Recently, we boys in the family got one of our periodic chances to spend some quality time together without any womenfolk around. Mommy was out for the evening, so we got to play in an estrogen-free zone for several hours.
The night got off to a good start when the baby decided he didn’t want anything to do with his bottle. I got it into his mouth a few times, but he got angry and spit it right out. As fast as I could try to bring the nipple to his mouth, he would slap it away with his little judo hands. He even made all kinds of martial arts grunts, groans, and other assorted utterances. Okay, I’m pretty sure that some of them where baby swear words, but they went well with his karate chops.
Since the baby wouldn’t eat, I thought I’d try to get some dinner into the big boy. While I was in the kitchen, making his meal, I heard him turn on the water in the downstairs bathroom. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m washing my hands,” came the reply from the bathroom.
“Because I don’t know.”
This was suspicious, but I had other chickens to fry (literally). I heard him leave the bathroom, so I let it go until the noise of the water running repeated a minute later. “Come here,” I requested. He came into the kitchen looking like a wild island warrior, sporting black, magic marker stripes all over his face, arms, and legs. He even had a little extra for a mustache over his top lip. His hands were clean, though.
He wanted to know if Mommy would yell when she came home. I told him it was a distinct possibility. He wasn’t concerned that I might yell. I didn’t, so I guess he was right. I think he suspected that I might think it was kind of cool, which maybe I did, secretly. I gave him a wet rag and told him to get to work, unless he wanted to take his chances with Mommy.
Meanwhile, I tried another bottle on the baby, with no better luck. Fortunately, my kids have a dad who figures it out once in a while. With the wailing baby in one arm, I rooted around the pantry with my free hand, looking for a faster nipple. At last, I found one, but it came with a different bottle system, so I had to wash out the new bottle, one-handed, before I could try my theory.
The baby took the new bottle without even attempting to drop-kick it across the room, though he did shoot me a look and mumble something in baby words about me finally finding a nipple that had an actual hole in it. I let his sarcasm slide, because even in a house flowing with undiluted testosterone, somebody has to be the bigger man.
By now, the big boy had cleaned up all of his parts that he could easily see in the mirror. He was all set, as long as Mommy stayed in front of him. We worked on eating his belated dinner. He gave it the old preschool try, but wanted to give up with still too much left on his plate. I asked him to at least finish his biscuit. This was my mistake, as I had not been clear that he shouldn’t attempt it in one bite. He put about five times too much food into his mouth, which made him gag, followed closely by the puking.
We got him to the toilet mostly in time. There were just a few small spots to clean off the linoleum. His dinner was wasted, but there were no nasty vomit stains to clean up off the carpet. Overall, it would have to be classified as a success, as far as puking goes. He flushed the toilet and announced that he would like some gummy bears for dessert.
The baby took another little bottle. He didn’t seem very satisfied though. He was beginning to miss Mommy, or at least the part of her he knew best. Bottles were not at all the manner of taking nourishment to which he was accustomed, and he would not let the affront pass without complaining to the management.
And then, it looked like things were going to get worse. The big boy had picked up the hand bellows from the fireplace and was aiming it at the baby’s face. He was going to poke the baby in the eye before I could stop him. But he didn’t poke the baby. He held the bellows in front of the baby and squeezed, blowing a puff of air into the baby’s face.
The baby stopped his crying and laughed – not smiled, not gurgled, laughed. It was the best, heartiest, happiest laugh I have ever heard from this baby. The big boy squeezed out another puff of air. The baby practically convulsed with guffaws. The big boy laughed. I laughed.
They did this for several minutes – puff, laugh, puff, laugh. Sometimes, nobody can make a boy laugh like his brother can. Sometimes, a long, difficult night can turn itself around on the simple whim of a child. Sometimes, all the boys of the house just need to hang out and be boys together.