I mentioned earlier that I have two kids: a seven-year-old daughter (Isa) and a son who will be two in the fall (Rory).
Isa is our unicorn child. Although her babyhood was tough (she got all her teeth early and at once; literally ten were coming in at the same time), toddlerhood and early childhood haven’t been that difficult on us as parents. She’s a conscientious kid. Empathetic, sensitive, mostly well-behaved, smart for her age…yes I’m bragging, but I’m also trying to set the tone for a comparison.
Rory is a handful as a toddler. His babyhood wasn’t as hard as hers, but now that he is mobile it seems like he feels a magnetic pull toward anything and everything he isn’t supposed to have. Electrical outlets, light switches, lamps, dangerous toys, chemicals, sharp things, high things… A large part of raising Rory is following him around, removing him from the latest dangerous situation, and then comforting him when he screams his baby-rage to the heavens because you’ve thwarted him from killing himself for the 8th time that day. He also likes to throw adorable tantrums: picking up toys and throwing them, shoving things over, and stomping through the house on his chubby little legs.
He’s adorable and snuggly, too, so that helps a lot. But I’m guessing that his childhood will be tougher than his sister’s. I can already see him at preschool drinking the paint and deftly shoving craft materials into outlets.
Some people chalk this up to boys versus girls, but I don’t buy that. I have it on very good authority that female children can also be challenging. Neither of my kids can compare to their mother when it comes to behavior. Yes, moi. You know that age-old joke (or wish) where your parents say “I hope you have one just like you”? That happened to my mother, and I just hope Rory never reaches my level.
I thought I’d share some stories about my childhood antics since they are pretty amusing. I don’t even remember being the subject of some of them, but I do remember bits and pieces, and the rest I know from my mom telling them. I’ll start with some of the more innocuous ones.
Aunt Jan’s Fancy Suit
My Aunt Jan was always a stylish dresser: the latest fashions, nice jewelry, and since she was trained as a hairdresser even her hair was usually perfect. As a child who only wore shoes or got my hair washed and combed when someone bigger than me insisted upon it, I was mystified by Aunt Jan’s appearance.
One thing that drove me crazy about grown-ups when I was little was how long they could talk. Since there were always people coming and going at our house and my grandmother’s or aunts’ next door, it seemed like every blessed time my mother took me outside to do something interesting, here came another grown-up, and I’d be stuck waiting an eternity for them to shut up so we could get on with the fun stuff.
That day Aunt Jan must have either come from somewhere nice, or gone to church with my grandparents, because she had on a fancy suit with a skirt and jacket. I can’t even remember what color it was. All I remember was my mom stopped to talk to Aunt Jan and I wanted to be elsewhere. And as usual, it seemed like they were going to talk forever.
I started poking around the yard as far as Mom would let me roam to see what I could find to do while I waited, and I hit the jackpot. I found a whole nest—a slew—of caterpillars.
I entertained myself by playing with them for a little bit, and I became amazed by how well they stuck to things.
If I stuck one to Aunt Jan would she even notice?
Would my mom scold me and say “I can’t take you anywhere!” and take me home to play with my toys, or to the creek to throw rocks? I could only hope.
Would Aunt Jan notice two?
How about ten?
How many could I possibly stick to her before she noticed her back was covered with caterpillars marching toward her head?
Like I said, I only partially remember this story because I was very young, so thankfully I’ve forgotten the screaming when my mom saw the first one poke its little caterpillar head over Jan’s shoulder and went to brush it off, then realized the whole back of Jan’s skirt and matching jacket were covered in caterpillars desperately trying to march away from my grabby little hands.
Hopefully none got mashed onto the suit while Jan danced and my mom tried to brush them off. It was a really nice suit.
Then there was the day my mom said “No” when I asked if I could ride with her to go pick up my sister from the bus stop.
In West Virginia we lived right between the bus routes for two elementary schools. The nearest bus stop was about half a mile away. For whatever reason, when my sister started kindergarten (maybe she wanted to ride the bus?) my mom just drove back and forth to the bus stop to deliver my sister to the school bus. And most of the time she took me.
But not that day. I remember her saying something like “I’m just going to get your sister geez, you don’t need to go every time, stop pestering and stay here with your dad.”
Well I didn’t want to stay there with my dad. So what I did, when I saw my mom getting her stuff together to pick up my sister, was go hide in the car.
My mom kept her car pristine. She washed it every few weeks, waxed it, and dried it by hand with old towels. She vacuumed out the seats and floors, and kept the floors clean by putting throw rugs down in front of every seat.
I hid behind the driver’s seat, curled into a tiny ball, and put the throw rug over me. I remember feeling absolutely exhilarated that I was doing something so sneaky and disobedient. I thought for sure she would see me when she opened the car door and she’d tell me to get out. I was so excited I nearly gave myself away when the door opened!
But she got in, closed the door, and started the car. I couldn’t believe my good fortune and sneak prowess. I giggled with glee. Did she hear? Apparently not.
The crunch of the tires on gravel was very loud from my spot in the floor. Then we hit the paved road. I felt us go over the hump in the road, and that meant we were pretty close. It was hard to decide when to reveal myself. I had originally been planning to wait until my sister got in, so I could surprise her too, but I was so excited! So as the car started to slow and I heard her blinker turn on, I jumped up from the back and yelled “SURPRISE!”
She screamed “JESUS!” and slammed on the brakes, nearly wrecking the car. Then “GODDAMMIT IZZY!”
I cackled madly. “You didn’t even know I was back here! You didn’t even see me!”
She could swear at me all she wanted, but she couldn’t touch my elation from pulling off such a prank.
After that she always looked behind the seat.
Unfortunately she didn’t check behind the bumper, because another crazy thing I did one time was to use her car as a “stable” for my new trike-horse. I was riding in the driveway and it started to rain. I got called in, so I carefully wedged my trike under Mom’s back bumper to keep it dry.
When she backed over it later it tore the hell out of both the car and the trike.