Matthew spends most weeks on learning how to master a new skill. I think some of you are already thinking, “Oh, how nice.” But really, these aren’t the kind of skills you want your kid to learn; we are not talking about cleaning up toys, making beds or trying new foods. We are talking about Matthew’s little Engineer-In-The-Making brain that is wired to solve any mechanical dilemma. The primary focus these days is to first determine how things work – in order to apply those scientific principles to other more mundane tasks. Or at least that is what I like to think he is doing . . .
May/June found Matthew interested in the power and function of water. This little obsession has historically been focused on the hose, what you can spray, how far it goes, how much pressure is required, and of course, the need to turn it on and off repeatedly at will.
But, since every year spring brings new life, this year, spring brought new life to Matthew’s old water ideas.
He decided that he wanted to see if he could flood the kitchen with water.
Yes, you read that right, he wanted to flood the kitchen intentionally. Just to see what happened.
So, he would go out back, grab the hose, sneak it back to the French doors, slide it in, and then pin it there with the doors loosely shut - -all with stealth like quiet that could get past me while I was standing in the kitchen not 4 feet from his little invention. Then – quick run to the faucet and turn on the hose!
To which I would walk in, turn around, or realize that he had indeed FLOODED the kitchen, requiring no less than 6 beach towels to soak up the mess each time.
Each time. He did this THREE TIMES.
Then we took the hose off, followed by physically removing the handle from the faucet so that water is just NOT an option in the backyard. Matt still asks Jeff for the handle back. Daily.
And just when I thought that was bad enough ….
Last Saturday we were all playing in our front yard – after we got back from the beach – and Matthew was standing in the front yard with the hose ‘watering the plants’ as usual. I was down the street under the basketball hoop with my girlfriends and the other boys shooting hoops.
When one of my friends walked towards her house, I said, “Can you see Matthew?”
“Yes,” she said, “he is playing with the hose.”
Ok, no problem.
Then one of our other neighbors got in their car, and I rushed over the 2 driveways to my house so that I could have an eye – if not a hand – on Matthew when the car moved.
What did I see?
Matthew, with the hose, fed into the back of my van, up and over the seats, SPRAYING WATER in the van.
Yes, he was in the van, spraying water all over the seats, just to find out if he could flood that too.
And let’s not talk about how many towels that took to clean up.
Now, you might be surprised at this point that Matthew is still alive. With all this damage, there are days I think he won’t make it to his 5th birthday.
But, I also know, that no matter what consequences (trust me, we’ve try, and continue to try) we give him, his brain gets set on figuring something out, and he just has to do it.
With this new interest in how water works (Can it flood the house? Can it flood the van?), Matthew has quickly become fascinated with – you guessed it – the toilets.
He has taken apart every toilet in our house. That’s three.
This definitely falls under something he is NOT going to stop until he actually feels like he knows how the toilet works, and where the water goes.
So, Jeff has given him no less than 3 lessons on how a toilet works. They sit together, ridiculously cute, and take the back off the toilet while discussing all of the parts on the inside of the tank and how they are used to flush the toilet. And each time, it ends like this,
“Now, Matthew, if you ever want to look inside the toilet again, you need to ASK ME. I will show you how it works, but you DO NOT open the toilet yourself. OK?”
“OK, Dad.” Matt responds with a wide smile. Every time.
Now, this doesn’t even come CLOSE to wrapping up all that Matt has done in the last month. To truly do Matt justice I would have to talk about his interest in the many uses of salt too.
He poured an entire container of salt INTO the Cuisinart in the middle of me making deviled eggs, just days after he took a large salt shaker, removed the bottom cork, and sprinkled salt all over the house – from the kitchen to the TV and from the couch to the fish cracker jar. Salt everywhere.
But none of that is the crowning jewel in this post.
Remember how I said that I am trying to take a shower more often? Trying to take care of myself?
Ok, so yesterday I was hosting a parent support group meeting here locally. I knew that I would not be able to get a shower in during the day, so it would have to wait until all three boys were home from school. Nightmarish.
But, it has been two days since I showered, and I felt I deserved to be clean before my meeting.
So, I put an episode of Word World on downstairs for Matt, locked the garage door opener, bolted the door to the garage, bolted the front door, verified that the padlock was indeed on the side gate (check) and locked the back door. Quickly slid the lock on my office, and then gave Matt a Popsicle with strict instructions that he was to stay at the table with it. Then, found Nick, and verified that Nick would keep an eye on Matt and not let him go outside. Nick agreed. I headed upstairs, walked into Gabe’s room and asked him to continue to lay down -- stay in bed and rest -- until I got my hair clean. I don't actually say 'shower' because that seems to insinuate a much longer period of time that I will be gone - and I want them all to think that I will be RIGHT back. I don't trust them any further than I can throw them.
With all three kids prepped, I was off to the shower. One I had warm water, I cleaned up quickly, got out, started to dry off, when what do I hear? The dog barking. Why is he barking? Because the doorbell is ringing, ringing, ringing....
"Nick!" I yell, "Who is at the door?" I ask, knowing Nick can't answer it.
"Matthew! Matthew is outside!" Nick yells back.
I rush to put on a T-shirt and sweatpants -- no underwear, no bra, and I'm not exactly dry.
I rush downstairs, look over my left shoulder at the french doors to see Nick rushing out back to try and get to Matthew through the gate (but I know that is locked), and see that the TV hasn't even finished the first part of Word World (by my calculations, I had been gone no more than 8 minutes) and then I head to the front door to get Matthew INSIDE.
I look over my right shoulder as I approach the locked and bolted door, to see the front window has been opened (it was locked) and the screen is now mangled in a rhododendron bush out front -- Matt bailed out the front window in order to play with the hose. That is not IMplusive, that is COMpulsive.
I open the door, pull Matt in by his arm while he yells, "No Mom! I want to play with the hose!"
I bring him in, go back for the screen, toss the screen in the garage, yell at Matt about how going through the window is an UNacceptable choice before sending him to his room, and then lock everything down and return to the bathroom to get dressed.
Now, this would all end here, but of course now Gabe is up, and yelling and screaming and throwing himself on the floor, as I try to get at least my hair dried.
By the time things settle down, I am in the front yard with Gabe, who is taking the trash out (consequence for knocking it over during a fit of anger) and my husband drives up.
"It's all you." I say, gesturing to Gabe and his temper tantrum.
I go in, start cleaning up for dinner, and Jeff comes in.
"What's wrong with Matt's face?" he asks.
"His sunburn?" I say hopeful.
"No, he is bleeding."
Jeff was right -- Matt had smeared blood across his cheek. He had apparenlty gotten a nosebleed during his daredevil dive from the front window, but I didn't notice (too busy with Gabe) and had wiped it all over his face and shirt.
"Oh, that." I say to Jeff, "He must have got that when he dove out the front window through the screen. He wasn't bleeding when I pulled him inside." I say matter of factly.
Jeff just looks at me. I don't think he is surprised, but he looks a little surprised.
Just another day.
And that is the crowning jewel.
But, I am probably tempting the fates by not only writing this -- but by being on the computer when I know Matt is upstairs 'playing trains' alone. I am sure if he gets wind of this he will plot something better.
Photo: Mat playing chalk out back on one of the RARE sunny days we've had.