I don’t know where he got the idea to do this, or why he’d want to do it at all, but a few months ago, Baby Bear started putting his hands on the stove. Not while the burners are on, because I always block him from the stove while I’m cooking. But when it’s not in use, anytime he goes into the kitchen, he pauses to press his hand on the stove as if for good luck.
It’s a flat, glass top ceramic range that’s easy to keep clean, and initially I thought he just liked putting his pawprints on the shiny surface, because that’s what he does every time I clean the bathroom mirror. Nothing in this house gleams or sparkles or shines for more than five minutes before it’s dulled by Bear’s touch. You might say it’s how he marks his territory—and he’s very territorial.
He’d never get very far as a criminal.
I keep a teakettle on the stove mainly to cover up a burner right after it’s been used, but the other day I wasn’t fast enough. No sooner did I remove a pot of noodles than Bear rushed forward—he was determined—and slapped his fingers on the burner. He leaped back as quickly as he’d lunged, and while he didn’t make a sound, he looked very astonished.
“Now you know!” I told him, and added that he’d have to hold his hand under cold water for a spell. I didn’t think this would be a problem since he considers this whole house his personal wild water park. For all I knew, touching the burner was part of an elaborate plot he’d hatched to play in the sink with Mom’s blessing. But to my surprise, he fled as if there was soap involved.
I chased him around the house and tried to drag him to the sink and get his hand under the running water, but he fought me off (he’s now almost as big as I am). He ran into his room and slammed the door. A few moments later, he emerged growling, and sat on the sofa in the family room, rubbing his hand on the cushion.
I tried an ice cube. He slapped it away. I wrapped the ice cube in a cloth. He still resisted. I tried a bag of frozen vegetables. He was convinced I was going to make him eat them.
He wouldn’t let me near him with anything, yet every time I backed off, he held out his burned hand to me and bellowed as if he were trying to say, “Do something, Mom! Just don’t do that!”
I took out a small plastic mixing bowl and filled it with water and ice cubes. “How about if we dip your paw into this?” I asked him. “We can pretend I’m Madge and you’re getting a manicure, only instead of dishwashing liquid, you’ll be soaking in ice water.”
Bear was having none of that. He dumped the ice water all over the kitchen floor and stormed back to sofa, snarling in pain.
Still searching for a solution, I refilled the bowl with ice water, then soaked a wash cloth in it, wrung it out, and pressed it to his hand.
That worked! He sat still and let me do it. Every few moments I would resoak the cloth, wring it out, and put it in his hand. He liked to curl his fingers around it and squeeze. Soon he wanted to dip the cloth himself—only he didn’t believe in that wringing-out nonsense.
Mr. Lucky came home and declared my method crude and primitive. “I’m surprised you don’t put a leech on his burn.”
“That’s because the ones I found in the medicine cabinet were past their expiration date,” I retorted.
Mr. Lucky filled a zip-loc bag with ice water and gave it to our son. Bear squeezed it and water squirted from a tiny leak in a corner of the bag, hitting his dad square in the eye. Not to mention the kid knows how to open a zip-loc.
Through it all, despite the horrible, heart-rending noises he made, Bear never shed a tear. Only why did he want to do it in the first place? And he still touches the stove—but not as often. What drives him?
“It’s a boy thing,” says Mr. Lucky, who enjoys reminiscing about all the stupid, dangerous “boy things” he did when he was Bear’s age.
How much do you want to bet he still does those boy things when I’m not looking?