We sit at the table staring at each other; me sipping coffee from a mug, the boy drinking from a sippy cup of milk. He finished his bowl of oatmeal fruit mush in lightning speed and wears the remnants on his sleeve, his idea of a more convenient napkin than anything I can provide.
Don’t worry, mama, he says with his eyes as he wipes his mouth again. I’ve got this handled.
Drool and milk escape the clumsy swipe of his sleeve and dribble from his chin into the cotton collar of his freshly laundered shirt. One of the many benefits of being his caretaker is dressing him however I like, and usually, it is in something that makes me laugh. Today, his shirt was a cute little blue number with a smiling snail on it that declared, “Snailed It!”
The boy holds the plastic cup up to his forehead in a wishful attempt to become more unicorn-like, turns it upside down, and then moves it to the top of his head with a grin.
“Are you done?” I ask as the last drops of milk drip onto his recently trimmed hair and down his forehead.
I answer my own question, as I do through most of the day, “Yes, you are done,” and confiscate the cup in a quick grab that results in an unhappy squeal and a glare that speaks for itself.
“Did that fill up your tummy?” I ask, hoping to avoid the tears and screaming that could come post-squeal.
Instead of a blank stare, tears or yelling, he takes one hand and pats his chubby belly with a full five-toothed smile.
I gasp, I didn’t teach him that.
“Where is your tummy?”
I am curious if he will repeat his actions and gasp again when he takes both hands and pats his chubby belly like a happy Buddha.
“That’s right, but who taught you that?” I pepper him with questions that make him laugh and hold his arms up for release from his chair.
“Did Daddy teach you that?” my questions fall on deaf ears.
The boy is ready to leave the table and resume playing with his jumble of cars and trucks in the makeshift miniature parking lot of the living room and gives me no further information.
Later, after his father, grandparents and anyone else I can think of deny all knowledge of the tummy trick, I have to accept that that the boy is a sponge who is constantly observing and synthesizing input. He is becoming his own person which astounds my simple brain and humbles my heart.
Every single day I am amazed by this little person, but on this day, he really snailed it.