Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Toddlers and Fathers: Heartwarming Love That Warms the Hands, Too.

The child! The child! Yes, for all you artsy types, this is indeed a reference to Kurtz's exclamation in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, "The horror! The horror!" It began around the time that creature that y'all know as The Toddler discovered the joy of the outdoors. First he learned to go down the porch stairs backward on his belly, then he learned to go up them--not that he used the second talent much. He was all about staying out there on the front lawn, going up and down the path exclaiming like a mad thing and hollering as a beast wounded whenever we tried to pick him up and bring him inside. And heaven forbid we take away his stick while doing it.

It was a warm evening. The air was crisp and fresh, the Pacific Northwestern sky clear for a change. The Toddler was running to and fro down the path, waving his stick and hollering triumphantly whenever he stooped to pick up something interesting.  Every so often he'd run over to me where I was sitting on the porch step and drop whatever it was he'd found into my hand.

He didn't choose the fallen magnolia petals or the interestingly-patterned stones, either. The lawn was filled with pretty, smooth and scented objects for his delectation, but he ignored those for the half-decomposing, mottled brown leaves, the dirt-laden roots of unidentifiable weeds, and burnt-out cigarette butts. After taking the screaming, wriggling mass inside to wash his hands, I dumped him back outside with his father, who was smoking on the lawn.

Not what you'd call a heavy smoker, his father only smokes outside, and for him it's a chance to think as well as unwind. When I returned, The Toddler had found a new target for his gifts--his dad. That one barely noticed what scrungy piece of lawn refuse he was being handed, however. The father of my child had launched one of our long, convoluted discussions on the nature of the universe as it relates to parenting, nutrition and zen meditation.

"When you think of it, self-hypnosis is a form of space travel," he said as The Toddler handed him a rotted flower.

"I wonder," I said, watching the child with happy pride. He really loved it out there.

The small one ran across the lawn where the grass grew almost to his waist (have I mentioned before that after the child came, all thoughts of lawn maintenance flew out the window, down to the street and along the gutter to fall into a manhole, where they were lost to us forever?) Then he veered into the flower bed. He spotted and picked up a small stick and tried carefully to attach it to his big, curved one. When it wouldn't stick, he trotted over and offered the twig to his dad, who threw it away, as he did each one of the child's gifts as soon as The Toddler's back was turned.

"But what if he wants them again?" I've asked him when he's carelessly tossed chunks of dandelion fuzz onto the raised bed.

"He'll just find more," his father assured me.

I was arguing his current philosophical point re: meditation, watching as The Toddler approached him with small hand extended. I'd left my glasses inside and the boys were too far away for me to see what happened clearly. But I did note that The Toddler's dad flinched a little before he offered his hand, palm up, wrist oddly stiff. The minute the offending object, whatever it was, was in his hand, the man turned, made a flinging motion rather evocative of an Olympic event, and, once rid of its vile presence--whatever it was--began to shake his hand up and down while his whole body rippled in what looked to be a kind of shuddering horror.

"The child! The child!"

But the child in question had turned away without noticing what he'd caused and was busy looking for a new and better object. Aside from abruptly being dragged back inside for another hand cleaning, the event was traumaless for him.

It was about a week later that I was on the phone with The Toddler's grandmother. "You'll never guess what he picked up from the lawn the other day and handed to his dad," I said. She immediately came back with, "I hope it wasn't a live slug." I blinked, amazed and impressed.

When I told her the story, she was heartened. "That man truly loves that boy."

She was right. Argue as he may, the fact that the man saw the slimy, oozing thing ahead of time and still took it from his son's eager fingers says scads about his preparedness to sacrifice all for this child in the future. Maybe. Or, I guess it could say the opposite, too, if his quota of sacrificial acts has now been used up.

Anyway, both for the fact that this is one object The Toddler has not sought again and for the blessed luck that put his father there in The Toddler's path that day instead of me, I thank the yucky but innocent slug that lives (lived?) on our lawn.
Copyright Nerd Writer Mom 2008-2010 - All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

susie said...

Noooo, please not a slug! What a dad! What a story! You lucky wife and mom.