Thursday, December 1, 2011

From the Splendid Mind and Mouth of Toby

I wish I had the presence of mind to write down every funny thing Toby utters, but then again, I'd be writing all day long. He just has way too much spunk mixed with an amazing vocabulary, and sometimes it's hard to believe what emerges from his mouth.

"Hi, Toby, how are you today?" the church nursery worker greets him.

Toby replies just as natural as any adult heading to play with a car garage, "Oh, I'm doing fine."

He's careful to use complete sentences, even when being defiant. He doesn't just answer, "No!" as any other naughty two year old. He answers, "No! I will not obey!" Which, leaving no room for ambiguity, should secure his punishment--except that when he sees me raise an eyebrow and come towards him, he's quick to recant, "Well...I guess I will." This is a particularly amusing response when I'm particularly ticked and moving quickly towards him, as it comes out more like, "WellIguesswill!!!" followed by a cheesy grin of repentance. But no, the power struggle is not over yet. On more than one occasion I have conceded to forgo the deserved consequences in light of his penitent spirit, only to hear him mutter as I walk away, "Well, I guess I WON'T."

Sometimes he takes a less openly defiant approach. He's learned that a question softens the blow of disobedience. This morning when my mom asked him, "How about you try to go potty now?"

Toby replied, "How about I try NOT to go potty?"

If the action we desire of him comes in the form of a command, rather than a question, he enjoys turning it right back at us. If we say, "Toby you need to go upstairs right now," he finds it amusing to respond, "No, Mommy, YOU need to go upstairs right now." Well, at least it's amusing to say, even if Mommy's response is less than amusing.

He's also pleased with another ingenious consequence-delaying response that he's found. When caught in blatant disobedience I will often question my kids to make sure they understand the coming consequence. I will say, "Toby, what did Mommy ask you to do?"

Toby will have no choice but to answer, "To pick up the crayons."

Since he has openly decided to read a book instead, I will drive home my point with, "And did you obey Mommy?"

Quickly dropping his book and moving to the crayons he will respond sweetly, "Um...not...yet."

Last night as Matt was tucking the kids in bed, the girls were all showing Daddy their Care Bears. "Mine is Rainbow Bear," Hannah shared, pointing to the rainbow on her bear's tummy.

"Ah my ih Guh-ee Beh (And mine is Sunny Bear)," Emma continued, holding her yellow friend.

Toby, looking at the picture of the large yellow trophy cup on his blue bear, responded in turn, "And mine is Coffee Bear!" Which is an entirely logical conclusion, especially if Matt is your daddy.

Later, as Matt gave Emma a hug he said adoringly, "Emma, you're my cuddle bug." Emma smiled sweetly in approval. Matt then turned to Toby and asked, "Toby, are you my cuddle bug?"

"No," Toby replied, "all I have is money." I'm not exactly sure why he said this, but it brings to mind the song "The Cat's in the Cradle" where the father asks his teenage son to sit and talk awhile and the boy replies, "What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car keys. See you later, can I have them please?"

And just how did Toby acquire this amazing command of the English language? Well, Naomi and Hannah are pretty good teachers, but more than that he's not afraid to ask when he doesn't understand what's being said. The new annoying never-ending question from his mouth is not, "Why?" it's "What does that mean?"

"Mommy, will you give me more water?" He asks.

"In a minute," I answer."In a minute?" he queries, "What does 'In a minute' mean?"

"It means I will fill your cup in a little while, when I'm ready," I retort, losing patience, as I am clearly otherwise occupied.

"A little while? What does 'a little while' mean?" he presses.

To my horror, I have realized that "What does that mean?" can continue just as infinitely as "Why?" And with Toby's realization that language is power, I'm likely to face a lot more "What does that mean?" questions--at least until I've raised up a fine scientific lecturer, or lawyer, or maybe politician.

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