Toddlers are bats. I’m convinced. They’re nocturnal, occasionally flying mammals who conserve energy during the day and get their freak on at night.
At breakfast time, before school, after school, it’s “I wanna watch TV and eat.” Like Roger Ebert without the pen. This is their day job. Eat snacks and ask to watch YouTube. And then, in the hour leading up to bedtime, they’re suddenly mini-Da Vincis, Renaissance wannabes who dance and sing and twirl and tell jokes. Performance monkeys insistent on clanging their symbols together as loudly and as frequently as possible. Want to see the future Olympians? They’re doing somersaults and hanging upside down from their undersized beds as disheveled parents look on, half-heartedly asking them, for the last time, to brush their teeth. Or maybe that was just my night. How was yours?
I might literally die in my 3-year-old’s room. Like, what if I was just never able to leave? I’m in there for 45 minutes most nights. Tonight it was an hour. What if, some night in the near future, I get sucked in by the adorable stall tactics, forget to eat, and then doze off, a casually tossed toy smacking my resting head, concussing me, a discarded blanket finishing me off, covering my face and obstructing my breath forever?
It started off so innocently six months ago. I offered to tell him a story in the rocking chair after we turned out the lights. Then it was story and song. Then it was story, song, and back rub. Then it was story and gossip and watch me play and hold my hand and I need to go to the bathroom and wait, one more book…no, I need some water and a soft toy and a pillow and a blanket… No, not that blanket! and Dad, what is the future? Who built me? Do mamas have penises?
Now there’s an added gymnastics competition. First event? The vault, in which he climbs into bed using the rocking chair as a climbing apparatus. Second event? Extreme somersaulting. Didn’t think a somersault could be extreme? You haven’t heard the thud-crack-thwomp noises emanating from my son’s bed around 8 o’clock every night. I’m trying to encourage him to quiet his mind and calm his body, but he just says things like, “Is my mind in my head?” and “How do you quiet a mind?” and, oh yeah, my favorite…”NO!”
Bedtime is also a time to coin new catchphrases. Tonight it was “Boom boom, in my room!” which, best as I can tell, involves jumping onto his changing pad and then singing an off-key version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” while sticking a leg up in the air. It’s practically a Vegas show.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because it’s not just me. As we speak, there’s a new generation of parents beating their collective heads against the wall, trying to get toddlers to behave like humans. They’re not humans. They’re bats with a vocabulary. Creatures that, should you encounter them in a cave or a dark bedroom, it’s best to just run away from. Screaming, if necessary.
Don’t worry. Eventually the light will come back, and they will lose their power. Right?