I had my first extended stint as Mr. Mom since the new baby came, and it didn’t start out so well. The baby didn’t want to sleep all day, which isn’t really a crisis, and is understandable, considering that I had nothing more soothing than a bottle to put into his mouth. But it would have been nice if he could have taken a short nap just to let me get organized before setting upon me with his verbal assault.
A crying toddler, on the other hand, is always a crisis – to the toddler anyway. And it does distract from Daddy’s ability to soothe a crying baby, which he’s not really very good at in the first place.
The three-year-old announced that he had to go potty. No problem. He’s adept at climbing onto the toilet and getting the party started all by himself. He wouldn’t need any help for a few minutes. Meanwhile, Daddy could keep arguing with the baby.
After a little while, I went into the bathroom to check on the boy. His pants were down, but he wasn’t sitting on the potty. He was standing with his shirt hiked up behind him, using two hands to buff his lower back with a hand towel. It looked like he had a bad itch.
“What’s going on?” I asked, not even in that accusing tone I most often use.
He burst into tears. Now, toddlers are pretty clever folks, but two things they have never effectively learned to do at the same time are cry and answer a lot of pointless questions. The boy made no attempt at words. He focused all his attention upon his wailing. The baby heard his song and picked up the harmony.
“I can’t have two crying kids,” I told him, a little in that annoyed father tone I most often use. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
For a second, he tried to say something, but the crying would not relent.
“Stop crying and tell me what’s wrong,” I insisted, comfortingly, instead of in the impatient tone I most often use.
“My shirt’s wet,” he choked out between sobs.
“How’d your shirt get wet?” I asked. You can probably imagine all the tonal cues from here.
“I don’t know.”
When my son says, “I don’t know,” it means one of the following, in order of frequency:
a.) “I think the truth might get me into trouble, so I’m pleading the fifth.”
b.) “I’m really embarrassed and I’d rather not talk about it.”
c.) “I don’t know.” This last example is a rare usage, usually reserved for questions of an academic nature (e.g. “What number comes after 19?”).
I may not be the world’s most perceptive parent, but I know there are only two sources of water in our downstairs bathroom, and I didn’t hear the sink running. Further investigation revealed that his toddler potty seat was over in the corner, where it could do nothing toward keeping him high and dry.
“Did you fall in?” I asked.
“Okay. Take off your shirt. I’ll get you a new one.”
I got him cleaned up and settled back into the world. We spoke no more of the incident. I didn’t even laugh, and I want credit for that. Somebody falls into the toilet and a guy with four brothers doesn’t even laugh. That’s love, pure and simple.
I think the baby might have laughed though. He stopped crying for minute, which is as good as a laugh to me. But I guess he has to laugh at this kind of stuff. It’s his brother.