He stands stock still, feet planted, arms pinned to his side, hands curled into tiny fists of fury. His chin is tucked into his chest, his face aimed at the floor, but his eyes, those eyes of his in which my wife and I see ourselves and each other and any number of limbs on our family trees, those eyes are glaring up in our direction. Look closely and you can almost see him trembling. His entire being is a defiant snarl of rage and hate.
He draws one arm back, the hand at its end tipped with a single pointed finger like a magic wand, which he thrusts squarely towards the target of his ire. He puts his whole body into it. And he screams, firing the word along the line set by his finger, the accusing digit. But when he opens his mouth, it’s not a spell that comes out, but the worst insult that he knows:
Yep, that’s the worst insult he knows. And I’m okay with that.
“He” could be either of my boys, as they both pull this number when the universe doesn’t spin in their favor. I suspect my youngest picked it up from his big bro, just as he has any number of habits that their Mom and I would love them to kick. A nap runs short, we’re out of the snack they wanted, it’s raining outside, their favorite shirt is dirty, we can’t go to Grandma’s, Mom and Dad have said “No” to their last dozen demands — it all adds up. And pretty soon it’s more than a little dude can take.
Pint-sized rage is a potent and confusing combination of the destructive and the adorable. Not to mention the hilarious. The sight of such a small person in such an angry posture with their little face twisted into such a scowl, well, it has a way of drawing out a laugh, even if it is involuntary, even when I am trying to take them seriously and listen to what they’re so upset about, even when I’m at the point where I feel as angry as they look and my sense of humor is on the wane. And the cry “baby!” with the delivery that an older person would shout “asshole!” is rather impossible not to giggle at.
Where they picked up on the idea that “baby” was some kind of insult is a mystery to me. I’ve been called an “infant” before when I may or may not have been acting like one, but I don’t think they were around for that. Perhaps in our efforts to encourage them to act like “big boys” they got the idea that acting like a baby was a bad thing, and therefore to be called one was very painful. So in essence, “baby” is their version of “gaw, real mature, y’all.”
Except, wait a minute, I am the mature one here. Your robot shirt is dirty so you can’t wear it. You can’t have ice cream for dinner. You can’t play outside because it’s hailing. And it’s 3 AM.
Whatever. Who needs a nap?