My younger brother, Matt, has been visiting the past few days. He wrote this post as a Facebook note and I got his permission to republish it here.
I began my trip to California with a single, fairly modest goal. All I wanted was to hear my 2 year old nephew M say that I, Uncle Matt, was his favorite Uncle. The title so far was held by Uncle Scott…and when pressed, M would reveal that “Uncle Kevin” was his second choice, followed by “Aunt Ella”, “Nona”, and finally “Big Bird”. I wasn’t even also receiving votes….but I hoped that after a few days of adventures and bonding, just ONCE, I’d hear the praise I wanted.
My first full day in California was off to a bit of a rough start. We went to the Children’s Museum, which promised all sorts of fun activities for kids of all ages. Sadly, M is Autistic, and is still struggling to “play well with others”. It wasn’t so bad at first, when all he did was yell at other kids to stay out of his sand box, but when he cleared out a three year old with a perfect forearm shiver, I knew it was time for us to leave (on the plus side, the Oakland Raiders did give M a 10 day contract for the hit) . Neither M, nor his 7 month old brother Baby J, were in the best of moods leaving the Museum.
Things had settled down a little bit after our ginormous In-N-Out lunch…Maya set the boys down for their nap, and I opened up my laptop to do a little work. My calmness was shattered though, when Maya picked up her keys and started to walk to the door. “I’m going to head out to do some grocery shopping. You watch the kids while I’m gone.”
“Wait, you’re going to leave me both of them? You aren’t going to take J with you? I think this is a mistake.”
“Nah, they’re both sleeping. If you’re lucky, they’ll stay asleep the whole time. You’re an adult, you can go 45 min without breaking my kids. See ya!” And with that, Maya practically sprinted out the door.
I was terrified, because I knew exactly what was going to happen next. As soon as that car left the driveway, I knew that both kids would erupt in a symphony of screams, and there was nothing Uncle Matt could do about it. I went ahead and shut down my computer, bracing for the inevitable.
Which, of course, happened about six minutes later. Baby J spit out his binky and began to wail. I tried sitting next to him and feeding it back to him every few seconds, but that didn’t work. I rocked his chair, carried him around the apartment, burped him, even sang to him (which predictably made the crying worse), but to no avail. Even the infant can tell when it’s amateur hour. Eventually though, he must have tired himself out crying, and fell back to sleep in his rocker. Crisis temporarily averted.
The peace lasted less than a minute, as M suddenly woke up from his nap and demanded to know where Mommy was. When I opened the door, he blearily looked at me, and asked “Where Mommy?”
“Mommy is out buying food. She will be back soon.”
“Daddy is at work. He’ll be back soon.”
(facepalm) “No, I’m Uncle Matt.”
I closed the door and went back to the suddenly awake and alert J, who was now doing his best impression of a tornado siren in the living room. None of the tricks that Maya left me to calm him down were working, and now M was wandering around, looking at me and demanding to know where the actual adults were. I picked him up to go change his diaper, and promptly slammed my shin into the plastic guard over the bathroom. I winced, and struggled for almost a full minute to get it open, which made M laugh hysterically. I may be a college educated adult, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be outsmarted by a child-proof gate.
After a tussle on the changing room table (dude, how did you crap on your SHIN? And if you kick me in the throat one more time I’m just going to throw you in the shower, and you can clean your own butt), M asked for “eat”. I was excited, since I figured this was one need I could actually fulfill. I lifted him into his high chair, and gave him the peanuts and bread that he asked for. After happily chowing down, he got a devilish grin and asked “Fruit snacks?”
I know I’m not your mommy kid, but even I know that I’m supposed to passing out fruit snacks willy nilly here. He then began to cry again, and I was filled with that deep sense of dread that I had so many times while standing in front of primary kids in church, or back in my classroom. I know I’m technically “the adult”, but everybody in the room figured out that the emperor had no clothes.
Thankfully, Maya walked in the door before M could finish his new game “throw all my heavy toys at J”, and restored order. I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen, and then put on my sneakers to go for a run. M saw I was leaving, ran up and gave me a hug, and then gave me one final taunt…”I wub you Uncle Scott!”
Me and Maya laughed, but then I asked M “wait, who do you think I am? Who am I?”
M cackled. “Uncle Tot! Uncle Tot!”
Well….I guess that’s a start.