different, and interesting.

 

HTH

 

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#3 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 01:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I can relate to the pretending not to know things part.  I don't remember where I heard it, but someone once explained to me that kids will do that in order to practice hearing how other people say the answer they already know.  That it is a language practice device.  Taking it that way it didn't drive me quite as crazy as it did without that explaination.  I still will often prompt an attempt at a reply with "what would you guess?" or "what do you think?"  Sometimes that works.
Yeah I try turning it back on him but then we just go back & forth lol. Maybe it is language practice... he also prompts me constantly all day -- instead of saying, "I'd like a snack" (which he is capable of saying), he'll say, "Mommy, say, 'Would you like a snack DS?'" lol So maybe it's just a way of playing games.
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As far as the one time thing - my kids tend to repeat things ad nauseum, so the grass isn't always greener...  But one thing my kids do with repeating stuff is they alter it just slightly - they will sing songs again, but change the vowel sounds in all the words.  Or they'll make up new lyrics to be funny.  There are songs out there like that (I like to eat apples and bananas, comes to mind).  If you want your DS to do things repeatedly, that might be a fun way to introduce it to him.  It's the same, but different.
Yes, we have success with songs like that -- like Aiken Drum, that's one of his favorites. He loves songs and will even occasionally ask to reread a book twice. But that's where the repetition ends... I'd really like to figure out a way for him to continue activities. I will play around with changing things just a bit.
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Stuff like puzzles - my kids will purposefully do simple ones wrong just for the humor of it.  And when they were smaller I would show the kids to try it with their other hand.  Or with their eyes closed.  Or upside down.  It's ways to make the same thing different, and interesting.
LOL well I'm glad he's not the only one that finds it funny to do it wrong... maybe I should blindfold him or something. But I guess the thing is that he almost never does it right. It's not like he's done the puzzle (or whatever activity) 50 times the right way and wants to change it up. He's done it once, maybe twice, and that's it. Often he even approaches new puzzles like this (I'd say maybe he doesn't like puzzles, except that he does, and he does this with lots of other things besides puzzles.)

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#4 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 06:52 PM
 
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This sounds like pretty normal three-year-old stuff to me, all except for the not being able to entertain himself at all.  That and he might by a little behind or quirky with the social use of language, or pragmatics.  It sounds like he may be not understanding how to engage you in conversation properly. The scripting is kind of a red flag.

 

As far as repetition, my DD does not like it all that much either much like your DS, especially if it is designed by me, but thankfully she entertains herself the majority of the time.  And, she plays by herself for hours.  She is incredibly imaginative and gets lost in her world.  Her play in so creative.  On her own, she set up her wooden animals on the steps and said they were at the movie theatre.  She said they were seeing "Down."  (We had just seen the movie "Up" at the movie in the park.)  As you can imagine this is a lifesaver and I could not imagine life with no breaks from her!  That must be incredibly difficult, and I really think that is not normal, but I have no idea what you could do.  Preschool?

 

DD has never responded to drilling, flash cards, or quizzes.  She would not have any of that, but I can engage her in conversation, and that is how we engage each other, and that is how she learns.  She played words games with me more when she was barely two.  Now she has an attitude, and totally plays dumb or gives silly answers.  She sat on santa and gave hime her cousin's entire list instead of hers for no reason.  She told her aunt the exact opposite colors of her room and bed.  She read a traffic sign as "Yes, turn on green."  I think it is an age thing.  But, she is very conversational with me and DH, (and only us, really.)

 

Board games have been an unbelievable hit for awhile now.  I try to get collaborative games, and she plays them all by herself, but she also plays with bananagrams, dominos, and memory by herself as well.  (we do play with her too)

 

We started chapter books a few months ago and it has been going really well.  It cuts down on the repetition for my sake.  Also, while DD will thumb through a book every now and then, she still prefers me to read to her.  She can even read many of her books now but prefers not to even try.  About a month ago her reading has taken off and now more than ever I need to keep her stocked up with new books she can read by herself.  Because, she will read a little book once herself and not want to read it again.

 

Would he be interested in memorizing some funny poems?  My DD loves Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutzsky. She asks for poetry everyday and memorizes them unconsciously, but we also went through a phase of active memorizing around 2.5-- Pledge of Alliegience, Lord's Prayer, 50 States, 44 presidents, etc.  Actually, I do remember that phase being pretty difficult.  DD also likes to learn about language--parts of speech, irregular plurals, past tense, and foreign languages (only a few words in multiple languages).  We really play to DD's strengths.  When she learned how to read it got much much much easier.

 

It sounds like you believe something is not quite right with him, and I can relate with that with my own DD.  She is a little socially odd and sometimes I can't wrap my head around how she thinks.  She is a very aural learner as well, while I am visual.  Recently, we were walking past a street musician in the subway playing the violin.  We zipped by, but my DD felt so bothered by something.  She strained her neck to look back and cried, "There are other instruments being played!"  I missed her point, but DH told her there was indeed a backup viola and cello being played on a recording.  I could not hear them at all.  I have to say it is frustrating to have completely different learning profiles than your kid.  She seems to take after DH.  

 

I just think this is a hard age for trying to understand these things, and we just have to wait until they are a little older and their differences or delays are more apparent.  Or maybe they will disappear completely.   I describe DD as being on the up beat while everyone else is on the down.  But, she is only off so slightly...  Anyway, right now we follow her lead 100% and keep her happy.  We play up her strengths and try not to worry about the skills that are more commensurate with age and ignore the quirks.   But, if she wasn't happy we'd be heading to the closest specialized center. 

 

 

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#5 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 09:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah he was in EI for a while and they really couldn't figure out how to help him, though they definitely agree that something is a little off. The hard thing is that he's so smart/advanced, it's hard to get anyone to take our concerns seriously or figure out concrete ways to help him. His social & sensory issues have greatly improved though, pretty much up to age level, he just seems to lag in a less concrete way, maybe emotionally?? He has sky-high anxiety (no surprise, everyone in my family in the last several generations has some form of anxiety disorder).

He does have lots of normal conversations at close to an adult level (though occasionally he asks what certain words mean). He converses well with me, DH, and anyone who really tries to engage him, though he is shy, too, and lots of people thought he was mute! I don't think anyone besides me notices his language quirks. He remembers everything people say and can tell me who said it & repeat it with the exact same inflection, verbatim or close to it. He is definitely very, very aural -- and I am not at all, I'm visual/kinesthetic & suspect I have an auditory processing problem. So I can't tell if it's just a learning difference or something more, I'm just clueless with the aural realm. Sometimes he goes off into his own world (mentally -- I still have to be present lol), talking to himself, and that's when the majority of the repetition comes out.

Board games were a big hit this time last year, but he's not particularly interested in them these days. I've been trying a lot of Montessori-type activities with him but he never spends more than a minute or two on them, mostly just wants me to do them or will do them once & want to do something else. Fantasy play is pretty foreign to him -- I mean, he has an imagination (and an imaginary baby), but he doesn't use it for play the way most kids seem to.

I can't figure out why he won't play (alone OR with me)... he is getting a bit better and twice played with new Christmas gifts for a few minutes, so maybe it's just around the corner. Often I feel like he is hugely understimulated, but he definitely shuts down when he's overstimulated too. How do I strike a balance??? I feel odd being so involved in every minute of his daily life -- it just doesn't feel right to me. His favorite things to do are reading & listening to music. He will sit listening to music forever, playing his new guitar... He does seem interested in different languages lately, maybe that is one thing I could pursue more. Every time we go to the (bilingual) children's museum, he asks me to read books in Spanish, which is not my strong point at all!! He is not interested in actually learning to read, I don't think... he's never asked to, at least, and I've never tried to teach him.

I always planned to homeschool so it's hard for me to even consider preschool (not to mention we can't afford it at the moment) but I really have a hard time picturing him in that kind of environment. High separation anxiety... and he doesn't like lots of kids around and I feel like he'd end up in a corner alone somewhere playing with computer wires or something. (You know your kid is a bit strange when you're Christmas shopping & bypass all the toys and keep thinking how much he'd love a calculator or a flashlight...) But I wonder if I'm underestimating him by not letting him try the preschool environment...

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#6 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 09:10 PM
 
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I can relate to a lot of this.  My DS 33 months also plays dumb at times and must constantly be engaged.  The times he wants me to answer my own question, I think he is usually just wanting to hear me talk, or he isn't really interested in what I'm saying.  He's always thinking his own thing and if I don't hit on that thing, he doesn't totally engage with me - if that makes sense.  It's like he's half in my world and half in his own.  He really requires A TON of attention and most of the times he pretends not to be able to do a puzzle or whatever, he's doing this to make sure he has my whole attention.  Also, he's a major perfectionist, and if he can't do it perfectly, he will not try.  He would rather I do it.    

 

I get the best thoughts and conversation from him when I ask simple open questions about what he's doing.  If we're coloring, I ask open ended question "What's your favorite color?" or something about hime and what he's thinking. 

 

My DS's pretend play is still mostly imitating things he has seen or heard.  He sometimes combines something he saw on TV with something we did in real life, but he really doesn't make up anything he's never heard or seen before. 

 

Maybe he would enjoy talking about music you both listen to or memories he has of special events?  You enter his world of thought if he doesn't want to enter yours?

 

I knew a very bright little boy who was almost impossible to engage, showed very little excitement over things, and had little affect at 2 1/2, but now at 4 the difference is soooo huge.  He's still unique and quite bright, but socially he has really blossomed.  Maybe it's just a case of asychrony with cognitive skills far ahead and social skills a bit behind.  This is not a scientifically informed opionion, but it seems that boys mature socially slower than girls. 


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#7 of 16 Old 01-02-2012, 09:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Pranava -- it's such a relief to me that your DS is similar to mine in this way!!! Sometimes I feel like he's the only kid in the world like this lol. I know he's unique & all but you know what I mean.

I think you may be right that he's trying to get/maintain my attention... It's pretty exhausting though. His other new thing is saying, "What?" several times to everything I say (even though I am almost 100% positive he can hear me just fine). Maybe he just likes to hear me talk & doesn't care what I'm saying. You'd think that would come in handy considering how much I like to blabber on lol!! Entering his world... good idea....

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#8 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 06:49 AM
 
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I recognize a lot of my DS in what you describe, only somewhat milder in our case - the accelerated verbal and cognitive development coupled with the socio-emotional concerns (which do not appear strong enough to warrant a PDD-NOS diagnosis, just a kinda "there's something going on, but sue me what" reaction), the need for constant attention, the inability to play on his own, the inability to play (he scored in the 7th percentile in a play-after-me subtest for receptive language, even though his actual understanding is very strong), the preference of technical gadgets over actual toys...

In our case, not getting a diagnosis helped to put me into a "this too shall pass" mindset and to a large extent, this seems to be what is happening. DS, rather suddenly, started playing for longer stretches on his own, there are more age-appropriate toys now he is old enough for serious construction stuff (like Lego sets for 8-12 year olds), he can sustain a narrative in playing for a few minutes now.

he is still pretending not to know things, but it is definitely either confirming-by-asking (like asking math questions I know he knows the answer to) or anxiety related (another gifted five-year old wanting to teach him Monopoly junior, trying to lure him by explaining "you only have to be able to do math up to five! Can yoo do math up to five?) and DS too insecure to say anything but "NO!". They did end up plying anyway, and it went very well until DS was obviously overstimulated and started throwing toys at the boys' sister.

I second trying to find a good preschool program with an emphasis on social development and a sensory curriculum (maybe through the EI people?). Maybe two half-days a week or so would be financially feasible? Just a thought -  it sounds like you need a break too, and if you start researching now, you might not get a place until Sept anyway.

 

Oh, and  I needed to eta that he is still into the "what?" phase. Drives me bonkers.


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#9 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 07:11 AM
 
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How much social interaction does he get? It sounds to me like the "playing dumb" is just his way of keeping you at an activity. My youngest never did anything that wasn't WITH someone else. He's 11 and while he "will" do things on his own now, it's still not something he enjoys or seeks. He's an extrovert... a massive extrovert. We enrolled him in a play-based preschool a couple mornings a week at that age and it really helped our situation. He thrived off having 19 other kids and 3 teachers to "feed" off of energy wise.

 

I recommend engaging in non-academic pursuits as much as possible honestly. Try doing more imaginative play with him that really isn't something to be mastered. Try more science and nature oriented activities. I had this old kitchen science experiments book that the kids loved at that age. Just like cooking, it's fun to put things together and see what happens. You can go into the science if you want or wait until they really start asking about the "why." It's also something that is not to be mastered and pretty easy for little hands to help with.

 

A mother's helper isn't such a bad idea either. I had older DD to entertain DS sometimes and give me a little break (because it is draining to have someone AT you all day for attention.)

 

 


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#10 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 07:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Tigerle, thank you! So reassuring to hear others with similar kids -- it's like a huge weight off my shoulders!!

Unfortunately preschools here only cost slight less for part-week programs (like $5100/yr instead of $5600/yr). He does get a lot of socialization with friends & we do lots of story times, free classes, etc... I wish I could at least test him out in a preschool-type situation for a day so I know if it's worth pursuing, but I have a feeling that just observing him once or twice would not be very telling -- he'd need to get used to the environment. It's so hard to picture him being OK like that though, right now he still sits on my lap & clings to me in many social settings.

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#11 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 07:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How much social interaction does he get? It sounds to me like the "playing dumb" is just his way of keeping you at an activity. My youngest never did anything that wasn't WITH someone else. He's 11 and while he "will" do things on his own now, it's still not something he enjoys or seeks. He's an extrovert... a massive extrovert. We enrolled him in a play-based preschool a couple mornings a week at that age and it really helped our situation. He thrived off having 19 other kids and 3 teachers to "feed" off of energy wise.
He gets tons of social interaction, many weeks we are out all day every day with other kids, and he's really comfortable with his close friends. He does seem to crave social interaction, but at the same time he's so shy & afraid of other kids. (In that respect he is almost exactly like me actually!)
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I recommend engaging in non-academic pursuits as much as possible honestly. Try doing more imaginative play with him that really isn't something to be mastered. Try more science and nature oriented activities. I had this old kitchen science experiments book that the kids loved at that age. Just like cooking, it's fun to put things together and see what happens. You can go into the science if you want or wait until they really start asking about the "why." It's also something that is not to be mastered and pretty easy for little hands to help with.

A mother's helper isn't such a bad idea either. I had older DD to entertain DS sometimes and give me a little break (because it is draining to have someone AT you all day for attention.)
DH has been unemployed for the last year+ so I am not the only one "on" all day long at least, he just vastly prefers me lol.
Science experiments is a great idea (& DH is a scientist so that's something they'd enjoy doing together). We do lots of woodworking/small-scale construction with him too, which he loves. I'm not spending much time on 'academic' type stuff but I do try things out every once in a while (basic math is something he's kind of into) just to see if that's the kind of stimulation he's seeking. It is really hard for me & DH to work on imaginative play with him because neither of us has a very good imagination ourselves. It's a real struggle for either of us to play like that, though we do try.

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#12 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 07:36 AM
 
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DS isn't in the "what" phase, but I remember doing that as a child.  I don't know when it started, but it lasted well into second grade when I finally recognized it and quit.  I could look right at someone and hear what they said and still say "what?"  I remember it taking a second for my brain to process what had been said.  Almost like when I started to say "what?" I hadn't processed, but by the time I finished saying it, my brain caught up.  Interesting.  I don't know what that means, but maybe my listening or verbal processing speed is slower than my thinking speed? 


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#13 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 10:38 AM
 
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Have you had his eyes checked by a developmental optometrist and his ears checked by an audiologist?


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#14 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 03:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah it could be a processing speed thing, I still do that constantly -- "What?" and proceed to answer the question before it's even repeated lol

We haven't had his ears & eyes checked... would these be symptoms of a problem in that area? I *think* his eyes are fine, he seems to have better vision than me at least, and he can hear me whisper so I'm guessing hearing is fine too but maybe we should have it checked professionally?

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#15 of 16 Old 01-03-2012, 04:03 PM
 
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For the automatic "what"s, I explained it to my DD and when she didn't stop I would tickle her for the thoughtless "what".  I only did it when it was one of those mindless ones - not a real question.  She hated being tickled, I didn't do it much and it worked marvelously.  It got her to notice she was doing it and think before she said it.  I think I only had to tickle her 4-5x before I rarely did again.  It made a huge positive impact in our relationship! :)  Sorry if that sounds mean - it wasn't and I didn't tickle with abandon, just a smidgen to catch her brain.

 

Tjej

 

ETA:  I know my DD is a slow processer.  I realized she as filling the space with "what" and it drove me and any kid who talked with her on a regular basis bonkers...

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#16 of 16 Old 01-14-2012, 06:11 PM
 
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Hmmm, I have lots of thoughts but you've already had a bunch of ideas.  However, it did strike me that he tries to tell you what to do because my daughter also does that.  With her, it's because she has a social/emotional delay and is fairly rigid and inflexible in her play, to the point where she is PPD-NOS trending toward Asperger's.  Not saying your son it either, but it's something to watch, especially since you said the EI people felt he was unusually quirky.  My daughter, while very bright (99th%) was quirky enough to qualify for the school districts preschool program, which was totally free and where they did know how to encourage her to socialize in a more normal manner. 

 

To be honest, the not-playing-by-self is an issue I have with my youngest, who is just 2 now.  It's very, very trying.  He's either wanting my attention all the time, and if I turn my back for like 5 seconds some days he's getting hurt or making a big mess or chasing the cats or.... you know, something.  Personally, I feel it's because I'm a SAHM and he's very mommy-centric. I tend to think this because my daughter was more self-entertaining and I was a WOTH mom, though I know my feelings on the issue aren't necessarily right because their personalities are very different in many ways so maybe that's just how it is.  Although on a side note, while he's very mommy-centered, he has been attending a 2.5-hours-per-week preschool program and loves going.


Erin, mom to DD (1/06) and DS (10/09)
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