The Cleverness of Puppies and Toddlers Should Never Be Underestimated

Kevin and GlennaGinger has recently become more adventurous. I used to be able to open the door to let her out and be assured that she would not wander more than 20 feet away from me. As September waned, she grew bolder and even started to leave the confines of our small property. Lately, she has become so brave as to worry me that she might run out into the street after a dog or cat. Her sneakiness in trying to outwit me so that she can escape is both entertaining and exasperating. Although we occasionally venture out without a leash, I usually keep her close now.

This transformation into a daring pup reminds me of my daughter’s audacious behavior as a tot. Glenna was sassy, physically able, and mischievous in her determination to best me at every opportunity. She would wait until I was distracted for a few seconds and then race for the nearest door; street; or dangerous, large, and moving object. And she was fast too. When we were home, I had to keep an eye on her almost every second unless she was parked in front of a video. Even then, I had to check on her frequently to make sure she wasn’t getting into trouble, but, at least, I could accomplish a few chores. Or so I foolishly believed.

On one weekday afternoon, she and her brother were relaxing while watching a favorite film. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I took the garbage out to the garage and grabbed something else I needed in there. When I reentered the room, I noticed her shirt on the floor in front of the couch. The conversation that ensued evolved something like this:

“Why is your new shirt on the floor?” I asked.

“I threw it there,” my three-year-old replied.

“Why did you throw it there?”

“Because I took it off.”

“Why did you take it off?”

“I don’t like it anymore.”

“Why don’t you like it anymore?”

“Because it isn’t pretty now.”

“Why do you think that it’s not pretty now?”

“Because it has a hole in it.”

“How did a hole get in your new shirt?”

“I cut it.”

“Why would you cut a hole in your shirt?”

“I had scissors.”

“So you cut a hole in your shirt, took it off, and then, threw it on the ground.”

With irritation, she said, “I don’t like it anymore. I want to watch the video.”

Serves me right for leaving the room for 120 seconds and paying full price for a fancy Gymboree® shirt for a three-year-old.

Rending her shirt was a relatively mild offense compared to her attempts to publically demonstrate my maternal incompetence. On one particularly eventful afternoon, I decided to take my then three-year-old son, Kevin, and 18-month-old Glenna shopping with me. That decision wasn’t too unusual except that on this occasion, I wanted to journey to the local department store and battle with the other women over clearance racks.

A few days earlier, I had purchased a wrist lead for my daughter. (Okay, I’ll admit it; I bought a leash for my kid.) She was so impish that I finally faced my vexing predicament head on, and procured a tool that I had previously scorned all others for owning. For the first 10 minutes or so in the store, it worked great. While she indignantly tried to remove the offending constraint (this alone kept her busy), I held it and her brother’s hand as we walked toward the much-anticipated sale.

The area was a beehive of activity. The racks were extremely tightly packed together, one virtually on top of the other. All were crammed with hundreds of articles of marked-down apparel. About thirty women swarmed the environs; each with her arms loaded down with goods. A few eyed my tethered child and threw disdainful looks my way. Excited by the prospect of finally purchasing myself some clothing after a virtual three-year hiatus, I didn’t care what they thought.

All was going swimmingly as I approached the third round garment rack of my search. My son timidly commented on my choices, and my daughter was marvelously cooperative and quiet. For a few brief moments, I was in paradise.

My heavenly sojourn was not to be long-lasting, however. Without warning, wailing emerged from around my feet. With great stealth and amazing agility for one so young, my toddler had managed to tangle herself around the base of the rack. To my surprise, she was so intertwined in the framework that she could barely move. Kevin proffered advice while I searched for a way to disentangle her. The only solution was to unstrap her wrist. In a nanosecond, the frustration and fear evaporated from Glenna’s face, she laughed (“sucker”), and took off, weaving her way through the maze of clothing, racks, and legs.

Trapped and unable to pursue her, I knelt down next to my son and said, “I give you permission to find your sister, knock her down, and sit on her.”

“Really?” he asked, disbelief screwing up his perfect, little boy features.

“Really,” I said.

He vanished as I struggled to my feet. For about a minute, I hunted for my wayward child from my vantage point; I then heard her angry cry coming from the other side of room, just outside the sale area. Dropping my would-be purchases, I ran over to find a triumphant Kevin sitting on top of a flattened and very irked Glenna. “I did it!” he exclaimed.

My child was found, and my mortification was complete. Imagining the clucking all around me and barely looking up, I bid a hasty retreat.