Monday, August 4, 2014
The boy who never was a toddler until now
Max and I took a walk together around town Sunday. Dave was away on a boys' weekend, and Sabrina is still at camp. It was one of those afternoons that, on the surface, seemed like another afternoon, but it wasn't.
I watched a mom ahead of us following her toddler, who was wandering the street in that drunken seeming way toddlers meander around, touching this thing and then that and looking everywhere. Back when Max was two, and commando crawling, I used to envy those moms who looked harried or exasperated as they'd chase their toddlers around town, the park or the mall. I'd think, I wish my child needed to be chased after. I wish my child wanted to explore.
This day, though, I was following Max. I'd taken him out for ice-cream, and I thought he was beat but he wanted to cruise town. He was in the mood to check out everything.
We walked into nearly every open restaurant, with Max informing me whether or not it was a place where he'd eat. "What's that?" he asked when the waiter at a Mexican restaurant bought out a plate of sizzling fajitas. Score: He's game to go there, along with a burger joint. Max thought it was amusing that one of the restaurants was closed because the owners were on vacation; he keeps telling me that he needs more vacation. I tell him he needs to talk to his union.
Then we checked out a realty office, with dozens of home listings hanging in the window. We considered them, and Max chose a new house. When I explained that we weren't moving anytime in the near future, he asked why and I explained that I liked our house and that a new one cost a lot of money. He told me he had money. By which he means the stash of dollar bills in the Lightning McQueen wallet he keeps on his bureau. I said, "Let's stay in our house for now, OK? It's a nice house."
Next up: the movie theater. Max inquired whether they'd be getting Planes Fire & Rescue. Nope. He wandered inside and peeked into theaters to see what was playing. The movie theater manager suggested that he should come see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but Max wisely informed her that it would be "scary."
During our wandering, whenever we spoke with someone—the guy who scooped ice-cream, the manager at the diner—Max kept saying, "I want to be a fireman when I grow up." At this point, I really should just get him the t-shirt. Finally, we hit the bookstore. Max settled down into a seat in the children's area, with a few books about—wait for it—fire trucks and firefighters.
This is another thing I didn't get to do with Max when he was little, because he had no interest in checking out books back then. Two parents and their little guy wandered over to our nook; the boy grabbed my arm, pulled to stand and started slurping on my elbow. I cracked up. "No!" said Max. "My mommy!" Which only made me laugh more.
Max informed the parents that he would like to be a fireman when he grows up. Then he said something and looked expectantly at the dad. "He would like to know what you would like to be when you grow up," I explained. Max has been doing this a lot lately with adults, and it's sparked all sorts of interesting conversation and perhaps some deep soul searching. If he were to meet President Obama, I'm sure he'd ask him, too.
"I want to be a sky diver," the man replied, and his wife raised her eyebrows. "I want to be a singer," she said. "I want to be a fireman when I grow up!" Max said. I have yet to decide what I'd like to be someday; it's a toss-up between coffee bar owner, concert violinist (I don't play, but I could!) and Hillary Clinton.
Little Theodore started gnawing on my shoe, Max picked out a book about Planes Fire & Rescue, and we bought it and walked back to the car.
I so love that I am getting to watch Max experience the toddlerhood he never had, that period of intrepid exploring and total fascination with the world around you. I'm grateful that he can walk, and I'm also so grateful for his flourishing cognition. This isn't just about savoring Max's development, though. I'm getting to enjoy a part of parenthood I missed out on. As with his progress, I don't care when it happens. I'm just happy that it's here.