Sunday, October 02, 2005

Charismatic Dictator of the Short People

In the past year the 4-year-old has evolved from a baby to a full Personality. It turns out he is Dictator of the World, starting with his own personal universe. He knows what's best for all of us, and that greater good just happens to coincide with his wishes. One of the great things about babies is you can dress them any way you want. Even if you bought something that was a weird color, oddball design, or just left sitting on the rack marked down to 79 cents because no one else wanted it, it doesn't matter. The baby WILL wear it. He may protest certain colors by immediately upchucking on them, but he or she will still wear it long enough for you to feel like you got some use out of it. Not so 4-year-olds. They, inconveniently, have OPINIONS. And who knows where these opinions came from! From TV? From other toddlers? From the Weird Gene that must belong to your spouse's side of the family? I'm not sure where he gets the opinions from because up to now (preschool) I've been with him approximately 30 hours a day, up to and including when I have to go to the bathroom, so I've seen no opportunities for unapproved opinions to develop. Perhaps they're like hurricanes, developing out of a couple of clouds sitting lazily off the coast of Florida. Speaking of the bathroom, obviously I don't want him in there with me all the time. When he was younger I'd hand him off to Hubby so I could use the bathroom. Well now, naturally, he has an OPINION on the subject. He asks me "why" I would want to be in there by myself. I tell him, "sometimes I need some privacy." So now when he trails me into the bathroom he announces, "I want to WATCH your privacy." (Me to Hubby: "Couldn't you just teach him how to chew tobacco, or something, so I can use the bathroom?") The other day we were on the purple playground during the 6-year-old's tee ball game. The 4-year-old was dressed in sweat pants and a Buffalo Bills sweatshirt. The temperature was in the low nineties with a heat index higher than that. I could feel the late afternoon sun singeing the back of my neck. The 4-year-old had rejected the nice cool short and t-shirt outfit I had offered him. It was fall! He wanted sweats! And was, now, appropriately sweating. (I should also point out that his favorite mode of dress in the house, where it is consistently air conditioned, is "nude.") But he found a cute toddler girl in the vicinity of the purple dinosaur stairs leading up to the slide. (No, this was not a Barney-themed playground. I think all children's dinosaurs tend to be purple to make them look like giant gummy candies.) The girl toddler was dressed in pink polka-dot pants, white shirt with a design, and pink plastic sandals. She was blonde and carefree, except for a mother lurking several feet away. My 4-year-old approached her. "Hi, I'm four. How old are you?" (This is the toddler equivalent of "What's your major?") She smiled at him. Then her brow furrowed in concentration. "I'm (pause) S-s-s-seven." Okay, she was maybe three or so, certainly no older than he was. And she's already playing the Experienced Older Woman Card! Probably thinks she's going to get to ride the more aggressive theme park rides with her fake I.D. My 4-year-old was taken aback, I could tell. He hadn't expected her to be that old. He tried to recover. "Well, I'm almost five." "When's your birfff-day?" she asked him. "After my brother's," he said. "He's SIX!" Then he spelled his name for her. Probably so she could start text messaging him as soon as she gets a phone! I made a mental note to not let him start dating until he's 30 or I'm dead, whichever comes first. I was in his preschool classroom for Rodeo Day last week. When the kids came in from the outdoor activities (riding stick ponies, milking faux cows, cavorting in hay) it was snack time. Everyone formed a line and washed their hands while the teacher and helping parents put out paper plates filled with "trail mix" snacks of crackers, candies, pretzels etc. The kids were anxious to dig into their trail mix when they arrived at their seats. "No, wait!" the teacher said. "We're going to pray first." They all clasped their hands in a solemn attitude. The teacher began the prayer. I could see my 4-year-old's eyes darting surreptitiously to the teacher, then back to his table. I noticed his folded hands getting closer and closer to his head. Then I saw him secretly trickling TRAIL MIX into his mouth during the prayer. E-genuflecting-Gads! I'm sure, though, he thought he was multi-tasking. Praying and eating at the same time! And clever enough to conceal such a distracting sight from the teacher. He introduced me to one of his buddies. He told me his buddy's name. Then he said, "This is Mama. (Pause) Her name is Patti." Hmmm. We hadn't ever actually taught him formal introductions. Not bad for winging it. When we're in the van my two sons will often argue about theoretical things. Like the 4-year-old will make a solemn pronouncement such as "Zebras live on the North Pole." The 6-year-old will engage him in a five minute argument as to why they couldn't possibly live there. Then he will appeal to me, "Is that true?" Before I can respond the 4-year-old says, "EVERYTHING I SAY is true." "THAT'S not true," the 6-year-old insists. "Yes it is." They argue about that for several more minutes. "Mama, he's saying everything he says is true!" the 6-year-old complained. "Does that sound true?" I asked him. "No, but he's SAYING it!" "Well just ignore him." Then of course they fight about that. The 4-year-old also issues a lot of threats. To me. Hubby. The 6-year-old. Various relatives. So far though I haven't heard of any difficulties in school, where apparently he is either angelic, or very good at faking it. Some of his favorite threats: "I'm going to turn you into SKELETONS!" "You're going to sleep outside the house with the BUGS and the ALLIGATORS!" "I'm going to CRUSH you into CRUMBS!" But my favorite, which he utters anytime I make him especially unhappy, is angry pouty face, followed by, "Mama, you are NOT a genius!" How true that is.

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