12 December 2011

One (Silly) Step Forward

There are mysterious things locked inside the heads of toddlers. Their thought processes, emotions, likes, dislikes, allegiances, imaginings, and interpretations are endlessly fascinating and almost impossible to predict, or categorize, or sometimes to even comprehend.

For instance, what will make them laugh? What will truly tickle them, to the point of being overcome by excessive giggling? You can spend countless hours devoting yourself to acting silly, to trying to find the Holy Grail of toddler humor, whatever it might be, in order to keep them amused, to ensure that they like you, to ward off violent meltdowns and temper tantrums.

And then, other times, you simply stumble upon something unexpected, something that will delight your child to no end, make you seem a like a comic genius in their eyes, and keep them rolling with laughter until they are red in the face, with tears streaming down their cheeks, begging for mercy—and simultaneously begging you to do it again.

This is actually a story about potty training. Or using the potty, I suppose. Which our son now does, about 50 percent of the time. Well, for 50 percent of his functions, shall we say. Anyway, the whole process is like any other development in your child’s life, which is to say, daunting initially, stressful, trying, exasperating—and after a while, not nearly as bad as you imagined it to be, nor as horrendous as it appeared to be in the early going.

Lately, though, he has taken to sitting on the potty for quite a long time, insisting on privacy, and continually informing us that he is still going, even though he clearly is not. And so one night, recently, as he sat upon his throne, contemplating the vastness of the universe, or whatever it is that he does while he sits there, I absentmindedly began doing something silly, perhaps to stave off the boredom of waiting for him to complete his business, or to keep myself alert until he was done with his little bathroom ritual. In a few brisk steps, I walked past the bathroom door in an exaggerated, nonsensical fashion. The moment I was out of his sight, he erupted.

And I mean, erupted. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him laugh so hard or for so long (outside of being tickled, which seems to do it every time). Gasping for air, he immediately demanded the act be repeated. Again. And again. Casting a sideways glance, I could see him tottering precariously on the toilet, overcome with laughter, in danger of falling sideways onto the floor at any moment. I did another funny walk. Hysterics continued.

And though I was not initially doing a direct homage to the geniuses of Monty Python, I immediately thought of this classic sketch:

Finding that it contained no real objectionable material (as it easily could have), I decided to share it with the Doozer. He has become a serious YouTube fan (junkie?) of late, and I’ve begun to wonder what parents did before every single video image their kid could possibly want to view at any single moment was available in such a readily-available, easily-searched repository.

So the Doozer and I watched his very first Monty Python sketch together, at the tender age of three. And guess what? Hysterics. Again. Cleese was an even better silly walker than Dada. Let me pause to revel in the triumphant nature of this moment. My three year-old and I watched Monty Python together. And he really liked it. As far as his pop culture education is concerned, I'm thinking that this is pretty advanced. I figured it would be years before we started tackling stuff this heady. I mean, we're barely into Star Wars. He is definitely on his way.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, we took him to a theater to see The Muppets and didn’t even make it through the trailers before the whole experience became overwhelming and we had to leave without seeing the flick. I’m trying desperately to overlook this.

He likes Monty Python. That's good for now. Although I was tempted to also show him Upper Class Twit of the Year, another favorite of mine. But I'm pretty sure they all commit (or attempt to commit) suicide at the end of that one.

Not something I’m keen on trying to explain to him at this time. (Or explaining why it's funny that they do.) In a few years, perhaps. For now, we'll just take it all one (silly) step at a time.

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