1. He remembers everything. Big can tell me all about the minor character in a sub-plot of a B-grade kids’ movie he watched six months ago. Even worse, he expects me to remember that same minor character and wants me to explain why the character behaved as he did. Sometimes I try to answer his questions but more often than not, I put it back on him. “Why do YOU think he did that?” I can pat myself on the back for encouraging critical thinking in my son but really, I just have no clue.
2. He remembers nothing. “Did you change your undies?” Blank stare. “What did you have for breakfast?” Crickets. “Did you go to the library today?” (Trick question because I already know the answer.) “Yes!” “Really??” “Ummm . . .” (They did not, in fact, go to the library.) This isn’t even evasive behavior. I can understand (though not abide) lying or covering up or trying to figure out what Mama wants him to say, but that’s not what this is. Anyone remember that old Tom Hanks SNL skit, “Mr. Short Term Memory?” At any moment I expect Big to exclaim, “Hey, you’re Tony Randall!”
3. The “why” questions get worse, if you can believe it. They were bad enough when they were just constantly whined, “Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???” Combined with the photographic memory of random movie trivia (a trait he inherited from me, most likely), the “why” questions get more excruciating. “But WHY did Tim close the gate? And why did he laugh? Was he a good guy or a bad guy?” (He’s talking about Tim, the gatekeeper in the 2005 movie “Robots.” Tim was voiced by Paul Giamatti, appeared in maybe two scenes and was in no way integral to the plot.) When I get to the end of my patience, the standard, “Because I said so” doesn’t really work anymore; he’s looking for more nuance.
4. Backtalking is starting to become his preferred form of conversation. Now I know that this one is only going to get worse, but it’s definitely starting now. The belligerence is very clear; he answers, “No!” or, “So what?!” or, “I don’t care” any time we ask him to do something. If we’re really lucky, we’ll get, “I don’t like you anymore!” or, “I wish Little had never been born!” Sometimes I handle this by ignoring it, not wanting to fuel the fire. Sometimes he needs to go have some quiet time in his room or he loses some toy or privilege. Sometimes I just lose my cool and respond with excessive sarcasm. I’m not proud.
5. “I can’t.” This phrase makes me crazy. I don’t like to hear it EVER but especially not when applied to ridiculous things that he’s previously been able to do just fine, like get dressed or, um, walk. He also moans it constantly when he’s stuck in the car for more than ten minutes, “I caaaan’t . . . I caaaan’t . . I caaaan’t . . .” I totally get the fact that he’s really just needing something — attention from me, a little more time to do something, more sleep, some food, to get out of the car, whatever — and so I try to address those needs before snapping at him.
6. He is absolutely incapable of keeping his hands to himself. Whether he’s petting, hitting, pushing, poking, tickling, squeezing, or “hugging” (ha!), he can’t NOT do it. Even if he’s not officially touching anyone (usually his little brother), he is still making them crazy. Often he just body-blocks Little or stands in front of him in a menacing way. So then of course Little has to retaliate by biting or stabbing Big with a toy screwdriver. I find myself yelling things like, “I DON’T WANT ANYBODY IN THIS HOUSE TO TOUCH ANOTHER PERSON AS LONG AS THEY LIVE!!” a la classic Bill Cosby. (This bit starts around the 2:55 mark but the whole thing is even more hilarious now than when I first saw it pre-kids.
7. He . . . just came up and said he had to give me something. Turns out it’s a hug and an, “I love you, Mama.” Okay, so I guess there are only six things that really infuriate me about my four-year-old. At least for today.