It was 9pm. I was downstairs reading, the wife was out of town, the kids were in bed, the pets were curled up in their usual spots. Nice and quiet. At least until I heard the water running.
At first I figured my son (3 and developing his potty independence) had just gone down the hall to use the bathroom and was washing his hands. But I waited, and waited, and waited, and the water didn’t shut off. Up the stairs I went.
When I got to the bathroom, my son was indeed at the sink. But he wasn’t washing his hands. Instead, he was trying to push a huge glob of lotion down the drain. There was more lotion on the faucet handles, and more on his arms, and more on the doorknob. Cringing, I went to his room, where I found the rest of the lotion…
…on his toys.
…on his books.
…on his clothes.
…on his asthma inhaler.
…on his alarm clock.
…on the walls.
You know the saying about no such thing as a dumb question? Well, that’s not exactly true. “WHY DID YOU PUT LOTION ON EVERYTHING?!?!?!” is actually a pretty dumb question, although a well-intended one. The only answer I got, delivered with wide-eyed solemnity and a slow shake of the head: “I don’t know.”
Figuring it didn’t make sense to belabor the point, I did a quick wipedown and sent him to his well-moisturized bed. Back downstairs, I was equal parts seething and intrigued. I knew I had a messy cleanup ahead of me the next day, but I also had a mission: to find out what on earth had possessed that kid to lotion up everything in his room.
I’m always up for a good research challenge. The next morning, over breakfast, I opted for a more subtle approach.
Me: So what did you do last night?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: Did you read?
Me: Did you play?
Me: What did you play?
Him: I was a fireman!
Me: What did you do when you were a fireman?
Him: I locked a naughty monkey in a cage. He fooled the fire department! (Curious George reference — made sense since we had read that book before bedtime.)
Me: So what else do firemen do?
Him: They put out fires.
Me: Did you put out a fire?
Him: Yes. I had a fire in my room!
Me: Really? Was it a big fire?
Him: Yeah. It was everywhere.
Me: Was it scary?
Me: So what did you do?
Him: I had to put it out.
Me: Did you spray it with water?
Me: Did you spray it with something else?
Me: Did you spray it with … cheerios?
Me: Did you spray it with lotion?
Me: Did it work? Did you put the fire out?
Him: Yes, and then I was safe.
So there you have it. Mystery solved, fire extinguished, household saved. And while we’re at it, a good reminder that there’s usually more to someone’s behavior than meets the eye… and that holds for grownups too.
(photo credit 123rf.com)