Onward Christian toddlers

Big Man found Jesus.

He discovered the New Testament, anyway. If my Catholic youth doesn’t fail me, that’s the part of the Bible about Jesus.

Back when I was in college, a troop of elderly gentlemen would periodically spread out to the various corners of campus and hand out copies of the New Testament to passersby. One day, I came home with a dozen New Testaments in my bag; I just couldn’t say no to those kindly old men, and the echoes of my Catholic youth warned me against saying no to Jesus.

The New Testament Men don’t come around as much anymore, but I did run into one of them a little while back. As any one-time Catholic worth his salt would do, I graciously accepted the book, took it home, and immediately forgot about it.

Last week it turned up in Big Man’s hands. Big Man has taken a shine to books. Having seen the eagerness with which Daddy sneaks a minute of reading here and there, and watching the erudite Big Brother read his 20 minutes a day (most days), Big Man has become captivated by the secrets within books.

Up until now, Big Man’s favorite books have been the ones with pictures of babies, or animals, or preferably, baby animals. But there’s something about this New Testament he’s taken a particular shine to. Maybe it’s the right size, or the feel of it is just right, or maybe he’s been touched by the Holy Spirit. I’m not wise enough to say. What I can say is he carries this book around with him more religiously than he’s ever toted a teddy bear.

Reading the Good Word.

Reading the Good Word.

On Saturday, he and I ran some errands. He insisted on bringing his book. He carried it through four stores. When he held it up against his chest, he looked like the worlds shortest preacher man marching through Target.

In the fifth store, he rode in the shopping cart. He set his book down on the toddler seat beside him, leaving him hands free to reach for cookies, but as soon as we moved to the pasta aisle he checked to make sure it was still there.

Little preacher man.

Little preacher man.

There was a moment of panic when we got back home. He asked, “Where my book?” I couldn’t remember taking it out of the cart, and God only knows when someone will hand me another New Testament. But a miracle saved us; I found it in Big Man’s car seat.

I could read something exceptionally spiritual in a two-year-old’s sudden fondness for the Bible, but this kid has a history of glomming on to unusual objects for a couple weeks before progressing to his next obsession. It’s a unique choice for a security blanket, but none of his choices are straight out of the Toddler’s Manual of Style. And if it does have a deeper meaning than I appreciate, well, I suppose there are worse people for him to be hanging with than Jesus.

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.

It’s bedtime, so cuddle up with your favorite paperweight and go to sleep

None of our boys have ever become attached to a particular security blanket.  Buster once had a short phase when he wanted to take a Star Wars Lego Stormtrooper in the car with him wherever we went, but he kept losing his Star Wars guy in the back seat, so he decided Lego people were too slippery to make constant companions. And those volatile little dudes were always losing their heads.

Big Man had a stuffed dog he liked for a while. But he also exhibits the family trait of being inattentive. He could rarely remember where he left his puppy and no matter how much he called for it, the disloyal mutt would never come. He was often so aggrieved by his fair-weather dog that he would refuse its companionship at bedtime. “No puppy. No puppy,” he declared as he waved it off.

I’m not saying Big Man doesn’t like to sleep with a favorite object. It’s just that the object changes from night to night.  Last week he insisted on taking two plum-sized rocks to bed with him. Why would a boy want to sleep with rocks? He’s fascinated with pebbles and coins and buttons, and whatever little trinkets are fun to put into pockets, and maybe these rocks were awesome mega-pebbles. Or maybe it’s because rocks will never turn their backs on you like moody plush puppies do.

Before that, I think he snuggled up with an empty spray bottle. Somehow the spray top went missing and he lost his fascination with it. Meanwhile, we never got to use it and the shower mildew thrives.

Getting ready to cuddle up with a day planner.

Getting ready to cuddle up with a day planner.

Yes, he sometimes wants to take a toy to bed with him, but he’d prefer a calculator or whatever other office supplies he can get his hands on.

Sadly, there are some things he’s not allowed to cuddle in bed, as much as he’d like to. It can be difficult for a two-year-old to understand the problem with taking a power cord, or a box of thumb tacks, or a loaded stapler to bed. He’s sure he can handle them, and gets angry at whoever makes him give up his new pet, which, as far as he knows, is OSHA. It’s always handy to have a government regulatory agency to deflect your child’s anger.

And post-it notes! Jackpot!

And post-it notes! Jackpot!

I guess it’s a good thing he doesn’t have a single bedtime favorite. I’ve heard stories of parents traveling long distances to retrieve an inconsolable child’s security object. We don’t have to hurry home for anything as long as there’s an Office Depot within reach.

I suppose there will come the day when he’s heading off for college and I’ll wish I had some childhood favorite to present to him as a bond to home. I’m sure he won’t even remember his puppy, and I think the damned thing ran away anyhow. But, he’ll probably need paper clips for school and we’ll likely both have a good, nostalgic cry when I hand him those.

And the award for Parent of the Most Civilized Pooping Child goes to . . .

Since I first became a parent, I’ve been taking an informal survey on how old children are when they complete potty training.  This has been an unintentional survey; I’ve never asked parents how long it took to potty train their children. Yet, scads of parents seem to think I want to know. The word potty can’t come up in conversation without people laying out the impressive timetables of their children’s migrations to the toilet.

Due to the unwilling nature of my research, I have never recorded the results of my survey. This could have the slight potential to erode the credibility of the findings. The only result of which I am certain is that 0.00% of respondents’ children took longer to potty train than my own.

My two potty trained children became so somewhere in the three-year-old range. The remaining child seems on pace to match that timing. When it comes to deciding where to poop, I thought I had pretty normal kids. The older two, in their own time, came around to a decision I can endorse. I have high hopes the third will eventually see the wisdom in their choices. On the other hand, I can’t honestly argue that a diaper isn’t a convenient alternative when you’re on the run.

Assuming my youngest takes approximately the same time to potty train as his brothers, he represents the third strike in my beginning hypothesis that my children are normal. It will prove beyond the margin of error that they are outliers – sluggard, ne’er-do-well poopers – the slowest children ever to be potty trained.

Further research has confirmed my fears about the futures of poorly trained children like my own. Source: Delusional Parent Magazine.

Further research has confirmed my fears about the futures of poorly trained children like my own. Source: Delusional Parent Magazine.

The stats don’t lie. And the stats are backed up by random, self-reported data from proud parents that happened to come up in conversation. These facts were presented to me by confident (almost beaming) individuals, through the famously unbiased memory of parenthood, who were prescient enough to ascertain that I was conducting a survey on this exact topic. That’s pretty solid, considering I didn’t even know I was conducting this survey. How can I begin to question the validity of such information?

Having not ever encountered a single survey subject whose children were slower to evolve than mine, I am left to consider the consequences of my children’s backwardness. Will these arrested beginnings hinder their futures? I fear so. None of the survey respondents who offered updates reported that their advanced pooping children are now incarcerated. And since someone has to fill the prisons, I can only conclude it will be the slow toilet adopters, of whom my children are, statistically, the slowest.

I know you’re probably thinking how brave it is of me to publicly admit these facts about my own beloved children. But now that I’ve done it, I wonder if I should have just lied about it. I can’t do that though. I wouldn’t want to be known as the first parent to embellish his children’s toilet skills.