I had two funny encounters with the boys today. The first one was with the older boy, Little Man. Poor Little Man. He’s a bit of a stubborn little boy. Verging on OCD, sometimes, really. Today (and this isn’t the funny incident), he started having a massive tantrum because there was a tree in the middle of the garden, where he wanted to drive his tractor. Now, let me be clear. That’s a tree that’s always been there. It grows there. Its stuck in the ground. Its not like it was a tantrum brought on by a ‘sudden, surprising tree incident’, where a tree came flying into the garden by a big gust of wind or anything like that. No, it was just the regular old tree, in its regular old place, which it must have occupied since before Little Man was born. But, for whatever reason, today Little Man found this fact unbearable.
‘WHY? WHHHHYYYYYYY? WHHHHHHHHYYYYYY? WHY IS THE TREE HERE?’ He screamed to the heavens (Little Man’s tantrums really do take on epic proportions sometimes. With that many heartfelt WHY’s yelled in a row you would think he was dealing with existential angst on a ginormous scale, something akin to Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’, perhaps. But, well, then, maybe when you’re three years old, existential angst is created by trees growing in the wrong place and your au pair being having a shower when you want to go to the toilet). It was very hard to take him seriously and stop myself from going into hysterics, but I explained that the poor tree had always grown there, and perhaps he should consider driving his tractor through the empty space (approximately 4 metres of it) on either side of the hated tree. This wasn’t good enough, and it wasn’t until I had soundly abused the tree for growing where it was, and demanded that it explain itself (a demand which, the cheeky tree refused to comply with), that Little Man started to calm down.
Anyway, that wasn’t actually the funny story. That was just to help you understand that Little Man is a STUBBORN Little Man, who likes things to be exactly how he wants them to be at any given point in time. You must realise, of course, that 5 minutes later he might have decided he wants them to be a different way, though, he probably won’t inform you, he’ll just start screaming, ‘Why, why, why’ again, doing an impressive impersonation of Marlon Brando’s ‘Stella’ speech from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
|Presumably, this is what Little Man wanted me to do to the tree, so that he could drive his tractor. Image from http://idiotsandgenious.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/a-tree/|
ANYWAY. When I went to pick him up from school, he told me he didn’t like me, and that he hadn’t wanted me to pick me up from school. He’ll often do this if he was expecting someone else to pick him up (no-one should ever dare mess with Little Man’s plans – not even trees). Now, this has been going on a lot recently. He doesn’t like me, he doesn’t like Baby Brother, he won’t listen to me, he won’t do as he’s told. Its getting quite frustrating. I’ve been laughing it off, as I figure he’s 3 and he doesn’t really know what he’s saying all the time, I think a lot of its picked up from those people around him. But, today I got quite annoyed. I just couldn’t put a happy face on it anymore. So, after the 100th time of him chanting, ‘I don’t like you’ at me, I snapped. ‘I know, Little Man! I know! You’ve told me over and over and over again, you don’t need to tell me anymore, so just stop it! Do you understand? Just stop it.’ He must have picked up on the seriousness of my intention, if he didn’t quite understand the phrasing, because he went all quiet and looked a bit shocked, stopped his whining. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes, and then piped up with, ‘Can I have a treat?’
I was still quite grumpy with him, and I realised that he’d gotten into the habit of getting treats at any time of day, for any reason at all. I figured I would take the opportunity to play a bit of hard-ball with him.
‘No,’ I said, ‘Treats are for good boys and girls.’
‘I’m a good boy,’ he said.
‘Yes, you are,’ I said, ‘Usually, you’re a good boy, but this morning you have been very naughty and very rude, and so you don’t get a treat today.’
‘I’ve been a good boy today, ‘ he said.
‘No, you haven’t,’ I reiterated. ‘You’ve yelled and screamed, you’ve bossed me about and you’ve told me you don’t like me. Do you think that’s being a good boy?’ No reply. ‘Do you think that’s being a good boy, Little Man?’ He shook his head.
Pause. He smiles.
‘I like you.’
‘Well, thank you, that’s nice to hear.’
‘Can I have a treat now?’ I chose to ignore this and keep going with my cleaning. A few quiet minutes go by. He squirms in his chair.
‘Can I have a treat now because I love you?’
I couldn’t ignore that comment. He never says ‘love’, not even to his parents, let alone me, so the fact that what had gotten him to say it was the promise of an ice-cream was just too much. I had to laugh. Of course, it was totally my fault, as I didn’t make clear the sort of behaviour I wanted from him. I tried to get him to sit it out a bit longer, but in the end, after I’d cracked up at him, it was too hard to keep saying ‘no’. It was actually one of the best afternoons I’ve had with him in a while, though, so I should probably take a harder line more often.
The other incident today was with Baby Brother. I spoken before about how gorgeous it is to watch Baby Brother watch the world, or to play with something new. Today, though, was on a different level. Baby Brother had just finished lunch and we were sitting together, waiting until it was time to pick up Little Man, and I was making silly faces for him to pass the time. I was probably sitting closer to his high chair then usual, and I stuck my tongue way, way out, as far as it would go. Baby Brother’s eyes went wide, and he did the little grunt sound he makes when he’s a bit delighted by something and wants to play with it. His hand went up, and before I know it, he’s prodding my tongue with his tiny little fingers. Then he’s scratching it with his little baby nails. This probably sounds disgusting, but it was actually really interesting, because I was pretty close to his face and could see all the different expressions cross over it. Fascination, delight, amusement, concern, confusion and many other tiny gradations in between. It was so funny, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing every minute or two, which took my tongue away from Baby Brother’s tiny fingers. He’d give me this look like, ‘Oh, why’d you do that?’ which would make me laugh even more, and then he’d start to laugh too, and I could see him thinking, ‘I have absolutely no idea what is so funny, but you look like you’re having fun, so I think I’ll join in too, and, besides, maybe if I’m nice to you, you’ll show me that weird bumpy thing that sits inside your mouth again.’ When I’d finally composed myself, I’d stick my tongue out and he’d start prodding it again, with all the seriousness of a scientist. The funniest moment, however, was when I twisted my tongue round to the side, so that he could see underneath the tongue as well as on top. Baby Brother’s eyes suddenly went as round as saucers again, and he made this tiny little surprised ‘ooh’ sound, like twisting my tongue around was the single most amazing thing he had ever seen in his entire life.
And you know what? It probably was.
Which is why babies rock.