"Oh, darling, he just showed stubbornness! Our baby's learned stubbornness!"
"Is that good to learn?"
"Of course! It's a stage. Yesterday he was perfectly amenable, but today he's ornery."
Two proud sighs as we stare at the toddler pulling down the telephone by the telephone wire and looking back at us with a curious, "This is no, right? You did say this is no? And when I pound the buttons with my thumb? That's no, too? Right. No. I thought so. Thanks."
Any parent who hears "My toddler is into things" from another parent knows the horror lurking behind those seemingly innocuous words. A teenager is "into music" and politicians are "into corruption," but a toddler's being into things is truly the stuff of nightmares.
The impossibility of keeping up with the improved dexterity, multi-directionality and speed of a curious toddler...the insatiability of a toddler's desire to touch, pull, push and throw everything his wildly straining hand can reach, cannot be believed until you've had one haphazardly running around your formerly peaceful abode. Not to mention the very real need to dart forward at a moment's notice and catch missiles like cans of beans and not-nearly-abridged-enough-dictionaries before they crush little toes, or dodge great long rods of steel that somehow made it into tiny hands before they're hurled like javelins at one's sensitive parts.
It builds, and it builds, and a parent starts to dream of safety, for her toddler and for herself, and of a non-existent toddler-proof device that protects against a toddler's curiosity and imaginativeness.
Then one day, as both parents lie abed, drifting in an exhausted state, half hopeful that maybe their toddler is beginning to wear down for the day, after hours of knocking down stuff, stacking stuff never meant to be stacked, howling at having half a dozen items newly appearing within his reach snatched from his reach at the last minute, and overall teething crankiness, the youngun springs up, bellows, and makes for the alarm clock.
The radio alarm clock is propped cleverly out of reach, with the cord drawn back out of sight. Out of reach--yesterday.
Today the alarm clock is fully capable of being dragged forward along with the cloth object lying underneath it, then smudged by small fingertips on every available inch of surface. We watch limply as buttons are pressed, switches switched, lights made to flicker, blink off and return.
Still, there seems no harm in it. We almost drift off to sleep.
Into the relaxed silence booms, at a volume I cannot possibly describe, "AND IN THE NEWS, THE LATEST ON COLORECTAL RESEARCH shows that there's finally hope for bleeding hemorrhoids. Visit us at Hope-for-Hemorrhoids.com"*
We lie there, stunned by the blast of noise, by the words. And, need I say, by the profundity of the thoughts engendered therein. For if there's truly hope for hemorrhoids, whatever they are, surely there's hope for us, two parents whose kid is just on the cusp of the terrible twos but who already thought themselves defeated.
We looked at each other and collapsed. I didn't discuss it with him, and he didn't discuss it with me, but I know what we're both going to be doing tomorrow.
Tomorrow we're going to get online and visit Hope-for-Hemorrhoids.com.* To show them our thanks. To show ourselves we are not beaten. To prove we can survive the adventures of one curious toddler positively "teething" with emotion to explore, learn, absorb, examine, test, and master the swiftly growing territory of his world. And even come out ahead...or at least, only a few hurried steps behind.
*For privacy reasons, both theirs and ours, the real name of this company has been changed.
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