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Friday, November 16, 2007

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times.

Ah, the toddler. In the interest of truth, my other children were nearly literate before they could be referred to as toddlers, because neither of them walked until they were nearly two years old. Baby J, however, toddles away, which is adorable and melts my heart, but drives me crazy. You know how cute it is the first time they do something? And how annoying it is the fiftieth?

One of my best friends from college, Beth, was raised with a great rule:

Once is funny, twice is silly and three times is a spanking.

The rule is excellent for older kids and I've used it since my children could understand. Fortunately, they've never pushed it and I've never had to spank them for making a silly joke*. I'm not sure what the rule is for a toddler, though. Once is cute, twice is adorable and three times is a tiny, screaming tyrant?

In one corner of our kitchen, we have a couple of big floor pillows that the kids pull out to sit on occasionally. We keep the pillows in a sunny spot, surrounded by windows that go all the way to the floor. Baby J likes to go there and we recently started calling it the bird nest and using it as a reading corner. It was so cute at first. Someone would say, "J, you wanna' go to the nest and read a book?" He would get one of his books and toddle over, waiting for someone to come read to him. His big brothers were happy to do it. I'll admit, we might have gone overboard; we might have said it, I don't know, thirty times in one day? It was just so adorable to watch him waddle over, fat little bottom going side to side, tiny hands gripping one of his favorite books. I had visions of my children as adults, sitting around the table during one of their visits home from their fabulous lives, and reminiscing, "And how could we forget the nest? Ah, yes, that is where I first felt the inspiration to write my third [brilliant] novel..." In less than twenty four hours, I came to regret my actions. Baby J waits until no one wants to read, grabs a book, sits in the nest and wails until someone indulges him. I'm thinking of hiring a literate neighborhood child to sit there all day, just in case.

When the X-Man was first walking, he would cling to my legs whenever I was standing up. Or sitting down. Or lying down. Or standing on my head. Or going to the bathroom. And he would whine. Why do we forget these things when we decide to conceive another child? And it gets worse, but it gets real cute before it gets worse, which was small consolation at the time. My sister had given our older child a really cool marionette, a fuzzy blue bird with a big yellow beak and wobbly legs, as marionettes tend to have. I don't know how I discovered this, but the X-Man absolutely loved it when an indulgent adult would follow him around the house with Bluey. As long as he was being followed by Bluey, he was positively Zen; nothing fazed him. Bluey was his best friend, his shadow. Whenever the phone rang, I'd pick up the crossed rods that controlled Bluey and we'd walk around the house, the three of us. I'd hold the phone with one hand and animate Bluey with the other. I couldn't drink coffee at the same time, but that was a small price to pay. The major problem was that, after the phone conversation was over, Bluey was not dismissed. And if you paused to do something like scratch your head and Bluey lagged behind, the tiny dictator would emerge, flinging himself to the ground and screaming until Bluey came back to life. Fun times.

As crazy-making as parenting a toddler can be, the indescribable sweetness makes it all worth it. Baby J will tug on my legs, wedging himself between me and the bathroom counter as I try to brush my teeth. Just when I can't stand it any more and I want to run screaming from the room, I bend down and say in a far too frustrated voice, "What? Please. Can't I just brush my teeth?!" And he hugs me around the neck and plants little kisses all over my face. And I am the luckiest person in the universe, just for that moment. And when I give up on making dinner and go sit in the nest, I can't imagine anything I need to be doing more than sitting there, the warm weight of a toddler in my lap, watching his chubby hands turn the pages of a book. Dinner will get made, the floor will get swept eventually and my teeth will get brushed, but the toddler won't wait. He'll be a different child, less of a baby, as soon as tomorrow.

At the end of the day, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." Even if that rest is interrupted by a tiny tyrant, chubby and warm in his stretchy snowman pajamas.

Namasté, y'all!

* My husband, on the other hand, will make the same joke five thousand times, even if it was never funny to begin with. And he keeps hoping to get a spanking. I refuse to reward him for dumb jokes, though.

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