Turning Four: Articulation
Sunday we were slated for an afternoon family trip to the playground. As it happened, our trip was was flouted by Henry’s first bout with flux. Or, as it is known in less poetic circles, diarrhea.
“This is some really weird poop,” he marveled, just before he started screaming, as things flew forth from his body in a completely new way.
He is young enough that new things continue to happen to him all the time, but old enough to try hard to aptly categorize and describe them. It is this ongoing upping of the ante — the watching of the child become ever more lucid and articulate — that makes drearier parts of parenting —like the never ending crumbs and the mulishness — not just bearable but something that people decide to do again and again.
We quickly switched gears away from the playground and planned an on-the-fly movie night, since the TV is closer to the toilet than the swingset is. We turned on the television and decided to watch “The Borrowers.” Once we’d selected the movie, I rushed to the kitchen to assemble some personalized enchilada casseroles and put them into the oven. That is because, a big part of movie night is dragging the high chair into the living room and letting the baby watch movies and eat dinner in the living room with the rest of us. Talk about the never ending crumbs! (Talk about the scandal of movie night for a one year old! Talk about the second child vs. the first, who wasn’t even allowed to see a video until he was 2!)
You probably recall, as I do, that a large and boring part of childhood is waiting for the grownups. I remember it most clearly in terms of sitting in a chair in a department store, sulking while my mother shopped for clothes, which were undoubtedly for me. And I know that Henry is always waiting for me to make his food, change his sister, get everyone’s coats on. On Sunday night he was waiting to watch the movie. At first, the television had a picture of the Borrowers on the screen, but soon enough it gave up and the screen saver was triggered.
“THE TV IS COVERED WITH ANIMALS,” our son shouted through his little nose, in a way that reminds me of Owen Meany, to inform us what was happening, and to tacitly question whether we would still be having a movie night.
Apple TV starts showing these crystal clear, saturated photos of animals in nature. They are the perfect photos. The most beautiful photos on earth of the most beautiful things on earth. A baby hippo with raindrops on its nose. One of those white baby seals that we are always threatened will be clubbed. A daddy lion gazing thoughtfully into the distance, his snub-nosed baby by his side.
Henry’s dad explained that the TV had gone to sleep, but that we would start the movie as soon as Mom could finish getting dinner into the oven.
Henry ruminated for a moment at the notion that the “TV” could “go to sleep.”
“If the TV is asleep,” he asked, “are those pictures its dreams?”
For months on end when he was two, I’d ask Henry what he dreamt of every time he woke up, and every time he woke up he said “Dreamed a zebra, and a giraffe.” So maybe he thought it was close to his own dreams, as yet untainted by the urbane and adult anxieties of life, or maybe he was just trying to slot the behavior of the television in what he is learning to be the behavior of the things around him.
The point is that I really like to listen to him think things through, and I hope that never changes.
Welcome to four, buddy!