I knew that having our 2-year-old niece Riley stay with us for a while would be an experience. I didn’t realize it would be an education.
I can already hear my parents laughing in the background.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s hardly a stranger to us. Because of my sister-in-law’s work schedule, we’ve usually looked after the amazing Riley-bug at least once a week since she arrived in the world. My wife Heather has known Riley since her very first seconds in the hospital room and is officially the co-mom, dryer of tears and maker of waffles.
But there’s something about age 2 – and about extended exposure to age 2 – that almost feels like I’m back in class again. And I don’t just mean learning the art of fresh diapers, which Riley herself solemnly handed me one day.
No, it’s a full-bore curriculum, with credit hours offered in the following topics:
English, principally focused on the literary oeuvre of “Caillou,” the world’s baldest Canadian 4-year-old. Seminars shall be held multiple times daily.
Art, concentrating on large-scale abstract expressionism. Projects shall be completed in the medium of Legos, spread in wide patterns across a living room carpet.
Dancing, scheduled whenever a bare foot comes in contact with the large-scale abstract art project.
Modern Cinema, where viewing shall be centered on the complete television run of “Caillou,” the world’s baldest Canadian 4-year-old. Seminars shall be held multiple times daily and may overlap other sessions.
Political Science, in which participants shall explore the delicate art of debate, compromise and appeasement, beginning with the proposition: “Caillou has to go night-night for now; why don’t we do something else?”
Music Appreciation, which shall have three core subject areas: Introductory Percussion, Contemporary Approaches to Old MacDonald (“Ya, Ya, Yo!”), and Contemporary Youth Opera; The “No” Chorus.
Logic, more familiarly known as “Where did your Duckie go this time? Let’s see if we can find him!”
Time Management, in which three adults shall attend to the needs of a 2-year-old, two canines, way too many birds, and the developmentally-disabled adult who actually lives in the house. This only sounds easy.
Physics, in which a toddler will be observed navigating stairs (sometimes on her feet, sometimes on her behind). Participants shall observe the balancing point – including any adjustments made by the canines – and be ready to restore equilibrium.
Physical Education. Need you ask?
Like any worthwhile field of education, it has its stressful moments. Especially since life doesn’t stop going on to accommodate classes. (“Honey, remember that basement where we moved everything to make room? The one that used to be un-flooded?”)
But if the attention and weariness are magnified, so is the joy. That’s true of any subject worth learning, too, and none more than toddler-ology. For every scream-signaled nap time, there’s a smile, or a giggle, or a hug around the knees that makes it more than worthwhile.
And the best part is, none of us – Auntie, Uncle, or Mom – has to worry about boys for a good long time yet.
Well, except for Mr. Caillou. And really, he’s much too old for her.
I won’t tell the teacher if you won’t.