the very, really, deeply annoying duckling

You know the fairy tale about the ugly duckling who grows into a swan?

I'm writing a new one about the annoying toddler who grows into a fabulous adult.

This is my fantasy.

Because my Chicken? He can be a profound, operatic, wailing, whining pain in the ass.

It's remarkable how so many of the qualities that make for a strong, engaged, and capable adult make for a nightmarish two-year-old.

He's iron-willed. He refuses to walk up the stairs even though it's lunch time, Buster is hungry and banging his face against my boobs, and I already have the stroller in one hand.

So after "inviting his cooperation" and "maintaining my sense of play" with all the textbook strategies ("Chicken, I need your help to climb the stairs! Can you help me? Chicken?" "Chicken, I'm going to count to 5 and then we're going upstairs." "Chicken, it's time for a delicious lunch of macaroni and cheese! YUMMY!" "Chicken, I bet I can get up the stairs faster than you can! Ready? Let's race!") and meeting his quiet, immovable refusal ("Nope. Stay outside.") I have to drag his boneless body up the stairs by one arm, sweating, singing some made-up "time to go upstairs" song, thinking, "seriously, Chicken? Fuck this."

He's tenacious. Once he commits to a project he executes with laser focus. Like a sniper. Or Rain Man. Short of picking him up and carrying him away, you cannot possibly stop him from moving all of the pieces of gravel in the driveway from the house side to the tree side. He will do this for an hour. You will have to drag him away at some point so you can avoid peeing your pants, and the sound of his enraged Forrest-Gump-whine-grunt will make you wish you'd opted for peeing your pants.

He's a creative problem-solver.
Chicken: Mommy wallet?
Me: That's my wallet, yes, but we're not going to play with it.
Chicken: Okay! Mommy read dis book?
Me: I'd love to read this book!
(I turn around to get comfortable in the reading chair. Chicken vanishes into the other room with my wallet. I hear the snickety-snack of cards hitting the floor, followed by coins.)

He's spirited, independent, goal-oriented. He takes no shit.

In short, he's everything I want him to be.

In 20 years.

Once I don't have to toddler-nelson him to get his shitty diaper off. Once I'm no longer responsible for teaching him the appropriate time to touch his penis (when he's alone) spray milk out of his mouth (NEVER) or throw wooden blocks (only at the Save the Children people who stand outside the grocery store and ask for high-fives.)

One day I'll listen to my adult son tell the story of how he landed that client, won his wife's heart, got a great deal on a used car, and I'll tell him that he was always this way - shrewd, inventive, focused, unwavering.

On that day I'll kiss him good-bye at the door and he'll buckle his own damn self into his own car and go home to eat his own dinner and flush his own toilet and decide when he wants to put himself into bed. I will fight with him about none of these things. He will not kick my boob or swat an offered cookie out of my hand.

He'll always be my baby boy, and I'll miss the sweetness of his need, but I'll be grateful, so grateful that I've passed the days of digging in my heels to keep this delightful madman on a taut, fraying leash, against his will, for his own damn good.

And we'll live happily ever after.

The end.

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