My son doesn’t really have a firm grasp of the English language.
Bumbling through that terrible, hilarious, awkward, adorable year between his second and his third birthday, his words are usually as clumsy as his feet. But what he lacks in eloquence, he makes up for in candor. You’ve got to admire that about him.
“Daddy, you ‘wake? It’s time wake up!”
He’s a morning person. My wife is not. When we sit at the little round table for our daily eggs and sausage, he and I discuss the day while Mommy glares at her coffee and Little Brother throws cereal on the floor and howls. He always asks if I’m going to work, and whether or not I’m going to ride my motorcycle. I ask him about his plans for the day.
“Are you going to be good today, or naughty?”
“Um…. I’m going to be naughty.”
Mommy sighs and tops up her coffee. But I smile, because he reminds me of me. Some days I’m going to be good, and some days… I just want to be naughty. I want to lay around the house and waste hours on Netflix and eat nachos for all three meals and not wash any of the dishes. Of course I won’t admit it, because I want you to think that I’m all good all the time. But my boy isn’t afraid to say how he feels, even when he feels like creating trouble all day.
“Don’t snug Mommy! Snug meeeeeeee!”
Like his Mommy, my boy likes to snuggle, and he’s not shy about telling me. Especially when somebody else is getting snuggled and he’s not. If I politely decline, he rarely takes no for an answer. He crawls on the couch, grunting and grumbling. He grabs my shirt with his sticky toddler hands and maneuvers onto my chest, his always-questionable toddler diaper all up in my face. Satisfied with himself, he lets out a little sigh.
I like that about him. We grown-ups are all too shy about love. We’re afraid to say “I miss you. I want to be close to you. I need your love. I value your companionship.” But he’s not.
“Daddy, I want milk. Don’t help Daddy, I do it. It’s too heavy. Daddy, I made mess. I need towel. Clean it up Daddy?”
At this point, our living-room carpet is a fine artisan blend of coffee, milk, yogurt, cheese, and mud. The boy is learning to be independent, but his ambitions are stronger than his scrawny arms and his terrible aim. Spilled milk is just a part of the daily routine. It’s not just a part of his life, it’s part of mine. I spill milk, and coffee. I screw up. I attempt to conquer things I don’t understand, and sometimes make them worse. I say things I regret. And I try to cover it up, play it down, act like it’s nothing. But I’m learning, slowly, from my son. Learning to admit when it’s too heavy. Learning to admit when I made a mess. Learning to admit that I need help cleaning it up.
“I love you tooooo, Daddy!”
This is what makes it worth it. After the long negotiations at bedtime, the repeated potty attempts, the specific requests for stuffed animals, the demands for multiple bedtime prayers… he finally flops down on his blanket and says “I love you” as I walk out the door. Of course, he doesn’t understand the power of those words. I don’t think any of us do, really.
I have a lot to learn from him. When I want to be naughty, and when I need to be loved. When I make a mess, and when I share my heart. He lives life unfiltered and unafraid. A lot of parents want their kids to grow up to be like them. Me? I want to grow up to be like my son.