We’re not sure how birds or bees fit into the story

Buster has developed quite a curiosity these days. Formerly, the pinnacle of his curiosity was wanting to know where I had hidden the Tootsie Rolls. Now, he has blossomed into a regular preschool philosopher, wondering things like: “How do clouds get up in the sky?”

Wondering about clouds is, of course, a slippery slope leading ultimately to a quagmire of curiosities about human conception. Being the high thinker he is, Buster would never ask such a crude question as “Where do babies come from?” No, Buster has feelings for the old man, and would not just conk him on the head with that one. He demonstrates a certain finesse in softening it to “How do people get to be real?”

If only we could all handle the topic of sexual reproduction in such a mature manner.

Is it a tree or a shrub? My Sex Ed classes left me with more questions than answers?

For the record, I don’t ever recall Big Brother asking about the origin of babies. I suspect he stumbled upon the notion that it had something to do with getting married, which means liking a certain girl, and worse, having everybody in the world know you like her. You might even have to hold hands. It’s just one big downward spiral. After all that, I think he doesn’t want to know where babies come from. If you tried to tell him, he’d probably cover his ears and hum as loud as he could.

Buster wants to know. And since he is preparing to venture into the big world of kindergarten, I figured I better just hunker down and tell him the truth. That truth, of course, is that babies grow on trees. To be clinically correct about it, it may actually be large, woody-stemmed shrubs they grow on. I’m not completely sure of the proper classification.

Babies get big and stinky if you let them hang on the tree too long.

I realize the miracle of birth is hard for a young child to wrap his head around, so if he has reason to doubt my explanation I will show him my visual evidence. He can see for himself the big, ripe children, ready to be picked from the Baby Tree/Baby Woody-stemmed Shrub. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the fresh babies – only the overripe ones. It’s gotten to be late in the harvest season around our parts.

Maybe you think I should tell him the other story of where babies come from, but that’s even harder to believe and I don’t have any pictures to support that theory. We’re dealing with conception one baby step at a time. We’ll stick with the tree hypothesis, at least until the two of us can figure out how clouds get in the sky.

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We’re goin’ over the wall tonight

The youngest boy has crossed the last threshold out of babydom. He’s learned to escape his crib – only his motive is not so much escape and it’s not really a crib he’s exiting.

THE SNEAK

They all, in their own time, figured out how to shake free of the crib. Big Brother executed his escape plans quietly, never letting us know he was plotting a breakout until we heard the loud thud from his bedroom floor.

Being first-time parents, we had foolishly parked a dresser at the foot of his crib. Climbing up to the top of that dresser was Phase One of his plan. He hadn’t really thought through Phase Two, which resulted in the thud of his bouncing off the floor.

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

We couldn’t believe he wasn’t broken; his thud sounded like a cannon ball hitting the house. We immediately banished the dresser and made all manner of rookie parent safety adjustments to his crib.

Leg up.

Leg up.

THE HARD CASE

Buster was a loud prisoner. He wouldn’t stand the injustice of being left in a crib and he let us know it. It was only a matter of time before he made his first thud in a misjudged leap to freedom.

And over.

And over.

His thud wasn’t as loud. There was no tall dresser to climb onto, and he was a smaller kid, except for his lungs. Still, we lived up to the letter of the parental contract by checking on him to make sure he was a bouncer. Then we put him directly back to bed. If he kept making thuds like this, after a while, I’d see about lowering the crib mattress to make egress more difficult.

Roll.

Roll.

He kept making thuds, and eventually I adjusted his crib. After more thuds, I adjusted it again, and again. When his hole was as deep as it could go and he still climbed out of it, we put him in a big boy bed. That wouldn’t hold him either, but at least it would give some relief to the floor.

Second leg up.

Second leg up.

THE GRACIOUS HOUSEGUEST

Big Man doesn’t sleep in a crib, not because he’s bigger than his brothers were and might put a hole through the floor. He took a liking to sleeping in his pack-n-play after he graduated the cradle. We tried the crib a few times, but he preferred the pack-n-play. He sleeps well there and hardly ever acts like a caged animal.

And down. Happy face.

And down. Happy face.

And now he can climb out of it. There are no thuds. It’s lower than the crib, but the deftness with which he climbs out makes us doubt he’d thud out of the crib either. The kid is a ninja, using his feet and hands in concert to roll silently over the wall.

He doesn’t do it to escape; he does it because it’s morning time. There’s none of Big Brother’s, “I’ll act cool until your back is turned,” or Buster’s, “I’m breaking out of this hell hole, you dirty rat!” In his toddler way, Big Man is telling us, “Don’t trouble yourselves. I’ll see myself out.”

I’m hoping our graceful little country squire will soon begin offering to make breakfast.

The hunter becomes the hunted

A couple years ago, I wrote about how Buster (then a baby) vexed Big Brother (then a four-year-old) by crawling among his play sets and tearing up all his railroad tracks.

And now you may be thinking: “Two years ago? This blog has been around that long? Wow, this guy doesn’t know when to give up!”

I don’t.

Anyway, Buster and Big Brother still fight over toys sometimes. But there are many other times when they play together, and (dare I say it?) co-operate to build things. There are even times when Buster accepts instruction from Big Brother in order to accomplish his playtime goals.

fine art

Working together to create a masterpiece of sibling co-operation.

Buster has no recollection of the havoc he caused to his brother’s play sets, nor of the gnashing of teeth resulting from his destructive ways. As far as he recollects, all of his frictions with his older brother have been honest disagreements between different engineering visions.

This lack of recall must make it especially hard on him that payback is a bitch.

There’s a New Baby in town, and his devotion to wanton destruction burns just as brightly as Buster’s ever did. The sock is on the other foot. Of course, the second sock has been pulled off and discarded, in the tradition of babies everywhere.

Now, Buster is the gnasher of teeth, shouting, “No, Baby, no!” using the same frantic urgency with which it was once directed at him. New Baby does him credit by living up to the very standard of disregard for admonition that he himself established all those forgotten times ago. Lack of recognition, coupled with an uncoupled train, makes it a hollow honor.

sacrifices had to be made

“I’m willing to let you chew on the plastic tunnel if it will save my train.”

I can’t explain to Buster that the unprovoked baby attacks he is enduring now are the same as he used to perpetrate. He can’t imagine that he could ever have been so annoying. Even if he could, it would only make him wonder why Daddy insists on bringing up random bits of ancient history that clearly have no relevance to his current suffering.

Daddy needs to be solving problems in the here and now, rather than telling his old-man stories of questionable accuracy.  New Baby needs to be taken away and possibly housed in a cage until Buster is good and done with his trains. Then, New Baby can be let out to tear them apart, so that when Buster is asked to pick them up, he can explain that New Baby was the last to use them. This is the kind of scenario that Daddy should be orchestrating, instead of fabricating some sketchy moral justification of New Baby’s outrages.

So much for compromise

Appeasement never works.

This house needs some law and order against the depredations of little brothers. At least until Big Brother gets home from school. Then we can renegotiate what little brothers are allowed to get away with.

Never let it be said that Buster doesn’t consider both sides of the issue.

I love you just the way you are, but you can grow up any time now

The other day, my wife started going on about wanting a baby.  I pointed out that there was a seven-month-old boy somewhere in the house and that if anybody wanted to take the time to locate him, he could be counted as a baby.

“But he’s old and stinky,” she replied. “I want a clean, fresh baby.”

I pointed out that, even though he is eating a lot of “people food” these days, and is therefore stinkier than he used to be, he is, on balance, a relatively clean baby. Then I realized it wasn’t about how stinky he is. The important point was that he wouldn’t be a baby much longer.

My wife has a perpetual craving for an infant in her life.

This is trouble.

Of all the people who see our baby and comment, “Enjoy it while you can; they grow up so fast,” 99% of them are women. The 1% who are men feel pressure to say something and so they repeat what they’ve heard women say, thinking that women must know appropriate comments about babies.

Most men avoid commenting on babies, because, “Won’t it be great when he grows up?” just has that feel of a statement that might not go over well with baby’s mama.

I don’t get the need for constant babies that some mothers have. I have three children whom I love dearly. Two of them are no longer babies and I’m fine with that. The third is a baby, and he and I are counting the days until he can walk and talk and heat up his own milk.

admiring baby

“How long before he can cook his own meals?”

Apparently, mothers spend a fair amount of time looking back and pining for the helpless days of their children. I have no wish to return to the infancy of either of my older boys. I like the generally drool-free children they’ve grown into.

To be honest, I might develop a little nostalgia for Buster’s toddlerhood when he grows out of it. Buster makes such an awesome toddler I sometimes worry that, at two-and-a-half, he’s peaked. If his jokes are half as good when he’s a schoolboy, I’ll probably be all right with his aging.

It’s not that fathers don’t like their babies. They’re just not in our favorite stage. We adore our babies, but look to the future in the same way that a lot of mothers adore their big kids, but regret the lost past.

A father works through the baby period, sustained by the dream that his little bundle of fuss will grow into someone with whom to watch football games and go on battlefield tours. Since we can’t seem to interest the baby in those things now, we bide our time.

I have sympathy for my wife’s feelings, but I can’t keep giving her babies as a pick-me-up. Also, I can’t afford to ply her with roses or expensive candy because three children. But she’s always welcome to sit down and watch football with her boys.

sleepless baby

“There now. Don’t cry. It’s a complicated sport. You’ll pick it up by and by.”