Wednesday, February 23, 2011

we have secretly replaced your child with...

Some days, I'm herding cats. Cranky, laughing, irreverent cats. Some days, I'm herding barbarians, shouting some fairly well honed observations about my personal habits and character. Mostly, though, my efforts at herding are observed, mildly, by youngsters who are fairly certain that none of this has anything to do with them.

When you are finished with breakfast, please clear your bowl.

Have you finished breakfast? Great. Please put your bowl in the sink.

Hey, kid - don't forget your bowl! It goes in the sink when you are done.

Pooh! say the cats, and stalk off. But their mother is less feline and more bulldoggerly, and lo! the inevitable frogmarch back to the table, the nice little demonstration as to what happens to oatmeal when it is left to ripen into a cement. clunk.  The cats stare, awed. Oh, they say. And walk off, thoughtfully leaving their bowls behind.

Get me? Now, add in the usual litany from mothers-of-boys: toilet seats, dried pee on the floor, tiny Legos underfoot (curse you, tiny Lego!), the wadded, soft mass of former Pokemon cards in the dryer, the ensuing horror at discovering said former - and essential to life - Pokemon cards, used tissue decorating habits, the domestication of the chewing mouth, and any variety of entertainingly flying objects. Oh, and landing ones, too.

Etcetera. Except, yesterday.

Yesterday, having discovered that the grandparents were going to be visiting for an extra morning, friends offered to let me drop off the boys, each for a playdate at different ends of town. (Lessee. From Playdate House A to Playdate House B is 12 minutes. If I drop off at A, and then book it to B, can I return to meeting place C within 30 minutes? Factoring in the speed of light, and the probability of traffic cops in Town X at that time of the morning - no. Oh.) I slung the Toddles at one family, the Eldest at the next, and ran off to meet the grandparents. A wonderful 40 minutes later, the grandparents drove off - and I was calculating again.

Back to playdate A, where a lovely human being fed lunch to the Toddles and his mama. One of our favorite lunches, actually: rice, black beans, sour cream, shredded cheese and (for the mamas) hot sauce. Yay! said the Toddles. Rice and beans! Ignoring his disdain of this very meal when found in his lunch box, the kid proceeded to eat two helpings. Company adds an essential spice, you know.

Um, said the Toddles, eyeing the serving bowl. Is there more beans and rice?
The other mama thought it over. There is more rice, but that's the last of the black beans. She cast an experienced eye around the table. But I'm not going to want any more, and neither is your friend. 
I shook my head. I'm also done, I told the kid.
So, said our hostess, you can go ahead and help yourself.
Thank you for the information, he replied. And filled his plate.

We watched him add the toppings, listened to him chatter. I hadn't considered that, he said at one point. That is useful to know, he said at another. The structure of his language was unreal, and the topics did not include anything exploding, Jedi or clones. I hadn't herded this kid - had I? Had he been reading How To Be A Guest under the covers at night? Or this, in the bathroom? (no, wait. he's still preliterate.)

(I think)
(also, David Lowry probably wouldn't approve of toilet media)

I stared, he chewed. Swallowed. Where should I put my plate? he asked. I started choking, but the other mum took it in stride. You can leave your plate there, but your spoon goes into the sink. He nodded, and trotted off - WITH THE SPOON.

Who the hell is this kid, anyway? Twelve minutes later, he'd persuaded his friend to join him in a pillow fight, and the two of them trashed the kid's bedroom - and then broke house law, by carrying the battle into the parents' bedroom.

Okay, so that kid? him, I recognize. And in case I had any doubts, there was the oatmeal this morning, quietly hardening in the bowl, on the tablecloth, on the floor...whew.

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