I am the first one to leave in the morning and the last one home at night–the trappings of a long commute. Each night when I come home there is a flurry of greetings: Rocky’s wet nose is there before I even get the door opened and the other two are right behind him. There are a few pats on their furry heads before the little guy comes running out of the kitchen with his arms up in the air to greet me. It’s a wonderful way to come home. As I make my way into the kitchen with our son, there is one last greeting–a hug and kiss for Darrow. Sometimes while we are embracing I can feel little hands begin to paw at my knees and thighs, then his head slips between us, and with grunting and fighting he manages to insert his entire, little body. Once in there, he uses his little arms, grunting and straining, to push us apart. Sure it is cute and a little funny, and sometimes we lock him in there for a minute just to mess with him, but as a two-year old his intentions are clear and not subtle. You can sense that while he is forcing us apart there is this dialogue going on: “must be the center of the universe, cannot let these two unite, must be catered to, coddled and showered with love. It’s me, just me, all meeeeeeeeeee!”
Since he is only two and not particularly savvy in the manner in which he inserts himself both figuratively and literally, it’s hard not to be amused by it. T’s are simple-I want what I want. There have been many times when Darrow is holding him and I come up from behind to give them both a hug, that he gives a squeal of displeasure and tries to push me away. His intent is clear–my daddy not yours. At first it was a little off-putting to the push-ee, since it appeared that he was favoring one over the other and for no apparent reason. One time when he pushed me, I acted like it sent me reeling backwards onto the floor. It made him howl with laughter. Now it has become a game where he pushes me away and then has to pull me back. Once I come back we say “hugs, hugs,” and we all have a big hug, but of course he then immediately pushes me away again.
Dinner is a particularly interesting, though sometimes exhausting experience. Typically, our foster son has a roaring appetite that after a few minutes begins to wind down. Once that happens he loses interest in eating and like any toddlers begins to play. What’s fascinating is that when the two adults begin to have a conversation, the shenanigans really start. First we start mashing food with the spoon so that it comes flying out of the bowl, then the fork goes on the ground, food gets squished into the placemat, the sippy-cup is rolled towards the edge of the table–that kind of thing. He asks for more even though clearly he is no longer hungry–“more wice, more wice, more wice, wice, wice, wice,” over and over and over. When he is not quickly attended to, he slumps down in his seat, produces a face of dissatisfaction and the squeals of two-year old frustration start. With conversations diverted, interrupted, and ended by his demands, it doesn’t take long before our own frustration begins. We started to realize that if we didn’t correct this behavior, we weren’t ever going to be able to talk to one another at the table. We began to explain to him that Daddy and Poppa were talking and that we would get to him in a minute. He still slumped in the chair and gave his shrieks of disapproval, but at least we were fighting back.
So the other night when he finished his dinner early and wanted to get down, we knew the battle lines had been drawn. He would immediately begin to hound us, to intervene in our conversation and try to get up in someone’s lap. So he picked his battle with me, coming up to me and saying, “lap, lap, lap.” I explained as we always do, that while we are eating he cannot sit in our lap. He screamed at me and I threatened him with consequences if he didn’t stop. He went at me again and I responded by making him sit against the wall (a time out). After a few minutes and a lot of maneuvering around the dogs who were sprawled around the table, he managed to make his way back to my chair. I asked if he wanted to sit in the chair next to me and he said yes. When he got in the chair he took a look at my plate and in his sweet charming oh-my-gosh-daddy voice, he said, “look” pointing to my plate and raised his hands and while shrugging his shoulders said, “all gone–all gone Poppa!” Meaning there is no more food on my plate, therefore I must be done eating, therefore he must be able to get in my lap. That’s a lot of reasoning for a two year old. He’s a genius. So, what do you say to something like that? We both just laughed. I was completely outmaneuvered. He divided and he conquered.
I know that this is just a stage in his development. I know that it will all change again in few weeks or months, and that at some point he will begin to be more independent. I know that his motivations for dividing and conquering will also be different–less about getting our attention and more about getting his way. He will be even more clever, more cunning and we will fall into the trap of being pitted one against the other. But I am ready. Let the games begin.