If I could press pause on Artie’s age, it would probably be right now.
Not a long pause, just a month or two of extra time with sixteen month-old Artie. I’m sure more stages will come during which I’ll wish time could freeze for a while, but right now, for me, this is the age.
At sixteen months, Artie is many things. He is an expert jumper. A destroyer of books, mover of couch cushions, pointer of dogs, birds, airplanes, bats, other people’s food, and some other stuff we’re not quite sure what. Disconcertingly, he is an intense starer of people, especially people who are eating ice cream or chips. He plays the odds.
He can be, in the span of two minutes, bashful and then a ham. A basham, a hamful. He loves music and to dance. To Tom Petty, he can be seen rocking out, nodding his head while putting together and taking apart some brightly colored Duplos.
He is a talker. Of whole multi-syllable words he knows one: “bubble”. It was his first word and often his last word of the day, what he drifts off to. I imagine that his dreams are filled with ice cream and chips wrapped in bubbles, all within arms reach. He says “bubble” all. the. time. Whether or not bubbles are present (they usually are not) because, like I said, he plays the odds. There’s always a chance that we’ll say “Ok ok, let’s do some bubbles.”
When the bubbles come out, he jumps up and down and gives the word the whole range of his vocal abilities. High and low, left and right, in so many different rhythmic variations, notes and intonations – ‘Buuuuuuuble. Bubble. Bub-bub-bubble bubble bubble baaaaabbbblleeee” – that he could be mistaken for a very wee, very bad opera singer.
Other words that are of secondary importance: “nana” for banana, “nai tai” for milk, “doh-doh” for dog, “doh-doh” for bird, “no” for no (always with a vigorous shake of his head which sends his cheeks wobbling), and “moh” for more.
More bubbles, more horse rides from his dad, more food.
So much food because he’s a hungry guy. Almost all the time. He is, as Tom says, “A hog.” His Chinese Zodiac sign is a pig, so the Chinese mom part of me is not surprised.
And he is greedy. Show him one raspberry and he will shove it in his mouth with one hand while grasping at the entire bowl with the other. Give him half a banana and he’ll point to the other half, calling dibs as he hoovers down the first. Anything in a crinkly package, he’ll take it. He wants it all in his belly right now. He’ll deal with the fullness – and wonder about details like taste – later.
Yet he has his tastes. He loves things all kids are supposed to love: the aforementioned fries and ice cream, bacon, the entire fruit family minus kiwis. But also some things you would think no kid would like: asparagus, olives, mushrooms, seaweed, bamboo, spice and natto.
From what people say, this indiscriminate shoveling of food into one’s mouth won’t last, so for now, we have no limits on anything in the latter list.
People (George Bernard Shaw, first?) say youth is wasted on the young. I mostly agree. They have the energy to deal with all the drudgeries of adulthood – or, now that I think of it, of parenthood – but none of the patience, communication skills, self control or sense of responsibility. Pity.
Artie would be great for very physical jobs for which you had to get up at the crack of dawn. He’s ready to go when Tom and I want nothing more than two, maybe three more hours of sleep.
So I understand why, during the industrial revolution, kids were sent to work in coal mines and factories. It seems to me a very good use of all that energy and noise. No one cares if you whine or holler “bubble” over the sounds of whirring machinery. No one cares if you come back with your face black and your pants soiled. That’s part of the job.*
But sometimes I also think a child’s childhood can be wasted on parents who aren’t paying attention. If I’m not careful, I can spend too much time texting, working – just finishing that last email, doing housework (even though it must be done), and dwelling on how tired I am when he’s not, counting down the hours to bedtime.
I blink and it seems he’s an inch taller, his shirts a smidge tighter, his pronunciation of things a bit more clear.
For the most part, I pay attention. I see that he’s an active baby, a multi-faceted baby. A baby with a few words and many wants, most of which I can still provide. He is a happy baby. That’s just the thing – he’s still a baby, but not for long.
*”I didn’t realize you hated the baby,” says Tom.