The snow was falling for the first time this season, a cold chill in the air, and the heat rising from my car as SiriusXm’s Holiday Traditions played some classics out of the radio (Yes, I’m one of those people listening to holiday music already. It puts me in a good mood as the snow falls, so I make no apologies).
Making our way through some of our usual routes, the little guy pipes up from the back seat, navigating.
“Turn here, dada.”
“This way, dada.”
“You got it, buddy.”
Then, some time later, as I’m waiting at a stop sign, I hear something I’ve never heard before.
“For Pete’s sake, let’s go. Come on, dada.”
He’s two but some days I feel like I’m chauffeuring a teenager around.
I suppose in many ways a toddler is very much like having all the emotional volatility of a teenager and no filter or way to fully communicate it.
Okay. So it’s not that I’m totally unaware of where it comes from. He’s been very, very, very into watching Mickey Mouse Christmas specials as of late and in one of the vignettes, a Goofy one about waiting for Santa to arrive, neighbor Pete hears something out his window and shouts “what in the name of Pete is goin’ on out here, for Pete’s sake?!”
As for the “come on,” well, Meg’s caught herself saying a few times, only to have it repeated back to her by our little human tape recorder.
There’s a lesson in here somewhere, that toddlers are sponges. They are true mimics. And whether it is what they see from the characters they watch, or what you say or what you do, they will look to you for their words and actions.
So make sure they’re the best ones you can muster.
I can’t help but share the tidbits and conversations that come out of our little guy during our drives in the car.
Recently, we were driving along, some classical music playing on the radio, just the smallest amount of heat coming out of the car on a crisp, Fall day, when I heard coughing from the backseat.
“Are you okay, Buddy?”
“Me no sick, dada. Me BRAVE!”
A few moments later, his arm goes up in the air in a fist, like he’s about to fly.
“You certainly are, buddy.”
As we inch closer to winter, the evenings have become darker all too quick and by the time I pick up my little buddy for our daily trek home, we’re among just one of many pairs of headlights shining through the darkness on the roads. That naturally means I can’t get the greatest view into the backseat from the driver’s seat and thus my ears are attuned to what’s going on back there.
The other day we were making our way home. Our usual, classical music, was gently pouring from the speakers for a relaxing drive when from the dark of the backseat, there arose a stream of chatter. What was he saying? I couldn’t tell you and it didn’t matter. As just ‘ya-ya-ya-ya’d’ away, I was overcome with a sense of something that I can only describe as pure calm and joy.
This is my boy, I thought. This is my boy, taking in a world around him and sharing it with me.
As I continued driving home, I sat there and smiled, my eyes on the road, but my mind engulfed in the comforting blanket of this little guy’s voice.
I can think of no greater feeling in the world.
Since his birth, we’ve carried him around in a Graco car seat carrier, the type that has bases that attach to the car and allow you to just pull up the seat by a handle and snap in and out of place at ease. It really has been a snap for us, especially when he falls asleep, as all we need to do is pull the carrier off the base, he inside, and bring him into the house where he’d often continue to get the much-needed sleep.
But, alas, he has easily grown beyond the carrier and needed what we refer to as ‘the big boy car seat.’ For someone who had to rely on our local police station for help with the original carrier/car seats, I was quite proud of myself in handling the new installations all on my own. We’re still in rear-facing mode, but they were in, they were sturdy, and they were secure.
They weren’t without their own adjustments, though.
The most notable, of course, is that now our little guy gets carried out of the house and into the car and vice-versa, versus the carriers that allowed us to put him in the seat and carry him to the car and snap into place. At his current size of 20+ pounds, however, that was just becoming an exercise in weight training that was unnecessary.
The downside to this is that if he falls asleep, there’s no more bringing him seamlessly inside to continue his slumber. Instead, when that buckle clicks to unlock, he is awake, whether he likes it or not and immediately wants out of that seat and into whatever is going on around him.
It takes some getting used to. For example, I recently picked him up at Grandma’s house after what was a day of a very short nap, teething, and crankiness. A terrible combination and one that left him very unhappy for the first half of our ride home. With some Tchaikovsky on the radio, he slowly was lulled to sleep halfway through our journey, leaving me with quite the dilemma as I pulled into our driveway.
Here, Mr. Crankypants was in desperate need of a nap, but here we were now home, just shortly after he fell asleep. What to do, what to do. I texted my wife, just feet away, inside of the house, my dilemma.
And I decided to wait.
So, there we were. Me sitting in the parked car in the driveway, killing time on my phone, listening to Symphony Hall on Satellite Radio as my son snored away in the background.
After a little while and realizing what was going on, my wife appeared at my car window and said I probably shouldn’t spend the entire evening sitting in the car in the driveway, and helped me slowly get him out of the car in the least intrusive way possible. He awoke, yes, but with his mommy just within arm’s reach, he was much happier with being awakened had it just been his dorky daddy.