Argument is the most enduring and time-tested form of family interaction.
Even homeless people have domestic disputes.
So, wanting to establish a close and lasting relationship with my grandson, some months ago I identified an argument I thought would guarantee our sense of closeness for the foreseeable future.
Note here the use of the word “identified.”
I didn’t have to make up the argument. It simply emerged as part of natural human interaction.
His side of the argument was: “Dadda home.”
My side of the argument: “Dadda not home.”
I chose it because most of the time we spend together is when his Dadda is at work. This not only made me feel more confident in the ability to stand up to a child who had just learned to walk, it gave me the opportunity to answer yes to the question: “Are you smaller (as in smaller-minded) than a 2-year-old?”
In my defense, I chose the argument because I thought it would help prepare him for his future.
Although spoken in the language and grammar of a 2-year-old, “Dadda home … Dadda not home” parallels the argument he’ll most frequently be involved in during the rest of his time on the planet: “I’m right, you’re wrong,” the juvenile equivalent of which is: “Am not …. Am, too.” (That then advances to the corollary argument in which, as the philosopher Socrates originally observed, a personal accusation bounces off rubber, then sticks like glue.)
My decision to exploit the “Dadda home …” pattern of argument was validated when my wife started a like-structured argument with our grandson not long after I started the argument.
The instant she accused him of being a “pip squeak,” he smiled and retorted, “You a pup geek.”
The fact that he had no idea what a pip squeak was didn’t figure in what had transpired. It was the argumentative nature of the exchange that counted. He immediately recognized it and responded appropriately.
And, though I love my wife, the little guy won that argument on charm points alone.
All the while, his 2-year-old brain and my 60-year-old brain remained locked in battle, and we both looked forward to the moment of our every visit when he’d say “Dadda home” — sometimes leaning on the second word — and I’d insist, “Dadda not home.”
In my twisted version of history, this all leads up to the glorious morning when, after coming up with the brilliant idea during the 45-minute drive to my daughter and son-in-law’s home, I went through the front door and carried out my plan.
I grabbed the little guy up in my arms, felt his cereal-encrusted cheek against mine and hauled him, footed dinosaur jammies and all, to the lower level of their split level home.
When I hit the floor, I opened the door on my right, turned on the garage light and asked him, “Is anybody there?”
He looked and shook his head no.
I then turned back for a tour of the basement, where we checked the half-bath, the playroom and opened the folding doors to the laundry room. Each time, I asked: “Is anybody there?”
Each time, he shook his head no.
Then it was back upstairs to check the living room and kitchen, the half bath and master bath (including a look in the shower), where the answer each time was no, no one was there.
It was the same, of course, after checks of the master bedroom, his bedroom, the den, three bedroom closets and the small hall closets with the extra towels and blankets and the vacuum cleaner.
With a billowing sense of triumph, I walked him back into the kitchen, looked in his eyes and asked him if he’d seen anybody in any of the rooms.
When he shook his head no, the background music stopped and into the dramatic silence I said: “So, is Dadda home or is Dadda not home?”
He went silent, something I’ll return to later.
My daughter laughed and said “You guys.”
My wife then spoke a deeper truth to me alone: “You’re pitiful.”
I was laughing, of course, hugging the little guy with the cereal encrusted cheek in the footed dinosaur jammies and thinking of the joy he’s brought into my life.
We’ve moved on since then, even though grandpa doesn’t want to.
Yes, I’m happy he’s growing up.
And though I’m looking forward to our next argument, I want to spend a little more time in the brief period I think of as “Time of the Pup Geek.” I want to savor the memory of the smile that came over his face as he slyly stood his ground and said, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary: “Dadda home.”
As for his silence after my final surprise attack?
That shows evidence of advanced wisdom on the part of a 2-year-old. Clearly, sometimes, the best course of action in dealing with Grandpa is to ignore him.
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