Monday, March 20, 2006

Monkey See, Monkey Do

My brother and his wife have long called their three children "monkeys," reflecting their uncanny ability to climb, their innate love of bananas, and the poetic truth of the song "Yellow Haired Monkeys" by Steve Hindalong and Derri Daughtery of the Choir. Because I love Steve Hindalong's lyric so much, I'm putting it here before I get on with this post:

I hope you're glad
to be where you're at
I don't mind living where we are
It's a suitable climate
A fine habitat
for the yellow-haired monkeys in the yard

Yellow-haired monkeys in the yard

A friend of mine,
ya know he's flat-broke
just handed me a fat cigar
It's a beautiful excuse
for a celebrative smoke
It's a yellow-haired monkey for the yard

Another yellow-haired monkey for the yard

Yellow-haired monkeys in the yard

We've always called our yellow-orange-haired monkey something more like "Baby Bug" than "monkey," because, frankly, he's never seemed like much of a monkey. He was such a small baby, and he never really did much. At one point he was most famous for his accidental turtle impression. He could stretch his neck out or pull his head in, looking just like a turtle peaking out of his shell and then withdrawing.

But he's no longer a baby, even if I still see him as one. He's not yet a "big kid," but he's working on it. He grew exponentially, moving from the 25th percentile to the 94th percentile in size in just a few months. Now he's walking and talking and taking a keen interest in the world around him.

He loves animals, particularly cats. While he has to pet the dog each night before he goes to bed, he has a strange fascination with our two magical felines. They love to meow at him when they strut into the room, announcing their royal presence. Fascinated with that sound, he mews right back at them. He loves to imitate, and he is particularly fond of imitating those creatures closest to him both spacially and emotionally.

And he has an intense infatuation with both of his parents. This means that he imitates us to no end. One of his favorite things to do is to come up to me while I'm reading, sit in my lap, grab a book, yank my glasses off my face and position them haphazardly on his nose, and then turn the pages in his book. See, he can read, just like Daddy. That's cute.

But not everything I do is cute. Not everything I do is worth imitating. While I put on the air of a tranquil, enlightened person, I still have a fierce temper. My family knows this. As a youth minister I was known for being unflappable. As a pastor I kept my cool under fire, even while being personally attacked by people who had pretended to be my friends. Once, at a church potluck, I was asked if anything ever gets to me. My wife almost spewed her lemonade. She knows better than to be fooled by my public persona. She has to live with me.

The other day I put my foot through the dehumidifier in my basement office because it had the audacity to run while I was trying to write. Not exactly the sign of a cool, unflappable person. I don't want my son to inherit this. I don't want him to spend his whole life trying to shake off the shackles of a bad temper. I don't want him to be a slave to his worst impulses. And I certainly don't want him to be a slave to mine.

But he loves to imitate me. This is humbling. His imitations are indiscriminant. He loves me enough that he doesn't judge me, he just wants to be like me. I realized this when I saw his newest game.

For the last few days Sami and I have been fighting off quite possibly the world's worst cold. We are miserable, wretched creatures, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, gasping, dripping, drooping and blowing our noses. But Adam has no idea that this isn't the coolest thing to ever happen. In fact he's quite taken with all the strange sounds that Mommy and Daddy can make. So much so that, even though he isn't sick, he's taken to making them himself.

The other day, while he was taking his bath, his mother coughed. He started laughing, and then let out a loud, fake cough. I came into the bathroom to grab a tissue in order to blow my nose. Before I blew my nose, however, I sneezed. Thinking this a great game, Adam let out a loud, fake sneeze, then giggled. I then blew my nose.

The rest of the week Adam was fond of grabbing tissues and letting out a honking sound, then laughing some more. See, Daddy, anything you can do, I can do. I take the good with the bad. I don't discriminate. I want to be just like you.

Update: 1:47 pm

Adam's fake cold has been replaced by a real one, but even in his abject misery he still enjoys imitating Daddy. He woke up three hours later than usual, and was completely miserable. I had to find a way to revive his spirit, but how? His throat hurt, so he didn't want food. There goes the easy answer.

I've written before that to Adam, everything's a game. Turns out, that's still true. His mother will be pleased to see that what Adam most wanted to do was to help me clean the house. He imitated my every motion, helping me make the bed, put the laundry away, and even clean in the bathroom. He really doesn't distinguish between work and play!

1 comment:

Tom said...

Two things:

1. My cold is worse than yours.

2. My son (Josh) could use the F-bomb appropriately at the age of two. Maturity is (ideally) accelerated when children start mimicking their parents. My other children have not really heard me use that word.