This afternoon, we decided to pay a visit to my in-laws, who live just minutes away. And like most old-timers here in sunny Palo Alto/Menlo Park, they don't have air conditioning. As a result, Owen -- now almost 17 months old -- sweated buckets. He had to strip down to his underwear and was damp to the touch, though neither the heat nor his stickiness seemed to bother him at all. If anything, it seemed to energize him. While I got duller and sleepier as the afternoon progressed, Owen got more frantic and loud. He would wriggle like greased lightning out of my arms, stumble crazily around the living room and tried to climb on top of the coffee table. "PO-PO! PO-PO!" He pointed at my mother-in-law. "EEEE-OH! EEEE-OH!" He sang and danced to Old McDonald. Owen grabbed his great-grandmother's feet (she's in a wheelchair) and tried to bang them together, ruby-slipper-like. He yanked a walking cane from his great-grandfather, and gleefully struck it against the wall. After he received a goldfish cracker, he shouted "MORE!!! MORE!!! MORE!!!" When I tried to hold his hand, he jerked it away, exclaimed "NO!" and wobbled away. And all the while, his head got slicker and slicker with sweat.
It's times like these that simultaneously horrify me and fill me with pride.
When I was little, I was nothing like Owen. According to my parents, when I was my son's age, I would sit quietly and play with pieces of cardboard. (Apparently, my parents kept a shitload of cardboard around.) My father actively encouraged my inactivity. Like the stereotypical Asian dad, he wanted me to be sensitive, smart, and non-athletic (so as not to break any fingers needed for operating a graphing calculator in the future). I did not run around. I did not roughhouse. At the park, I didn't play with the other kids. Instead, I clung closely to my parents and picked flowers. "That's what you wanted to do!" my parents keep telling me.
So when Owen bounces off walls and shrieks and makes faces , I worry that he'll be a hyperactive brat, constantly seeking attention and stealing things from old people. But I'm also secretly happy that Owen's free to fully give in to his id (for now, anyway), and just run around until he collapses in a puddle of his own sweat, drool and snot. Isn't that what being a toddler is all about?