This cry reverberates daily from my own lips and is directed at some endeavor of my wily nineteen-month-old. It’s not so much that he’s devious, I’ve discovered, though he is strong-willed. But much of the craziness is simply from his uncanny ability to get into stuff, beyond the normal one-and-a-half-year-old insatiable curiosity.

Like my kitchen cabinets. Which, yes, are fitted with safety guards that he carefully dismantles to get into my appliance cupboard. He sets each purposefully out on the floor (I have long since stowed the blades somewhere else) and puts the top on the popcorn popper and the blender on its stand. He assembles the food processor there on the hardwood. Now, woe to the mother who enters to fill a sippy cup without gazing at the floor! But at least I’ve learned to anticipate the appliance assortment.

His ingenuity expands elsewhere with whatever he puts his pudgy little hands to — like a powdered drink mix that I’d set on the counter. I made the mistake of using the restroom, which was about the time when he dragged the stepstool over to the counter, bit a hole in the package, dumped it into his mouth and all over his round little belly, and then added a little frosty twinkle around the house, furniture included.

He unscrews the bottles or tubes he finds — what fun would that be without squeezing them? — climbs onto the table to get whatever he’d like (including markers, crayons, half-filled cups, or abandoned snacks), shimmies up onto counter-height barstools to mess with the laptop or fishbowl, and wanders into the shower to dump on his pants whatever container might have gathered water.

My mom jokes about him needing his own security regiment. You might wonder where I’m at when he’s wreaking this havoc; often, I’m cleaning up his previous mess or simply in another room when he stealthily upends the entire container of beads his sister had been stringing.

I do discipline him for these little forays so that we don’t experience round two. But I’ve also had to pick my battles because a) I don’t want to crush his spirit, b) I was wisely counseled that there’s a difference between disobedience and childish behavior — and to discipline accordingly — and c) I’m sensing there’s some creativity that drives my son, and I want to encourage that when it’s appropriate. Someone once told me that one of the key principles from Dr. Dobson’s book Bringing Up Boys was to instill our little men with a sense of “I can” — the ability to creatively and confidently accomplish. It’s changed the way I parent.

But as you know, I’ve been noodling on exactly why God wired my sweet boy to long to play with the buttons on the printer or unload the salad dressing as fast as he can while I’m pulling the casserole out of the fridge for dinner. And I’ve been praying that God will give him wisdom as strong as his appetite for adventure!

The other day at his well-child checkup, I was relaying some of his escapades to the doctor. “It sounds like he’s very mechanical,” she observed. “He’ll probably be great at taking things apart and putting them back together.”

Amazing that the woman can hear about this for one minute and pull everything together into a precise “aha!” for me. And you know what? It’s helped tremendously as I’ve watched him focus on how a drawer works, pry open a DVD case, or attempt to use the toilet brush on his own (sigh).

I look for chances to show him how I make coffee, pull him up to the counter for the ultimate delight of blending a smoothie, or just talk about how something works. For Christmas, he was given some toys that are just perfect for stacking and figuring out.

Seeing the way he’s made as a tremendous potential and something to be encouraged — rather than as a pain in the neck, which still is at times — makes a big difference in how I encourage him, treat him, and even feel about him.

I should go. I hear the pitter-patter of little feet unloading my Tupperware.

Read More:

Dropping Our Pens – God is Writing Your Son’s Story

A Strong-Willed Child … My First Attempts