He’s making the face. His nose is crinkled, his mouth askew, his eyes are so small there’s no light reflecting in them. He crosses his arms and tips his head down.
That’s when The Champ announces his alter ego has arrived.
He says it just so: “I. AM. MAD. BOY. I. AM. NOT. HAPPY.”
This would be the point where, were we reading along with a comic book, the lightning would CRACK in the sky panel and the masked villain with the initials “MB” on a billowing cape would take up the rest of the cell space on the page.
I can even imagine a cyclone to rival Dorothy’s might open the roof and slurp each one of us out as payment for the laughter than ensues.
I really feel bad for the kid. It’s taken him so long to reach his terrible twos and no one really takes him seriously.
Even the dog yawns and goes back to snoring when he tries to rile her.
Probably doesn’t help that his tiny protest over whatever it was that stepped on his independence -- maybe we started the waffles without him … or we put away the miles of train tracks as he slept … or maybe we just took the scissors-markers-knives-blowtorch away from his sticky little grasp — is so easily squelched.
It’s difficult for a little squirt to stand one’s ground when the big people in his life can still pick him up and whisk him away from it.
Of course being difficult doesn’t mean the endeavor is impossible.
In his developmental fishing expeditions The Champ has become an expert in baiting his big sister.
For instance, he has become fond of telling his sister that he is bigger — one of only two statements that will reel in her ire hook, line and sinker. The other, of course, is insisting that he is older, too.
“He is not older than me. Tell him mom. YOU ARE NOT BIGGER, AND YOU ARE NOT OLDER!
“I am the one who gets to use the blender. NOT YOU.
“I know how to use scissors. NOT YOU.
“I can get my own drinks. YOU CAN’T.
“I don’t have diapers … YOU DO!
“YOU. ARE. A. BABY!”
He just smiles at her with is signature sideways grin. He’s gotten the exact reaction he was after.
“NO! YOU ARE BABY. I AM BIG, MAD BOY!”
The house is in an uproar. His sister’s eyes have gotten smaller than his. Her mouth has almost completely disappeared.
It has also turned us into referees.
I try to hold each of them at arm’s length as they circle my legs in this antagonistic dance.
“Tell him he’s little.”
“I not little. I am big. You are little.”
I next try to reason with the big kid:
“You know you are older. You know he’s just a little kid. Why can’t you just ignore it?”
“Because it is just not fair,” she screeches.
“No. You not fair,” he echoes at the same decibel, one that threatens shattering windows.
I wish only the dog could hear this. I glance over at her bed and realize her selective hearing is allowing her to sleep through the din. I take it back. I don’t really wish this torture on a defenseless animal.
I send them to their separate corners, wherein they stare angrily at each other from across the room.
“I do not want to hear one more peep from either of you until your moods have changed for the better. …
When you’ve calmed down we can make cookies,” I add hoping to speed the process.
I poke my head in when I hear a gravely dragon growl answered by a low monster roar.
“Not a peep.”
In a few minutes, I hear the older one chirping happily. Her brother peeps back.
“Peep …peep … peep …peep. We’re ready to make cookies, mom.”
“How about you. Are you ready, Mad Boy?”
“I’n ready. I’n not Mad Boy anymore. I’n just a boy.”