We’re empty netters now

It’s amazing how a little dose of parenthood can change your perspective. I suppose this is true in regard to human children too, but I’m thinking about the parenting of adopted insects.

For Big Man’s birthday, we got him a butterfly kit. This is a plastic cup of caterpillars and some mysterious earthy substance that we assumed was their food.

The caterpillars looked dead when we took their plastic habitat out of its box. At that point, our emotional attachment to them went no deeper than figuring out how to return a box of dead insects for a full refund.

The caterpillars were not dead; they were sleepy from their long, dark journey from the caterpillar factory. With a little light added to their world, they came to life, eating the mass of brown stuff and growing at an impressive rate. At the moment we discerned the change in their sizes, our emotional attachment to a cup full of bugs began.

They were supposed to climb to the lid of the container and there attach themselves for cocoon construction. We all gasped with awe at baby’s first steps as one, then another, began the climb. They must have been still a little hungry, because one after another they came back down for a snack, putting us all on an emotional roller coaster as they went up and down without attaching themselves to anything.

At last one of them hung from the lid and began the transformation. There was rejoicing throughout the land. One by one, they all followed suit, with the exception of one confused late bloomer. We wrung our hands over him, speculating upon whether he was ill or just daft. Finally, he joined his comrades and we all breathed easier.

We transferred them to their netted nursery. How long was it supposed to take them to be (re)born? No one knew. Days of doubt followed. One morning, there was a real, live butterfly clinging to the netting, his cocoon an empty shell. More rejoicing ensued.

It’s so hard to get children to smile for the camera.

Another butterfly appeared, then another and another. All but one had emerged victorious. While we waited and worried about the last, we cut up tangerines and carefully set the fruit inside the cage for food. I busied myself making our babies happy and comfortable, careful not to let anyone escape.

This made me realize that if a cousin of these precious creatures had flown into the house from outside, my wife would be chasing it with a bottle of Windex and a fly swatter. She’s not fond of insects, except the ones that are family.

We prepared ourselves for the worst regarding the remaining cocoon. Just when we had given up hope, there was movement. The butterfly struggled, but could not free himself. It was heartbreaking to watch him entangle himself deeper in silk and cocoon wreckage.

My wife prodded me to help him. With a toothpick I tore away his sticky fetters. I freed him, but alas, his wings were malformed. At my wife’s bidding, I set our poor Tiny Tim down next to the fruit, so the doomed child might live out his days in comfort.

The day came to send the kids out on their own. All but one found their way out into the open air. The last stayed by the fruit. My wife was convinced he was refusing to leave his wounded buddy. He might have just been hungry. The next day, the injured one expired. We gave the last healthy butterfly another chance to go. Having a clear conscience, he did not stay for the eulogy.

I wonder where the kids are now. Have they stayed nearby or are they off to see the world. I hope they don’t come home to visit. We don’t like insects in our house.

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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.

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.