Aaron made an announcement too. “I got wee wee!” Despite what it sounds like, he’s talking about the fact that he’s got a little piggy that goes “wee wee wee” all the way home.
While the four of us were enjoying lunch, my daughter, who’s famously afraid of strange dogs, made an announcement.
“When I get bigger, I’m going to have a dog!”
That delighted us no end. Maddie’s apparently made a conscious decision to get over her fear. So we ask her more about it.
“When I turn six, and Daddy dies, I’m going to get a dog,” she exclaims happily and with pride.
“Mommy can get a dog for me.”
So, I explain to the little dear that I don’t have to die for her to get a puppy. And she explains to me that, well, that’s the way it’s going to go down. She points to me, “Daddy dies.” She points to her mother, “Mommy gets me a doggy.” As if she knows something I don’t.
She better not.
I asked Aaron to do a robin, based on the birds outside the window. Instead of chirping, he started listing off, “Raven, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Superman…” I didn’t know whether to explain that Superman was not a Teen Titan, or that I was asking for the bird.
After I read a bedtime story to the kids, my wife takes Aaron to his bedroom where they go through another little bedtime routine.
They lie down on the floor next to each other, and challenge each other, in succession, to make the sound of a certain animal. (Well, at least it used to be just animals.) For example, Lillian would say, “Now do an elephant.” And Aaron would trumpet, and gracefully move his arm in an arc to emulate an elephant’s trunk. Then, he’d challenge her to do a lion, and so on.
I don’t know if Aaron’s been becoming more of a surrealist or if the challenges aren’t, well, challenging enough, but lately the requests have gotten more bizarre. After an animal or two, they end up having to make the sounds of things like water (sound of drinking), walking (crunching), the stars (twinkling), the moon (wave fingers and say, “ooh”) or just about anything else.
My son, the Foley Artist.
Remember the nest with the egg in it from the last post? I was wrong. There must have been four eggs, because four hungry baby birds appeared.
And hungry doesn’t even begin to describe it. If those little birds ever slept, I never saw it. Mother bird and father bird both had to pull their weight to feed the mouths in that nest. The nest was a hub of activity. As soon as those blind ravenous little things sensed a parent was returning with a worm, their heads would pop up, jostling for position, ready to receive that succulent morsel.
It gives us some comfort for Lillian and I to think we have it pretty hard. Woe is we. But if we ever got a chance to sit down, we’d watch the nest, and it was a continuous series of one parent after another flying in, feeding, gathering waste, and flying off for more food. And after a week, those parent birds were half the size they were when they started.
The chicks grew like it was nobody’s business. Less than three weeks after we saw the first egg, the first fledgling was out of the nest, stretching his wings. Within one day of that, all four baby birds were gone.
The nest that was a nonstop center of activity is now empty. It’s silly to make the obvious comparison, but it was all too fast and immediate, and I can’t help but project how I’m going to feel when my kids leave. I’m going to put in a little extra effort to love what I have now.
(More pictures of the birds can be found here.)
A couple of robins have built a nest right outside one of our windows. We’ve got a great view of the nest, and we’ve been teaching the kids how to carefully watch the birds without alarming them.
Mother Bird: On the Job
Watching the birds has been very instructional and inspiring. There’s already a pretty little blue egg in the nest, and the two birds take turns watching over it. We almost never see them together. The bird that stays with the nest is always the perfect picture of patience and diligence, never moving, and always watching out for predators or for when the other bird returns.
But, we have noticed that the two birds aren’t exactly equally adept at parenting…
The mother bird really knows what’s important to her, and doesn’t waste time. The nest was build in just a couple of days, she laid her egg, and promptly began to take perfect care of it. Even when she’s settled into the nest, she’s always watching out, and has her beak raised just so, as if to say, “Don’t you dare mess with my family.” When she flies off, she’s never gone long, and when she returns, the settles back on the egg in no time flat.
The father bird isn’t around quite as much.
Father Bird: Duh…
When the mother bird flies off, he just stands there, with this dopey stance, as if to say, “What does she expect me to do with that little blue thing?” The entire time she’s gone, the egg’s getting cold, not getting turned, and he’s just standing there, on the edge of the nest, looking around, wondering when he can fly off again, and get a few rounds of golf in with the boys. Oops, maybe I’m projecting a little too much there.
Last week, Maddie was teasing Aaron by taking one of his favorite toys, and running away from him with it. Naturally, her tactic worked. He hated it! He ran after her, and reached up and slapped her on the top of her head with his open hand.
It didn’t really hurt her, and so that did little to communicate his displeasure with her. While we were scolding the two of them, “don’t tease him,” and “don’t hit her,” he walked over to my juggling sticks and grabbed one in each hand. He raised them over his head, and started chasing after her again. When he got within striking range, he tried to give her a good whack. He missed, but if he had connected, boy, would she have felt it.
It can be a delicate balancing act between imbuing your children with a sense of propriety, and enjoying watching the pure heated emotion that flows through their being.
When Aaron turned two, we decided it was time to try to start playing some games together as a family. We gave the children Hungry Hungry Hippos for Christmas, and promptly set the game up. We carefully showed Aaron and Maddie what you’re supposed to do, and why. (Whack at your hippo’s lever, and make him gobble as many marbles as possible.) We play the chaotic version of the game where all the marbles are released at once, and everybody whacks away furiously.
Maddie got the concept right way. She’s a master player. Aaron, on the other hand, apparently took the goal a little too much to heart. He would notice that some hippos wouldn’t get as many marbles as the others, and he would reach into the playing field, grab a marble, and pinch the starving hippo’s cheeks, raising its jaw, and gently force feed him the marble. (The way one might administer a pill to a sick cat.) He didn’t have the heart to see the marble distribution go unevenly.
But lest you think he’s a little saint, he’s got another side, too. That’s the topic of the next entry.
Last Sunday, I was pretty frazzled. Maddie was crowding me as I was cutting a coupon from a box of cereal bars. She didn’t know why I was fiddling with what looked like a box of candy. I asked her to back off, “Give me some peace, please.”
She got pretty happy when she heard that. “I want a piece, too!”
“No, honey, not a piece. I want some peace of mind.”
“Piece of mind? I don’t know what that is. I want to try some.”
Now, Maddie knows that she doesn’t get treats unless she’s willing to share them with her brother. So she backed a couple of feet away, and called as loudly as she could, “Aaron! Want some piece? Come get some piece of mind! Come Aaron!“
The yelling did nothing for my state of mind. But I saw the humor in it. When you’ve got kids, you have to see the humor in it.
Maddie and I play this game where one of us thinks of an animal, and then answers questions or gives clues until the other guesses what it is. Usually, the game only lasts for two or three guesses because we give pretty easy clues.
It was Maddie’s turn to guess. She asked if it had a long neck, and then guessed if it was a duck. Nope, it wasn’t a duck. I gave her a clue:
“It’s smaller than a duck.”
“Is it a horse?”
“Nope, a horse isn’t smaller than a duck. Pick an animal smaller than a duck.”
“A hippo? A cow!? A pig?”
“No, no, no! C’mon Maddie. Think of an animal smaller than a duck.”
She scrunched her face for a second, then guessed, “A small elephant?”
A few days ago Maddie showed me what her mom had just taught her: That you can combine the play-doh of different colors, mash well, and make new colors. She had made a little purple ball from red and blue, a little green ball from blue and yellow, and so on. It was very exciting, and we were all very proud.
It was the first time anyone here had permanently mashed dough of different colors together.
I had always taught them to carefully layer dough of different colors together, if you had to. And when you were done, to separate the colors again, and put them back in their mono-color containers.
Today, both kids got busy mashing dough together to make new colors. If you’re a type A personality, it’s really hard to watch your children mix all their play-doh colors together. Before they finished mixing the last of their pure unmixed colors together, I explained, “If you mix all that’s left, you won’t have any of the original colors anymore. All that you’ll have left will be new colors…”
Of course when I said it, I realized, “…but maybe you’ll like that.”
Without skipping a beat, and with a big smile, Maddie replied, “I like that.” And she mashed away.
One of my pet peeves from my childhood was being woken up too abruptly, and then being told (a little too happily) to “Wake up, Sleepyhead.” I can’t tell you how much that irked me. And I would stay irked for hours.
So now, as a parent, I strive to wake my children up on the right side of the bed. I’ll tiptoe into my daughter’s room, and slowly and quietly draw the shades open to let more natural light enter the room. Then I’d sit on her bed, gently caress her and ease her into the morning by whispering “Good morning.” When she comes to, Maddie seems ready to take on the day, and she usually asks me what the plan is. (Is there school? Are there swimming or soccer lessons? What’s after that?)
My wife wakes the two-year-old boy up while I’m waking Maddie up. She uses a similar gentle technique, but he responds differently. None of this “‘Morning” or “Mommy!” or other sweet-nothing out of him. He’s all business. Here are the first five words Lillian hears:
Nai-nai. Cereal. TV. Kangaroo. Video.
That’s a laundry list of his morning demands: He wants his milk and cereal, and he wants to watch TV. On TV, he wants to watch the DVD with the Kangaroo on it. Different mornings, different videos, but you get the idea.
This is a boy who knows what he wants, and there’s no time to waste. Time stops for no baby. He’s the kind of kid who just can’t let the morning go to waste lying in bed. The kind of kid who’ll grow into a father who’ll watch his kids sleep in a little too late, shake them and say, “Wake up, Sleepyhead.”