Mihiretu is the Ethiopian Dennis the Menace. He flushes bath plugs down toilets (he did that, twice, actually, before we wised up and chained the plug to the bathtub). He turns the refrigerator to the coldest setting so we wake up to frozen half-and-half. He adjusts the clock radio to staticky Mexican polka and shoves up the volume. He drags his sticky hands across every window of our house, which is an Eichler and all windows. He got us kicked out of the Winchester Mystery House because his delighted high decibel shrieks made the teenage tour guide forget her spiel. He is, indeed, so loud that we have earplugs stashed in every room of the house and, most importantly, in the car. His first real English phrase was "Damn it!" - probably - and don't tell the social worker - because he was hearing it so much (as in "Damn it, Mihiretu, you flushed the plug down the toilet again!"). He chases cats and sisters, he pegs tennis balls at unsuspecting adults with incredible precision. Lately, he's taken to saying, "Poo-poo, Mama". Not as in "I have to go poo-poo, Mama." As in "You are poo-poo, Mama."
Up until we brought him home last May, my experience of mothering was limited to girls. Two energetic, often willful girls, but girls all the same. Mihiretu is all boy. When we're driving, he urges, "Fast, fast, Mama!" When we stop at a red light, he yells, "Go, Mama, go!" until it finally turns green. He likes our babysitter in part because she has a muscle car. He'll report after a trip to the library, "Kelly, car, fast!" He has an ardent love of school busses. Every time he spots one, he'll shriek, "Bus, Mama, bus, bus, bus, bus, BUS!" until I acknowledge emphatically that he has indeed seen a bus. He learned to ride a bike without training wheels well before he was three. He jumps off curbs and ramps, he balances his feet on the crossbar. At two a.m., he mumbles in his sleep, "Bike?"
And yet, under all the activity, all the noise, there is a soft little heart. When the lovely, huggy, Japanese lady next door drives down the culdesac, he runs to her driveway and shyly waits for an embrace. He loves his dad passionately, has since the first moment he saw him. All day, every day, he asks, "Dada work?" When I say Dad is indeed at work, he asks, "Plane?" and I assure him that, no, today Daddy is not on a plane, he'll be home at dinner time. He's taken to proclaiming "I like it" when something meets his approval. As in "I like it, candy", "I like it, pizza," and most importantly, "I like it, Dada". Sometimes when, in a rare moment of stillness, I find him in my lap, I'll whisper, "I love you, Mihiretu". Nine times out of ten, he'll wriggle away and say emphatically, "I like it, Dada" but once in a while, he'll lean in a bit and whisper, "I yuv you, Mama".