It never takes three-year-old Ward very long to break something when he comes over to play.
The last time he was here, I sat with my lips pressed into a thin line as he triumphantly held up the remains of Punky’s ABC School Bus Book Set after ripping the “bus” that held the books right in two. I looked over at his mom, Shelley, and sighed, mentally tallying up his total breakage rate to $137.25. She shrugged, smiling broadly.
“You know how boys are!” she chortled. “Oops!”
When Ward’s not busting shit up, he’s trying to eat it.
Shelley couldn’t stop giggling one day back when I was still pregnant with Bruiser as Ward licked, sucked, and chewed apart the plastic ice cream cone from Punky’s grocery set, while I watched him incredulously and tried not to gag. “Just look at him,” Shelley said indulgently. “Wait’ll you have your boy, Lindsay! You’ll see! They’re totally different from girls!”
“They’re not that different,” my friend Dina murmured, staring pointedly at Ward and frowning. I looked at her gratefully, because if I had a son that was anything like Shelley’s, I would definitely be seeking out one of those doctors who freely dispenses drugs.
Besides, while Bruiser may short out my computer power cord and pour water on my Macbook, he’s my kid. I take responsibility for him. And if he’s breaking other people’s stuff, I swear I’ll at least pretend to be upset about it. Or at least get him the hell out of there and never come back.
In fact, if Shelley weren’t such an old friend, I would do more to try and put an end to little Ward’s wide swath of destruction—snatching him up by the scruff of his neck, perhaps, and dunking his head in the toilet. As it stands, I simply grit my teeth and count the seconds until it’s time for the tiny tyrant to go.
For me, Ward is the irritation-equivalent of a 24-hour Rachel Ray channel, more so because I get strange pleasure out of maintaining the toys around here. Punky was never one to break stuff, and so once I discount everything Ward has managed to tear to shreds, each toy, picture book and puzzle she’s gotten over the years remains pretty much intact. For me, putting away toys is one of those cathartic kinds of chores; I get all kinds of mind-numbing satisfaction from finding every last magnetic doll house piece, each of the twelve plastic Woodland Animals, both Soccer Barbie sneakers, and all the pieces of the Ballerina Paper Doll Puzzle, and putting everything neatly away.
And then Ward shows up and it all goes to hell. Frankly, Shelley herself is no better. The last time they came over, I made the mistake of giving her a cup of coffee and within seconds, she had dumped the entire thing on the playroom carpet. Of course, she dropped it only because she was laughing so hysterically over Ward’s comical fumble of his strawberry cupcake, which had landed icing-first eight feet away. Hilarious.
Funny how Shelley never invites me over to her house. If I ever manage to wrangle an invitation, I’ll be sure bring along my sledgehammer.