A Dad’s View: We Have a Yeller!

Our Billy is a growing boy. He had his first birthday over the summer and has recently taken up toddling. He’s also an early riser, and wants his breakfast on the tray about two seconds after his butt hits the high chair.

Did I mention he’s a yeller?

“GWOAAHK!” he yelps if the first banana of the morning takes a bananosecond longer than necessary to peel and slice. My guess is his perch at the bottom of the birth order has taught him that it’s better to be annoying than to be ignored.

Smart kid. He’ll go far.

Despite his obvious social precociousness, our Billy still has very few words. “Banana” is one, but he’s also pretty good at “hi” and “down.” He can approximate his siblings’ names. All very charming during the normal course of the day. Breakfast is another story.

Our Billy’s screeching drives the other children batty, especially our Magdalena, who is 11 and bedeviled by sensory issues. Even on her best day a loud noise can set her off. She’s not keen on sudden outbreaks of laughter. She detests the Happy Birthday song.

Like most Hennesseys, mornings are not Mags’s strong suit. She and Billy make a fine pair. When he screeches, she grunts. His call is like a bird of prey; her response is like an angry pig. It’s a barnyard battle over bacon and eggs.

And it’s not just breakfast. As I believe I’ve mentioned, he’s a yeller. Yellers gonna yell. “GWOAAHK!” he yells in the car while we’re driving to visit Grandpa. “GRRR!” comes the inevitable reply.

“GWOAAHK!” he yells from the pew on All Saints Day. “GRRRR!” again like clockwork.

“GWOAAHK!” in the grocery store.

“GRRRR!” at the playground.

E-I-E-I-Oh please make it stop. I tell you all this for a particular reason. When you are the parent of small children, the parents of older or grown children will occasionally approach and remind you to “cherish this age.”

“It’ll be gone in a flash,” they sometimes say. “Trust me they’ll never be this cute again. You’re going to wish you could pick them up and squeeze them again when they’re 27 and asking for $4,000 to buy a moped.”

These people are well-meaning. I’m sure they are telling the truth, just as I’m sure one day I’ll probably do the same thing. But that day hasn’t come yet. Right now the only polite thing I can think to tell them is, “Thank you for the reminder to be an attentive and in-the-moment parent, but there’s no way in a hundred months of Sundays I could possibly miss the open warfare at our breakfast table.”

I’ll tell you some other things I won’t look back fondly on: The time Sally fell and knocked her tooth out. Or the time she needed a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. She was three weeks old. It was 10:45 on a Friday night, during a snowstorm. Dr. Pierce probably doesn’t look back fondly on that either.

I won’t have warm memories of the time Clara fell off the slide at the playground and fractured her collar bone, or the time she broke her arm in the gym at school. We thought she was okay so we didn’t take her to the doctor until the next morning. I’d rather forget that, thanks.

I won’t miss the time Paddy barfed off the top bunk on the Fourth of July, or the time Mags had her tonsils out and I had to stay with her overnight on a hospital cot. In fact I won’t miss that so much that I already don’t miss it.

I’ll always cherish the hugs, the snugs, and the major milestones. But if the GWOAAHKs and GRRRs are gone in a flash, well, I won’t complain. Not for a bananosecond.