When I’m not around, my son behaves. He listens. He does what he’s told. All he needs? Someone else’s mother.
This Saturday, I stayed home with Jonas, who was, for the second time in his young life, struck down by The Croup. We hate The Croup. It attacks wee lungs, disrupts everyone’s sleep, and, worst of all, it turns babies into surly red-cheeked cranks. Our baby-mama mealtime conversations go something like this:
Milk? NO NO NO. Oatmeal? HOARSE YELLING ARRGGH RAWR. Carrots? NEVER NEVER NEVER. Cheerios? Oh, hurray! No, wait CHEERIOS SUCK COUGH COUGH HACK RAWR OH PLEASE SOMEONE HELP GET THIS EVIL CROUP IT’S ATTACKING THE BABY!
We are taking a stand against The Croup. Sometimes it seems that there’s little people can agree on, in this polarized world of Tea Partiers vs. Coffee folks. But I think we can all join forces against The Croup. Now, let’s move on from this solid common ground and improve public education and tackle climate change and reverse the skyrocketing obesity rates together, shall we?
Anyway, while Jonas and I waged our own little battle with The Croup, Axel cheerfully accompanied his friend Mateo, and Mateo’s fantastic and brave and generous mama Adrienne, to soccer practice. Yes, soccer – that organized weekend activity that has previously been the scene of snack eating, rolling on the grass, sprinting away from the practice field, hitting balls out of other kids’ hands during drills, general two-year-old mayhem, and very little actual soccer.
But this week? This week, without a parent of his own in sight, it was different. He participated in drills. He kicked the ball. He followed directions. He went along with the other kids for the team photos.
I almost didn’t believe it myself, until I recalled the way he’s lately done things the first time I asked him, like pick up his farm animals, and the way he entertains his brother by singing Pat-A-Cake to the beat of his brother’s enthusiastic claps (a modern touch: the line “Put it in the oven” is followed by a high-piched “BEEP,” then “Cake for Jonas and me!.”) I’ve got to give the kid some credit: he has many, many moments of good behavior. But rarely do these moments string together to make up over an hour of doing what adults ask him to do, especially when that hour takes place outside in a world full of the temptations of dogs and snacks and beckoning highways full of semi trucks just longing for a greeting from an impish toddler.
He did not throw himself into traffic, or bite anyone else, or yell that he wanted his own mama. In the car, he and Mateo sang songs (The Itsy Bitsy Spider is perfect for duets) and shared snacks and, later, he said please and thank you. He did not scream, “No help you!” as he does at me, when he thinks I’m going to try to do something horrible like make sure he doesn’t fall off of a ten-foot-high play structure onto his head. He had fun, he sat in the circle with the other kids, he actually made intentional contact with the ball several times in a row, all tantrum-free.
It seems that I’m doing something sort of right, as my child behaved for a bit, but something wrong, too, since he seems to do so much better with someone else’s soccer mom than with his own. So apparently he wants to share all of his bad impulses with me. I appreciate the generosity, but I’d be happier to share in the wealth of energetic yet angelic toddler behavior.
Next week, I’ll be there at soccer practice, but I’ve figured out a way to keep the good behavior going: we’ll do a kid swap. I’ll take Mateo, and Adrienne will take Axel, and everyone will cheerfully kick and pass and score away.
Two Saturdays without excessive mischief making in a row? A girl can dream.