My son is underslept and getting over his cold, and I’m going to just translate that straight out for my readers: he’s being a jerk. Of course, it isn’t really that bad to me, because I’ve already done time with a two-year old and I know the drill.* This morning he hangs off the side of the bed and scrabbles his hands against my leg, beseeching me to pull him up next to me. However, I’m doing a sewing repair on a stuffed animal for Sophie, so I say, “Not right now, Nels – go have Daddy pick you up.” Apparently this is the most insulting, demeaning thing I could have possibly said: he throws his head back and howls as he staggers around the bed to his father’s arms instead. This morning I counted, and it seemed like about every fourth decision pertaining to him invoked a similar response.
So today after the kids had played on their computer in the attic (their play mostly involves Nels watching Sophie kick ass at their Nemo’s Underwater Adventure video game or the blippy cheerfulness of TuxPaint) they came thundering down the steps and Sophie apparently had the gall to elbow him aside. Again, the angry howl as he flung himself into the living room behind her. “Sophie, Nels is in a bad mood today,” I raise my voice after her, “so please don’t push him like that.” She doesn’t acknowledge my request and instead runs into the living room and flops on the couch:
“I’m dead.” she pronounces, and goes limp.
I have two choices: I can really drill the point home about her brother with the “don’t be rude” speech, or I can decide she gets the message and give her some slack. In this instance, I choose the second option. I sit down next to her and say, “Oh no! My little girl is dead. I have to get her dressed, though. We’re going on a hike this morning. Maybe we can take her up to the Fort with us and bury her there.” Through closed eyes she radiates intense approval with the line I’m taking.
I carry her into her bedroom and tenderly lay her on the covers. Her body remains perfectly flaccid. I pick out clothes, dress her, all the while handling her “corpse” carefully. Besides a few helpful arm lifts and shifting her feet to get them in her Converse, she doesn’t smile or make a sound or even flutter her eyelids. I prop her up and proceed to fix her hair in two buns on the top of her head. She leans back against my chest. Her limbs are wonderfully heavy. Done dressing her, I lay her out on the couch and my husband puts a “death shroud” around her. Twenty minutes go by as we pack up the other child, the diaper bag, snacks, and I put my own hair up as well. Finally, we’re ready to go and I carry her out to the truck.
It occurrs to me how nice it must feel to be only four years old but able to maintain perfect stillness and be the master of her own body. It also must have been nice to have the whole family play along (except Nels who from his car seat yells, “Hi Sophie!” – prounounced “Dophie” – which finally causes her to give up the ghost and come back to life). Self-control is a concept that must be practiced to be mastered, but saves one a lot of suffering if they learn it. I like to think her reserves run deep in that regard.
For the rest the morning while on our hike she is the intrepid leader, refusing to wear a coat, and darting off any trail she pleases. She helps her brother over tree roots and out of bushes when he gets trapped.
As I type this, my children are napping and my husband is “out for a quick two miles” jogging. I’ve been at various stages of physical fitness and mobility, but at this point in my life I’d rather clean my toilet than haul myself two miles on the streets of Port Townsend (note to self – I really do need to clean the toilet).
* Sometimes I feel bad for my oldest; she gets to be my Trial And Error Child, one who’s hijinks and bad behaviors are more likely to be jumped on and worried over. Second Child seems to gets a lot more understanding around these parts. Not to mention he’s do damn cute when he’s on a tirade.