He wanted to play outside, so I decided to bring my lunch down to the courtyard and watch him run around while I ate my food in the chilly winter air. I had gotten a lovely sandwich from the deli on the corner, along with some Cheetos that I was determined to keep a secret from all 3-year-olds in the area. As soon as I sat down to eat, he disappeared. I swear, one second he was riding his bike around directly in front of me, and, as I looked away only for as much time as it took to remove the sandwich from the thin, green, plastic bag, suddenly he was gone. I called his name, but there was no answer, so I put the sandwich down on the bench and stood up to look around.
He came trotting out of the house about two minutes later (plenty of time for my heart to stop and restart several times) with his mittens. His hands had been cold. Okay. Fine. “Tell me next time, okay?” Okay. I sat back down, eyes fixed firmly on my son as I reached for my sandwich. I looked down at my lap to unwrap the deli paper from my lunch, and by the time the sandwich was fully revealed, he was gone again. I shouted his name. Nothing. Sighing loudly, I carefully placed the sandwich, now free from its confining wrap and starting to deteriorate, on the bench next to me and stood up to look around.
He was hiding (not really) behind a tree talking to one of his little friends who was also outside playing, and had either not heard me, or had chosen to ignore me. Then everyone else went inside and it was just the two of us again. This was not working. I needed a table. My sandwich was trying to escape from its bread and my fingers were cold. Luckily we have a community room with big windows that look out onto the courtyard, so I told him that I would be in there if he needed me, and went in to set up my lunch, keeping the Cheetos carefully hidden in the plastic bag.
Of course he followed me in there, inspecting my lunch carefully for anything he might be interested in liberating. Finding nothing, he went back outside, I took one bite of my sandwich, looked out the windows, and saw that I could not see him. Not wanting to be fooled again I continued to eat my sandwich slowly, looking for any signs of life out there; a movement behind the mailboxes, or the sounds of neighbors’ property breaking. After two or three minutes I began to get very nervous and I gathered up my lunch and abandoned the idea of eating in peace, heading outside to begin shouting his name frantically.
After a vigorous but unproductive search, I decided to check the house, so I walked over to our doorway, only to see him coming down the stairs with a large, unopened bag of Doritos in his hands. “Daddy! Daddy! I got you some chips!” he squealed proudly. “You didn’t have any chips for your lunch!” I stared guiltily at the green bag in my hand containing the secret Cheetos and I was suddenly filled with an overabundance of love and lenience for my son. I opened the bag of Doritos and gave a bunch to him, for being so thoughtful and wonderful, and then I let him have a caffeinated beverage late in the afternoon, which made him so happy at the time, but which we all regretted for the rest of the evening. But regardless of what he did under the influence of caffeine, the whole incident reaffirmed the knowledge deep in my heart that he is a good boy, loving, caring, and with other people’s needs on his mind, at least some of the time.
The next morning I woke up and, as is my usual routine, stumbled downstairs in a hazy stupor to
get the kids ready for school slump down on the couch. He was running around doing…things…and I did encourage him to get dressed in a mildly attentive way. Once he was done and on the bus, I went upstairs to take a shower so that I could get ready for a meeting that I had. Stepping out of the shower slowly I reached for my towel and began to dry myself off, looking for the next step in my getting-out-of-the-shower ritual. But my toiletries seemed to have disappeared.
I searched the sink. I searched on the floor. I checked the drawers. I looked everywhere. And suddenly a foggy memory of a sleepy moment began to emerge, and I thought I remembered seeing him run past me with my deodorant earlier in the morning. Sighing deeply I went downstairs to see what I could find. It would have been nice to discover this earlier, when he was not at preschool, but now it was just me, and a clueless treasure hunt all over my house.
No matter where I looked, I couldn’t seem to find my stuff anywhere. That’s when I noticed the empty Christmas wrapping paper roll in the middle of the living room floor. Where had that come from? And where was the wrapping paper that ought to have been wrapped around it? There was some… sticking out from behind something… Ah. My deodorant, all wrapped up and hidden behind the television. For some reason he had decided to wrap up all of my important bathroom items and then hide them all over the house. I was going to be late to my meeting, and suddenly I was filled with an overabundance of regret that we had decided to have any children in the first place. Well, not really. But man, he’s so good when he’s good, and then the rest of the time you’re running around your house naked looking for your wrapped-up toothbrush. Parenting. Right?