Don’t tell my mommy that I decided to stay in my pajama top all day. It was comfortable, and my daddy let me do it.
Don’t tell my mommy that I decided to stay in my pajama top all day. It was comfortable, and my daddy let me do it.
Editor’s note: I’ve become a bit inhibited about writing this blog; it’s become formalized and overly structured and I have become too aware of the (large) number of people now reading it. I can sense your expectations that I should be funny and deep always. But I am often quite tired and distracted. The problem with the funny-deep expectation is that blogs are made for thinking out loud. They are life’s first draft. So this one will be sketch-like, and fragmented. Sorry. You can skip it if you like. My writing partner will have plenty of entries coming, and they will be better written.
I think teaching compassion must be the hardest thing. I am thinking this as I stand at the bottom of our three flights of stairs, weighed down by four bags of groceries, watching Bodhi scamper around testing the life force of the plants in the flower beds. He is stepping on them methodically. Do they spring back? Yes. Experiment complete. Now he is closing the gate so nobody else can enter the apartment complex. Now he is balancing on the part of the brick that means he can fall into the cactus garden. Now he is running toward the driveway and circling back when I call for him.
He knows I’m waiting and wilting in the 90-degree September heat. He knows I have compassion for him because I am waiting here holding bags of groceries, calling out instructions for his safety and security, and I have waited for him to dawdle his way out of the car, and earlier, for him to refuse food I cooked to instead eat a portion of watermelon the size of a man’s head. I have compassion for him; he displays little for me.
He is two. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
The reason I need to keep reminding myself is that he has a large personality. Physically, of course, he is small. Oh, he is huge for a two year old, very tall, and forceful and strong, and he can scream loudly, and he is a vociferous conversationalist, an omnivore of words, machine-gunning out identifications of palm trees, yoga mats, jeep trucks, fire trucks, his mother’s complete first and last name, status reports on whether cars are going fast or slow, whether lights are on or off, whether it is daytime or nighttime, whether it is snack time or what kind of sippy cup his water shall be served in, how his dinner shall be served, whether a sound is loud. This morning I asked him if he wanted watermelon and his response was “Daddy, get the orange circle plate now.”
Viewed like this, close up, his personality is huge. Viewed across the playground, he quickly becomes the small child that he really is.
He is making his own decisions now, his own man. This weekend he decided that he was going to wear his pajama top all day without changing into a shirt. I let him do it. I figure it worked for Vincent Gigante on Sullivan Street. Gigante was a big-time Mob boss who went around on Sullivan Street in New York all day in his pajamas, pretending to be insane in order to avoid arrest and prison. Because of this behavior they called him the Oddfather. I saw him many days, his unshaven silvery stubble catching the afternoon light, a gray, foggy look in his eye, the (faked) unsteady walk. The pajamas. Eventually the cops stopped buying the act and he was locked up in the federal pen, served a sentence for racketeering and conspiring to murder a few rival mobsters, and died there when not all the way through his 12-year stretch.
It seems odd to even have those kinds of thoughts and make those kinds of associations when you’re around an innocent little kid. But just because I’m around an innocent little kid doesn’t mean my mind stops. I live in both worlds. Somehow. I realize that Bodhi likes the feel of a warm pajama top against his skin in the morning and doesn’t want to give it up. Even when he goes to work on his construction site.
I have a new skill. It’s called ‘identifying things.’ I sit in the back seat, snugly buckled into my car seat, holding on to Augie Dogie, and I identify things as they go past. I call them out, like this:
I can tell you that I am driving around in a silver Prius, but it comes out more like silverpriuscar.
When I get home I expect a snack, and I like to turn on all the lights, every one I can reach, because I can reach them now. I will cry hard if you tell me not to turn on the lights, even if you explain that it’s a waste of energy, that it gets hot when all the lights are on, or any other reason. I want those lights on, get it? All of them. All the lights go ON, dad. (In case my father is reading this.)
When I walk down the stairs to go out of our apartment there is a large window. Originally, when I first saw it, I called out ‘octagon!’ But I was mistaken. It is a hexagon. I don’t make that mistake any more.
I have started reading my stories back to my parents. Goodnight moon. The light is on. The old lady is whispering hush. Gus plants a seed. Clifford has a field day. I ask for books by name. I know the names of shapes, not just hexagons and windows.
I have started telling the cat what to do. Because I can.
Off the couch!
It doesn’t matter if he is really doing anything. He appears to listen to me even when he is not on the couch.
I know other names too, people I met after I flew on the airplane. But most of all I think I like calling out names of things when we drive. We listen to music, too, and I know what kind.
I know things in books and also colors.
Check back soon. I will know even more words. You can read me a story and I will tell you a story. But you have to sit still. Don’t spill any almond milk on me.
There was a great ‘Sex and the City’ episode in which Berger dumped Carrie by writing her a break up note on a post-it. I would never be so cruel as to break up with anybody on a post-it. I am going to break up with my duckie in a blog, in public, for a thousand people to read.
Hey there, my good friend Duckie, take this box of tissues. And here’s a stiff drink. If this were a ‘Sex and the City’ episode it would be a pink Cosmo filled to the brim. But knowing you, it will be a 12-year-old Macallan, neat. You’re more of a Samantha, anyway.
Listen, Duckie. Augie Doggie is my new best stuffed friend now. That’s just the way it goes. You smelled good. You were soft. You were a good friend. You never argued. You never complained when I threw you in the toilet. You took it like a duck. But now, it’s over.
You must have seen this coming. I don’t try to sneak you in my mama’s handbag any more for field trips. I don’t put my mouth on your head and try to suck your eyes out. I don’t clutch you close to my heaving body in the night. I have, I admit, completely ignored you these past few months. The only trip you’re going to make is to the floor when I throw you out of the crib in the morning.
Hey, don’t cry. You know who suffers the same fate? Blue puppy, Little Kitty and elephant. I throw them out of the crib every morning, too. They are the Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop of my stuffed animal Rat Pack. Sure, they were vitally important in their time. But now all anybody remembers is Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Nobody remembers that Humphrey Bogart was the original leader, and that Lauren Bacall coined the name Rat Pack. Duckie, you’re Joey Bishop now. So sorry.
I know it’s a tough gig being a transitional object. But you should have seen this coming when you were never given a proper name. Augie Doggie started out ahead. Stuffed friends with names like Duckie and Little Kitty, well, you don’t have much personal branding there, do you? You’re going to get mowed down in the relentless drive of a toddler’s love. As toddlers we are incredibly busy people. Have you noticed that as soon as I get up in the morning I am building towers, crashing them over, stomping on cereal, chasing the cat and screaming? My plate is full, my to-do list is, like, crazy, and I felt you weren’t keeping up. Also, Augie Doggie has a collar that I can wrap around my finger so he can come with me. You have no such handhold. Sorry, your anatomy was your downfall and you were often left behind.
Can we be friends always? I know I’ll think of you at holidays, and in quiet moments as I walk on the beach with Augie Doggie. Just don’t drunk-text me, okay? Send a card or something. And don’t use a post-it.
It’s my birthday today. I am officially two. Here’s a report on my birthday party, which was on Saturday. We ran around in a field. We had cake. Nice people gave me presents. That’s about it really, but you can look at the pictures.
I like to read and should mention a few of my favorite new books that I got as gifts. ‘Duck in a Truck’ has a duck, a truck, a sheep in a jeep, a goat in a boat, and a frog who appears to be without transport. If you know the story at all, the moral of it is never help a duck who is stuck in his truck, because he will drive off, leaving you in the muck. If I were to think hard about this, I’d say it’s a parable of backstabbing in the boardroom, but I am not going to think too hard about it, because it involves a duck, and after reading this book I will never trust a duck again, particularly not a corporate duck.
My other new favorite book is ‘The Happy Man and the Dump Truck,’ which surprisingly is about a happy man and his dump truck. It was followed by the little-known sequel ‘The Crabby Man in His Pickup,’ which did not sell as nearly as well. ‘Harry the Dirty Dog,’ is also good, and has convinced me not to run off into the city by myself. ‘The Runaway Bunny,’ on the other hand, makes running away as well as shape shifting quite attractive. I also received a shirt with a tiger on it, a set of stacking cups, a puzzle, some big Legos, but I don’t need to inventory it all here as it will all appear in my mother’s Facebook feed this week.
I’m being told that my opening paragraph suggests a certain flippancy about my party. I should acknowlege the massive preparation that went into it, and the high degree of cooperation between my parents that it required. My daddy, who does not like being told what to do, was told what to do to get ready for the party. My mommy, who is still insecure about her baking skills, baked a wonderful cake – her second for me, as she did one last year, too. She got these floaty things I call babloons, ordered pizza and salad, got party favors for the other kids that my father forgot to give out, and even had fruit and flowers on the table. Thanks, mommy! You did a good job. Catch you next year for number three.
If you have any small emergencies, we have a small fire chief who can take care of them.
People call what I am about to enter The Terrible Twos. I don’t see what’s so terrible about them. There are the Discovery of the Self Twos, the Argumentative Twos, and the Negotiate Your Diapered Ass Off Twos. There are no twos that are terrible, not for me. I’m having a good time riding wooden motorcycles and such. How about you?
For those who haven’t been following along in this blog, I am indeed about to turn two. That, if you are curious, is the number that comes after one. If you are not curious, and have not been following this blog, I would like to pull over this large potted plant, okay? And play with my Dad’s iPad, okay? And throw things in the early morning onto the hardwood floor. Okay? Okay? Oh, I can’t do that? You mean, you’re on to me already? Can I have what you’re eating, then?
The other day I was leading my mommy on a high-speed chase through a farmer’s market. I’d decided to recreate a chase sequence from ‘The Bourne Identity,’ with me playing Matt Damon, jumping up and down stairs, weaving this way and that, doubling back, riding a horse, smashing through glass windows. I think I forgot to tell my momma we were shooting the scene – but it sure did make her reactions genuine. I saw real horror on her face as I glanced back, flashing her a coy Matt Damon smile, and skipped between two heavily-tattooed hipsters who almost, but not quite, spilled their overpriced pourover coffees on me.
At this stage of the game I’ve learned that my tools can be way more sophisticated than sleep deprivation if I want to control my parents. I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that I am using hypnosis now, repeating want that, want that, want that, until they give in. It always works, except when they walk away muttering and it doesn’t work. I am always testing, always testing the limits. This is the essence of being a child. You must innovate.
Example: After breakfast and lunch (but not dinner) I am permitted to have a cut-up fig or a cut-up apricot as dessert. (They haven’t heard of ice cream around here? Sheesh.) My parents always ask me, ‘Would you like a fig or an apricot?’ I respond, ‘want that fig, want that apricot, want that fig, want that apricot,’ which someday will confuse them into giving me both. Hasn’t worked yet, so this is what I do. I choose, say, the fig. They give me a fig. Then I cry for an apricot. Get it? Mind control! I can see the helpless confusion blooming in their eyes. It is only a matter of time till I say Want that pony! and they deliver a pony.
To show the power of this, you try it. Turn to the person next to you. Ask for an apricot. Get one. Then cry like hell for a fig. It’s an interesting experiment in human behavior and sometimes, fascinatingly, people’s heads explode. That’s really neat.
From time to time I have some provided some helpful tips for being a baby. Here are a few more, now that I am officially a toddler. They reflect a more mature, worldly perspective.
Tantrums are great for getting what you want, but not more than ten a day, otherwise people won’t take you seriously.
Battling about food is a good rehearsal for battling about potty training, which is coming next. (I am clairvoyant.)
When separated from your mommy, scream like crazy. Then, one minute after she’s gone, get over it like it never happened. All adult brains nearby will be scrambled, and you will get what you want. This will work on all adults, except Hungarians. My teacher is Hungarian, and it never works on her, probably because people from Eastern Europe have been around for centuries and don’t take any crap from little kids. Oh well.
Here are my career choices.
Singer. I can carry a tune, which is remarkable for a toddler. Ask me to sing Happy Birthday. I will blow your mind.
High Speed Chase Coordinator. I have experience.
All Terrain Tractor Driver. I have no experience, but this looks promising.
Thanks for reading, everybody! See you next time. I have birthday cake to eat, and presents to open, and there is trouble to be made in the early morning hours.
Quick program note: My classes on negotiation will be forming soon. Do you want what you what, when you want it? The secret to successful negotiation is repeating yourself until your parents give in. And crying. Lots of crying. That’s just a taste of what I will offer in my online negotiation classes. Coming soon! Unless my mommy says it’s bedtime.
1. I love that my Daddy jokes with me. Even when Mommy thinks the words or concepts are too advanced for me, Daddy goes for it anyway. And I always get the joke.
2. I love that my Daddy sees that I am really interested in food and cooking. He tells my Mommy that I may be a chef someday. And he even lets me borrow his spatula and ladle from time to time.
3. I love that my Daddy also sees that I am really interested and good at building, and tells my Mommy that I may be an architect some day. That sounds really good, but I don’t know what that means.
4. I love that my Daddy has started to sing to me. When I was a baby, it was only Mommy who sang to me. But now that I’ve been around awhile, I think my Daddy has figured out how much I love music and how much I love hearing both of my parents sing to me, especially together.
5. I love that my Daddy teaches me how to fix things. He’s not worried that not I’m not even 2 yet. He’ll hand me a hammer and a wrench and tell me he needs my help.
6. I love that my Daddy rides a bicycle to work. I am so into bikes. Motorcycles too. My Daddy even lets me play with his bike light when he comes home from work and lets me put it on the top of my tower overnight.
7. I love that my Daddy reads me the Daddy Cuddles book before I go to bed and that he cuddles with me as I drink my almond milk.
8. I love that my Daddy practices yoga in the morning because I like crawling between his legs like a little doggie and going flying with him. He’s only dropped me once.
9. I love when my Daddy chants OM in the morning because I can feel how powerful he is and like I told you before, I love when he sings to me.
10. I love that my Daddy sneaks me cookies every so often when my Mommy isn’t looking.
Most of all, I love that my Daddy is my Daddy because I love him.
Happy Father’s Day Daddy!!!
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I read a lot of silly books. I am a toddler, so people give me silly books as gifts, not knowing that I’d prefer ‘The Atlantic,’ ‘Wine Spectator’ or the ‘New Yorker’ magazine so I could look at the cartoons. Since I have a lot of silly books, I like to throw them around and make towers out of them. Sometimes I chew on them, although I am supposed to be over that by now. I will stuff them behind the bed to see what happens to them. (They remain there until my mommy takes them out.) Or I will shove them between the glass panels of the shower door to see what happens. (My father will have to remove their soaked, ruined mass, which sometimes requires a butter knife inserted just so to do the trick.)
Lately, though, since I am almost two, my attitude about books has matured and deepened. For example, I have seen their value as a way to delay bedtime and nap time. I will make my father read my new library book about trains four times in a row, and then make him read my new library book about trucks three times in a row. I don’t think he’s on to it yet, what I’m up to.
He’s a nice guy most of the time, so he just keeps on reading, pointing out the wheels on the trains, the wheels on the tracks, the engineer in the cab. Little meaningless details like that. Just keep a straight face, make him read, delay sleep. That was the plan.
But I was wrong. So wrong. The wheels on the tracks – not meaningless. Engineer in the cab, important. You see, I had a revelation today. Baby mind = blown. Here’s how it went down.
This morning, my parents told me we were going to a place with trains ‘just like in your train book.’ Oh sure, I thought. This is no better than the usual gambit employed to sucker me into a long car ride to nowhere. Car rides like that are only tolerable with a lot of snacks. I’ve heard it all. We’re going to a park with swings. We get there, so what, there are swings. We’re going to a store where you will get to ride in a cart. We get there, there is a cart. In the store, with produce. So what. When you get to my level of experience with parents, you know the crap they pull. My assumption was we were going to a place with trains, but probably pictures of trains. Somebody’s impromptu train sketches, or some Cubist Picasso-esque train ripoffs, or an annoyingly derivative Calder-inspired train mobile.
When we got there, though, there were trains. Real trains.
I admit, I lost it. I started running up and down the paths between the trains lustily shouting ‘twains, twains, twaaaains’ and flapping my arms around like a fool. I think I was overwhelmed for a moment to see that the things in books can be true. The trains had wheels, just as they did in the book, and those wheels were on tracks, just as my father pointed out. We climbed up into the cab where the engineer would drive, and there were wheels to turn. I realized at once that this place was different. It hadn’t been sanitized, like so much of the experiences you adults present to us are. There was gravel, and tracks, and rust. There were sharp surfaces, and broken levers that complained when I moved them, and a delicious sense of danger.
Far off, I heard the mournful sound of a train whistle. My parents said, ‘Would you like to go on a train ride?’ I looked at them like, you gotta be kidding, right? We’re going to walk right into some kind of Johnny Cash song, listening to the lonesome whistle blow? What next? We kill a man in Phoenix, just to watch him die? (You need to know your Johnny Cash lyrics to get that.) I mean, this is a train museum. There are no running trains here. But there is a running train here. And we went on it twice. Here’s a short video.