Le Petit has been charming these days, all cuddles and declarations of "maman!" and "encore!" I may have to pry him away from playing with the kitchen appliances ten times a day, we may have frequent disagreements over the necessity of wearing a coat, and an impasse may be narrowly avoided at nap time, but mostly we've been having a ball together.
A trip to the pediatrician's office yesterday even went smoothly despite an hour-plus wait. There was the usual teary, indignant scene when we tried to convince le Petit to lie down on the examination table -- "His grandmother was an opera singer," my husband explained over le Petit's dramatic pathos-filled screams -- but he calmed down quickly when things were finished and even offered the doctor a triumphant smile and a wave goodbye.
So I spent the day at work meditating on the joys of motherhood and wondering if the time would soon be right to try for number two. And maybe a number three eventually, why not?
Just as I was imagining myself signing up for a minivan and a SNCF large family discount card, reality caught up with me, as usual.
I arrived to pick up le Petit at seven o'clock. It looked like I had a decent chance of sneaking away without incident, for the nanny had already dressed le Petit in his sweater and jacket. But events took a turn against me when le Petit noticed that l'élue de son coeur, the six-year-old big sister of the baby who shares his nanny, had arrived just after me. She ran up to him and gave him a huge hug and they proceeded to chase each other around the living room.
I tried to gather le Petit, the diaper bag, and the lunch bag and head for the door, but one of the three kept sliding from my grasp. By now there was a crowd in the apartment, for the baby's grandma and niece had arrived with his big sister, and le Petit is smart enough not to want to leave a good party just when it is getting started. I coaxed a half-hearted wave goodbye and carried him outside into the hallway.
He took one look at the stroller and exercised his toddler veto power, simultaneously arching his back and letting his limbs go limp so I could not force him to sit down. I pleaded. I bargained. I finally called the elevator and let him walk in, pushing the stroller behind us: anything to avoid a tantrum within earshot of the nanny.
I soon found myself in the entryway of the apartment building with an empty stroller, a diaper bag, a lunch bag, a backpack of running clothes, a purse, and a recalcitrant toddler intent on wandering away with a bottle of water held tight and clenched between his teeth.
I begged and pleaded some more, I picked him up and tried to fold him into a sitting position, all with no success.
So we left the building and started home with le Petit balanced on my hip and pushing the stroller with one hand (I intervened occasionally to steer), the diaper bag hanging from the handles, my backpack on my back, the lunch bag stuffed under and my purse draped over the seat.
"This is a very silly way to go home," I told him, "And you're heavy!" I thought (and not for the first time) that it is a darn good thing I don't worry too much about my appearance in public. That was when we crossed a nearby square and I noticed one of my shoelaces was untied.
"You stay close to Mommy," I said as I stood le Petit on the ground, "I just need to..." and before I could glance at my shoe he was off on a wild sprint to freedom. I rapidly abandoned purse and stroller to chase after him.
"You have to be careful! There are cars here!" I motioned towards the street, which was thankfully far away. "Cah!" repeated le Petit, overjoyed at the sight. I sat le Petit down on a bench and quickly tied my shoe while he was figuring out how to climb down. I swung him back on my hip. We were halfway home.
When we were within sight of our apartment building I stopped to switch hips and le Petit decided that we were on our way to the park. "Oputah!" he announced, which in le Petit-speak is "octopus" and codename for the playground where marine animals decorate the mat under the play equipment. "No, it's not time to go to the park," I told him. "Oputah! Oputah! Oputah!" he chanted louder and louder as we approached the door, unwilling to give up hope of a last-minute change of itinerary.
"Oputah" sounds an awful lot like "ah putain" I thought to myself as we passed in front of an amused neighbor who held the front door open for us.
There a shriek of joy when I let him press the button on the elevator and a shriek of despair when I hesitated letting him press the doorbell, and then we were home.
Not a moment too soon.