When I was an infant I apparently had pretty intense opinions about life — a sterile way to say my colic was one for the record books. When I was a preschooler, my mother was discreetly given The Strong-Willed Child by her mother, my Grandmama. While I can’t remember what was getting my goat lo those many decades ago, I see the same dogged will in my own children. The will to blaze THIS path, not THAT one. To split the hair THIS way and not THAT way. To only go Number One in the toilet and never Number Two. I take it as a compliment from God that he thinks I can handle this in my own kids. Or maybe it’s more of a practical joke. Or worse, a comeuppance.
When The Things clash with my preferences or the rules of basic safety, they throw out tantrums and tears and the occasional bowel movement of revenge.
But when their passion is directed at an activity or harmless goal, it’s so sweet I can hardly stand it.
Mommy, I be a fiwuhfightuh (firefighter) when I gwow up.
Yes, he says, like this is completely obvious.
We are reading the book Trucks, which makes me crave anti-anxiety medication or to somehow be absorbed into an eighteenth-century still life — a bowl of placid fruit; a shadowy writing desk. (You can read more about this here.) We were in the middle of our story — if you can call it that — when the fire engine makes its grand debut. With its shiny chrome and bright red paint, the fire truck sets Drew’s imagination whirling like an unbalanced Midway ride.
Mommy, I be fiwuhfightuh when I gwow up! Mommy, you be der too?
(He was looking up at me with those hazel mommy-melters.)
You be fiwuhfightuh too, Mommy, when I gwow up…
Oh, well, OK, I say.
(He points to the fire engine windows, to the front seat.)
Mommy, you sit next to me and I dwive. I dwive the twuck. When you older, then YOU can dwive the twuck. Ok, Mommy?
Oh, ok, I say.
Mommy, (because the word “mommy” is like breathing) you sit next to me and I dwive back to the fiwuh station.
What will we do then?
We pway with fire.
We’re going to play with fire when we get back to the station? I ask.
(At this point I’m questioning the validity of three-year-old field trips.)
And that was that.
Madeline also seems to have her grown-up occupation in view. At her one-year-old birthday party last Saturday she received a baby doll with all the accoutrements: a little potty, a little bottle of baby powder, a bottle, a spoon, a bowl, clothes, and a tiny thigh revolver with which to rectify her equally tiny vendetta.
Madeline has been found on more than one occasion extemporaneously feeding her baby, which is creeptastic because it looks like a doll feeding another smaller, more plastic, doll. Plus Madeline seems to think that MOUTH is more of a general vicinity.
The joke now is that when Maddie gets really quiet in the next room, she is feeding a doll, and when Drew gets really quiet in the next room, he is filling a diaper. Correction: he is filling his Thomas the Train big boy underwear, which is eighty-million times worse but doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.
I’m actually a little embarrassed by all this because I don’t think it was ME who introduced the idea of growing up, and that you have to “be something” when that finally happens, and this indoctrination seems like such a mommy thing to do. But it’s such common vernacular – why wouldn’t he know it already? What are you going to be when you grow up, Drew?
Well, he might need to know, first-off, that firefighters can’t poop in their flame-retardant suits. Not much ventilation there. Someone definitely needs to tell him that. I guess this is where Trucks leaves off and Mommy begins.
Anybody got some Prozac?
For more from Julie, check out wetbehindtheearsblog.com.