It happened one night toward the end of dinner, a time when the rest of us are finished eating, and sitting around enjoying each other’s company, but which Nicholas invariably turns into an extended attempt to avoid finishing his vegetables and meat. He tries many tactics—crocodile tears, signing “candy,” “ice cream” or “cracker,” knocking over his glass, throwing food or utensils on the floor. This particular night, he opened his mouth and emitted a long squeal that teased the limits of a dog’s hearing. For some reason, Alex found this hysterically funny, and Christian and I couldn’t help laughing at his uncontrolled giggles.
The squeal cut off abruptly, and this look flitted across Nicholas’s face…a look that did not bode well for future dinner hours. He waited for the laughter to subside, and then, his little eyes flickering back and forth to gauge the reaction around the table, he did it again—louder.
It wasn’t so funny this time.
When we finally got him to shut up, Christian looked down the table at me and shook his head. “We’re gonna have trouble with him,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s gonna be the class clown…but we’re gonna have trouble with him.”
Maybe it was only coincidence that the next day, Nicholas decided to start living up to his daddy’s prediction. For example, he invented new uses for several kitchen tools:
A trap set:
Any time I’m in the kitchen, there he must be as well. He desperately wants to “help” me, a stage I enjoyed very much with Alex and which Julianna (naturally) is just now reaching as well. But I have to admit that the sound of the stepstool dragging across the floor is beginning to make me shudder. I just don’t remember Alex being this destructive–to my kitchen and to my sanity.
I literally cannot turn around. If I take two steps to the right to pull the flour out of the pantry, he puts the empty measuring cup in the Pyrex full of sorghum molasses and drags sticky, gummy mess all the way across the counter, dripping it down the drawers and coating his hands. (This procedure took three seconds, which was all the time my eyes were off him.) If I turn around to grab the measuring spoons, he eats flour. Plain. And says “Mmmmmmm!” If I pause to read the directions while the sugar and shortening beat, he sticks his finger in the bowl–while the mixer is running.
I cleaned him up and put him on the floor. “All right–OUT!” I said. “No more kitchen!” But then I made the mistake of thinking he was actually going to obey. Next thing I knew, he was up on the stool by the sink, making a play area of the dishes waiting to be washed. At least he’s occupied, I thought. And then I heard the sound of rubber toppling, and a big gush. I turned around to find the pitcher full of water for the Christmas tree…not so full, and Nicholas, caught red-handed with a spatula in his hand.
I really don’t remember Alex being this difficult. But I don’t know if that’s faulty memory, the difference in personality between the boys, or whether Alex just got more focused attention than Nicholas (no question about it, he did; the question is whether that is the difference in behavior. Does Nicholas get into trouble because I’m not keeping as close an eye on him?)
In the end, it doesn’t really matter why. I want my kids to do things with me in the kitchen, so I’ll have to keep gritting my teeth and cleaning up the messes. And accept that in our house, the mop water will always be black.