I’ve been asked more than once about when we knew, Scott and I, that Charlie was going to be the kind of kid he is. When we knew that he would be the one. The one what? You know, the one child that would put us over the edge, perhaps on a daily basis. The thing about Charlie is that while it’s certainly true that he’s likely to put us in our graves early, we WILL die laughing. I am certain of it. We will die laughing.
There were clues. There were many clues that Charlie The Kid was going to be a handful.
One of the first indicators was an incident that occurred when Charlie had just turned three years old. He had been especially naughty one late afternoon into early evening, that bewitching hour when homework is being finished and the family is beginning to inquire rather feverishly about dinner. The level of household hysteria had reached dangerous heights. What can I make for dinner, I thought frantically, that doesn’t involve piling kids into the car to go to the grocery store? Why didn’t I think about dinner at 10:00 this morning? Is there anything at all in this house to eat other than cereal? Would they eat cereal?
I honestly cannot remember what Charlie actually did to earn him some time away from the group-at-large, why he was banished so abruptly to his small closet of a bedroom, which was painted yellow with the crisp white trim and made even cozier with the newly purchased red plush Pottery Barn rug. Yes, the color of his bedroom walls and the new rug have meaning in this telling tale. You’ll see. Now, where was I? Right… what to have for dinner and Charlie is alone on the second floor of the house…alone…at age three…making his way through a time-out.
Scott: Why is it so quiet down here? Where’s Charlie-Barley?
Cassie: I gave him a time-out.
Cassie: Yes. Really!
Scott: Do you think he fell asleep? Cuz it’s kinda quiet up there too.
Cassie: It’s only been five minutes. He’s probably just stewing.
Scott: I guess so. Probably.
Cassie: Oh alright. I’ll go check on him. (I start calling up to the second floor of the house while climbing the stairs.) Charlie?! Charlie?!
(As I round the corner of the stair case landing and walk towards Charlie’s bedroom, the smell is the first thing I notice: very clean and soapy. When my eyes glimpse the room through the doorway, I see bubbles, many, many piles of bubbles everywhere about the tiny room. In one corner, I’m unable to discern whether the column of bubbly froth is climbing UP the wall or dripping DOWN it. Charlie is quite fixated on smoothing a long line of soapy foam back and forth across his red rug. Back and forth he scrubs and scrubs.)
Cassie: Charlie! Oh my God! What are you doing? Holy crap! Is that shampoo?
(I quickly lay eyes on a bottle of shampoo peeking out from beneath the bed frame. It’s near-empty.)
Cassie: Oh. My. God. It’s everywhere! Charles Denton Bollinger! What have you done in here?!
(Any other child, my two older children, for example, might have blanched at the volume and intensity of my queries. But not Charlie. Calmly, he kept up with his bubbly back and forth. He responded clearly.)
Charlie: I’m doing shampoo in my room at the time-out.
Cassie: This is a huge mess. Oh. My. God.
Scott (Rushing up the stairs) What?! What?! Did he poop in his room? What?!
Cassie: No! But…this is f*&*ing unbelievable!
(I run to the nearby bathroom, grab towels from the bathroom closet, run one of the towels under water and rush back to the bedroom. I start trying to scoop up and mop up the bubbly mess with both the dry towels and the one wet towel. I’m just trying to scoop it all up.)
Cassie: Charlie, get out of here. I am so angry with you right now. This is a terrible mess. Go!
(I keep trying to tamp down the froth of bubbles, like trying to stamp out the flames of a raging fire, but the bubbles just seem to grow and grow in number and they are growing upward…up the walls, up the side of the bed. There’s just so many shampoo bubbles everywhere. Suddenly, I change my course and rush to the wall by the head of Charlie’s bed. I use my wet towel to beat at the column of bubbles that is slowly making an upward climb.)
Cassie: Oh my God! I’m drowning in bubbles! They keep growing. They’re growing! Get him outta here, Scott. I’m gonna kill him.
(Scott can see that I’m clearly off my rocker. He escorts Charlie out of the bedroom, and begins stripping off the toddler’s clothes because they are sudsy and wet with the sweetly perfumed shampoo.)
Scott: Charlie! What did you do? Oh Charlie.
Charlie: (chuckling) I’m doing a shampoo.
Scott: (with a calm, soothing voice as I continue to rage in the bedroom) Shampoo is for the tub or the shower, Charlie. You don’t shampoo in your room. You don’t shampoo your rug.
Cassie: (yelling) Or the walls! You don’t shampoo the walls either! Jesus! The bubbles are climbing UP THE WALLS!
Scott: (yelling back into the bedroom at me) I’m handling this!
Scott: (with the calm voice again, to Charlie) I’m so disappointed in you. This is not the kind of thing a three year old does, Charlie.
Charlie: Well, this is what happens when you turn three. (Shrugging his shoulders) This is defally (definitely) what happens…with shampoo…when you’re three, Daddy.
Scott: No more time-outs for you. You have to be watched….like forever. Watched for every second.
Charlie: I know it.
Scott: No more shampoo. Do you hear me?! No more shampoo.
Charlie: A lot of things can happen when you turn three. That’s the truf (truth).
Scott: (Shaking his head) This is really something. Never seen anything like it.
(Charlie and Scott come to stand at the doorway, watching as I continue to fight bubble mounds with my raging attacks, with my foul curses, with my meager towels.)
Cassie: Ahhhhhh! Ahhhhh!
Charlie: Mommy’s acting crazy.
Scott: Yea. This will set us back quite a bit this evening. This is really gonna set us back. (Pause. Then to me) I hate to bring it up, but were there any plans for dinner?
Cassie: Are you freaking kidding me? (I am now covered in bubbles myself. Some bubbles have slopped up onto my lips while I tried to bring a column of raging froth under control, so now I’m spitting bubbles. I try to make some of the bubble spit land near my husband who is just standing there, at the door with the three-year-old, watching.)
Scott: Nice. Yep. I see. I’ll be doing the dinner tonight.
Cassie: Ya think?!
(Scott reaches into the bedroom to grab a fresh, dry pair of pajamas out of Charlie’s bureau, which also has an array of bubbles across the front.)
Scott: (muttering as he departs and heads for the stairs with Charlie in tow) Like an animal with rabies.
Cassie: I heard that!
Scott: I was saying it about the room in general, not you specifically—
Cassie: Yea right! Just go! Ahhhhhh! Stupid Shampoo Life!!!!
Scott: As I was saying, Charlie. This thing with the shampoo. It cannot happen again. Your Mom…..
Charlie: She acts crazy if you play with too much shampoo. I know it.
Charlie: Also, Daddy. No more time-outs. Right? Cuz this is what you get when you’re three years old and the parents do time-outs to you. Right?
Scott: Oh. My. God.
That’s Story Number One. Stay tuned tomorrow for Story Number Two. The next story’s about knockers. (Yep. Those kind of knockers.)