“My eye hurted!” says my almost-two-year-old in the bathtub.
“My arm hurted” says my almost-two-year-old after lifting his fork.
“My butt hurted!” says my almost-two-year-old on the changing table (that he’s way too big for btw, and lays on like a fat weiner dog smushing a chew toy).
I’m sure you’re thinking “Awww, poor little baby! What’s hurting him and how can I make it better?” Start gathering up your stones to throw, because our reaction to this constant stream of apparently painful, yet invisible, physical problems has become one of strained patience and unbridled sarcasm.
“Your eye doesn’t hurt. Your face isn’t even wet. There is no soap anywhere near your eyeball and, even if there were, the fat alligator tears you’re producing would have already washed it out by now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that your arm hurts. Perhaps you should stop poking it with your fork. There is plenty of food on the plate for you to practice spearing, leave your own flesh alone.”
The butt issue is a little different. I’ve seen/cringed/cooed/powdered and patted that little behind many times when he was suffering through painful forms of diaper rash. But this is not one of those times! He’s claiming that his baby ass hurts when it’s hanging out commando, footloose and fancy free in the breeze! He should feel golden, not grumpy…in my opinion.
At this point he doesn’t quite grasp the idea of “the boy that cried wolf”, so it’s difficult for my husband and I to convince him that, the more he whiiiiiiiines about things hurting him, the more eyerolls he’s going to get. He also doesn’t seem to understand that the more times in a row he says something, doesn’t automatically lend it more weight. Saying “my foot hurted” a dozen times in the span of a minute while I continually nod my head and reply “I’m sorry about that buddy. I know. I hear you. Yep. Ok. Uh huh.” does not seem to bother him in the least.
On the flip side, he’s also thrilled to repeat pleasantries randomly throughout the day. He’s constantly checking in on my husband and I by happily chirping, “hi mommy!” “hi daddy!” Rarely even stopping first to see what warm-bodied adult he’s even sitting next to. He’ll say “hi daddy!” to me a variety of times before he looks up from the mud pit he’s been poking with a stick to realize that I am not, in fact, his father. No biggie. “Hi mommy!” is soon to follow.
And yes – poking mud pits with a stick is one of his favorite games. And no – we don’t live on some backwoods farm where there is nothing for him to play with besides old corncobs and abandoned mailboxes. He’ll ignore soccer balls, sidewalk chalk, plastic trucks and mini-golf sets in a heartbeat if there is a pile of dirt within squatting distance.
Some assume this is an inherently “boy-ish” trait, similar to laughing when he farts or hanging out with his hand in his pants. But the weird part is, no matter how much he LOVES digging around in the dirt, he HATES having his hands dirty. He’ll run frantically towards me clenching and unclenching his little digits like crab pincers screaming for a napkin. Then once he’s been properly wiped down, head straight back for the stix. Go figure.
I’d like to pretend that we’re the kind of parents that get down and dirty playing with him in the backyard every night until darkness falls and everyone is sleepy, and smelling of summer, and ready to tumble into baths and bed. The truth is that we probably do that, like, once every….week? Fortnight? It’s not like we don’t want to play chase through the sprinklers with our kiddo, but after a long day at work, it’s more likely that he’ll get about 30 minutes of outside time before, insert dread-like music here, the Apple products come out.
The first time our son looked at me and said “iPad” was one of surprised baffledom. I’m pretty sure I asked him to repeat the word a few times to make sure I had heard him correctly. “Sam watches Elmo on iPad. Please.” At least he’s polite about the request (unless refused, then he turns into a shrieking poltergeist who can only be silenced with puppy and paci and night night).
Is it normal for almost-two-year-olds to refer to Apple products by name? How about the fact that he knows how to uncover it, turn it on, swipe to the proper app, open it, scroll through a variety of Sesame Street seasons until he chooses the one he’s after, and then press play?
A year or so ago I saw a hilarious video on YouTube of a pre-toddler girl trying to play with a magazine like an iPad. She kept punching the pages with her stubby finger and trying to swipe around the images to no avail. And the more the pages actually turned and tore instead of magically move around the crystal-clear screen, the more frustrated this little baby nugget got.
Our dude can seamlessly toggle between Elmo and Nemo and a drawing game where he creates collages of miniature bananas and helicopters. There’s also an alphabet game he’ll play with where we’ll hear his sweet little voice reciting letters aloud. Why, thank you iPad, for acting as teacher and playmate and babysitter while mom and dad drink beers and look on with avid curiosity.
I promise that we roll around on the floor playing airplane, or indulge in rousing games of hide-and-seek in his old-school teepee, or practice counting all of his animals who, when they tip over on the carpet, are immediately deemed “sleeping.” But dear, sweet iPad is like the nanny we can’t afford on many nights where we just can’t muster up the energy for high-level parenting.
It’s also quite nice that, since the day our child was born, he’s been able to self-soothe by playing with his hair. He’s had so much since the day he popped out that it’s been a constant, replacing the need for a well worn lovie and becoming his go-to whenever he’s tired or upset or confused. You’ll never see me crumpled on the floor in agony because we left his favorite singing dolphin at home and now he’ll NEVER go to sleep. Or worry that he’s dribbled, sucked and drooled one too many times on that scrap of cotton until it dissolved into a pile of germs and bacteria. Instead, we’ll just watch as he reaches up to twist the strands of brown hair between his stubby little fingertips, or just pat the tips with his palms, and instantly his eyes will go dreamy.
Recently, however, he’s decided that playing with his hair is also appropriate while eating. How he decided that hairplay and yogurt, or spaghetti sauce or peanut butter, were a good mix I’ll never know. But for a kid whose “eyes hurted” even looking at water in the bathtub, this makes for a, pardon the pun, sticky situation. Now he comes home from daycare with more than just notes like “Learned about sunshine and cardinals today!” on his report card. On the extra space provided we’ll see things like “Got syrup in his hair today after lunch” or, “Played with his hair after fingerpainting, this is why you might see orange and yellow streaks. No we didn’t try to dbag highlight your son’s hair.” **
Today I arrived home from work and, as is a usual routine, husband and son were spotted watering the lawn together in the backyard. (It’s a pretty adorable sight, I tell ya.) Well, following greetings and hugs and reports on the day, my husband asks me, “Did you put gel in his hair today?”
“Um, what? Why would I do that?”
“Well look at it! Feel it! It’s super crunchy.”
I take a closer look and realize that his hair has taken on more than just it’s usual windy, slept on wildness. It’s clumped together in haphazard spikes and really, really hard.
“Buddy, what’s in your hair?”
Chirping nonsense reply.
Same chirping nonsense reply.
“He’s clearly trying to tell us something,” my husband says. And we stare at the boy as if he’s alien and communicating with us in some advanced space language.
“It smells kind of sweet” I say after a sniff that almost gauges out one of my eyes.
Braver than I, my husband then leans over and takes a chunk of mystery hair in his mouth.
“Well, it’s definitely not gel.”
This reminded me so much of that moment in the movie Baby Mama with Tina Fey and Amy Pohler, where the sister licks some unidentifiable brown substance off her kids face and asks “chocolate or poop?” Deeming afterwards, with a collective sigh of relief from the audience, “chocolate!” And Tina Fey asks, “What if it had been poop?!”
I’m not saying I plan on licking anything questionable off my kids face, but I have absolutely used my own spit to clean things off, and am grateful my husband is daredevil enough to taste-test the latest hair product from lunch. We later realized, after checking the weekly school menu, that they had ice-cream sandwiches as their end of day snack.
“Did you say you have ice cream in your hair?”
His tiny face lights up with happiness. The uneducated humans from this foreign planet have finally uncoded his language and understand.
What can I say – we’re muddling along as we go. Many things are a crap-shoot and I’m careful to steer clear of blanket statements about what I will and won’t do when raising my kid, because you never know what’s around the corner. But with sweet ol’ iPad hanging around, ready to teach him to read and write and arithmetic, how can we go wrong?
*What? This isn’t how you eat a pear?
**No. The daycare girls didn’t actually write that they weren’t trying to bleach my son’s tips. But the afternoon shift can’t be any older than 17, so I’m not sure I’d put it past them.