I have a 14-month-old who doesn't want to do anything that isn't a risk to life or property.
Set him down beside his stroller, Alister takes off giggling down the block. Leave the gate unlatched while you run upstairs to raid the change dish, he's teetering on the landing. Turn your back for a second, and he's on a step stool — his arm extended to the farthest edge of his reach and one foot half off the edge of the stool — endeavouring to retrieve a framed poster from the wall.
He breaks wine glasses. He has opened the oven door (yes, we need a lock for the stove!). He has no regard for traffic. He cares barely a whit for toys, but loves electric toothbrushes, remote controls and our cordless phone (if he pushes the right buttons, a nice lady comes on the line and says, "You must dial one or zero before the number..."). He has ruined one Blackberry and very nearly threw another in the bathtub.
He climbs onto the back of chairs, steps down, claps for himself, repeats. Sometimes he falls off things. Hard-earned lesson that keeps him on the floor for a while, you might think? No, he just uses the experience to hone is object-scaling skills.
This would all be fine, apart from the fact that we have other things to do than to stand within an arm's reach of our toddler. We joke that we need an extra adult in the house just to spot Alister in his quest for precipices and toxic substances.
Sometimes we allow him to make messes and waste things (or electricity — the fridge door is just full of interesting bottles and jars!) just because it will occupy him for, say, one minute. My older child, Cameron, wanted me to read him Batman book the other day, so we sat on a chair in the kitchen, where I could ensure that Alister didn't touch the stove where dinner was cooking. Alister attacked the Saran wrap drawer, pulling apart two boxes of sandwich bags and about 10 feet of wax paper. But that wax paper got me to the part where Batman escorted Joker to the squad car, so it seemed worth it. When Alister was unusually quiet in our ensuite bathroom this morning, my investigation revealed the tiny cost of peace. "This uninterrupted dressing time was brought to you by... a couple of wasted Chapsticks," I told to my husband.
I know that this is a story that will sound familiar to any parent of an active baby or toddler. And I try to remind myself that it sucks to be two feet tall (imagine, a whole world of knee caps and counters you can't see over). Still, as a busy mom of two with not a lot of extra patience, it's sometimes hard for me to parent him in a way that conceals the fact that I think he's a huge pain in the bum (a cute, lovable pain in the bum, but a pain in the bum, nonetheless).
On the flip side, his adventurous also means he can play with his brother, who's four years older. His physical nature helps him bridge the age gap. He's tough enough to wrestle bigger kids and loves the mayhem of a crazy playdate.
And he's my last baby, and that's what I remind myself when a bowl of Cheerios is hurtling past my head.