My three-year-old, Hadrian, and I take the bus to preschool together three mornings a week. It’s kind of nice to be able to sit together and look out the window and listen to him describe everything he sees with no distractions. But he’s hit an age where he likes to say ev-er-y-thing that comes to his little mind. Fortunately not too vulgar or humiliating yet, but we have some moments where I feel a little uneasy.
For example, we live in a neighborhood where many of our neighbors are from India. Every day we wait for the bus, about ten Indian people get on with us, while even more Indian people are already on the bus. No one speaks on the bus either, so Hadrian’s sweet little voice rings nice and clear above the silences, which gets a lot of warm smiles, and he says a lot of nice things, so it’s usually okay. Anyway, someone pulls the little “stop, please” rope and it dings. Hadrian pipes up, “Oh! That means someone is getting off!” in the silence of course, and I respond quietly, “Yup, that’s right. Let’s see, okay?” The bus stops and three Indian people get off. Hadrian busts out, pointing, “Oh, there’s one! There they go!” Which doesn’t sound very culturally sensitive! I tried to be discreet: “Honey, please let’s use a quiet voice, okay? Let’s not use our fingers to point at people.” “Okay,” he says, unphased. I peered around and was glad to see a lot of smiles, at least.
Or like the other day, we were sitting toward the front of the bus so he could see more. Being flat in front, the bus pulled up just shy of the bumper of the car in front of us. Hadrian cries out, “Watch out! Don’t hit that car, okay?” We heard a few chuckles, and the driver turned raising a surprised eyebrow. Again, “Quiet voices,” I say.
Today Hadrian decides that my name is poop-da-mommy. Awesome. He repeats this about a hundred times and uses it in various sentences. “Can Asher (his little brother) eat poop?” he asks me. “Mama that’s poop-Asher on the porch.” “Mama, can you poop please?” He asks this in the library. Hmm, how many ways can we use poop in a sentence? Oh I have one: Asher has been having some digestive troubles today. At dinner, he was farting what seemed to be twenty-second long farts—consecutively—and looking at us with a very desperate little face, as if he were pushing as well.
Yay! If this is productive, I think. This will be a fourth poopy diaper for the day—which is good, I guess. He’s eating, right?—but poopy diapers suck. So after dinner, we check him out. I ask my husband, “What’s the verdict?” He tells me, “Asher has a little shit pebble in his diaper.” I started laughing, as I refer to them as poop nuggets. We are soooo gross. Why aren’t we more intimately engaged? Hmmmm. With such inspiration all around us?
Yesterday, my two boys and I took the bus to the downtown public library. It was stupid, they were both due for a nap, but we’d been in the house all day and I couldn’t find my bus pass until around 2 p.m. and I had promised them a trip to the library around 9 a.m., so I forewent good sense and went with my word. Well, sure enough, Hadrian starts revving into mega super ADHD mode. I mean like literally convulsing and humming and then laughing about it. I am usually a little more patient when I know he’s tired, but it’s still frustrating, especially in public, and being tired myself was not helping my ability to think straight or cope with the smallest setbacks.
We were in the main part of the library and there’s a huge open space in the center of the building that goes up four stories. Hadrian was just shouting to hear his voice echo. I got down to his level and whispered, “Listen to mommy: we need to be quiet in the library, like this,” I told him, speaking with a gentle voice. I let him practice by saying a sentence about poop in his “quiet voice,” and he got the picture.
Until we got to Safeway, located not too far from where we had just gotten off the bus on our way back home. The bus driver was a crass old woman who would not lift a finger to help me get my stroller off the bus, which meant getting down three steps in a narrow bus entry, a small child in one arm who can’t walk yet and a hyperactive three-year-old on a busy street during rush hour. After barely dodging the toes of everyone in the aisle with my ginormo stroller, I hefted the stroller over my back, Asher in one arm, Hadrian being wonderfully obedient getting off when I asked him to. I rock! I thought to myself. But we still were at a low blood sugar, we-need-a-nap, the-bus-is-sucking-today kind of place. The boys needed bananas (that’s all Asher wants to eat and all Hadrian will eat in his lunchbox at preschool) and I didn’t want to make rice for the chili that I had waiting as leftovers in the fridge. I needs my carbs! So I thought, “Two bucks will buy me lots of yummy rolls and some time/sanity.”
So we go in. Hadrian starts pilfering the grapes. We manage to get over to the bread aisle after Hadrian has all but swiped every price label off the meat cases. Then he starts with the convulsing/humming/laughing bit. I wanted to scream! I had low blood sugar and was fed up, but I found enough resolve in me to say, “All right. Hadrian. THIS is crazy,” and I started shaking around myself and going “Lalalalalala!!!” (at a reasonable level, of course). “THIS is caaaaaaalllmm,” I said meditatively, and I slowly brought my hands together and stopped moving. “Come on, peaceful piggie, let’s take a breath!” I plead, desperation cracking through my attempt at a controlled voice.
I was referring to a book we’d read about teaching kids to meditate and breathe to relax called Peaceful Piggie Meditation. He’s still dancing his crazy dance, laughing, totally a blur. I got down to his level and performed my comparison for him again. He was just laughing and putting his hands together haphazardly and shimmying in every direction, laughing. I was like, “Whatever, this is pointless. TRY TO SPIN IN THE DIRECTION OF THE REGISTERS,” I droned to him as he wildly wound his way with me, only to find I had forgotten all sources of money once at the register, and wanted to cry again. I was tempted to steal candy to elevate my blood sugar.
These are the moments I want to find the people who say “Get down on your child’s level; just explain what you want clearly and simply.” Bla bla bla! is what I want to shout back at them, or maybe to poke them in the eye. You’ve deceived me! Some kids are compliant. My child is not compliant! Don’t get me wrong, he is a pretty polite kid, and when he isn’t totally unraveling from lack of a needed nap, he doesn’t hit other kids (or me), he’s a good sharer, and he can do what I say.
But there are many, many moments in each day where explaining doesn’t do a damn thing. I would remove him as a crawling infant from dangerous or forbidden areas in a room and even with towering “NOOOOO”s from above, time outs and physical removal (at eight months old, it started early!), he would go right back like a bee to the hive. He is not easily swayed from his purpose. Which is a great quality to have in this world, and I work hard toward helping him learn to use it well as an adult. It’s just not so fun when we are tired and overwrought and on a friggin’ bus during rush hour, hungry and with a stroller!
At any rate, of course we made it home, ate our chili with some creatively diced cooked lasagna noodles I had left over (yessss); zapped with the chili, it was rice enough. Hadrian didn’t eat (of course), and they went to bed early, which made mommy happy indeed.