two sides of the toddler coin

In celebration of warm weather, outside exploration, a freshly mowed lawn, and everything spring, Lucas is the ecstatic owner of a brand new lawn mower. It does not blow bubbles but by golly the pull cord [starter rope? varoom thingamajig?] makes a noise that simultaneously fascinates the Boy and scares the whiskers off of Puma. Score. This little green lawn mower also comes with a miniature gas can that fits conveniently in a notched space on the back of the mower. [This space can alternately be used instead as a storage spot for any number of other important life items, like colorful Easter eggs, hotwheels, or a peanut butter sandwich. Versatility!] And this gas can is the star of the latest installment of Life with Lucas.

Topping the list of Lucas's many heartwarming attributes is his sweet desire [some incalculable percent of the time] to dutifully carry out whatever task you ask him to do. In hopeful-parentspeak, he loves to be obedient. Sure, a lot of the time that he is sweet and dutiful about obeying is when he is being asked to do something that he has no reason or desire to refuse to do in the first place [confusing sentence!]. And granted, he has not reached the age where he questions everything before he agrees to do it, which is a good thing since we ask him to do a lot of inane things just for the sake of watching him do it. Like I said, he is a pretty sweet kid. Anyway. All this to say, more often than not, Lucas seems to love to do what we ask, as long as what we ask does not interfere with the consumption of his bananas.

So. The gas can story. The little green lawn mower came packaged in a frustrating mixture of cardboard and a dozen absurdly tight zip ties. Things were zip-tied that had no reason to be zip-tied. There was even a zip tie that was zip-tied. Seriously. Ridiculous. [First takeaway from this story: If you think you can quickly remove this toy from its packaging in order to discreetly shoplift it away, think again. Trust me, just spend the $25 and save your integrity and sanity.] Lucas was in toddler agony trying to be patient as I manhandled those never-ending zip ties one by one. Each time I successfully removed one, he would think it was finally time. But no, cutie, there are still a gazillion more. Sigh. 

One of the first removable parts I managed to get loose was the miniature gas can. He held it reverently in his hands as he watched me wrestle with the rest of this menace-disguised-as-a-toy. Finally, it was finished. I assembled the four pieces of plastic with minimal pinching of toddler fingers [he insisted on sticking his fingers in each and every spot that I was focused on because, well, you know, curiosity] and presented him with his very own lawn mower. He was gleeful. I explained to him what it was and showed him the various parts. In conclusion I pointed to the gas can clutched in his hands and said, "Lucas, that's a gas can. Gas can. Gas can." And the turmoil began.

What turmoil you ask? My thoughts exactly at that moment. Lucas became clearly bothered for a couple of seconds. He hesitated. His face got that serious, decide-y, pondering look to it. He was clearly bothered. But why? When a toddler becomes bothered, it is sometimes quite hard to pin down the reason. Did he not get the concept of a gas can? Does he not know how to hold the gas can and push the mower at the same time? Is the gas can's color too red for his liking? Did my mention of the gas can bring to mind a previous babyhood trauma involving a scrap of carpet fiber, applesauce, and an unwanted diaper change? Did he suddenly realize it was an election year? Who can say. This is life with a toddler. 

A moment after the turmoil-filled pause, Lucas turned around, gas can in hand, and waddled off into the kitchen. After the past fifteen minutes of anxious excitement to get his hands on his new toy, I found his wandering off a bit odd. But, a few seconds later, he returned. Empty-handed. Gas-can-less. And then it dawned on me. You see, one of the various requests we make of Lucas is to throw things in the garbage can. He gets a big kick out of it and loves to find dirt and crumbs on the floor to throw in the garbage can of his own volition. It is such a big kid thing to do; I love it. Well, apparently with all of the excitement zooming around his head, Lucas misheard what I said. He saw me pointing at the gas can in his hands and thought I said "garbage can" instead of "gas can." The poor kid was torn between doing what he thought I asked him to do and keeping his new toy, and he chose to dutifully do what he thought I asked.

I love this kid. You have no idea.

The gas can was rescued from the trash, the difference between gas can and garbage can was explained, and the entire main floor was mowed about thirty times in the next thirty minutes. In the middle of his mowing, with his eyes closed tight, he gave me the sweetest little kiss, smack dab on the chin. For the rest of the day I marveled at what an unbelievably sweet and good little boy I have. I win in the kid category.

Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea or thinks I am epically naive about my child, I suppose I should toss in here that I am quite aware of the other side of a toddler's behavioral spectrum. Lucas is by no means perfect and his sweetness isn't always apparent 100% of the time. To prove my point, here is an abbreviated list of some of his quirkier moments:

  • During breakfast, if Jason [yes, this is particular only to Jason and only during breakfast] looks at him too long or identifies an object in a book, Lucas will thrash about in his chair and sometimes even start crying. Why.
  • The classic Back Arching occurs if he doesn't want to put on his shoes or his jacket or if he doesn't want a diaper change at a particular moment. 
  • Lucas loves being outside. Playing in the yard is one of his favorite things to do. And if he isn't ready to come back inside when you insist it's time? Cue Armageddon.
  • There is one particular shirt he refuses to wear. Refuses. If you try to put it on him, he acts like it is made out of acid. That's right, we bought an Acid Shirt for our son. 
  • The correct parent has to push the shopping cart. If the incorrect parent attempts to push the shopping cart at any given moment, get ready to be that family with that kid in aisle 12. Sometimes you've just got to choose your battles...
And the list could go on. But I think I'll stop there, because, really, Lucas is such an amazing kid. He has the sweetest heart. He is incredibly empathetic. He looks adorable even with drool crusted on his face and his hair doing some kind of weird toddler comb over in the back. He laughs heartily whenever we're laughing even though he has no idea what we're laughing about. He laughs when he hears us say the word "funny." He laughs when I say the word "potato." He gives hugs that speak volumes and volumes. He emanates such joy.

Being Lucas's mom means I get to see and experience and, yes, sometimes just simply endure every moment, every mood, every side of his personality. It is a privilege that no one else gets to experience, and it is a grand, grand way to spend my days.