The Terrible Twos wait for no one

Big Man was considering the “Terrible Twos” recently, thinking about how his second birthday is still five months off, when he had a toddler epiphany: why wait? There’s no law that says you have to wait until two to be terrible. Besides with all the good work he already has under his belt: making mincemeat out of Daddy’s CD collection, destroying all his brothers’ best LEGO creations, becoming a master artist in the medium of ripped books and papers, he’s already got a meatier resume in terrible than most authentic two-year-olds.

I must reluctantly agree. Big Man has outgrown the level of destruction, chaos, and all-around mess-making expected of a one-year-old. It’s difficult for parents to see their kids grow up so quickly, but to attempt to hold him back from the terrible twos would be an injustice to his nature.

There’s lots of fun to be had in the terrible twos, unless you happen to be one of the unfortunate people who is not two, and also not terrible. In that case, you might not see all the fun in it. You may not be able to picture the fun through all the mopping up and taping back together you find yourself doing. But everybody has their role to play; that’s the beauty of the system.

"You didn't need any of this stuff, did you?"

“You didn’t need any of this stuff, did you?”

I don’t want to say Big Man is a naughty boy; I want to use euphemisms like “active” and  my favorite, “busy.” Big Man is indeed a “busy” little boy. He is very busy being naughty. But it’s all in good fun. He doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body. It’s just that his idea of good fun means somebody has to clean it up or glue it back together, or just throw it away and realize that God didn’t mean for him to have nice things.

"Got my safety goggles on, now lets fix some stuff that aint broken."

“Got my safety goggles on, now let’s fix some stuff that ain’t broken yet.”

Big Man is very curious as to how things work, and most often you’ve got to take it apart to see how it works. I’m convinced he needs to know how every single thing in our house works, now that he knows the secret to figuring it out. Child safety latches mean nothing to him. Wait, I take that back. Safety latches mean there is a rewarding treasure of dangerous things to discover behind this cabinet door – possibly things that can be plugged in.

the mother lode

It’s easier to find the right pan when they are spread out over the kitchen floor. What a helpful boy!

In fairness, I must say that Big Man revels in being helpful. He will bring you your shoes, regardless of whether you intend going out. He is so eager to give you your shoes that he sometimes flings them at you from across the room. If a shoe happens to clip your head, that’s a helpful reminder that you should always keep an eye out for your shoes after you decide to go out – and sometimes before you decide. Also, it is not the most painful thing likely to hit your head today, so just count your blessing and put on your shoes.

And my blessing always include Big Man.

Rain, rain, Trick-or-Treat, and rain

Last year we had light snow for Trick-or-Treating. This year, it rained, not so lightly. Less cold; more wet. But Halloween is not for the faint of heart, nor the dry of clothes, so we took it as it came.

This year, we had a large group to Trick-or-Treat, including other parents to manage the marauding hordes. My wife, who is in charge of manning the home base, handing out candy, and pouring the wine, asked me to heat up some cider in a crock pot before our crew set out foraging. It was a good idea. A warm beverage would hit the spot when we got back from our raiding in the rain.

Big Man got just a taste of Trick-or-Treating before the weather encouraged me to take him home. Buster, and most of the other kids, got a moderate dose of Halloween and a moderate dose of wet before they, influenced heavily by parents, called it a night.

Big Brother, two of his friends, myself, and another father got good and wet, as we went back out to brave the storm after dropping the others off at home.

I'll always remember you this way, Batman: when you were still warm and dry.

I’ll always remember you this way, Batman: when you were still warm and dry.

Those last three kids will always remember this as the Halloween everybody stepped in a mud puddle. Nobody stepped in the same mud puddle, and some of us stepped in multiple puddles. None of our costumes included waterproof footwear.

A surprising number of people were out, considering the weather. Most had umbrellas, devices we rarely use and have never considered on Halloween. I began seeing more and more adults carrying paper coffee cups. It was like there was a Starbucks in the middle of our neighborhood suddenly.

The kids wanted to keep going; I couldn’t stop them, because, soaked as I was, I admired their tenacity. A little rain on their heads wasn’t going to stop them. A lot of rain on their candy might, though. Only when they noticed their candy getting wet did they entertain ideas of going home. Wet, cold skin is one thing, but children must keep their candy safe.

Eventually they agreed it would be irresponsible to risk the candy they already had to get a little more. We made our way home, not overlooking lit up houses on the way.

We got home, chilled and wet, but deserving the candy we’d collected, and most certainly a hot cup of cider. I went to the crock pot. Empty.

“Where did all the cider go?”

“Oh,” my wife replied. “I’ve been giving it out to the parents of Trick-or-Treaters.”

Welcome to the community Starbucks.

“People really liked it,” she added to sooth my disappointment. “One lady took five cups.” I wasn’t as soothed as she thought I’d be by the success of her Halloween largess. “We’ve got more cold cider in the fridge,” she concluded.

We poured more into the crock pot. While we waited, the other cold dad and I enjoyed a glass of scotch. That was better than crying over the spilled milk of human kindness.

I love you, Halloween, but this relationship is moving too quickly for me

We have a bowl in our pantry where we collect candy from special events to dole out periodically to the boys. Since it is pre-Halloween, there are slim pickings left in the bowl. The last time I let Buster pick something from it, we were down to a handful of restaurant mints and few pieces of bubble gum.

slim pickins

The empty bowl says it’s time for some Halloween. I should pay more attention to what our dishes have to say.

Buster, who has never had gum before, picked up one of the pieces and asked, “What’s this?”

“That’s bubble gum,” I replied. “You don’t eat it; you just chew on it for a while, then spit it out.”

Buster envisioned this strange ritual, made and face, and concluded, “I don’t know how to do this one.” He tossed it back into the bowl and took a mint.

It will be nice to get some candy the kids understand in the bowl again.

On the other hand, Halloween is approaching at a blinding speed this year. I don’t even know what the kids are going to be yet. Big Brother mentioned something about being a soldier again, but this year wearing my WWI doughboy helmet. I nixed that idea. It’s a steel helmet, which is going to get heavy on his head in about a minute, and I’m not carrying that thing around the neighborhood. It probably wouldn’t even hold that much candy.

The last thing a kid's going to want on his head for an hour, and an awkward candy carrier at best.

The last thing a kid’s going to want on his head for an hour, and an awkward candy carrier at best.

Some friends will be Trick-or-Treating with us. It’s more fun with friends, and the other kids will probably have good costumes. Maybe I can slide over toward the friends and kind of pretend we’re not with those kids whose parents don’t care enough to adequately costume them for Halloween.

If it’s snowing, like last Halloween, we’ll be off the hook. I’ll just tell my boys to make a show of complaining about how Mommy made them wear their winter coats and hats overtop of their super-awesome costumes. Cold weather is the great Trick-or-Treat equalizer – knocks the Pinterest parents down to my level for an evening.

Last year's jack-o-lantern, because there is no image of this year's jack-o-lantern yet.

Last year’s jack-o-lantern, because there is no image of this year’s jack-o-lantern yet.

This is potentially the first year for Big Man to go Trick-or-Treating. The thing about toddlers is they don’t walk fast enough to maximize the treats potential of the neighborhood, and we’re all about efficiency when it comes to collecting free candy. I learned my lesson about trying to carry a toddler around town several years ago when I wasn’t even as old as I am now, and when the toddler wasn’t such a substantial child as Big Man is. We’re going to have to put him on wheels, somehow. Maybe he can ride in the wagon with Buster, because, truth be told, Buster still slows down the operation, too.

Halloween shouldn’t be about a dad yelling at the big kids to slow down and the little ones to hurry up. It should be about friends and fun and treats and showing respect to your dad by giving him a fair cut of your candy for his trouble.

That’s the true spirit of the season.

No country for young boys

My wife and I just finished driving to California and back with our three boys. We live in the Eastern Time Zone, so this was a substantial road trip.

Why would anyone drive cross country with three little boys? Are we crazy?


We went to California for my sister-in-law’s wedding. The cost of flying the family there and then renting a minivan for several days was a big factor in the decision to drive.

Plus, we’re crazy.

Sane people would have gone into debt to fly. Probably. Honestly, I have no idea how sane people think.

Driving 5,000 miles (8,000 km) with a one-year-old, a three-year-old, and a seven-year-old was a fun adventure – the kind of fun that takes years off your life.

I’m older now, and wiser. It’s the kind of wisdom that’s only useful for those driving consecutive days with children, which is something, God willing, I will never have to do again. So, it may turn out to be useless wisdom; that would be the best case scenario.

Happy, soothing pictures from the Pacific Ocean to calm my nerves.

Happy, soothing pictures from the Pacific Ocean to calm my nerves.

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In case any friends out there find themselves with such a daunting journey ahead of them, here are some nuggets of wisdom I learned on our trip:

  • Nothing makes a preschooler have to pee more urgently than traveling a mile past a rest stop.
  • Driving is often touted as a great way to see the country, but America all looks pretty much the same at night. The dashboard lights are the same everywhere.
  • One-year-olds can be amazingly peaceful car passengers, for a little while.
  • Speed limits are unnecessary if there are enough trucks on the road.
  • A three-year-old and a seven-year old can fight over which movie to watch for longer than any movie lasts.
  • Everyone knows “I’ll turn this car around and go home!” is an idle threat.
  • To Daddy, “I’ll turn this car around and go home!” is a beautiful, forlorn daydream.
  • The western states are too big. They should be divided up so kids don’t have to ask, “Are we still in Colorado?” 300 times.
  • A seven-year-old + a third row seat + the Rocky Mountains = puke. It’s simple arithmetic.
  • The rift between the McDonald’s and Wendy’s factions can tear a weary family apart for the duration of the highway break.
  • Regardless of who won the restaurant debate, you’ll have an upset stomach for the next 200 miles.
  • Sprint does not operate a single cell tower within the state of Nebraska.
  • When the Garmin tells you your next turn is in 524 miles, you are someplace you don’t belong.
  • Despite what seems like constant tumult, kids do actually sleep in the car. You realize this when, after arriving home at 7 a.m. and going straight to bed, the kids wake you up two hours later.

Driving across the US and back with small children is not for everyone. Rational, mature, reflective adults have no business attempting it. It’s a fool’s errand, and only we fools know how to do it right.