The holiday season had passed, and the children were back to school. It was time to hit the books, learn where Oregon is, get confused by math, color INSIDE the lines, study handwriting, and learn why George Washington crossed the Delaware. Hard work for little minds. Oh, what the days ahead had in store. But first, they needed to make their lunches the night before.
The children all seem to pass through some mischief phase or another. With all our children, one right after the other, I would have thought that Wife and I would be able to correct any misbehavior almost before it happens. Well, it so happens that while all the children fall into the same patterns, they, very cleverly, find very different way to execute them.
Wife, now seven and a half months pregnant, waddled out to the porch like a penguin in high-gear. The screams that modulated between annoyance and terror, all stemming from the miniature lungs or #8, were the cause for Wife’s swift pace. And when she burst through the screen door, she was met with a sight that sent her temper up to match her quickening stride. The fourteen month-old, #8, was pinned down by his two year-old brother, #7, who was attempting to run over #8 with a big-wheel.
Like an avenging angel, Wife swooped in and with a blur of motion had #7 by the scruff of his shirt. He looked up with an expression of horrified amazement, as if to say, “Where on earth did you come from?” But after that he had no time for conscious thought, for he was caught in the whirlwind of his mother’s wrath; and before he knew what happened, he was whisked away in a tornado of arms and legs and left nearly spinning on his bed with the strict command to, “THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID!”
Wife then lifted up and comforted #8, and as he laid his head on her shoulder she turned and notice #5 and #6 for the first time. #5 piped up, “We saw him runnin’ over the baby, we saw him!” And next to his brother, #6 was nodding his head. It would have been better if he had said nothing.
Wife’s motherly instincts became indignant, and her flash-powder-temper had already been ignited. “Then why didn’t you stop HIM!”
At that point, the National Weather Service satellites recorded a second tornado blowing through my house which has taken hold of two little boys.
Here I must stop my wit for a brief moment and declare a wisdom that I had previously overlooked. The children’s bedrooms consist of bunk beds, sheets, and pillows. No toys. No books. No stuffed animals. All Wife’s design. Which means, when children are sent to bed, they have nothing to do but sit in bed… and start the crying that always accompanies discipline.
When I got home at the end of the day, all three boys were still in their beds, fast asleep, some four hours later. And bed-time-out worked. I know now #7 learned that #8 is not a speed-bump, for he has not tried to ride over him again. On the other hand, #8 keeps his distance when #7 in on his big-wheel. And #5 and #6 have learned that they are their “brothers’ keepers,” or at least they plead ignorance after the fact…
I’ve had quiet children; however they have yet to remain quiet. The girls virtually came out talking, and they have not neglected their sibling duties of instructing their younger brothers in the finer points of eliminating silence. Believe me, there is no such thing as an “awkward silence” in my house.
Wife’s grandmother from out of state had come into town for a visit; and my boys set to work at entertaining her. She was accosted with drawing after drawing, all the while #5 kept up a running commentary with #6 parroting him. #5 drew her attention to either his paper or that of his brother’s, illuminating the hidden figures that seemed to be somewhere behind the dark storm cloud of scribbles.
At one point they where waiting for #6 to finish his drawing and there was nearly an awkward silence, but then #5 piped in an observation to his great grandmother, “Yo’r arms are squooshy.”
He could have stopped there. I would have been happy if he had. My pride would have been happy. But it was like the start of a flashflood, there was no stopping him at that point.
He continued, “Yah, and yo’r skin is soft too. And yo’r skinny. But you don’t have any money ‘causes yo’r weel old.” And he nodded his head at her with all the authority of a knowledgeable four year old. He was quite undisputable.
Further observation was halted by the arrival of #6 and his latest thunderhead.
I actually had to admire the little boy. If I had said anything like that, Wife’s grandmother would have been offended, and I would have received and ear full from Wife well into the next week. #5 insults her age and financial security, and he gets chuckles and a kiss.
While the children can’t get away with all the noises they make, grandmothers certainly have a weakness for their blunt observations.
The fears of little children can be quite comical from where we stand with our many years. But to the small child, they are as real and terrifying as falling out of bed. In the little one’s eye, the prospect of travel down a dark hallway is alike to following a rattlesnake down a gopher hole. So to add to the many hats of parenthood, add Trauma Counselor.
In the early hours of the night, two pair of feet padded down to the bathroom. My younger children seem to visit the bathroom in pairs as the dark in our house is just as dangerous as everywhere else. But what woke me out of the peace of dreamless sleep was #5 screaming, “Mom!” or “Dad!” alternating until one of his parents arrived.
I stumbled in to find the little boy trapped on the toilet while #4 was supposed to be keeping guard. With the out burst of #5 I immediately learned what she had been doing. “She says the Toilet Monster comes up the toilet and it will… it licks my butt!” At that point he was so worked up, he was almost in tears.
#4 was not slow to spin around and defend herself. “Well Uncle ah… Uncle… he said…”
I cut her off. “The Toilet Monster is not real. Your uncles were just telling stories. Nothing is going to lick your bottom. They’re not real. Now finish up and go back to bed.” That bit of disappointingly brief comfort was about all I was capable of at that hour.
As I turn to take my own advice I heard #5, “See, I told you they’re not weal! You were juss trying to scare me.”
#4’s retort was lost to me by my bedroom door.
As I crawled back under my blankets I knew exactly where the Toilet Monster had come from, my younger brothers. In order to have a little fun, they introduce that imaginary fiend to my little ones, with the desired result. I know it happed exactly that way, because I did the same to them when they were about my children’s age, so many years ago, when I made up the Toilet Monster.
Never thought that one would come around to bite me in the butt.
One morning I was splitting wood in the yard with #4 and #5 looking on. They played musical logs for a while, and asked many silly questions as children do, and soon became bored with both. They began to re-explore the yard as I started to split wood once more.
In little time #4 had found two prizes. She hurried up to me, arresting my attention and presenting her prizes, while #5 tried to arrest her attention from behind. “Look Daddy,” she squealed. “I found two wocks. They look like teeff.” She rethought it, “Dwagon Teeff!”
I acknowledged how interesting they were and waved them back so I could continue my work.
They walked back and the little boy still pleaded to hold the rocks. After a short time the little girl thought of a way to satisfy her brother. She turned to him, holding the stones behind her back. “OK, OK, here’s what I do, I will trow the wocks and whoever gets them gets them. I will count to thwee, weady, I will count to thwee. Wait ‘til I count to thwee! One, two, THWEE!”
And, true to her word, she threw the stones. However, the rocks became airborne at the same moment she started to run. Her strategy had put her at least a pace ahead of her brother. The outcome was foreseeable. “I got them!” she said while #5 shouted, “Aww, nuts!” No joke, he actually said it.
This game played out several times before #5 just quit and began to search for his own unique rock; and it was not long, not at all.
He came trotting back not to show me his rock, but his sister. When she asked to hold it he said, “I phrow it, and we see who gets it first. I count to phree. One, two, phree!” And when he threw the stone, he was already at a dead run which ended with him shouting, “I got it!”
After two bouts of that, #4 came whining to me. I dropped my tools as I started a gut wrenching laugh. “You just did the same thing to him not two minutes ago. I’m not going to get after him for doing the same to you,” I said as I wiped the tears from my eyes.
#4 scowled, frowned, and I think was even able to touch the tip of her nose with her eyebrows. Knowing she would get no better response from her mother, she turned back to #5 and proceeded to tell him just how much better her rocks were.
#5 was perfectly content with the rock he had. Though I had my doubts whether it was the same rock he had at first.
We’ve visited this before, but considering the circumstances I figured it might not be redundant. However, considering the multiple children growing within my house, duplicate events are bound to pop every up now and again.
Several nights ago, when I stayed up far too late, I ventured out of the silence and relative safety of my bedroom. I had set myself to the long walk through the house turning off every single light bulb that we own. (Mind you, this does not include the bulbs that have been burned out.) I suspect my children fear an invasion of vampires, or perhaps some other night-dwelling miscreant whose only weakness is the incandescent light bulb. While I understand I might be putting their lives in danger by casting the house into the black embrace of night, I am willing to take that risk.
So the lights were turned off one by one, and as I passed darkness followed. Down the hall I went. I poked my head into the first bedroom. #3 and #4 were fast asleep and #4 had stolen all the blankets off of her older sister. I evened out the blankets and flicked off the light.
To the next room, the two little blonde heads of #2 and #1 poke out from under their quilt. At least some of my children have learned to share their blankets. Click and the lights went out.
In the last bedroom #6 was fast asleep in his crib with his bottle dangling off his lip like a cigarette in the classic Humphrey Bogart style. In the bed across the room there was nobody. Huh, #5 was missing again. I flicked off the light switch.
After checking the laundry room for good measure, I looked into all the bedrooms again. When the second search turned up empty I poked my head into my bedroom to get backup, “Wife, do you know where our son is?”
Wife got out of bed and together we searched the bedrooms again. On the second go-through we found the little boy fast asleep under the bed of his sisters #1 and #2.
“What the devil,” I said. “What’s he doing under there?”
Upon a closer scrutiny I discovered the reason for his cave-like accommodations. A ring of chocolate circled the little boy’s mouth. The pint-sized thief had gotten into the Christmas candy, and squirreled under the bed to avoid detection.
If it had not been so late, he would have been in a lot of trouble. But as it was, with the entire household sound asleep, a pardon was in order.
#5, the two year-old, has the best imagination. He can get caught up in all kinds of invisible games and stories; shunning reality for whatever he sees hidden within his mind’s eye. He can make a toy out of most anything at hand, and he babbles his little game aloud unaware that the entire world can hear him.
The other day while the family was driving to church, Wife turned and noticed him. The boy had unclipped his clip-on tie and was in the middle of an animated conversation with it. He was using the clip as a jaw, we assume, and the two of them were babbling along quite happily; until he realized that he had been caught.
Once he felt that creepy sensation that someone outside of his circle was spying on him, he came back to reality and set about looking for that intruder. He found his mother watching with a broad smile of amusement. Well, he could not have people spying on his invisible land of imagination. He closed that door. His hands settled into his lap and a scowl covered his little face. With his eyebrows nearly touching the tip of his nose, he turned his head down so that he could secretly watch his mother to see when she turned away. And like clockwork, when Wife stopped observing the child’s play, #5 resumed his game with the clip-on tie.
There are two points that the little boy fails to realize. First is that there are other people around. The second is that he is playing aloud. Nobody sees you if you are still and quiet. But on the other hand, if he is running in circles, with a horse and knight in one hand, and a naked Barbie in the other, screaming incoherent jargon at the top of his lungs, somebody is going to notice. And when he sees that he has been caught, like a dog, he will slink away to some place where he believes himself to be alone to start the game up again.
Watching #5 reminds me of when I was small, imagining that rocks were cars and sticks were spaceships. Of course I never cocked an attitude when I found someone watching me. Now that I think, I do not remember anyone watching me. What a minute, who was watching me when I played?