We are staying with Otto’s brother Nearly Nickless, and his lovely wife and their two boys. My nephews are 4 and 6. While my kids were here, it was like having a small herd of wildebeests roaming throughout the house, as Chickadee doted on her younger cousin and Monkey and my older nephew ran about playing Star Wars and Bakugan and various other testosterone-infused games.
Ever since my kids left to go back to their dads, the nephews have had to make do without them. Which is tragic. Well, mostly it is tragic for my younger nephew, who very much enjoyed having Chickadee here to basically wait on him hand and foot and cater to his every whim. Now that she’s gone, the harsh realities of life have settled back in, like that his brother is older and
occasionally always gets to do something super-cool that he does not. It’s a very tragic life, when you are four, is my point.
Let me just give you a few f’rinstances about this kid.
First off, I must point out that he is blond and angelic-looking. Of course. You look at him and you just want to EAT HIM UP. Which makes sense, actually, as this child’s nickname is Hungry Mungry. He always wants to eat, and if it’s candy, well, SO MUCH THE BETTER. He got a bag of chocolate coins in his stocking on Christmas, and one morning I came downstairs and found a pile of foil wrappers outside the little tent he was playing in in the middle of the family room. “Hey,” I said. “What’re these?” He peered at me and then at the wrappers and shrugged.
“I didn’t know it wasn’t ten thiwty,” he told me, “because I can’t teww time!”
Apparently his mother had told him he could have one at 10:30. But, you know, he can’t tell time, so if you are four, that pretty much means “eat five of them at eight in the morning.”
TWO MINUTES LATER his head popped into view through the mesh window of the tent, and he was chewing with a mighty concentration.
“HM!” I called (let’s call him HM, for Hungry Mungry), “What are you eating??”
“I DIDN’T KNOW IT’S NOT TEN THIWTY!” he told me again, in exasperation, as his mother dragged him from the tent and confiscated the couple of pieces that were left.
I share this incident as a fairly representative slice of life. He’s a stinker. A really, really adorable stinker, but still. He’s four, and he’s hungry, and also when you are four, rules are pretty fluid.
Another thing HM received on Christmas was some jingly bells you can shake. That sounds like it should be pretty exciting when you’re four, right? Well, maybe it would be, but the problem is that they came in a stocking that his grandparents brought over for him. And in the stocking they brought for his brother was—instead of jingly bells—a recorder.
[Side note: You couldn't meet a nicer person than my sister-in-law, honestly. She is a saint. And having spent some time over the years with her parents, I'm beginning to understand that she comes from saintly stock. This is just a family of truly awesome, kind, generous people. So can anyone tell me WHY IN THE WORLD my sister-in-law's parents suddenly decided it would be a good idea to give her children a RECORDER and a HANDFUL OF BELLS? Do you think maybe she was an unruly teenager? Or they just have a sadistic streak? No one will tell me, but the only possible explanation for such a gift is REVENGE, I am certain.]
Anyway. So here’s HM with his jingle bells, which should be very exciting. But they are not, because his brother got a recorder. And HM wants a recorder. Let me be perfectly clear: HM WILL NOT REST UNTIL HE GETS A RECORDER.
Apparently his grandmother took pity on him and mentioned that his mom used to play the recorder, and she probably still has it at their house, and she’ll let HM have it.
Fast forward to yesterday. Yesterday HM spent the ENTIRE DAY asking when they could go to Grammy’s to get his recorder. My sister-in-law successfully deflected him all day until about dinnertime, at which point she told him that she’d called over there and Grammy wasn’t home, so they couldn’t go. This resulted in a lot of finger-wagging. Approximately every five minutes, HM would tug on my sis-in-law and say something like, “I need to teww you somefin. I TOWD you we needed to go to Grammy’s earwier! And now she’s not home and I wiww NEFFER get my recowder!”
It was kind of pitiful.
But also really funny.
Finally it was bedtime, and everyone said goodnight and the boys trooped upstairs. My sister-in-law came back down, and we started discussing what movie we wanted to watch that evening. And then there were footsteps, as there often are. HM frequently comes back downstairs a couple of times after tuck-in to try to find an excuse to stay up, and we were told that it often takes the form of, “I just need to teww you somefin! Wait, I can’t weemember. Wet me fink….”
So HM appeared in the family room. “Mommy!” he said. “I NEED TO TEWW YOU SOMEFIN!”
My sister-in-law put on her most patient face. “Yes, HM?”
He scanned the room, clearly planning his strategy. He raised one finger into the air for emphasis. “YOU NEED TO CWEAN UP DIS MESS!” he declared, pointing to all of the toys he and his brother had left scattered about.
I took one look at my sister-in-law’s face and Otto’s face and then turned my back on HM so that I could silently guffaw without being seen.
“BECAWWSE!” he continued. “When you awwe done wif youw toys, you need to PUT DEM AWAY!” I glance back, tears springing to the corners of my eyes, now, in time to see my sister-in-law cracking up, unable to respond.
Otto looked at both of us.
“ALRIGHT!” said Otto. “That’s is. C’mon, HM, back to bed. Let’s go.” He ushered HM back upstairs while my sister-in-law and I laughed so hard I thought was going to rupture something.
A minute later Otto returned, and surveyed the two of us, on opposite sides of the room, still laughing ourselves silly. “You two are TERRIBLE PARENTS!” exclaimed Otto in exasperation, copying HM’s finger-wag.
Which only made us laugh harder, of course. Because really, the notion that the day had arrived when Otto was the best parent in the room was a pretty fitting conclusion to that scenario, somehow.