A night in the life

[Once again we are joined by our special guest blogger, Buster: age 2.]

I slept in a big-boy bed last night. It was exciting but also scary.

I sometimes wake up in the night. I’m not sure why. I’m still very tired, but I wake up all of a sudden. The parents tell me I should just lay down and go back to sleep. That’s easy for them to say; they don’t remember the confusion about your surroundings when you’re two and you open your eyes to darkness all around. Especially if you just had a weird dream.

You guys think you have weird dreams. It’s a good thing you don’t remember the dreams you had at my age. My dreams are completely off the hook.

The cool thing about a big-boy bed is that I don’t have to wait for somebody to rescue me when I’m upset at night. The first time I woke up last night, I slid right out of bed. My parents always keep their door ajar, so I just bulldozed through it like it was nothing. I was snuggled in between Mama and Daddy, lickety-split. I didn’t even have to cry.

the place where I used to live

Bye, bye, crib!

Later, I woke up again. I was back in my own bed, which was kind of freaky. I got a little wigged out and started to cry. Daddy came and took me back to bed with him and Mama. I couldn’t get calmed down right away and they got frustrated that I wouldn’t use my words instead of crying.

Well, here’s the thing about my words: I have a good vocabulary, but don’t like wasting a lot of time on consonants when I talk. Speech would be lots more efficient if we focused on vowel sounds. K is an exceptionally bad consonant. T isn’t so bad, so I often use it in place of k. No big deal, right? Why try over spilled milt?

The upshot is that when I’m excited or scared, my parents don’t always understand my words. On top of that, my vocabulary is heavy on nouns and verbs. Things like “I want” and “Give me” and “M&Ms”. You know, the important stuff. I haven’t gotten around to the conceptual words yet – the ones that explain why you woke up confused, or all the funky stuff that just went down in your dreams.

new digs

Hello, big boy bed!

So I do the best I can with body language. I try to make them understand that sometimes, in the uncertain world between dreams, I just need to reassured. I need to be held by one of the people in whom I place all of my faith to make the world right. Maybe I just need to hold one of the hands that keeps me safe.

I know they wish I could just roll over and go back to sleep. Maybe now that I can get up and go to them whenever I need to, it will get easier to do that.

On the other hand, I’m not saying I’m ready to give up the middle spot in their bed just yet.

Your crime spree is over, Daddy

Every so often, your kids gets a toy that is so fun he has to use it on you. All the time.

You reassure yourself that he’ll lose or break it soon enough and the suffering fun will end.

My son’s fun toy is his handcuffs. He got them in July. He has neither broken nor lost them. I’m getting worried.

Big Brother loves TV shows about police. He doesn’t get to watch the modern, in-your-face shows, but he is content with Adam 12. He would probably even watch CHiPs, if he ever discovered those reruns. Thankfully, he hasn’t.

These programs inspire him to break out the cuffs. Since his little brothers can easily slip their hands out of them, it is left to Daddy to always be a criminal. Daddy, it turns out, is quite a bad bank robber – bad in that he robs banks almost daily, and also bad in that he gets arrested every time. He is incorrigible and incompetent.

The last time we played cops and robbers, Big Brother deputized Buster to be on his police force. As he was fumbling to get the cuffs onto my compliant hands, he pointed out his new partner, “This is Officer Wawa.”

Officer Wawa didn’t have nice, store-bought hand cuffs, but he did have a stick, which doubled as a gun and a Billy Club. It may also have been a Taser, as I found him poking me with it rather sharply.

Don't mess with Officer Wawa. He will put you in solitary, down in the hole, if he has to.

Don’t mess with Officer Wawa. He will put you in solitary, down in the hole, if he has to.

There was no sense in holding a trial for such a notorious felon as myself, so I was immediately transported to prison. “Here you are,” Big Brother announced as he fumbled to take the cuffs off. “This is Springfield Beginners’ Prison.”

I suspect it was in Springfield because The Simpsons had just been on. And it only made sense that I should start out in a beginners’ prison since, in spite of my many crimes, I had never been exposed to prison life before.

I kind of liked beginners’ prison. It was mostly a driveway with a basketball hoop. And since I had the foresight to bring a basketball, I did my time working on my jump shot. It was not an unpleasant experience.

follow through

Working on my follow-through in the yard of Springfield Beginners’ Prison.

Until the cop with the handcuffs came back.

He told me, on the sly, that I could escape when he wasn’t looking. I was happy where I was, so I didn’t try it. He got a little impatient and told me again, so I figured maybe that was the expected thing at beginners’ prison.

At the first opportunity, I just walked away. I got a few steps onto the lawn before he came after me. Officer Wawa, who had been sifting through a pile of pine needles, found his stick and followed. Before I knew it, I was in cuffs again. For good measure, I got clubbed, or tased; I’m not sure which.

That was enough for me. I made all the cops put down their sticks and go to bed early.

happy birthday

No, son, you may not have one of these for your birthday.


Whine for two

After months of intensive practice, Buster has become an accomplished whiner. This means we now have two top-notch whiners in our house. Is there anything else in the world that could so completely double our pleasure?

There are two basic catalysts for little kids to cry. The first is that they have a reason to cry. This catalyst can be broken into two subgroups: a good reason to cry and a lame reason to cry. A good reason to cry is that your brother tackled you into the coffee table and the shiny new welt on your forehead hurts. A lame reason to cry is that your brother has the toy you’ve wanted ever since you saw him playing with it, and you failed in your attempt to snatch it out of his hands.

But there is hope for you yet. Keep trying to snatch it and he may tackle you into the coffee table, giving you a valid reason to cry.

toddler diplomacy

We’re trying to teach them to find a way to settle their differences between themselves, without whining to the parents. Buster’s way includes swordplay.

The second basic catalyst is the “give me a good reason not to cry” mindset. This is often the result of a lame reason to cry run amok. Lame reasons to cry are easy to forget, even to the person crying over them. Hence, you started crying over your brother’s toy five minutes ago; the toy was dropped behind the couch four minutes ago. You are still very sad, but you’re having a dickens of a time remembering why.

Now you need someone to give you a reason to stop crying, thanks to the laws of inertia, which you are obeying because you’re a good boy like that.

Meanwhile, you’re not really even crying anymore. Over the past five minutes, your sobs have mutated into an elongated, parent-piercing note from some magical spot at the back of your throat. Your sour grapes have fermented and mellowed into a fine whine.

Sometimes you just need a hug, but more often you need some ice cream or a new toy without the stench of your brother’s hands all over it. The good news is you can have the hug anytime you want it.

you need a hug

I hope this is enough for you because it’s the only thing you’re gonna get by whining.

Buster has made great strides as a whine producer, but Big Brother is still the undisputed master of whine at our house. Nothing  has yet come near his masterpiece anthem for wrongly accused children: “Noooo! I aaaam not whiiiiniiiiing!” [sniffle, sniffle, foot stomp].

And I don’t think they even covered irony in kindergarten.

It’s a special treat to witness two great artisans inspiring each other to new heights. The way Buster and Big Brother fight over toys, no outside influence is necessary to motivate either to hone his craft. The parents are only necessary as audience. Without parents, there is only fighting; the effort is worthless if there is no one at hand to sample the whine.

With this friendly competition only just beginning, it looks as though 2014, and the several years following, are sure to be superb vintages for the very best whines.

Which way to the woods?

I was playing with the boys in the living room one afternoon. The TV was tuned to one of the cartoon channels they require, even when they are paying no attention to it. A Thursday afternoon in August is a pretty good time for a sports fan to watch cartoons, so I put up no argument.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV either, until a particular commercial caught my eye. It was a Public Service Announcement extolling the virtues of exploring the forest. At least I assumed it was a PSA, unless there are for-profit forests springing up around the country, which there probably are. I’m inclined to conclude it was a PSA, as the forest visuals looked pretty generic, there being no water slides or Disney logos carved into trees.

I like the forest as much as the next guy, so I was all on board with the sentiment. I was just about to think to myself: “What a pleasant tribute to America’s forests” when I heard the final line of the ad. The voice-over advised me to go to a particular website to find a forest near me.

"Some day there will be some kind of talking box that would tell me what this thing is. I'll just poke at it while I'm waiting for technology to answer all my questions." (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

“One day there will be some kind of talking box that will tell me what this thing is. I’d better poke at it while I’m waiting for technology to answer all my questions.” (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

My jaw dropped. Really? I need to go online to find the woods? Is this what America has come to?

Okay, it is true that I practically grew up in the woods, so all I had to do was go out the front door to find acres of trees. But honestly, people in other walks of life are having a hard time finding the woods without the aid of computers? The very idea makes me sad.

My son is five years old. When he walks out the door of his house, he sees other houses all around. Yet, I am confident he can take me to the woods in any direction I choose. Yes, he might need the aid of a car to get there, but he doesn’t need the Internet. He is the Internet of finding the woods, because he’s a child.

If you’re having trouble finding a forest near you, you don’t need a computer; you need a kid. Kids have a strange and magnificent instinct for recognizing trees. If you are unsure what that clump of three-story-tall plants is, just ask a kid. They’ll help you figure it out.

camping online

A forest. I found it on the Internet. And I didn’t even have to put shoes on. That’s what I love about the Great Outdoors.

Or you could Google it. That’s probably more convenient, as it eliminates all that burdensome white noise of wonderment.

I don’t wish to leave the impression that children are good for only this one thing. They are not one-truffle pigs. In many respects, they are just as useful as computers. In case your search engine is giving you mixed results, here is a short list of things kids can help you locate.

  • Dirt
  • Mud puddles
  • Dog poop
  • Diamonds that are probably quartz but just might be shattered glass
  • Bugs (dead or alive)
  • The meaning of life

But there’s probably a web site to help you find each of these things, too. So, either way . . .