I realize I'm not the first mother in the world to marvel at how the passage of time can turn this:
Who thinks babies who lie around all day like this:
are wasting their time.
Because they could be doing this:
As a full-fledged toddler, Miles' daily agenda includes playing in the toilet, eating the dog's food, emptying cupboards, and smashing electronics. He also makes time for building (and demolishing) block towers, pulling Grace's (and the dog's) hair, and raiding (and hiding) Sam's legos.
This child has a taste for mischief. He's not malicious, he just wants to have a good time and get a big reaction. At home, one of his favorite ways to do that is to climb high and fast, preferably with a sharp and/or heavy object. Sewing shears on the computer desk are a favorite, but he'll settle for knives on the kitchen counter, or a glass vase on the stairs. He's also fond of straight pins, seam rippers, and the iron. (Basically anything from my craft table will do.)
But his troublemaking is not confined to the home-front. Take the time two weeks ago, when he ran away after church. As always, he attended class with me. As always, I let him wander the rows soliciting candy from adults and stealing toys from children. (I intercede when he threatens to damage AV equipment or pound on the piano, but otherwise I just keep an eye on him while he wanders.) You know where this is going, don't you? Sometime after the final "amen," while I was gathering my things and chatting with a friend, he slipped out the door without me noticing. While chatting, I began looking around the room for him -- behind the piano, under the chairs. When I didn't find him, I said a quick goodbye, and checked the hallway. I didn't see him, and neither had my friend who'd been standing in the hall, so I went back into the classroom to check again. After another quick search under chairs, behind the blackboard, and around the ankles of church members, I circled the building. By this time all of the other classes had let out, so the halls were filling quickly. I expected to see him dodging through the crowd, or hear someone call out, "He's over here." But I didn't. And that's when the panic set in.
What was I afraid of? I can't say exactly. I could have been worried that he'd open the exterior door and wander out to the busy street. Or that he'd be snatched by our ward's convicted sex offender (not an official calling, but lots of wards have them). Or he could have wandered into a dark closet or cupboard and gotten himself stuck. Mostly I just kept thinking, "I can't believe I lost him. What kind of mother loses her kid at church?"
I started circling in indecision --literal circles-- heading in one direction and then immediately changing my mind and heading the other way, afraid I'd miss him if I chose wrong. After turning around twice, I realized I needed help.
It's one thing to think you've lost your kid, but it's another to say the words out-loud. "I can't find Miles," I told a friend. My voice caught, and the tears started, and what might have been a calm and orderly search became a bit frenzied. Kind friends who saw my panic joined in, and before I reached the next turn in the hall I heard the question spreading: "Have you seen Miles?"
In the end, all I had to do was take the next turn in the hall. Just around the corner, I found him in the arms of his friend (and mine), Margaret. Apparently, he'd gone to visit her on the other side of the building. He was happy to see me, but no more than usual. What's five minutes to an adventurous toddler? Five lifetimes to a worried mother, that's what.
In the van, with all three children safely strapped in, I started to process it all. For a moment I actually thought, "As fearless as he is, it's a marvel I haven't lost him before. Maybe I'm not such a bad mom after all." Only then did I remember this wasn't the first time.
The real first time was a couple months ago at a hotel in Erie, PA. We met some friends there to enjoy the indoor waterpark. After breakfast, the adults were packing things up before heading down for a day of fun. The children were playing in the living room/kitchenette area in the middle of our shared suite. There was a knock at the door, and a stranger asked if we were missing a child. "I don't think so," I answered, and did a quick visual sweep of the room. And then I saw behind the stranger, another stranger holding Miles' hand as he toddled down the hall toward us. He was ready for the day, wearing his swim trunks and a smile. I hadn't even noticed he was gone.
We never did figure out how he escaped. There were four adults and six other children (all older than Miles) in the 3-room suite, but no one admitted to opening the door, and no one saw him leave. I spent the rest of the day wondering "What if?" What if the strangers hadn't known which door to knock on? What if he'd fallen down the stairs, or got stuck in the elevator? What if he'd been found by carnival scouts looking to book a new baby act for their traveling show?
I had to force myself to stop thinking about the frightening possibilities, and just be grateful it all turned out OK. I have a feeling that's a lesson I'll have to learn again and again with this kid. If he were any less adorable, I might resent him for it. But Miles can charm the exasperation right out of me. His smiles are constant, and his hugs are abundant. (He's a little stingy with kisses (except for the dog), but I can't say I mind too much, because they're usually open-mouthed (especially for the dog).) He's friendly and fun, and he spreads cheer everywhere he goes. On grocery outings, he spontaneously hugs sweet grandmas who stop to say hello. At church, he picks a new (adult) friend every week to snuggle.
Things will be different at church now that Miles has his own class to go to. He turned 18 months on Monday, and that means he gets to go to nursery. I snuck him in a day early last week, and just as I expected, he ran straight for the toys without a glance over his shoulder; I went to my own class alone. I'll admit I missed him, and not just because it meant I had to pay attention. For all his mischief, I just really like the kid. So when I went to pick him up after church I was just a little bit glad to see his lip quiver when he caught sight of me. And even happier to hear that mid-way through class, he'd gone to the door and called "Ma! Ma!" I wasn't even there to see it, and it still melts my heart!
Maybe it's a bad idea to admit all of this. I might end up bailing him out of jail some day after a teenage prank gone wrong. And I don't want him thinking that all it takes to win me over is a lip quiver and a hug. But, let's face it, he probably knows that already. At 18 months, he's got me all figured out.