Like a drone shadowing me, I hear his constant chatter and realize: the kid is trying to drive me mad. I’m sure of it. “Mommy, I read the books. Mommy, I read the books. Mommy, I read the books.” He repeats in six sets of three as both the book and the tot sit in my lap ready to go. My jaw tightens, and like a skilled ventriloquist, I clench my mouth closely as if merely opening it will result in my impatience to slip out in the form of a SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY! So instead, I pull it together and say, “Yes honey, we’re going to read the books.”
This is a test. I tell myself. He’s testing me. The following day, we’re in the car when my seemingly angelic son is singing songs in the backseat, “I’m bringing home a baby bumble bee…” It feels like one of those special moments when a mother can really enjoy her child, so I seize the opportunity and join in the sing-a-long, only to be immediately scolded, “NO MOMMY! DON’T SING!” What. A. Brat. I want to set him straight but his sass is too misleading. Though he acts 15, he’s only 2. So instead of a backhand, I gift him the silent treatment and continue driving.
Now we’re at the stop light, about to turn onto our street when suddenly I’m instructed, “GO THIS WAY! MOMMY, NO, NO, NO, GO THIS WAY!” I turn back and see bossy-pants pointing in the opposite direction. His voluntary navigation is cute, but that’s all it is. “We’re going home Dylan, and home is this way.” Then much like an earthquake, unpredictable and feeling longer than it lasts, I’m struck by Dylan’s vortex of high pitched, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I WANT TO GO THIS WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The windows are practically shaking. However, I shrug, magnitude 3.5. I’ve survived bigger.
And there’s at least 4 hours left in the day until bedtime, so I do my best to brace myself for the psychological warfare my toddler is bound to produce once we walk inside the house. Patience is a virtue. I repeat, despite not really giving a damn about moral righteousness. I contemplate my future, knowing Dylan has the upper hand. Though he gets under my skin, he’s a permanent resident of my heart. So for now, I’m screwed, with no choice but to clench my jaw and prevent myself from traumatizing this cunning, clever, outlandish, ridiculously sassy tot that knows no better. Stress builds character, I repeat to myself. Plus, one day, this toddler will be a teenager. And payback? She’s a fickle one. And in this house, we call her mom.