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Tales From The Crib

Messy little man

&

See dat? Mess!&

Etani, my 2-year-old, is using a knife to slather the kitchen table with butter while I&

m rushing to finish doing the dishes before the kids&

bedtime ritual begins.

Earlier he was sitting on my lap eating paprika by the capful, exclaiming, &

Yummy dat!&

and smiling broadly, red sandy spice staining his mouth. The spice shaker has big holes and the paprika came so fast he started choking on it. But he didn&

t mind. He just coughed, swallowed and started pouring again. When I wasn&

t looking, he dumped the shaker upside down and watched as paprika rained onto the floor. I grabbed it away from him, obviously annoyed.

&

Solly Mommy,&

Etani said, serious and innocent-faced, holding out his arms for a hug.

&

Ready for some wine?&

James asked, &

if you haven&

t had enough already.&

It&

s a silly joke, and the kids hate when we suggest they have a little cheese with their whine, but it&

s been a long day and James&

s question made us both laugh anyway.

My husband poured me a glass of red wine.

&

Wine! Wine! I want one sips!&

Etani insisted.

&

Just one,&

I said seriously. &

Promise?&

&

O-kay!&

Etani shouted.

I handed him the glass and he gulped at the wine, pouring it into his mouth as fast as he could. The red wine mingled with the red paprika stains on his shirt. Messy and utterly happy, Etani lowered the glass with a look of sly satisfaction on his face. &

I like Mommy&

s wine!&

A minute later Etani held the stem of his cut piece of banana out like a weapon. &

Mean witch coming!&

he bellowed. &

I get dat mean witch with dis flashlight. Grrrr. Mean witch, go &

145;way!!&

&

With what?&

my 6-year-old daughter asked.

&

Flashlight!&

Etani answered like it was the most normal thing in the world. He waved the cut, unpeeled banana in her face to show her it was a flashlight. My two daughters cackled with laughter.

After three more attacks of the mean witch, the girls were ready to be excused. They cleared their dishes and ran to put on their pajamas. Etani watched them keenly. Then he carried his dish to the sink, standing on his tiptoes to push it onto the counter.

The girls went into the bathroom and Etani pitter-pattered after them like an eager little puppy. He sat on his little green potty right next to the toilet.

Everyone tells me boys potty train later than girls but Etani wears his Big Boy undies most of the time now. He was so overjoyed when he got them from Santa Claus that he put on all six pairs at once.

But often when I ask him to go pee, because I know he has to go, he screams, &

No! No!&

and thrashes his whole body as if I&

m sticking sharp needles into the soles of his feet.

&

Why does he act like that?&

I phone my aunt, who has two grown kids and lives in Oakland, exasperated.

&

Because he&

s a toddler, Jenny,&

she chuckles. &

Haven&

t you ever read your own book?&

With a ball sticking out of the pocket of the feetie pajamas James helped him put on, Etani waddles back into the kitchen to find me. He climbs onto his chair and starts smearing the butter. He tries to saw the table in half with the knife. &

Not working,&

he complains, flinging the knife aside. It clatters to the ground at my feet. Etani puts his mouth to the table to drag his teeth through the butter.

The kitchen is imperfectly clean but I wipe my hands on a dishtowel and scoop up my son. One day, I will miss all this, but right now, I can&

t help being thankful that it&

s finally time for bed.

is the editor of &

Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love&

(Seal Press). She lives in Ashland with three fickle children, one steadfast husband, and four wild deer.