There are many, many good days: days when Henry radiates his innate goodness from every pore; when he greets me in the morning by covering me in sloppy baby kisses; when he calls out "Hi, neighbor!" to smiling strangers—who are just friends we haven't met, as we all know-- as we wheel our way parkward; when he takes obscenely long naps so that I can get all my work done; when, in the afternoons, he says, "You look like you could use a break, Mother," and whips up a stir-fry while I lounge on the couch, sipping a mug of herbal tea, waiting for my footrub.
And then there are those other days. When, say, it rains from dawn to dusk and Henry wants to go outside NOW and makes his point again and again, all the while perfecting a horrendous combination of whine and staccato shriek—"Out YES Out YES Out? Out? Yes! OOOOUT! YES!"—which no amount of reasoning can silence. When, after I've finally quieted him by playing another Sesame Street DVD, with all the attending guilt that implies, I realize I'm bored senseless and I've already read every single word in the latest New Yorker and wasn’t I smart once? When I decide to maybe straighten up a little—I'm stuck inside, so why not make the inside tidier?—and Henry decides straightening up is NOT DONE and follows me through each room, tossing papers I just finished organizing to the floor, dripping milk on the rug, pulling the broom out of my hand and swinging it wildly, cracking my skull into shards in the process.
When (Oh, I'm not done with this kind of day yet)--after I retrieve my skull pieces and paste them back above my neck into an approximate head-shape--I pull the broom out of his hand, Henry flings himself to the ground, his mouth opens up into a silent scream and his face turns a fetching shade of burgundy. When, twenty minutes of tantrum later, I'm so wiped out that all I can do is turn the television back on, plant him in front of it (I know! I know! BAD MOTHER! Someone call the authorities!) and make pathetic little boo-hooing sounds into my hands. When Henry, seeing my distress, hops up, rushes to my side, and head-butts me.
When, ten minutes into his nap, he determines that the fatigue he felt was merely the precursor to a rush of tremendous, super-toddler energy, and that instead of sleeping the thing to do is run up and down the hallway, demanding something called "Ba-deem," a thing that Does Not Exist In This Dimension, and can only be explained by what it so obviously is, which is ba-deem, duh, and any attempts to offer an inferior alternative to ba-deem will be met with wrenching sobs. And then he wants UP but as soon as I hoist him up (at great expense to my poor lower back) he kicks at me with one leg as if he’s steering a horse and he points at, say, a knife, and when I tell him the knife isn’t for Henry he bellows, "Give me the knife, bitch! Or I'll cut you!" and I say, "See, that’s why the knife isn’t for Henry," and put him down, and he slams his head on the floor again and again, oh, he'll show me.
When, in desperation, I finally decide that the rain can’t be as hard as it looks, so I shove him into the stroller and down the stairs and then, once we’re outside in the surprisingly heavy rain, he pulls the rain cover off the stroller and screams when I try to put it back on, and strangers—evil, malicious strangers—are glaring at me, why aren’t I keeping my son dry can’t I see that it’s raining?—and after five minutes of this we head right back in and now HENRY IS REALLY QUITE ANNOYED WITH ME. And then Henry decides that, in lieu of standing outside in a thunderstorm, a fun pastime would be to lie down beside Mommy and KICK KICK KICK her right in the—what’s that, there? The kidneys? Good enough! When, after husband finally returns from work, I hand Henry over and shriek incoherently about the violence inflicted upon me all day long. When, after an hour of peaceful and happy play with Daddy, Henry toddles my way, wraps his soft little sausage-arms around my neck, kisses my cheek, and whispers, "'night." And I wish I could have five more minutes with him.