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Bless This Mess

by Stephen Lautens


August 15, 2003

Let me just say right off the bat that I was wrong. Spectacularly wrong. I can’t believe how wrong I was.

There was a time when I looked at parents out in public with their small children and wondered aloud: "Can’t they control that kid?" The children would be bouncing off the walls, touching everything in sight and leaving a mess in their wake not unlike the 101st Airborne after a day of heavy house to house combat.

Now the show is on the other foot. Or at least it would be if I could find it. Now that he is fully mobile, at a year and a half my son keeps taking things and hiding them around the house. The fruit and vegetables we usually find within a week or two before they have completely composted behind the bookcase. Keys, wallets, shoes, and anything else that doesn’t go bad takes a little longer.

We had hoped for a curious and energetic child. As my grandmother used to say, be careful what you wish for. It’s not that he’s badly behaved - far from it. It’s just that the world is a fascinating place when you’re a year and a half and everything begs to be touched, licked or put up your (or someone else’s) nose.

He also has to experiment with textures - the squishier the better. Food is apparently especially appealing when it is consumed in close proximity to the white couch or the pair of good satin pillows. We are down to one satin pillow now. The other looks like a miniature version of the Shroud of Turin if the face had been printed in mashed banana.

Recently I thought he and I could make a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up a few things. As a thoroughly modern father I was brave and decided to go it alone with him. Having worked in a grocery store in my youth, I also pride myself on being able to get in and out in a hurry. Ten minutes tops.

Of course nothing in my life takes ten minutes anymore. In fact, a three minute egg now takes the better part of half an hour.

I hadn’t anticipated that once in the supermarket my son would turn into an octopus with a longer reach than most NBA players. No jar, piece of fruit or passing lady’s handbag was safe as I tried to navigate down the absolute centres of the aisles. At one point I turned around and he had a two pound potato in his teeth. I don’t know how he got a hold of it or how long he had it. All I know is I ended up having to buy a shopping cart full of things I didn’t want, all with one bite out of them.

I finally gave up after I had to retrieve him from the meat counter for the third time. I know when I’m licked.

A further screaming, hairy fit (him, not me) in the parking lot because I wouldn’t let him drive home convinced all passers-by that I was yet another unfit parent with an unruly child. Two years ago that would have been me wondering why that guy can’t control his kid.

They should have to walk a mile in my shoes, if I could only figure out where my son has hidden them.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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