Everywhere I turn, somebody’s growing up

Big Man and I went to the store for groceries. As I lifted him into the toddler seat of the grocery cart, he noticed the advertisement card clipped to the front of the cart. He looked at the bottle on the ad, gave me one of those I’m about to say something hilarious grins, and announced to the world, “We need wine.”

His impressive vocabulary notwithstanding, I drove our cart away from the world in haste. It’s not so bad that a two-year-old can identify wine, and it’s not unusual for children to say they need items they can name in the store. But when those two things come together, it sounds like sketchy parenting.

To add insult to injury, I rarely drink wine, so he must have learned about it from somebody who didn’t have to look like the abusive parent in the store that day. Now, if he’d said, “We need beer,” or “We need a fifth of Tomintoul,” that would have been on me. If he had requested Tomintoul, I would have been more proud than embarrassed, because it would have proved his genius: first in learning a word like Tomintoul, and second in appreciating how low Daddy is on good scotch.

Despite the impression the child gave you, this is not our family car.

Despite the impression the child gave you, this is not our family car. (Image: Carol Highsmith)

I’m glad he can identify a wine bottle. He knows it’s not for him and he won’t confuse it for apple juice. I just wish he wouldn’t talk about it like it’s animal crackers.

Meanwhile, Big Brother’s third grade pictures were taken this week. In the morning, Mommy laid out a handsome sweater vest for him. I went downstairs to make my lunch, wondering if he would balk at wearing a sweater with some wild claim that his friends were wearing football jerseys.

I came back upstairs expecting to hear Mommy ask, “If all your friends jumped off a cliff…?” Today, they’d have to jump without him. He came out of his room shaking his head. “I can never find the right tie!” The clip-on he held in his hand was apparently not the right tie. It was also, apparently, not his only tie. Since when did an eight-year-old need a selection of ties? I wonder how many ties our little Alex P. Keaton has. I may need to borrow one sometime.

Not the right tie.

Not the right tie.

Buster does yoga in preschool. The other night he showed us some yoga positions he’s learned. He demonstrated the Tree and the Airplane. The airplane looked more like a lame duck to me, but my yoga eye isn’t as advanced as his. Maybe I’m taking it all too literally. I have little doubt he’ll be teaching me to see the metaphor and appreciate the symbolism in the form by the spring semester.

This is an airplane for as long as the Master of the Peaceful arts can keep his balance.

This is an airplane for as long as the Master of the Peaceful Arts can keep his balance.

This is the airplane doing a scene from "Sully."

I believe this is the airplane doing a scene from “Sully.”

People always warn us, “They grow up so fast.” As someone who longs to have a conversation, sit down, or merely think my own thoughts for 30 seconds without being interrupted, I’m not worried about them growing up too fast.

Well, most days I’m not.

Thursday morning in pictures

On Thursday morning, Mommy went to work and Big Brother went to school. Buster didn’t have school until afternoon, so he, Big Man, and I spent the morning together. This is how we spent our time.

Usually, when Buster and Big Man decide to play with the same toy, it leads to the outbreak of hostilities within two minutes. On Thursday morning, there was some kind of magic in the air. When they played nicely together for more than three minutes, I ran for the camera to get a rare shot of tranquility:

Railroad barrons at peace.

Railroad barons at peace.

These days I can’t get out the camera without them clamoring to take it away from me and do some of their own shooting. Buster was fastest to the camera and took these pictures of Big Man:

Then it was Big Man’s turn. Big Man quickly learned the ON/OFF button doesn’t yield memorable photographs. Moving his finger to the correct button, which it barely reached, made a big difference:

After the photo session, I left to boys to play (without the camera) while I put away some laundry. I’m logging that chore right here, in case my wife didn’t notice. I should have had them take pictures of me folding shirts as proof.

Then I got out the vacuum, because I can be a good boy who does helpful things around the house from time to time. Vacuuming is a nice, light, cool-down chore after the heavy exertion of putting away laundry.

Each of our children has gone through a phase of adoring fascination with the vacuum. Big Brother and Buster have both put that phase behind them. Now that he is old enough to actually vacuum effectively, Big Brother hates no appliance more. Buster is indifferent to the machine. He too will learn to hate it when he is asked to push it for five minutes and this ruins his entire day.

Only Big Man lives still in the throes of admiration for the mighty vacuum. The moment it appeared, he was all over it, unwinding its cord and plugging it in. I no longer live in the hope that this toddler-vacuum love affair will last into years of productive house cleaning. I’ve been burned before. It’s now merely a matter of letting a boy learn to hate the device at his own pace. And letting him enjoy the bloom while it’s still on the rose.

After vacuuming came lunch, which may or may not have undone all the cleaning already accomplished. No photographic evidence has survived. If you want an idea of what it was like, maybe you can Google images of “all Hell breaking loose.”

But, hey, I fed the kids. That’s the important thing.

We’d all be sunk without her

I’ve got the easy part. I go to work at the same time every day. I get to have a relatively stable schedule. Occasionally, my day gets twisted around a little bit, having to drop off or pick up a kid here and there or stay home with them when they’re not in school. It may get me frazzled from time to time, but it’s still the easy part.

These many time-twisting tasks fall to my wife on all the days between my sporadic turns. On top of this, she works. She doesn’t have the luxury of working a full-time job, because the combination of children, time, and space won’t allow it. She works part-time jobs – several of them concurrently.

This requires a certain amount of daycare, for any of the boys who aren’t in school at any given time, and when I can’t take time off to be with them. She sets up the daycare. Honestly, it would drive me crazy making all the complex arrangements she manages, but she takes it in her Supermom stride. I don’t know how.

My wife is the most adaptable person I’ve ever met. Not only does she have to juggle jobs while juggling children, she also has to be able to reinvent routines for everybody when the old ones don’t work anymore. With children, things can change quickly, and she might have to leave behind people and places where she had hopes and plans to find a situation that works better for her family. Just the idea of this task daunts me, but she always seems to be able to pull it off. She always bounces back and finds a new way that works.

Don't we make a handsome couple?  And one of us is on top of things, too.

Don’t we make a handsome couple? And one of us is on top of things, too.

She must think I take all this for granted sometimes, and maybe she’s right. I’m human, and sometimes I get lost in my own issues. But I am always amazed at how, when the system seems near collapse, she bounces back and discovers a new way to make things work. I’m not that resilient, and I don’t know anybody else who is.

Our boys have always been the stars of this blog. My wife is funny, too, but that’s not the primary reason she deserves a little ink here. The fact is, our lives would not be anywhere near as fun or funny without her smoothing out the bumps for us. This is why she’s a superstar. This why I love her so much. And this is why we’re all lucky she’s the one masterminding the hard parts.

Gone Boy

It was just like one of those horrible Lifetime movies my wife makes me watch with her on Sunday afternoons when we could be viewing something culturally redeeming, like football.

I was just about to step into the shower before work when my wife opened the bathroom door and asked, “Where’s the baby?” He’s still the baby at two and a half.

I scanned the tight quarters of our bathroom. “He’s not in here.”

“He’s not in his bed,” she said. She smiled when she said this, because Big Man has been known to wake up early and go downstairs to start his day without telling anybody.

She went out and I turned on the water. Big Man was surely downstairs getting his crayons out, setting up to draw on some important papers or maybe the living room wall.

Something made me stop. I went out, meeting my wife coming up the stairs. “I can’t find him downstairs,” she said.

We went into the boys’ room. The blinds were down so it was still pretty dark. We could see enough to recognize Buster, sleeping peacefully in his bed. Big Brother was all knotted up in his blankets. Big Man’s bed was empty.

Everything I saw when I first looked at his bed.

Everything I saw when I first looked at his bed.

We went downstairs and began turning on lights. The illumination revealed my total nakedness (don’t dwell on this image; your mind’s eye might go blind) but no sign of Big Man. Maybe he was in the pantry, foraging some breakfast. Nope. He might be under the dining room table, concocting breakfast from escaped bits of last night’s dinner. Nope. There was no sign of him downstairs.

“All the doors are locked,” my wife reassured me. Neither of us was smiling anymore. I’m sure she was recalling the same news reports I was of children being stolen at night, right out from under their parents’ noses. We’d viewed these reports with skepticism, until now.

A search of the guest room revealed nothing, except that my heart was beginning to beat faster. I returned to the boys’ room and turned on the light, no longer concerned with disturbing anyone’s sleep. Big Man’s bed was still empty, but in the light I saw what I’d missed before.

From behind the skirt, hanging down below his bed, protruded one toddler-sized foot. I lifted the skirt and there he was, zonked out like a happy little fugitive, underneath his bed.

Upon closer inspection . . . If not for that protruding foot, he would have only been discovered by the K-9 Unit.

Upon closer inspection . . . If not for those five protruding little piggies, he would have only been discovered by the K-9 Unit.

My heart rate slowed as I took my shower. When I got out my wife reported that our roving sleeper had found his way back to the top side of his mattress.

As I was getting dressed, he sauntered into our room. We asked him where he’d been. He trotted back into his room and pointed under his bed, as if that were the most normal place to be.

We asked him why he was sleeping under his bed. “Wawee under there,” he replied. Wawee is what he calls Buster.

Typical boy. Blame it on your brother.