My boys are now twenty-two and fifteen. Everyone teased me that Aaron, my eldest, was an “angel” because I never had any stories about him doing anything wrong (other than never sleeping through the night alone until he started school). But he really was almost the perfect little one. Then Aaron prayed for a little brother. In fact, his exact prayer was as follows (in the car on the way home from kindergarten, hands folded and head bowed) “Please, God, give me a baby brother . . . if Mom’s not too old.” Just after Aaron turned seven John arrived. We called him Jack back then, a nickname he discarded at the end of fourth grade. More often, we called him the Wild Jackelope, because he was wild and fearless, with a creativity and flair for the dramatic that was stunning to the parents of a child who’s always done as he was asked and played quietly alone or sat, engrossed as we read him book after book. Michael and I had occasion recently to share some old John stories with an expectant father, and we had way too much fun doing it. Here are a few favorites:
1) We used to have a pool table in the basement. Once John and I were playing in the basement, probably with his Brio train tracks, and the phone rang. I ran upstairs to grab the cordless handset and come back down. I truly couldn’t have been gone more than 2 minutes. During that time he had evidently pooped, pulled off his diaper, reached up to grab a ball from the pool table, mushed it into his diaper, and started rolling it from side to side on the pool table. I don’t remember who I was talking to, but I know I ended the conversation quickly when I saw him with his poop-covered bottom, running around the table to find the ball and roll it again. If this ever happens to you I have this advice: Use Fantastic, and blot, don’t rub.
2) Aaron had a hamster. Actually, he had a series of hamsters (we didn’t have good luck with small pets) and one day John decided the hamster needed a bath. He got a bottled water, took the hamster out of his cage, and crawled under his bed for bathtime. The hamster wasn’t please, Aaron wasn’t pleased, and John was extremely displeased, because the hamster bit him hard enough to draw blood and ran away. We did find the hamster a few days later behind a bookcase and returned him to his cage.
3) Michael was running his own business when John was small, and it involved setting eight-foot storks in the yards of people who’d just had babies, complete with a keepsake hand-painted bundle with all the baby’s vital statistics. So we always had containers of paint in the office, securely sealed (or so we thought). John opened a can, spilled some on the floor, pulled off his diaper (see a pattern here?) and proceeded to sit in the paint and then sit on the floor until we had a nearly complete room full of butt-prints. I was at work for that one, so I don’t know how quickly he managed it. That was just one of the many times I’ve been thankful for hardwood floors throughout the house.
4) John was not only fearless, but apparently quite strong for his age. We had to secure Michael’s grandmother’s china cabinet to the wall to keep him from tipping it over on himself, and remove all breakable from the built-in bookshelves, all the way to the ceiling, because he climbed them. He was also able to unlock not only a regular lock, but a deadbolt as well. He slipped out and made it several houses down, towards a very bust street (Westport Road, for you Louisville natives) before Michael caught him. He’s taken his favorite blanket, Woobie, will him, and it was flying behind him as he ran. We immediately installed chain locks as high as I could reach on both the front and back doors.
5) He also locked Michael out of the car while strapped into his car seat. It was an old station wagon with the locks that can be pushed down and pulled up, and AAA was on the way and a crowd had gathered before John decided to let Michael in.
6) John had a special love of escalators, and would insist (loudly) on riding every one he saw. He also loved Porta-Potties during his potty-training years, a fondness I refused to indulge. Michael, though, would stop at whatever construction site they were passing and let him give it a go. Ick.
7) The staff at Newport Aquarium (if there are any left from that time) probably still remember our first visit there. They’d just opened the penguin exhibit, which was rather disappointing and smelled awful, but we’d otherwise had a fabulous time. Of course John had touched a starfish, even though older children shrank in fear. We just had to watch and make sure he didn’t pocket it or try to eat it. Then we exited though the gift shop, a brilliant marketing ploy on the part of the designers. There was a huge display of stuffed penguins, and John ran to them, screaming, “CHICKEN!!! BOK, BOK!” at the top of his lungs. We tried redirecting, we tried bribing him with other things, but it quickly became obvious that if we didn’t buy the “chicken” we’d be listening to his screams for the entire three-hour ride home. So we stood in the long line and paid a ridiculous amount for the “chicken” (and, of course, whatever educational and reasonably priced item Aaron had quietly selected when we told him he could). The nice older lady who checked us out had to pry the stuffed animal from John’s hands, and when he wailed, “CHICKEN!” she tried to explain to him that it was a penguin, what type of penguin it was, and how it was completely different from a chicken. I’m sorry to say I grabbed it back from her, said, “If he says it’s a chicken, it’s a CHICKEN!” and herded my harried family to the car.
Feel free to share your wild toddler stories in the comments, or to share this post with expectant parents. Then they can at least think, “Well, at least our kid isn’t as wild as that one in the blog post – and he turned out fine!” In fact, I told John the other day that if I’d known how much help he would be to me and how entertaining and charming he would be at age fifteen it would have made his toddler years much easier! And as I have for the last couple of years, I did ask John’s approval before sharing his stories 🙂
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