I was all set to dedicate this column to my first baby, who turns 4 this month.
I'd be sniffling my way through those photo albums right now, gawking at the snapshots of me looking hospital-pale and sort of happy-sad, holding my double- pounder preemie to my chest, his body splayed like a beanie baby, tubes and wires sprouting from his skin like spring flowers.
But the little criminal pulled such a devious stunt this morning that he bared as much resemblance to the innocent incubator baby as I do to Martha Stewart, pre-jail.
It started when Dan heard Col padding around the house in dinosaur jammies at one of those inhumane hours our kids think is acceptable to be upright.
The first clue that something was wrong were the oily, size-7 footprints crossing the kitchen floor. Dan is an excellent tracker and quickly found the offender hunched over his crime with a wild look in his eyes.
For the sake of parental back-up, I rose from my warm, dark, hide-out of a bed, and found Dan, all jaw-clenched, wiping up a thick pond of liquid from our living room rug. Tossed to the side were Col's weapons, all empty and unloaded: a quart bottle of canola oil, a carton of half and half, a bottle of ketchup and a flattened bag of Rose's expensive wheat-free bread. Every couple minutes, Dan would raise his arm toward the kitchen and Col would scurry off to fetch more rags.
My friend Sue, who also has two young'uns, always reminds me that the capers our kids pull now, which we waste all our precious phone time venting over, will be the stuff of fairy tales when the kids are teenagers. When they're sneaking out of the house with our car keys, we'll be longing for the days when our foreheads were all creased up because our kids would stay up sooo late, like until 9 p.m. Or when the big dilemma at the playground was: Could your child watch YouTube videos all afternoon and still be a groovy nature boy?
Despite the lawless urges to which my boy occasionally succumbs, he still manages to make my heart sigh happily 10 times a day, like when we're snuggling in his bed and he asks "can you get more closer to me, Mama?"
He still bears some marks from his premature birth - petite with lousy lungs - but where it really counts, he's gotten off scot-free. Plus, he can part the sea of awed pre-teen girls at the library when they see this bitty boy carrying a four-pound, coffee table book on trains down the stairs as resolutely as if he's carrying the holy tome of the train religion.
The word around preemie circles is that the early-born are tough little cookies with good cheer, which really helps when you've had 10 blood draws before you're even supposed to be born.
To think that Col is joining the ranks of those lanky four- year-olds we see on the playground is almost unthinkable. They speak like junior debate team champs. And their legs: veritable taffy dangling from the top of the jungle gym, stretching by the minute. I've even seen their moms at the park, sitting on a rock - reading! Meanwhile, the 4-year-olds scamper and play, using their words and 'fessing up when they have to pee, rather than doing the pee-dance for half an hour before an annoyed mom drags them down to the bushes.
Because Col always has had a rascally streak - his first two-word sentence was "uh oh!," which would be shouted gleefully after he had done something utterly unsanctioned - his wild kiddie pranks are as familiar as the way he and his sister fit so perfectly on my hip.
The conventional family wisdom always has run something like this: Thank God he has the strength of body and mind, given his premature birth and grim early prognosis, to lift the heavy bag of cat food and pour it down the heater vents.
Indeed. You've come a long way baby.
Rachel Turiel's column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org