Archive for January, 2011

Misconceptions

Kids frequently substitute familiar words for words they don’t know, with amusing results.
A couple of memorable examples from our home:


Zeke has been under the impression, for some time now, that the game kids play, where everybody hides and someone has to try and find them, (you know the one), is called Hide and Zeke.  Every time this classic children’s pastime comes up, he mishears it this way and I am thoroughly tickled anew. I am in no hurry to correct him.


Zeke has a favorite book by William Steig, called Zeke Pippen.  In it, a pig named Zeke finds a magic harmonica in the street, leading to exciting misadventures.  We’ve read this book countless times without any apparent misapprehensions, but one afternoon, after reading a sentence, that is non-essential plot-wise, about Zeke (the pig) cleaning his harmonica with his father’s schnapps, Zeke (the boy) stopped me, confusion all over his face.

“Mom,” he said. “How could Zeke Pippen clean his harmonica with his father’s snots?”



I could see from his perplexed look how completely boggled this had him and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. (I mean the concept of someone using their father’s snots as a disinfectant is preposterously disgusting! It’s no wonder my boy was at a loss!)


This sort of misconception is one of the precious gems of parenthood.  They are amusing, repeatable moments handed to you here and there, providing breaks of utter amused delight amidst all of the usual chaos and poop.
Some misconceptions, however, take you completely by surprise and leave you struggling to find your bearings….


We were in line at K-dog, our neighborhood coffee shop.  Jack was asleep in the stroller, Zeke fidgeting at my side, when he says to me, completely out of the blue,

“Mommy? Is Stanley all wet?”



Stanley.  He was our first baby, a mischievous Lab mix, that Aaron and I adopted in college.  He was 12 when Zeke was born, and not terribly interested in or pleased with the new addition to our family.
Zeke, however, loved him unconditionally.  He endlessly attempted to lure Stanley into games, frequently threw his arms around Stanley’s broad neck in an enthusiastic toddler embrace, and collapsed in giggles whenever Stanley covered his face in slobbery kisses.


In a show of spectacularly unfortunate timing, Stanley became very ill and needed to be put to sleep just days after Jack came home from the hospital.  The combination of elated joy at the birth of our new son and extreme bereavement at the loss of our sweet companion, left Aaron and I simultaneously fragile and numb.  On the same Thursday morning, I took Jack and Zeke to Jack’s very first check-up, and Aaron carried Stanley, wrapped in an old green towel, to his last.
I will never forget the note of confusion in Zeke’s voice when we arrived at home after the check-up, as he called out to his dog,

“Stanley?”



It was the first time in his brief life that he hadn’t been greeted immediately by the click-click-click of Stanley’s claws on our hardwood floors.  That confused anticipation left me cold for weeks, until eventually Zeke stopped looking for his dog.  It was so hard. Though I knew full well that Stanley was no longer with us, part of me was expecting to hear him there too.


At some point we told Zeke that Stanley died and that he wouldn’t be coming back. Zeke never questioned this, so we considered the matter pretty much closed.  Though every so often there would be a question:

“Mommy? Is Stanley all wet?”



No one wants to be confronted unexpectedly with emotion, not in public, not before you’ve had your coffee.  And completely at a loss for what exactly my son was talking about, bargaining for time, I asked him to repeat himself, though he’d spoken quite clearly.

“Is he all covered in bubbles Mommy? Can we get a boat and go get him and bring him home?”



I’m sure my voice shook a little bit as I asked, in a false overly cheerful voice, “What are you talking about honey?”

“From when he dived Mama.  Is he all wet?  Could we get a boat and bring him home?
Would that be a good idea?”



Tears welled in my eyes. I was overwhelmed.  The realization that all this time, my little boy had imagined his beloved dog swimming around in the water somewhere.  It was too much.


“No sweetie,” I said, my voice virtually a whisper. ” I think he’s having a really good time where he is.”


My mind whirled.  Did I owe him a more concrete explanation?  Was it my responsibility as a parent to be honest with him? No, I finally decided.

Three is just way too young to find out that
death is no day at the beach.






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The Early Bird is Really Freaking Tired

I am suddenly awakened from deepest sleep by someone yanking on my arm.

“Appoo! Appoo! Come Mama!”

As my sleepy haze begins to dissipate,  Jack’s fuzzy little head comes into focus.  It is still dark outside, and as I glance at Aaron’s body peacefully rising and falling, bitterness at his ability to sleep through anything begins to bubble up inside me. Along with this bitterness is a pompous mental noting of my status as the “good parent”, the one who dutifully and without complaint gets up each  morning, no matter how profound my exhaustion, to feed our children. I head for the kitchen in a cantankerous mood.  Each quiet snuffle emerging from the bedroom makes me clench my jaws tighter.

“At least I,” I grumble to myself, “care about whether or not our children go hungry!”

Moments later Zeke is up.  I hear his bare feet slap-slapping on the hardwood floor as I slice Jack’s apple in the yellow light of our kitchen. I bring Jack’s apple slices into the living room and find Zeke lost in thought at the table. He is illuminated only by the half-light of the street-lamps, elbows on the table, head resting in his hands, like a troubled soul in a Hopper painting. When I wish him a good morning, he flashes a cherubic smile in my direction and  informs me of his urgent need for raisin toast with peanut-butter on it, and also “Milk in a cup with a top and a lot of milk too.”

I head back to the kitchen to make Zeke’s toast.  Jack, as soon he sees what his brother is getting, insists on toast of his own. When I place Jack’s toast next to his apple, he commands, “Bow! Bow!” The toast apparently must be served in its own separate bowl to please my not-quite-two-year-old son. Soon the morning quiets. There is just the sound of my two munching sons and the harmonica hum of our tea kettle, to which the three of us all sing “Hot tea-eeeeeeeeeee” and giggle as is our private little custom.

The boys were being so sweet with each other– telling each other incomprehensible jokes and laughing.   As they finished their food, I watched them push trucks back and forth and babble happily on the kitchen floor, and I just basked in the warmth of our cozy, contented family. As I became more and more alert, it struck me what a perfect morning we were in the middle of, the sort of easy, tranquil morning that invariably signals a smooth and peaceful day.  A day where the two little beings that Aaron and I created coexist harmoniously and prove that we were right in pursuing this crazy familial experiment.

How could I mind missing out on a little sleep, I wondered, when I am so blessed?

And THAT was when I caught sight of the time glaring at me from the microwave:

And so, as both laughter and despair welled up inside of me, and my positive attitude began to ebb, I did the only reasonable thing I could, and whisked the boys back to bed.