Ryan has steadily but surely progressed from the terrible twos to the troubling threes. If gray hair is a symptom of stress, then I’m probably going to skip salt-and-pepper, and go directly to a full head of white before he and Sophie are out of elementary school. Our latest battles have revolved, naturally, around baths and meals, which are really just continuations of old battles, picked up where we left off. I thought of this post’s title during one excruciatingly defiant lunch, but then wondered which one of us, me or him, would be the Borg.
While a lot of this intractability almost feels comfortable because of its familiarity, his side of it has become, well… just more. More fighting whatever I say, simply because I’m saying it, more screaming, more crying, more histrionics, more whining. Most of all, more words that he wasn’t able to communicate just a few months ago, more words that leave us scratching our heads and asking ourselves if he actually said that (like “don’t worry if we missed the last episode of Dora, it’ll be on demand soon”). I don’t mind much of that, frankly. I do, however, mind the whine-screech in the key of E that lasts as long as he has air in his lungs. After a teary gasp for breath, it’ll start over again.
He doesn’t want to bathe? Fine, but I also can’t very well let him be as smelly and sticky as he probably wants; besides, his mother wouldn’t like it either. Two nights ago is a great example. We’d just
survived finished dinner and were “relaxing” by making his Thomas toys run over Sir Topham Hat over and over, when I had the bright idea to tell him it was bath time. “No.” Why not? “Mogyok [Korean for bath] makes my head hurt.” Why? “I don’t like to be wet.” Why? “I can’t, I’m too busy for mogyok.” What are you busy doing? “Appa,” he then said, stretching the two-syllable word into three syllables, lasting four beats. He let out a long sigh, as if he just realized his old man was a mouth breathing moron, and Ryan would surely die from embarrassment any second. I have to remember how this sounds, in the probable event that I run into that again in 12 years.
Clothes had to come off first, but he kept insisting that “only Omma” could strip him. That bought him about a minute while we waited for her, and even when she got to the bathroom, he’d changed his mind and now didn’t want to have mogyok. I wanted to do it the old-fashioned way, just take his clothes off and ignore the crying. No, my wife, ever the sensible one, made it a joke that he laughed along with, and darned if the little man didn’t actually willingly strip down for her. Watching my wife make it look so easy made me want to gnash my teeth, but the best was yet to come. Ryan said only Omma could be in the bathroom with him, and that I should leave. I asked him why. His response: “I don’t want Appa look at me and do mogyok.” Omma had to leave the bathroom, because someone had to watch his sister.
I defied him and bathed him anyway, and like that announcer said, “It’s on!” First he tried to sit on his step stool and hold on tight. He said, “I’m stuck, I can’t get off the stool.” Nice try, but I’m stronger. He tried to grab anything he could to keep from being picked up – the towel rack, the edge of the sink, the toilet seat and lid. Nope, I just picked him up and plopped him down in the tub. Even then he was fine, but when I started pouring water on him, he let out the screaming-crying-whining in E that I stated above. You’d think I was a felony child-beater from the sheer volume and length of his crying, but it had to be done. His hair was oily and matted, your hand would stick to his skin if you touched him, and he smelled kind of spoiled, like vegetables left out too long. Have I mentioned that he’d also played with “my best friend, dirt” at the park earlier? This left a fabulous layer of grit from scalp to sides of his neck to backs of his knees, in addition to the usual dirt. He kept squirming, especially when his whole body was slick with soap, but I kept at it until I had a reasonably clean facsimile of my eldest child.
My son, my pride, was laughing and having fun by the time his tub drained. He couldn’t wait to jump out of the bathroom still dripping wet, with water running down his forehead into his eyes, just to show his Omma how clean he was now. His pride in his newfound cleanliness was palpable enough that he wanted to be dried, lotioned, and dressed in pajamas. Later still, he would willingly brush his teeth and wash his face before night-night. Who was this angel child, and where was the devil’s spawn who’d been resisting dinner, then mogyok, earlier in the evening?
I felt like I’d just gone twelve rounds with Larry Holmes, then competed in a triathlon. I guess what all of this boils down to is that I’m a heck of a lot bigger and stronger, and now he knows I can be scary and go against his wishes. Good for Appa. Today is mogyok day again, wish me luck. Or pray for me.