Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Alone Time

Coming up on three-and-a-half-years old, my son is growing increasingly independent. I've noticed how he talks things out, solves problems on his own. Or maybe it's as simple as lying on his back in his play room after school, taking some time to decompress. 

I think it's a good thing, taking some time to get himself together. But a little time goes a long way, and this past Sunday, I found out the hard way not to let things get too quiet.

Sunday. Our neighbor stopped over with her ten-year-old daughter, as they do most Sundays for dinner and fun. Fun because whenever they enter the house, I become invisible. No big deal, it's just how it is. And this day was no different. 

Things started off with a bang as Simon and his future babysitter scampered off, into the living room to play hotel, which means stripping the beds of all covers and pillows and setting them up in the living room. This girl is great with my son. So much so that I’d gotten a bit lax with the supervision. I joined my wife and neighbor in the kitchen on the way out to fire up the grill.

Back inside, the kids have moved to the table to draw. So I hang in the kitchen and we talk about what conditioner works best with our hair where it occurred to me that I don’t really hang out with many guy friends these days. Oh, and that things were awfully quiet in the other room.

I drifted back and poked my head in.

Oh, finger painting. Cool. I’ve learned to stay away when it comes to activities with friends. That or get shooed away.

So back to chit-chat. The ladies were talking about those cute little pictures our kids painted last year. We all smiled, our hearts aflutter as the room filled with parental joy over our kids' special bond. And it's with this sentiment that I casually peeked back at the two of them again.

Oh My God.

My kid turned to face me. He was completely red. Gulp, that’s paint, right? He was covered. Across his neck, his arms, his hair. A thick film of paint on the table. I could only watch as he inspected the slimy paint on his palms. And started clapping. 

Paint went flying.

“Uh, honey, we need a wipe.” 

We didn't need a wipe. We needed a hose. Quite possibly an exorcist. At that point I didn't even know where to begin but I started by searching the floor for pig carcass. My son stood proudly on his chair, a picture of a Stephen King novel amidst the red paint spatter that was all over the curtains, the wall, the dogs.

I looked to the preordained sitter. A few smudges of red on her shirt. A smear on her arms. She was putting the finishing touches on a rainbow or meadow or it’s not important. My eyes widened.

“What happened?”

“Oh. He wanted a lot of paint.”

Enter my wife. Thankfully she is better than me at taking charge because I’d just been standing in the doorway, mouth hanging open in shock, unsure where to begin. She took charge by removing his shirt off for starters, but then things got difficult. Because he’s three and all.

Simon hopped off the chair and bolted for the living room, waving his dripping hands above his head, southern baptist church choir-style. He was pretty much covered, from hair to toenails in red paint, shedding it on the walls as he swung around the corner and down the hall out to the sun room as he busted free and clear to the carport, chanting what I'm pretty sure was a Mayan death ritual song. 

I gave chase, following the paint trail after my kid who was now streaking across the lawn. Part of me was wondering how I’d explain this to authorities, because it sort of looked like some sort of voodoo massacre had transpired.

I scooped him up. He kicked and squirmed and I was awfully thankful that all I wear are $6 shirts these days when he wiped his face on my chest in his flailing, worked up something good between the warpaint and my reaction.

Back in the kitchen. Screaming. Cleaning. Mopping. Wiping. Forensics. Laundry. 

I wrestled this kid into the tub. No easy task considering he was in full-on Apocalypse Now mode. 

Mom to the rescue. She talked him down.Talked me down. She convinced him that it was time for a shower. To get a rinse. Pink water swirling in the tub.

I stepped out into the hall wet and streaked and like a man who'd gone 15 rounds in a parental grudge match. The neighbors helped with the cleaning. The chicken needed to be flipped on the grill so I staggered out to handle that.

Maybe my kid’s not quite ready for all this alone time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Storyteller

My wife is a wonderful teacher, a natural nurturer, and a most excellent storyteller. Of course I’ve always known that my son is lucky to have her for a mom but every now and again I see or catch her doing something that brings it all back home.

We were hanging out at the local kid’s museum, blowing off some steam on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the barn house area. Simon was bouncing off the walls, hopping off the tractor and milking the cows and just kind of all over the place when he stumbled upon some books near the window ledge.

He spotted one of his all-time faves, Duck on a Bike and wanted Mom to read it. (Let me say here that I love how my kid stops mid-sprint at the sight of a familiar book, like he’s running into good friend unexpectedly. It's warms my inner-nerd). 

Mom’s especially good at reading Duck because she does all the character’s voices and even remembers what voice to do for each character, something I can never manage, it’s just a mess when I read characters, but anyway…

So they took a seat in the back and settle in. Mom read as a gale force of kids climbed and yelled and ran wild around them. Not far into the book, a little girl took notice. She was maybe a year or two older than Simon, lingering around and inching up closer. She had a book in her hands and was craning her head to listen to my wife’s well-crafted performance of Duck on a Bike. 

After a while, Simon got distracted and hopped off my wife's lap. There were cows to tend to, corn to shuck, and besides, he'd heard this story a million times anyway. But the girl remained, and that first-grade school teacher part of my wife couldn't just stop reading, not with a little girl standing on her tippy toes, looking on like, well, I suppose you may as well go on and finish. 

So the teacher plunged ahead with the rest of the story, in those voices, for this eager little girl trying not to look interested. And while Simon did his thing on the tractor I kept an eye on the two of them, the girl now scooted up beside my wife and taking in the pages and voices of Duck and all his friends in the book. At my wife, in the middle of all this, over there performing, doing her best cow impression and seemingly unaware she was completely making this little wide-eyed girl’s day.

At the end of the story, the girl simply presented the book she was holding, and again my wife obliged. By now the little girl’s grandmother had arrived on the scene, winded and thankful after a quick search for her missing granddaughter.

My wife finished the girl’s book. I'm not even sure what book it was, but it was great. The girl’s grandma thanked her and they both went about their day. But I shook my head, realizing that Simon got those wonderful readings—the kind that makes a little girl stand in line to hear—every single day of his life.

Lucky kid.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Observations and Allegations

Just the other day one of Simon’s teachers at his daycare was explaining how he was such an observant little guy. Don’t I know it. Because I'd just tried, and failed, to pull one over on him. 

See, he likes to mow. Loves it. So he mows with me sometimes, with the push mower, carefully, patiently...slowwwwly. Mostly in the front yard and side yard, where it’s flat and easy and takes forever. But there’s a hill in the back and that’s what we call around my house, a daddy job.

So the other day I had a few minutes after work before Mom and son got home. So I took to the hill with the push mower. It’s steep, and it was a little wet, but I got the job done just in time to come running up to the front yard as my wife pulled in.


So I thought.

Getting out of the car he craned his neck for a better look at me. More like a once over, his searchlight eyes took me in top to bottom. From the sweat on my forehead, down to my spotted shirt, past my dirt-speckled legs and coming to a thoughtful rest at my shoes. I looked down, at the grass clippings and dirt. I was so busted.

“Did you mow, Daddy?”

His tone carried the cadence of a seasoned detective. One who’d seen this kind of thing before and knew how it was going to play out long before I started stammering.

“What, well, I, hill.”

A deep breath. Another long, appraising stare. Up and down, up down. Then he was off, in search of more evidence. By then I was tired, having walked the dogs and tackled the hill, and I was kind of hoping he’d want to take part in a less aerobic activity. No luck there, he hit that hill on a mission, stopping at the backyard with me catching up, trying to explain about Daddy jobs and the dangers of gas powered engines and mowing hills at precarious angles.

“Why is the mower out, Daddy?”

I half expected him to touch test the engine to see if it was warm. I looked up to my wife, smiling. Both of us thinking the same thing.... 

How are we ever going to pull one over on this kid?