I wasn’t there the day everything changed, but I did see the evidence afterwards.
It was a brisk but sunny day. Riley and his grandmother were sitting on a swing at a park. They were snuggling, and his mother thought such a sight would make a great picture.
She whips out her cell phone and starts snapping away. Click … click … click.
As she’s taking pictures, Riley turns his face to his grandmother, flashes those deep baby blues and says: “Penis.”
His grandmother’s eyes nearly flew from her head. Riley smirked.
Click, click, click, click, click, click.
When his mother told me about it afterwards, she was laughing. Look at this picture! Your son is such a ham! Ha! It’s so great!
I just smiled and nodded. Yeah, it’s great.
Truth is, that moment scared me because I saw it for the sinister but inevitable thing it was: evolution.
Much like when he went from squirming on the floor to crawling, and from crawling to walking, Riley had evolved.
He was no was no longer my little boy, but something far worse: a boy who is little.
Little boys are sweet and adorable. They just want to play, learn and explore. And they still enjoy having fun with their parents. Play with me, daddy? Daddy hugs!
But older boys? They’re a different breed. Older boys like to push boundaries and assert their independence.
Riley has said “No!” to me so often that I jokingly said to his mother: “If you’d been half as enthusiastic about saying no as he is, I wouldn’t be listening to this kid right now.”
He’s developed his own personality, his own sense of humour. Often when he’d say funny stuff, he was just repeating something he’d heard before. Not now.
That moment on the swing might have seemed like it was an off-the-cuff remark, but it wasn’t. It was a cold and calculated word drop. He waited until his mother was taking pictures and his grandmother was lulled into a sense of calm before he sprung, like a cub hunting in the Serengeti.
And all for a single purpose: his personal amusement.
So yes, he’s evolving. Why does that scare me? Because I remember being close to Riley’s age. I remember the horrors I put my father through.
There was that time I was around five, when my friend and I thought it’d be a good idea to go hiking by Hog’s Back. You know, without telling anybody. Of course we got lost. In my defense, I was only gone for eight hours or so.
And then there was the time I accidently set the bathroom on fire using a discarded lighter and a letter I’d received from Santa all the way from the North Pole.
For the record, North Pole paper is highly flammable.
So yes, I’m afraid because I know what comes next. War. It’ll be a constant fight between what he wants to do and what I want him to do.
So now we have skirmishes. If I laugh, he wins. If he cries, I win.
Last night saw a typical one. I tell him it’s time to brush his teeth. He looks me in the eye, smirks and says: “Oh yeah, Daddy Poo Bum?”
And the first volley is fired.
“Don’t you think there’s something more appropriate you should be calling me?” I say sternly. I want him to cry.
“Teeth. Now.” I can’t believe he’s just four.
He leaves just as I burst out laughing. From the bathroom, I hear him fumbling for his toothbrush. Okay, we both win. Here’s hoping most of our skirmishes end that way.