Between horror and hilarity

Saturday November 24, 2012

Gus is now 401 days old and in the past month he has become increasingly mobile.

One day after his first birthday he took his first genuine steps on his own and he hasn’t crawled since. Those first few days we hovered, afraid he would stumble and come crashing down on his face, ready to catch him before those four lovely new front teeth could hit the linoleum in the kitchen. Rather quickly we learned that while he might trip on his own feet or over a toy on the floor, most times he just falls on his fanny or catches himself with his hands before any major damage can be done.

When we get him ready for bed at night I look at his little behind and am stunned it’s not one big black-and-blue bruise after the number of times he has come crashing down on it in the span of just a few hours.

He tends to walk from one handhold to the next, from the sofa to the coffee table, between the chairs at the kitchen table, while holding onto the rails of his crib and scurrying down the hall with one hand on the wall. In the morning I sit with my cup of coffee and watch him walk in circles around the kitchen, distracted by his toys on the floor, books in the corner, the sound of water boiling on the stove, sunlight coming through the window and those tantalizing odds-and-ends on shelves just out of his reach.

When I’m in one room and Becky is in another, Gus will go from room to room searching, pushing open a half-closed door and peering around the side until he locates who he is looking for.

That little exercise often results in a new game he loves to play: Pushing a door closed from inside a room and swinging it open, time and time again. The problem is, when he pushes it fully closed, he can’t reach the door knob to get it open again, so he smacks the door with his little hands, screams and grunts until we open it just enough for him to be able swing it open before, yes, slamming it shut again. Fun for him ... not so much fun for his parents.

When I’m slaving away at the stove I have to be careful not to back up too quickly because he often slinks up behind me and grabs the backs of my pant legs. If something is sizzling in the fry pan or steaming in a sauce pan, he just absolutely has to see what’s going on, so he grabs at my legs and implores me with those beautiful blue eyes to "please, please pick me up and let me see."

Scooping him up in the crook of my left arm, I try to stir with my right without pushing the pan off of the burner, a skill I haven’t quite mastered yet. He loves to take the spatula or spoon out of my hand and help daddy with the cooking, but it’s more like stabbing bubbles than it is stirring.

In his travels around the house, he recently discovered how much fun it is to run on the sofa and bounce off the cushions. He especially likes this activity in between his bath and bedtime when he is wearing nothing but what he was born in (except for two nights ago when he insisted on wearing just his mittens). He runs and stumbles, catches a leg in the crack between the cushions before falling on his face and laughing, laughing, laughing. Meanwhile, mom and dad are darting back and forth along the sofa with our hands just inches away from his body to keep him from flying into the air and onto the floor. Yesterday he learned he can fall backwards onto the sofa cushions without hurting himself, which he enjoys to no end.

The first few times he tried that maneuver I was caught between horror and hilarity. As he takes these first few steps towards independence, I realize much of being a parent is spent being torn between those two divergent compass points -- a gut-wrenching terror that something awful is going to happen and an uncontrollable urge to give into maniacal laughter in response to the absurd antics my offspring is engaging in.

Somewhere in between the two is the sweet spot of parenting. As Gus stumbles through life, I know we won’t be able to prevent him from getting hurt from time to time, but I hope we are there to cushion his hardest falls. And I know that terror will be balanced out by the wonderful joy that bubbles up from my soul every time he does something new or funny, or just when he looks at me and gives me a lovingly mischievous smile.

Bob Audette is the day managing editor at the Brattleboro Reformer, and proud father of Gus.


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