There was this thing someone told me when I was still pregnant and discovered that I was going to have a boy. I remember thinking at the time, gosh, that’s good to know, but for the life of me I can’t remember if it was, “You are so screwed,” or “Boys are really dumb.” I wish I could remember, because I’d like to thank that person for the keen insight into my future.
Whichever it was, ma’am, you were right.
The Guy and I were standing at the foot of the stairs, getting ready for our respective days. Hobbes was at the top of the stairs, preparing to do something dangerous and stupid with the bannisters, which are the type that involves rails. Back when we were looking at houses, the real estate agent looked at those railings and warned us that we would need to do something about them if we ever had kids. We didn’t have any at the time, so we had no idea what she was talking about; I just assumed she meant kids would push shit through them, which is what I would have done. The real estate agent, who had raised a couple already, told me it had more to do with having to saw through them to get heads out. Saw through the rails, that is, not through the kids, though that would probably be cheaper to repair afterwards.
“Why would anyone stick his head through a railing?” I whispered to the Guy.
“Because he has a small head?”
“Would you do that?”
“I have a big head,” he pointed out. “It wouldn’t fit.” Which didn’t exactly answer the question about whether he would if he could.
Now that I have a child of my own, I can conclusively state that small heads encompass small brains, which is why kids do the things that they do. I’ve caught Hobbes trying to wedge his head between the bannister railings a couple of times, only to be thwarted by the fact that we have blessed him, genetically speaking, with a disproportionately large head1 for his age (my contribution) and ears to match.2
I’ve had long conversations with Hobbes about what a bad idea it would be for him to get his head stuck through the railings, which is what the realtor said had happened with her own kids. In her case, her husband had to go out to buy a special saw, and then they’d had to spend a lot of money to remodel the entire stairwell. “And that would be bad and expensive,” I told Hobbes. He eyed me with the skeptical amusement of someone who doesn’t have to pay a mortgage, and I saw that I would have to add some other repercussion that would emphasize the severity of the situation to him. “You know your daddy,” I said darkly. “He’d probably just leave you there for days and days. You’d be stuck there, and you wouldn’t get to play with your toys, or watch TV, or do anything fun.”
Hobbes gave this some thought. He didn’t question my assessment of his father. “You could get me,” he suggested.
“I don’t know how to use a saw,” I lied. I’m all about teaching my son that women are the equal of men in every way except the one that involves actual physical labor, in which case men should do it because women are really more management material.
“You could learn,” he said persuasively, which was just cute. 3
Anyway, back to my story. The Guy and I were getting ready for our day at the bottom of our stairs, and Hobbes was preparing to do something asinine and dangerous at the top of them. I didn’t actually see him preparing to do this, but I’ve been a mother since 2008, so I don’t need to look to know when my offspring is about to try out for a Darwin Award.4.
“Don’t do that, Hobbes,” I said, still without looking. “That’s dangerous.”
Hobbes is only 3 years old, but he’s already mastered the traditional skill of aggressive Not Listening. A couple of seconds later, I heard a small voice.
“I’m stuck,” he said.
When I turned around, I was relieved to discover that I wouldn’t have to call into work to explain that I wouldn’t be coming in because I had to saw the kid out of some furniture, because that’s an excuse that only sounds convincing the first time and I was planning on saving it for some day when I really just didn’t feel like going to work. Hobbes had just managed to sidle out on the wrong side of the bannisters until he was hanging off them from a probably-not-life-threatening-but-maybe-a-trifle-maiming distance off the ground floor.
I sighed. I trudged up the stairs, plucked him off the bannister, and put him down someplace safe. “Don’t do that again,” I said. “It’s dangerous.”
He looked at me with shiny eyes. I trudged back down to the Guy.
Right about the time I got back to looking for my keys, I heard that little voice again.
“Mommy, I’m stuck again.”
“What is it about boys, do you think?” I asked the Guy, still looking for my keys. He was busy checking email on his phone, and hadn’t budged at the first or second call for help5. “Why is it when you tell them, ‘don’t do that,’ they automatically do it?”
“Help me?” said Hobbes.
“Do you suppose it’s a genetic flaw? Or a character flaw?” I pursued.
“You’d think he’d learn,” said the Guy, despite all prior evidence to the contrary.
“Stuck, Mommy,” said Hobbes.
“That’s what I’m wondering. Is it a guy thing? I think it’s a guy thing. You think of something that’s absolutely dumb and could be really dangerous, and instead of doing the sensible thing, which is to say, ‘That’s a bad idea, let’s think of something else,’ you go, ‘That’s sounds disastrous. Let’s do it.’ I don’t understand how it is that humanity is at the top of the evolutionary ladder. You’d think out of sheer necessity, women would’ve had to develop parthenogenesis by now, because men would have wiped themselves out already.”
“Not all guys are that dumb,” said the Guy, without conviction.
It was at this point that the genius dangling from the bannisters decided to offer his opinion. “It’s because I’m three,” Hobbes announced from the railing. “I don’t have any fear.” Which, by the way, is a big fat lie, because he is scared of everything, where “everything” means puppies and dramatic music and shadowy camera work, but — and this is key — excludes the stuff that is actually dangerous to him, like strangers and moving cars and sharp objects and running lawnmowers and unidentified drugs.
I trudged up the stairs and unhooked Hobbes from the bannister. I put him down. “Don’t do that again,” I said.
“It’s because he’s three,” the Guy snickered.
For all you non-parents out there, I’ll give you a hint. It’s not because he’s three.
A few weeks ago, I installed this plugin that makes it easier for me to create footnotes in blog posts. That might have been a mistake. I think I’m a little out of control.
- Seriously. If we shaved him and dressed him in green, he’d look like one of those aliens that pop up on shows like the X-Files and Alien Abduction. Except he’d be asian, which come to think of it isn’t that far from what aliens look like anyway, according to the National Enquirer. There’s a thought. Man, can you imagine if one day North Korea fell, and then the entire world discovered that the North Koreans have been randomly abducting people from Kansas all this time to perform experiments on them, because they wanted to learn more about white people? And ever since then, the North Korean government has been basing its international relations with the western world based on a few bewildered Midwest farmers and their cows?
That would be brilliant.
Edit to add: Initially, I wrote “Chinese” instead of “North Korea” for the previous footnote, because I thought that was funny. But then I saw pictures of the birthday celebration in North Korea that Guy Kawasaki posted, and was struck by how expensive those celebrations looked when everyone — and by everyone, I mean some guy on TV who acts like he knows what’s going on up there — says North Korea is on the brink of starvation. Which made me remember how fucking nuts the North Korean government is, and suddenly it all made so much sense. Sort of. ↩
- To be clear, the ears were the Guy’s contribution. My ears are petite and delicate, completely appropriate for my enticingly fragile femininity. ↩
- Actually, it was a ridiculous idea, but probably made sense to him because he’s three. Of course, this is the same boy who sneezes in my face and then reproaches me with, “Sharing is caring,” when I complain about it, so it’s not like he’s a role model for sound thinking. ↩
- “Survival of the fittest” is meant not to mean survival of the best, but rather is meant to describe the survival of the one that has best adapted to the present environment. This is one of the reasons why I don’t let other kids into my house, because it is a deathtrap. With careful training and careless accident, Hobbes has managed to adapt to his environment. What that means is that he has learned to just bounce when he hits the ground. As he has informed me on more than one occasion, “Gravity is mean.”
Yes, we have had this conversation. Yes, he learned it from me. What can I say: we have a 3-story house with a sheer
dropplummet from the top to the bottom floor. Letting an unprepared child into my house would be akin to tying a copy machine to a kitten and then dropping it into a shark tank. ↩
- Which proves, I think, that my son was correct in not questioning whether his father would just leave him stuck in the bannisters if he ever got his head wedged in them. It’s good to know that my son has inherited his father’s judgment of character. Mine sucks. I leave it to you to figure out what that means, when you consider that I married the man, and that he married me — we think. Note to self: I really need to call the County Clerk’s office. ↩
- A Good Idea Followed by a Bad Idea
- Childrens’ Day and other things
- Stories on an afternoon drive
- Bring your kids to work day
- Tech support.
- A little daring
- I don’t know about you….
- A little bit of validation
- In which good intentions mean diddly-squat
- Things I need to remember not to forget
- Sometimes they will surprise you
- England and other errata