Living with a toddler is two parts awesome, two parts terrifying, six parts gross, and eight hundred parts blinding, world-shattering panic. One moment you are giving high-fives to your adult family members as he takes his first steps, the next moment you are spilling lemonade all over yourself in a scrambling frenzy as he legs it across the yard toward the street.
They are incredible little critters, capable in single acts of making you shake your head in amazement, shaking your head in wonderment, shaking your head in disgustment; sometimes all in the same single act. For example (and this is a 100% true, zero-embellishment story), MERE MOMENTS AGO as I was sitting down to think what I would blarg about tonight, I situated myself with tablet on the armrest of the sofa and keyboard in my lap. I reached over the arm of the sofa to get a sip of my soda and put my hand in a pool of something slimy.
Let me not bury the lede. I did not at the time, nor do I now, know what the slimy something was. I was more or less equal parts appalled and curious (a state of mind I have come to live in as a parent), but this time, at least, discretion got the better of curiosity and I cleaned it up without asking the difficult questions. I should point out (and I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or a parent thing or a me thing) that whenever I come across these somethings in the house, I *must* sniff them. For some reason, some tiny but unknowable part of my brain just HAS TO KNOW whether what made the mess is benign (masticated cookie bits, fruit juice, melted chocolate) or Just Another One Of Those Things Which Will Make Us Need To Burn The House Down One Day (cat barf, blood, cat poop, human poop), and as long as the stain in question hasn’t yet dried, what better way to test the content of a smear than by shoving it up under your beak? This happens more than I would like to admit.
As I said, I somehow stopped myself from smelling this slimy something, but it was green and brown and cold and gross and Extra slimy, so I felt it a safe bet that it was something I didn’t want to smell. I cleaned it up, simultaneously wondering at a number of factors:
1) when did he make this mess?
2) what did he use to make it?
3) how did he make this mess in this spot without either my wife or myself noticing him making it?
All at once I am admiring his stealth and choking back the bile rising in my throat at the touch of this slime on my hand. So, you know, impressed and horrified at once, that’s parenting.
It’s funny how clever he can be when he wants to be and how dumb he can be when it suits him. We’ve been trying to teach him colors for over a week now, and he is more than happy to call everything blue. The sky? Blue. The plate of spaghetti? Blue. School bus? Blue. OR, he will happily hold up a brightly-colored object and ask us, “what color is this?” and when we tell him, he tosses it aside in favor of the next bright color that he can “what-color-is-this” us with. This game can be played for entire minutes at a time (a minute in baby time is worth a good hour of adult time).
So he either cannot understand, or is willfully refusing to understand, colors, but at the same time, he can make a fully-understandable (and in fact perfectly grammatically correct) sentence to tell us, “No, I don’t want green beans”. “No, I don’t want juice.” “No, I don’t want night-night.” All I know is, as Bill Cosby once put it, it takes a lot of intelligence to fake stupidity, and if he can pick and choose what kind of vegetable he would like for dinner, then he can Dondraper sure tell the difference between blue and red, no matter how much he calls them both orange.
Then there’s his motor skills. Improving, by leaps and bounds in fact, but I still wouldn’t trust him with a ginsu knife, or for that matter a tube of toothpaste. He can conduct himself across a room in 2.3 seconds, arms and legs flailing like a scarecrow in a hurricane, leaping with outstretched legs up the step into the foyer and sidestepping the cat like he’s Jackie Chan in Drunken Master. The same child will then, while walking AND holding my hand in a grocery store, trip over his own feet so badly that he sprawls on his face and begins screaming like I’ve taken his favorite plastic dinosaur away.
Yesterday we were watching The Tigger Movie for, oh, I don’t know, the thirtieth time this week (those of you without children, don’t judge — those of you with children know exactly what I’m talking about, you know your kid has THAT ONE MOVIE). For no apparent reason, without any apparent impetus and certainly without warning, he turns to me with the look of greatest purpose on his tiny, innocent face, and says, with all the gravity and urgency of a bloodstained, cyborg-pummeled Schwarzenegger, “I GO.” And then gets up and dashes from the room, scarecrow arms and legs flapping madly.
I don’t know what was in his head, and it doesn’t matter. It was awesome. Things are so immediate. There’s no doubt, no hesitation, no waffling over “well, if I do this, somebody might think this…” The cookie looks delicious, I GO. That juice needs spilling, I GO. That cat needs it’s tail pulled. I GO. Simple words for simple deeds. There’s an eloquence in that to be striven for. I’m not sure it’s worth the price of all the poop and vomit, though.