Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Grape came, he ate bread, he stole toys

The Grape loves to visit people and attend parties. The trouble is, he's not the world's greatest guest. It's as if he has some secret personal code of party behavior to which he reverts when faced with an assembly of more than three people.

For example, the Grape is an adventurous eater. At home. He likes his food with a bit of kick, he's never met a sauce he doesn't like and he enjoys a vast repertoire of fruits and vegetables. The kid ate sushi the other night. Evidently, the child who won't eat hot dogs has a taste for raw salmon.

This is what he eats in other people's homes: Bread. White bread, to be specific.

Of course he'll stay alive on the occasional evening of bread and water, but frankly, his refusal to eat veggies mashed up by someone else's mom, or pizzas ordered from a foreign restaurant, or jars opened by someone outside his immediate nuclear family, is embarrassing. Especially since I've usually assured our host in advance that he's a good little eater. After all, he does remarkably well in restaurants. He eats off my plate all the time - no need for a kiddie menu.

But there's just no reasoning with the Grape in other people's homes. If I press a seemingly reasonable position, such as "you like pasta at home," he'll fling the offensive food offering back at me and howl, "YUCKY!" at the top of his little lungs. So I do the cowardly thing and feed him before we leave our apartment, whether he's hungry or not, and let him snack on bread when we get wherever we're going.

When we visit someone who has purchased particularly good bread, the Grape carries on like R. and I never, ever feed him. He squirrels it into every nook and crevasse of their home. People have mentioned weeks later that they've found hardened crusts stashed under stuffed animals, inside radiators and between the pages of picture books. One time this past winter, he managed to wedge the better part of a baguette into a printer/fax machine and press send.

The Grape, like most of his contemporaries, wears diapers. He's usually a fastidious little fellow. He almost always tells us when an unpleasant diaper event is imminent. This weekend, he and his cousin were running around the lawn and splashing in the wading pool au naturel. They were giggling and squealing and having a grand old time. Until the Grape, without pause or warning, did number two on the slide. I tried to explain to him that it's rude to poop on other people's playthings, but he laughed in my face while R. ran to the house to procure clean up supplies.

The Grape also has sticky fingers. His life of crime started when he spirited a toy tractor out of the nursery at my gym, and he's been getting progressively bolder and stealthier with his heists. Now I practically have to strip search him when leaving someone else's house. If the resident child has a toy with wheels the Grape hasn't seen before, he will try to sneak it out with us, usually in his shirt or under his stroller. The other day, I found part of a toy train in my handbag. We don't own such a toy, and I didn't put it in there. God knows where the Grape pilfered it from. Or when. Or for how long he's been gloating that he slipped this tiny treasure past me.

He has an uncanny sixth sense about social timing. The Grape isn't a reliable napper, but if we're due someplace in the afternoon, he'll snooze for three hours. R. and I, stunned by his sudden somnolence, will waste the gift of extra quiet time (which would be so very welcome on the average rainy weekday afternoon) fretting that he's making us late.

Still, I suppose things could be worse. The Grape shows no tendencies towards willfully destructive behavior. Nor does he incite other kids to riot. He'll run after bigger children, but he's never the one who gets everybody else riled into a frenzied stampede. Indeed, when he's not criticizing the cooking, fouling the playground equipment or stealing the toys, he's a good little guest.

Our chances of being invited out again before the summer ends seem decent.

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