Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Grape's diabolical plan for world (or at least family) domination

I've always rolled my eyes at families whose toddlers appear to run the show.

You know, the people with children who over rule their parents' dinner and even restaurant suggestions. The ones who determine when their families visit friends and when it's time to leave. The kids who dictate that the entire clan must wake before five and crash too soon after dusk to conduct any semblance of a healthy social life. The tots who refuse to sleep anywhere but in their parents' bedroom.

I don't remember much from my post-operative fog during the Grape's first week on earth, but I remember Dr. Dave, an old school pediatrician in Rhode Island, impressing upon me and a bleary-eyed R., the baby is not the CEO of the family.

R. and I have tried to repeat this incantation as needed. Lately, though, I've noticed the Grape make a subtle play to step up the management ranks of our little family unit. He doesn't make a charge for the chairmanship, but rather picks small, winnable battles to chip away at our grip on power. I fear R. and I might fall for his strategy because it's stunning in its simplicity: the Grape knows we think he is cute.

Take last night, for example. The Grape was in the tub. R. and I, stricken by a chest cold reminiscent of the plague, were discussing what takeout to order for dinner. I listed the usual choices. When I paused, the Grape interrupted his mission to eat all the soap suds and piped up, load and clear, "Picco!" Picco is our go to pizza place, and they also feature fantastic ice cream - a fact not lost on the Grape.

I said it sounded fine to me and R. conceded he didn't need the burger he had been craving. Presto, the Grape got his way. The Grape watched our exchange intently and didn't return to his bath toys until he heard R. call in the order. For a margherita pizza at that. Not the neapolitan his mom would have preferred.

It's not just food. The Grape frequently decides when we walk the dog. Now that I think of it, I believe he's recruited Lila the Dog to support his takeover campaign. You'd think that turncoat mongrel would be loyal to me, her great rescuer and feeder. But no. Since I reluctantly put her on a diet three weeks ago, she's aligned herself firmly in the Grape's camp.

He festoons the leash on her and sings, "Lila! Let's go." The dog runs to the door, whining as if she might need (not just want) to go outdoors, and I find myself hanging up with the gas company after holding for forty minutes, turning off pasta water a minute before it boils or making us late to some doctor appointment.

The Grape also asserts his rank in the family by pursuing a campaign of imposed ignorance. He is desperate to keep us in a news blackout. Whenever R. and I are home to catch the five to ten minutes of real world news, the Grape makes sure to divert our attention by all means necessary.

He brings us books and asks us sweetly to read Goodnight Gorilla, over and over, until the news goes to commercial and/or Lindsay Lohan. At that point in the broadcast, he abandons his interest in literature and snuggles angelically on our laps. He might even close his eyes and coo, ever so quietly.

If he's in a more contrary mood, or R. and I have the audacity to tune in to the dreaded NPR newscast, he'll skip the books and assault us with an array of plastic vehicles, musical instruments and dog toys. Again, only until the world headlines pass and NPR cuts to its ceaseless fundraiser. As soon as they're on about the flowers they can send mom if you pledge a hundred bucks right now, the Grape dusts off his halo and listens to the radio like it's about to impart the secret to life.

Some of you might laugh and call this all cute, right? But I think not. He's 21 months old. If he's this demanding now, what happens in a few short years? Will he want to redecorate the apartment with a firehouse theme? Bring a goat to live with us? Serve popcorn as the main course at dinner parties? Will R. and I find our shares in the family corporation so diluted by the Grape and the dog that we'll be powerless to stop such events?

Probably (hopefully) not. We're actually decent at putting our feet down when something matters. Still, I'm concerned that the Grape knows this, and is working tirelessly to nudge that line between what matters and what doesn't in his favor. So while I hope we don't morph into total chumps, I cannot swear it won't happen.

Here's what I can promise: One of these days we will run into Dr. Dave. He will size us up, roll his eyes, and say, "I told you so."

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