When I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth—almost immediately. I’ll stand there, at the sink, brushing away, dancing. Dancing because I have to pee. But I can’t pee, because my mouth tastes so gross that I have to fix that first. Bad breath—it’s the worst. So why, when my toddler breathes his awful morning-combined-with-milk breath directly into my nostrils, is it OK? It’s because he’s my kid. It’s because he’s so close that I can breathe him in, and I wish he’d stay that close forever. In the safe place that is our home, the kids can get away with so much that others would not. Here are some more:
1. Either one of my kids can sneeze onto my face from 2 inches away.
Not a dry, composed, adult sneeze, no. A messy, wet, little-kid sneeze. This particularly applies to the toddler who follows each sneeze—his own and others’—by proclaiming “achoo” where one would typically say “bless you.” “Achoo, Mommy!” “Achoo, Daddy!” “Achoo, baby!” And there’s the baby, who follows every sneeze with a suspicious smile as if he thinks he’s accomplished something. Sneeze away, adorable children. I meant to rinse my face earlier. So thanks, actually, for giving me a reason to finally do it.
2. The toddler can bop me on the head.
He says “bonk” in his adorable toddler voice immediately following and generally puts his hand on his own head. No matter how I feel about being bonked on the noggin’, I laugh. I also say “bonk.”
He can release an unrealistically long string of drool onto any part of me—my knee, my arm, my face—even after I’ve gotten dressed for work. He smiles during and after. It’s OK kid—it’ll dry. Smile more.
4. The toddler can place a variety of items on my head against my will.
He does so while beaming and stating “hat.” I’m so impressed that he understands that something on one’s head is in fact (usually) a hat, that I allow this to continue. I encourage it, even. Stuffed animals. Little People. Mega Blocks. Puzzle pieces. Christmas ornaments. Occasionally an actual hat. All hats. When he demands that I place the “hat” on the baby, I do that too. Because he then says, “baby, hat.”
5. The baby can chew on nearly any inedible object he wishes.
Obvious safety hazards are excluded. If I were to casually chew on a remote control, that would be weird. But, the baby does it, and it’s normal. In fact, here, let me take the batteries out, baby. It’s all yours.
6. The toddler can force me to pretend to talk to him on the phone, and hold the same 3-second conversation an infinite number of times.
“Hello? Hello. Hi! Hi, how are you? How are you [but in toddler, pronounced “oowweeaaahhhoooo”]? Bye!” Bye, adorable child. I’m already looking forward to you “calling” me back in. Oh, there you are now. “Hello
7. Either one of the kids can spontaneously make incredibly loud noises.
We were calmly watching television and something got you so excited that your uninhibited reaction is to squeal at the top of your lungs? Oh. But you turn to me, wide-eyed with amazement and learning and the joy of seeing something new. Kids will be kids. Make your sounds, kiddo. Someday you’ll hold them in. So for now, make them all.
8. The baby can repeat the same non-word over and over, without causing irritation.
“Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.” Oh really, baby? That’s interesting. Please tell me more. What if I repeat the ba-ba sound back to you? That’s fine. Let’s do this. Back and forth. For an hour.
9. The toddler can stare into the toilet and say, “Wow.”
I’ve seen lots of toilets. I’ve been looking at them for…well, never mind how many years. Plenty. But the toddler—he’s just beginning to look at them. I suppose it is pretty interesting the first few go-rounds. Go ahead and share your amazement with the world. We could all probably use a bit more of that.
10. Both kids can play in the bathtub for inordinate amounts of time.
My life (and the lives of the majority of parents) has become a game of can-I-possibly-shower-before-someone-needs-something roulette. But for the kids, bath time is the best time. There’s water, bubbles, brightly colored bath toys that may or may not squirt water, the undivided attention of no less than one parent lest someone will most certainly flood the bathroom floor. What’s not to love?
11. The toddler can tackle me without warning.
He can come running up behind me while I’m sitting on the floor playing with his brother and throw the full weight of his body against my back. He can expect that I will reach back and grab him and flip him forward, because I will. Over and over, knowing that one day he won’t want me to. So I’ll flip him until he’s too heavy. That day, he will learn what it looks like when mommy throws her back.
12. Either one of my kids can invade my personal space.
Personal bubble? What’s that? Respect for boundaries? Nope. The kid is coming in whenever he wants. That’s fine. Get in here, kiddo. Let me love you. The day you stop invading my personal space is the day I start invading yours, because you are mine. And moms can get away with so much that others would not.
The list of what my kids can get away with is long and ever-changing. But so is the list of what I can get away with as their mom. I will always hug them in public, hold their hands, kiss their hurt arms, and warn them about that curb they’re so casually walking toward in all their childhood naïveté. No matter how many birthdays they celebrate, they will always be my babies. As we learned from Dave Grohl: Breathe out, so I can breathe you in (even when your baby’s breath stinks of whole milk and Goldfish). Stay this close, sweet baby.