One of the handiest parts of mama-hood involves trading childcare; even if it’s just once a week, that’s three more hours I have to write, or be reminded that I am an adult who has the ability to speak in sentences longer than four syllables. [See also: Baby, no no; Car? Car? Car? Car?; Say bye-bye!] Of course, there then exists the realization that “swap” is a two-way street, which takes us to this past Tuesday where the almost 17-month olds, Cancan and Baby Ruth, found themselves at play in our living room.
The two littles have been playing nicely in the living room for an hour or so. The Parental Unit is giving herself kudos for her most excellent child-rearing skills, when she decides to give them each a snack-time mini-carrot muffin treat. The following ensues….
CanCan: Wabada! Baby Ruth, take my muffin! No, really, I don’t want it – let me forcefully cram it into your mouth! Now, now!
BabyRuth: Ga! Ga! I don’t want your stinking muffin! Get away! You’re mean! Shoo!
CC: Haaaaaaaaaw! Baby Ruth, I insist. Eat my muffin. Here, I’ll help you: let me shove it down your throat.
Tears well in Baby Ruth’s eyes, for she is not about to eat Cancan’s muffin. She begins to cry; at this point the Parental Unit decides to intervene, using such words as “Gentle, gentle” (and other four-syllable sentences), but to no avail. Baby Ruth cries louder. And louder. The Parental Unit decides that she must need comforting, so she picks her up and takes her to the couch.
BR: [Between hiccuping tears] Uh, uh, uh! I just wanted to eat MY muffin …and, and… he wouldn’t let me. He made me eat HIS muffin. He stinks!
The Parental Unit doesn’t exactly have the most emotionally sensitive of a child, so she’s not sure what to do. She must want comfort, the Parental Unit decides, so she rubs her hair, she rocks her slightly, she whispers sweet toddler-nothings into her ear. Meanwhile, Cancan is ready for friendship again, so he toddles over to the couch.
CC: Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Want to play with my car? Want to catch the ball? Want to eat the gravel in the backyard with me? Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!
BR: Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Oh-no-he-di’nt! You did NOT just enter my space. This is a Ruth-only zone, man! Get away from me, booger-head!
CC: Garbalarbadarb. It’s okay, Baby Ruth. We’re besties. Here, let me pat your legs violently and reassure you of our relationship.
BR: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! You’re not picking up what I’m putting down, buddy. I do not want you in my space, and I certainly don’t want your toilet-water hands touching my legs!
The Parental Unit continues to try and soothe Baby Ruth, now cradling the 17-month old in a newborn rocking position. This is a silly idea on her part. The Parental Unit whispers, “Shhhhh, shhhhh,” to Baby Ruth in order to produce a calm environment, while Cancan continues to throw punches and reassure her of their friendship. Chaos ensues.
CC: [Grunt, grunt] I know! I’ll crawl up on the couch, and sit on the other side of my mama; that way, we can really be friends.
BR: AH! GA BA BA WAHHHHHH!!! You are not hearing me! I don’t want to see you! Your proximity makes me ill!
The Parental Unit continues to rock and soothe, rock and soothe, with one arm whilst trying to keep her son away with the other. “Uh-uh, no no,” she whispers, in between hushes; Cancan looks at Baby Ruth, he looks at his mama, and he reacts the only way he knows how: he begins to fake-cry violently.
CC: Wah! Wah! Wah! Look Baby Ruth, I am crying sympathy tears for you. Faux cry, faux cry! I’m an empathetic little dude, I swear! Look: I can even match your pain and cry harder. Wahhhhh! Wahhhh! Wahhhh!
BR: [Hiccup, hiccup, hiccup.] Is this really happening right now? Are you MOCKING me? The nerve! WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
The Parental Unit is besides herself, so she copes the only way she knows how in a high-stress situation: she laughs. The littles continue to wail for the next five minutes. She texts Baby Ruth’s mama to see if she can give her a bottle of milk: a reply “yes” comes in. Handing Baby Ruth a bottle, she cannot get up from the couch now, for she cannot leave the littles alone in a room to fend for themselves. 12 more minutes go by. Then she realizes: maybe Baby Ruth needs her diaper changed!
BR: Uh n mama n baga babaaba. Wahhhhhhh! Who is this lady? Where is she taking me now? And why does that kid want to follow me everywhere I go? Can’t a girl get any privacy anymore? Wahhhhhh!!!
CC: Ca ca ca ca ca! Whelp, I’m done crying, but what? We’re going upstairs? I love the stairs! Let’s play! Mama, I can beat you, watch! [Cancan hustles up the stairs, eager for his room.]
The Parental Unit attempts to change Baby Ruth’s diaper.
BR: WAHHHHHHHHHH!!! That’s not what I’ve been crying about! I don’t care about my diaper! You are not my favorite person right now, lady! Where’s my mama? Ma ma ma ma? [She hiccups and gulps for air.] WAHHHHH!!!!
CC: Bagiwawagigigigigig. And this, Baby Ruth, is my throne. This is where all the magic happens. These are my books. This is my ball. This is my bear. Welcome, welcome.
The Parental Unit places a wailing Baby Ruth on the floor; she should probably call the other parental units by now. Consolation is nowhere to be found.
BR: Ga? Ga. Gaaaaaa. [One last hiccup.] Ga. Well, why didn’t you take me up here in the first place? I love oversized stuffed animals that I can slam myself into and hug, over and over again. And books?! Gimme, gimme! My favorite! I am happy! I am in love! I am happy Baby Ruth baby!
Baby Ruth slams herself into the giant Costco bear, comfort gained with each impulsive hug. Cancan, Baby Ruth and the Parental Unit sit on the floor, reading books for the next 45 minutes. And all is calm, all is bright with the world.
And the moral of the story is: Keep Calm and Read Your Book. And Slam Your Body Into an Oversized Bear Whenever Humanly Possible If You Feel Sad. And…
What about you? What’s the best conversation – imagined or not – you’ve heard between children lately? And, more importantly, when was the last time you therapeutically slammed your body into a giant, oversized bear?