This morning, our son pointed at me and said “Dada.”

Then, he turned slowly, saying, “Annnnd.”

Then he pointed at his mother. “Mama.”

Then he pointed at me, his mother, and the dog in sequence and said, “Dada, Mama, Lily.”

He’s 20 months old. Still working on the Oxford comma (a lifelong journey with low expectations, few rewards, and a lot of arguments on Facebook), but he knows what “and” means.

Spending my days with a toddler is a little strange, definitely not something I expected, when I graduated high school and started planning my life, to find myself doing a dozen years later. I write during naps, I take walks for only as long as my son’s attention span lasts (some days we go farther than others), I watch Kazoops! and Mulan and Tarzan more often than I ever have before in my life.

And the child is mischief incarnate. I give him a certain amount of freedom to roam the house while I get things done, and inevitably he finds something to get into. Like the tupperware cabinet. Or the dishwasher. Or the laundry room. Or my wallet.

That was a new adventure today. I look down and he’s holding my wallet, saying “Dada!” and he hands me my wallet…and it’s empty. No cards, no cash, no receipts. Robbed by a toddler, and no evidence of where he put all of it. Most things I’m willing to forget about–when he pushed one of his wooden pegs into the hole of the subwoofer and it got stuck there, we sort of moved on until I could find the time to unscrew the thing and get it out–but I need my driver’s license, my library card, my debit card. But I’m looking around the room and nothing, no cards anywhere.

A part of me panics: What if he threw them in the garbage? And now they’re all covered in wet teabags and debris from last night’s dinner?

A quick look confirms that no, he did not throw away my driver’s license and credit cards. They’re just gone.

And that’s sort of comforting, I realize. Because if they’re not in the trash, that means they’re somewhere in the house. And if they’re somewhere in the house, eventually I’ll find them. And I did find them, in a corner of a room I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in, in a pile on the floor by the stairs.

I feel bad doing work while he’s up and about. I know I should be playing with him, teaching him about lights and grass and trees and the sky. It’s a delicate and terrible balance between being what I think of as a good parent, and getting the work done that I need to do in order to make the money we need to pay the bills. I don’t do as much for him as I know I should.

But he knows the correct use of the word “and.” He knows that keys unlock doors, even if he doesn’t know the difference between a keyhole and a screw in the door’s hinge. He knows how to pull cards out of a wallet and hide the evidence. He looks at a thing and he understands the thing.

He’s gonna be alright.

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