Today was a fantastic day.
First, I didn't sub. After last Friday I was ready to not sub, even though we kind of need the money.
Second, Maxine pooped in her little potty right here at home! She's been doing it from time to time at Stephanie's, but she's had some mental block about doing it here. She insists on having us put a diaper on her so that she can do it standing up. I kind of sympathize; when you're used to doing something a certain way, it's hard to change.
And so I was greeted at the door when I came home around 10:00 by the sight of Maxine's potty in the kitchen. Yep. They saved it so I could see. I would have taken their word for it: Maxine's reward was a couple of pieces of candy, and she spent the rest of the evening running them off. She didn't get to bed until 11:30, though she dropped off pretty quickly.
Third, before bed we were reading "The Itsy-Bitsy Spiders," when Maxine asked something she's never asked before, though I expect this is far from the last time. "Spiders" is a an excessively expanded retelling of the old song about the itsy-bitsy spider who climbed up a waterspout only to be washed down by rain, after which the sun comes out and dries up all the rain and the itsy-bitsy spider once again attempts to climb up the water spout. In this version, there are ten spiders, each of which climbs up the water spout in different ways--dancing, driving race cars, riding a skateboard, being shot from a cannon, etc. Each one is written as a new verse in the old song, and each verse stretches the rhythm scheme of the old song almost to the breaking point, making them somewhat difficult to sing. As if that were not challenge enough, in one corner of the book is a little button. When you push the button, you get little electronic beeps that follow the tune of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" in a sort of chipmunks version, high and fast. And with no warm-up notes, so you'd better be ready to come in on the right note when you hit that dang button.
Maxine, if you are reading this, you may not remember the itsy-bitsy spider book. And if I have anything to say about it, the batteries will be long-dead and never-replaced by the time you read this. (Though with my luck you were clever enough to replace them yourself by the time you were four.) However, if you do have fond memories of those lame rhymes, please don't take this the wrong way: I didn't really like that book very much.
But there is one good thing about it: Each spider is a little plastic bump on the book, poking through holes in the pages. As you turn the pages, you lose one spider each time, so they count down from ten to one. It gives up something to count, different on each page. And they are not in neat, orderly rows, either. They're sort of randomly scattered in the bottom half of the right page. This is a good thing, because you can't have too much exposure to counting at Maxine's age.
So getting back to the third thing that made today fantastic: I asked how many spiders there were on one page, and she counted four. Very usual. Then she asked where the other spiders were, and I told her they went up the water spout, as I pointed up the picture of the spout. Then she used a special word for the first time in her life:
She asked me, "Why?"
I stopped, trying to think of an answer. Why do those spiders move in various ways up the water-spout? What treasure do they believe lies at the end of this long, dark climb? Are they truly climbing to something, or are they climbing away from something else? Is it all just a futile effort to escape from their own inadequacies? Or perhaps an ironic struggle to evade the rain which they can sense is approaching. I had no easy answers then, and still do not.
Then Horyon pointed out that Maxine had never asked "why" about anything before, and it hit me: It's not about getting to the top of the water-spout, it's about the journey.
No. I mean, it hit me that Horyon was right. Maxine has embarked on her own journey of exploration. She's figured out "what", "where", and "who", has a good grasp of the basics of "how", and probably understands "when" better than most of us (i.e. "If it isn't now, it is future, unless we already did it."). But now she's getting into the dangerous territory of "why," and I have to tell you, I am excited.
I know what you're thinking: This is going to be like mowing the yard, where it was so much fun the first time, but quickly got old. Everyone knows that kids are annoying when they constantly ask why, why why.
Wrong. This is way cooler than mowing the stupid yard (which isn't so bad when I think of it as a time to be outside and listen to music from my MP3 player). This is about learning, and Maxine being hungry to learn. I so badly want to answer all of her questions, and help her to hunt down the answers that I don't know. I aspire to never bluff my way through an answer, so that she always knows that my answers are true. I plan to give her the information she wants, as well as the perspective she needs. I don't want to bore her, but I don't want her to feel brushed off. You can bet that I will ask her questions in turn to make her think through the answers for herself sometimes. And I hope that she never feels that there is a question she cannot ask me, whether it be about work, relationships, sex, drugs or rock and roll.
So there you have it. A fantastic day.
Oh, I almost forgot. K.U. won the national championship! In overtime! By making their second three-point shot of the game! We had tuned in the radio to catch the end, but it wasn't the end. I decided to try fiddling with the t.v. antenna to try to make sense out of the blur of static. It worked! We got the clearest picture I've ever seen on channel 13, and all I had to do was stand there holding it at a funny angle. I eventually figured out that propping it in the fireplace door worked almost as well, so we sat back to watch the game. Kept Maxine up well past her bedtime, running in circles on the floor, burning off the excess energy she got from the candy she earned by pooping on her potty.
It's been twenty years since they won. I was a senior in high school.
They tell me that downtown Lawrence was a crazy mess until it started raining around 3 a.m. People literally couldn't move, there were so many other people crowded around them, and this in the middle of Massachusetts Street!
And now it's time to settle back down. Back to normal life without March Madness.