Parenthood is a bittersweet experience. The highs are vertiginous. Feeling loved, needed, and cherished by a tiny human who depends on you for his everything brings indescribable joy. The lows can by dismal. It’s not the whining, screaming, and kicking, nor the nights of sleepless exhaustion that leave the deepest scars. It’s the fickle rejection. Crafty little monsters that they are, from a young age children intuit our weakest pressure points and exploit them mercilessly. Loving one moment, distant the next. Few things sting quite as much as watching your child snuggle someone else while he tells you that you are not his friend or screams bloody murder if you want to give him a hug and kiss.
There is something else that feels bittersweet about having kids. We had struggled to articulate it until we watched Munchkin fall in love with chocolate. The emotions we had a hard time pinning down stemmed from the vicarious experience of living life through our young son’s eyes — sharing in his delights while coming to realize that our many trips around the sun have deadened us somewhat to life’s little pleasures. The intense, pure joy Munchkin derives from chocolate — the kind of happiness that permeates his every pore until he giggles with unbridled, uncontainable delight — is beyond us now. And there is something profoundly sad about this realization, much as we enjoy witnessing and sharing in his excitement.
And boy, does Munchkin love chocolate! We don’t give him candy; chocolate and ice cream are the two sweets with which we indulge him on occasion, and this might have heightened his appreciation for them. “How old are you?” D asked Munchkin a few days ago. “I’m flee,” he responded before reconsidering. “I’m almost flee and when I’m flee soon, mama is going to give me a birthday, and I’m going to eat aaaaaaall the chooooocolick ice cream,” he elaborated, his eyes glinting at the thought of the birthday desserts that await in the near future. “Birthday,” incidentally, has become synonymous with “cake” in Munchkin’s lexicon. He almost never says the latter, referring to pastries — especially chocolate ones — as “birthdays.”
We have more or less given up on trying to document all of Munchkin’s amusing turns of phrase — now that he talks a mile a minute, it would be impossible to do so anyway. Instead, we try to jot down one standout quote each day. Looking through last week’s list, a surprising number of them were food-related. There was the sneaky “Mama, mama — the doctor said I can have milk with dinner” — a clever repudiation of S’s attempt to cajole Munchkin into eating his vegetables before drinking the customary cup of milk he gets before bedtime. Also the insistent, “I don’t want to go to school; I want pancakes!” when he was under the weather and only maple syrup could make him feel better. And tonight’s “Papa, you have to eat your vegibles!”
Much like S when she was his age, Munchkin enjoys running around unencumbered by clothing, though his relationship to nudity has evolved of late. Sometimes he insists that other people be голый with him, and other times he covers up all of a sudden, lest someone see him in his vulnerable, голый state. “Mama, mama — papa is going to see you голый. Quick, quick — run!” he erupted only seconds after insisting that S be голый with him. He was similarly concerned for D’s sudden vulnerability after watching S give him a haircut. “Papa, papa — you have no more hair,” he said with shock before offering to go to the store to buy D some more.
There were a few other winning phrases — “Sometimes there’s a lion in my mouth and it roars at you;” “Mama, I’m a dult!” (when S attempted to differentiate between permissible behaviors for children and grown-ups); the pithy observation “I’m not happy cuz I’m not sleeping,” delivered in a cranky voice after he skipped his nap for the nth day in a row; and the astute declaration “I have a big head” when D tried to wrestle a struggling Munchkin into a clean t-shirt. Our favorite quote from last week was a somber assessment, delivered in an unusually deadpan voice: “Time is rushing,” Munchkin said, before adding, “I don’t want to waste anything.”