Friday, June 3, 2011

Routine Ad Nauseam

You know how all of the parenting experts tell new parents that forming a routine is essential for your child’s success?  Well I’m no parenting expert (my kid just asked a stranger about his nuts, remember?) but I think this advice needs some revision.  There are routines to be made, of course, like teeth brushing, family dinners and bedtime.  But what these so-called experts have so thoughtlessly left out is that your child will create routines of their own. 

And they will be weird.

Our day is filled with these bizarre rituals, and Cael is the master.  It is a near certainty that if you do something remotely funny even once, whether intentional or accidental, you will be required to repeat this action ad nauseam.  Take for example, one of last year’s strangest routines in which Cael would require Papa to take him on a tour of our kitchen/dining room every time he stopped by the house.  After looking out of all the windows in the house, Papa was required to stop at the wine tower so that Cael could remove a set of fancy Japanese chopsticks from a pottery bowl and use them to poke a set of decorative plastic grapes.

I’ve accepted my kid’s eccentricities, but why would he do this?  Most everything Cael says or does is dripping with satirical wisdom, as though it was ripped from an episode of Saturday Night Live.  So surely this grape-poking has a purpose, right?  Perhaps he’s hungry and attempting to skewer a snack?

“Cael, do you want to eat some grapes?


Strike one.  Maybe he’s not after the grapes at all, but some toy he thinks he has misplaced, or a bug that once flew near the bowl.  (Cael is notorious for his memory.  It's likely that by this time, he has named this bug, created a storyline about its family and  has a vested interest in the bug's well-being.  Or my chopstick-wielding son simply wants to smash a bug.) 

“Cael, is there something else up there you need?”


Strike two.  (Ever notice how your kid won’t stop talking when you want them to be quiet, and when you’re seeking info they are a locked vault?  If you figure out the secret to accessing “locked vault stage” please let me know.  I can pay you in plastic grapes.)  Sensing that I won’t guess his motivation, I just dig in and go for it.

“Cael, it’s kinda weird that you like to poke the grapes.  Why do you do that so much?”

“Because, Mommy.  I’m a grape-poker.  When I grow up, I’m going to be a gym teacher and I’m going to poke grapes.”

Ah, yes.

Even though I’m able to look back at the grape-poking days of yore and smile, I know that when that routine left us, it was replaced with something even stranger and longer lasting.  What could be more unusual than grape-poking, you ask?  How about giving out free haircuts using a pair of plastic pliers that are only stored in an empty corn dog container? 

Cael’s routines have morphed from imaginary haircuts to an insistence on knowing store clerks’ names and upon gaining that information, aggressively requesting that they come to our house to play.  Today his sole focus in life is trains, and while it’s incredibly typical for a three-year-old to love trains, I do find it somewhat unlikely that most parents are required to recreate the “Let’s go find that girl!” scene from Polar Express on restaurant napkins and kids’ menus. 

“Mommy, you forgot the whistle!  And the hobo’s cup of coffee!  And the hook on the back of the caboose!”

I know that he will grow out of it someday and the memory of his antics will tug at my heart.  Until that time, however, I always have Graham and his nonstop deer kissing.

And that’s not weird at all. 

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