I’d go back to before Monday night’s bath and punch myself in the face. Pow! Right in the kisser. Stupid past me, he deserves it. You know what he did? Well, read on.
Bath time is a fun and joyous time. It often involves a lot of water (some even stays in the bath), many bath toys (some even stay in the bath), conversations about brushing teeth, some “excuse me I farted”s and (if hair washing is important) some light to medium bawling and howling. Sometimes I am bathing just The Lad and sometimes I am bathing in stereo with The Lass in there too.
On Monday it was just The Lad. Me and my boy, nay, my son and I. I do enjoy his company. As the bath progressed teeth were brushed, skin scrubbed down and a face washed we continued to play our regular pantomime with the bath toys. There are rockets and satellites and planets. They fly around and talk to each other and kiss and do all sorts of things. There are also a couple of neglected ducks and an orange bowl shaped thing that we refer to as ” The Hat”
As I was fidgeting with the toys (which are totally for him, not me) I placed a flattened planet on a duck’s head. And lo! The duck had a hat. I proudly showed off my accomplishment to my son, hoping he’d be proud of me until I realised I could do better. I placed the orange bowl thing on top of the behatted (totally a word) duck and so “The Duck with Two Hats” was born.
Little did I know I had unleashed a plague on both our bath-times. Mostly on me though.
Suddenly The Lad was basically unresponsive. I couldn’t get him to do anything. Couldn’t engage him. Couldn’t wash him. Couldn’t get him to avert is gaze. He just wanted to set up the Duck with Two Hats, stare at it and then pick it up. This made the hats fall straight off its yellow plastic head. So he would collect them and set up the duck…. and repeat. And repeat and repeat and OH MY GOD IT’S JUST A DUCKING DUCK! He’d point it out to me again and again and again. This was it, the bees knees, the ultimate wonder, the pinnacle of the universe. It was The Duck With Two Hats!
It…… Was…….. Frustrating. With a capital F. Time ground on, the water in the bath cooled. It grayed. It started to have a slightly murky-full-of-floating-somethings look to it. I’m sure life was forming in it somewhere in the deep. Given all this I declared it was time to get out. Bath time was over. And what did The Lad say to this?
“Look Daddy, it’s the Duck with Two Hats!”
“The water is cold now Lad, time to get out of the bath”
*blinks* “Look Daddy! It’s the Duck with Two Hats!”
“Yes Lad I know, I put the hats in him” I confess part of me was eager to hold onto credit for creating this marvel.
Then the hats fell off.
“Okay, time to get out. Can you stand up please?”
He was methodically reassembling the masterpiece however, he didn’t hear a word I said.
“Look Daddy! It’s the Duck with Two Hats!”
Arrrrrrrrrrrgh! – Please note I didn’t say this out loud, my self-control was heroic.
This merry dance went on for quite a few minutes before I decided drastic action needed to be taken. I pulled the plug (I wasn’t going to take the duck away, that would be madness). So he put it back in. So I pulled it out again. He put it back in. I pulled it out and put it in the hand basin, beyond his reach. He tried to cover the plug hole with his hands to extend the time he had with The Duck with Two Hats He failed miserably and the water drained.
So there we were. Stalemate. The bath empty. I stared at him. He stared at…The Duck with Two Hats. Me with a towel at the ready. Him with his eyes firmly on his artwork. Spaghetti Western music ran through my head as I squinted and twitched, waiting to make my move on the boy.
I pounced, sweeping him up and popping his towel over his head (its a poncho towel thing). And tried to put as much distance between The Lad and the bath as I could as quickly as I could. When you pull a tooth, you do it fast. When you remove a toddler from something g they are obsessing over…. Well… You do it fast.
There were cries. There were screams there was thrashing in the change table. I held my little squirming toddler in my hands and I nappied him, pyjamed him and hoiked him up in my arms to remove him from the bathroom and get him away from the duck.
Then it was bed time. And all he wanted was to see the Duck with Two Hats…. The monster I had created was not going to leave me this night. I tried to read to him. Tried to cuddle him. Tried to rock him, and still the only solace he found was in the duck. So I turned off the lights and sat with him to console him through this grieving process.
He slept eventually…….
If I had a time machine I would relive the moments of yesterday afternoon again and again. My boy is growing something inside. Something wonderful and magical. Something that lights up his soul and let’s him create things out of thin air. Something precious and so powerful. He is growing an imagination.
We were eating dinner tonight. He looked at the floor, his chair is in a blue splat mat with robots on it, the robots are simple shapes with arms and legs and robot eyes. Anyway, that’s not the point. As he sat he looked at the floor.
“There are sharks daddy.” He said nonchalantly. Sharks, it appears, spook him less than they do the state of Western Australia.
“In the floor. They will jump up!”
“Jump up and go splash!”
I made a hand sign designed to look like a sea creature (shark, dolphin, whale whatever) jumping out of the water and diving in again, making a wavy pattern with my hand. “Like this?”
“Yep”. And he went in eating.
Later it was bedtime. There hangs from my son’s ceiling a string of special bunting. The bunting is of rocket ships. I really want my kids to be astronauts, but will settle for astronomer/cosmologist. He looked at it, tilting his head ceilingward. “Look! It’s the rockets!”
“It is the rockets”
“They will fly down.”
“Fly down where?”
“Fly down to The Lad’s bed!”
“Then what will happen?……”
This conversations were magical, the wonder of the world and the wonder of a young mind learning how to control it and manipulate it. I could have these conversations over and over again and it would never get old.
So, why these moments? Because life at two is one of extremes: of repetitive tedium which seems like a psychological torture chamber; of extraordinary explosions of inspiration, imagination and learning. Of myopic obsession with the stupidest little thing. Of extraordinary innovation and insight which fills the world with colour and light. Two sides of the same coin. Or maybe two hemispheres of the same brain. A brain that is plastic that is evolving and that is forming new synapses at a rate which dwarfs the clunky old grey matter between these ears.
There are no time machines. I’ll have to suffice with these memories and take the stories of sharks and rockets with that bloody Duck with Two Hats, because I’m absolutely certain I’ll miss that stuipd-piece-of-crap duck one day and its two bloody hats.