My boy and I are lying in bed talking about life. This is such a treasured time for me. He’s growing up so fast, which, right now, feels like growing away. He needs me less, which, yeah, yeah, is a good thing, I know, but not easy for a mom.
Roots and wings, baby, roots and wings: the two essentials in parenting for all species. The wing time is quickly upon us. Teaching the wings part can be hard going for flightless species.
My boy is nine tonight, ten in a few weeks. Some parts of me are becoming gross to him, like my tangled hair. Don’t I brush it? Why am I not wearing my bra? No kisses, mom! And my breath smells. “It never did when I was little.”
I find this stuff cute. It’s not what really bothers me. Though I did gargle before I crawled in for cuddles. (I’ll admit that it is not endearing when I pick at his face and clean out his ears while he’s reading.)
What really bothers me is that he wants to read to himself instead of our old reading-aloud ritual. He enters the magic kingdom of imagination without me. Worse, he fakes sleep immediately after in order to avoid our beloved night chats. I have to work really hard at getting his attention: start off with a big explosion and a World War II hellfire that burned down nearly all of town. Then I ease into topics like how his life is going and such. On a scale of 1 to 10. Ten being blowing-up awesome beyond belief, zero being miserable sucky suck.
I know this is all wrong, leave the kid alone; don’t put that kind of pressure on him! But we parents worry. He has been reading far too much dangerous literature as of late. Peanuts, for instance. When I asked him to go skating with me that day, he said, “Duh mom, you know that of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I am the Charlie Browniest.” Even though, my son operates at a fairly content state of mind with no friend addicted to a pet blanket in sight, he has chosen Charlie Brown as his mentor. (Though, I actually see him more Linus-like with his sudden poofs of philosophical insight.)
Tonight, glory be, he decided to respond to my inquiry. He mentioned the usual about not wanting to go to school. If school didn’t exist he’d be way above five on the life chart. I tried the relating tactic. I didn’t always want to go to my job either, but we need my job to help pay for the things we love in our lives. All the good things our family values. Then, he corrected me, “You told me last night that all good things in life are free.” (He had listened!) So, we went down that road for a bit, all about love and imagination and hope and friends and that junk.
Then my boy said that he wished that you had to pay for the bad things, but that the bad things were free, too, right? And that sucked. “Why can’t the bad things be really expensive so we could never ever afford them? Dying and mean things. Why can’t they be in a Fort Knox locked-up store where everything was at least a twenty dollars? Instead they are free and all around.”
Hmmn, I said. Hmmmmnn. After a bit, I had my answer: “Go to sleep. What are you doing up, dumdum?” I said. “Things always look worse at night. Don’t you know that, dumdum?”
Of course, I didn’t say that. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m quite certain that I pulled out the old glass-half-full analogy. There are good things and bad things everywhere, you just have to decide what to focus on. Then I likely said something about perspective and how we can learn from bad things and that they are really just opportunities in disguise and all that crap. I hoped some of it got through.
“Three,” my boy said after my pep talk. He was working at a three that night. Now what? I had to go deeper into my parenting vault.
Tickling. Shut up and tickle. After about four minutes of an intense tickling session, he was at a seven. Got him up to a seven! Or did he just want me out of there? Time for bed, either way. He even put up with a kiss on the cheek, eyes closed.