“I was so brave.”
“That girl did not share, and I told her, ‘YOU’RE NOT PLAYING NICE!’”
“I forgive Legoland.”
“I forgive Legoland.”
Me: “Yes, I did.”
Sutton: “That’s silly!”
Me: ”Well, I don’t think so. If they’re in love, then I think it’s really nice.”
Sutton: “I’m going to marry a boy.”
Bennett: “Me, too!”
Me: ”Awesome. You both should marry whoever you fall in love with.”
Sutton: “And I’m going to have a daughter, and I’m going to name her Sutton.”
Me: “That’s very sweet.”
Bennett: “And I’m going to have twenty kids!”
Bennett: “They will all be boys, and they will all be named Bennett.”
Bennett: “And I’m going to marry them all!”
Me: ”Um… we’ll talk about that, buddy.”
(We’ve actually had many conversations similar to this one. Sometimes, they say they’re going to marry each other, and sometimes, Bennett announces that his 20 Bennetts will have 20 moms, which is also something I hope he’ll reconsider.)
UPDATE: In the 5 minutes since I posted this, the subject of marriage came up again. First, Bennett said he was going to marry me, then Sutton said he couldn’t because she was going to marry me. Bennett told her she could marry the other daddy, but I belonged to him. They fought over me for a minute. Then Sutton announced that she was going to marry another girl and ran off shouting, “Hooray!”
My point is, we’re all evolving on the subject of marriage.
* two weeks ago, these were TERRIFYING
I’ve written before about how my kids are obsessed with Halloween. Their favorite thing at the Halloween store last year was a spider that jumped out at you when you stepped on a floor pad. It also made this hideous shrieking sound, and its eyes glowed a chilling, sinister red.
The kids were simultaneously fascinated and terrified by it. When we went to the mall, they couldn’t wait to see it, but as soon as we got to the store, they would hide from it and make me promise not to step on the pad.
Of course, even though they couldn’t bear to be near this evil toy, they kept begging us to buy one for our home. Good thing it cost $80, because Daddy knows better than to spend that kind of cash on a cheap piece of plastic that horrifies his children.
If I could get it for $30, though…
So I went online a few days after Halloween looking for a clearance sale. I found a smaller, less scary model at a more attractive price point and decided to make it a Christmas present. That way, if it freaked anyone out, Santa could take the heat.
Bad move, Superdad.
This time there was no fascination, only terror. The kids refused to play with the tabletop jumping spider or even turn it on. It got tossed behind a mountain of other toys, where I assumed they just forgot about it.
… until a couple of weeks ago, when Bennett woke up in the middle of the night screaming. “It’s the jumping spider! He’s coming to get me!”
We told Bennett we were going to throw the spider away, but that only upset him more. I think he didn’t like the feeling that it would be… out there somewhere. He needed closure. I started thinking up a plan. Maybe we could wait for the garbage truck one day, then personally hand it over to the workers and watch them crush it in the back of the truck. Sure, and then my kid would be terrified of the garbage truck.
Drew suggested we lock the spider in our garage. At least then, Bennett would know where it was. Bennett liked that plan, but the nightmares continued.
Finally, I came up with a new idea. We could give the jumping spider away to a friend of ours, an older kid who wouldn’t be afraid of it. He would make sure the spider stayed away from Bennett, and if Bennett ever changed his mind and wanted to visit the spider, we could go to his house.
We set up the drop-off. Bennett and Sutton were both so excited to give the spider away. They fought over who got to carry it, then finally decided they would carry it together. I was afraid they might change their minds about handing it over, but when the time came, they gave it up and never looked back.
As we drove home, I was looking forward to a peaceful sleep with no nightmares. Then, Bennett called out from the back seat.
“Daddy?” he said.
“For Halloween this year, can we get a jumping zombie?”
“I’m not wearing a coat today!”
“Yes you are.”
“Honey, it’s zero degrees outside. Do you know how many degrees that is? None. That’s cold.”
“I’m wearing a sweater.”
“And you should be. But you need a coat, too.”
“I DON’T WANNA WEAR A COOOOOOOOOOAT!”
“I DON’T CAAAAAAAAAARE! Put it on!”
“I won’t be cold! I promise!”
“I’m not arguing about this. There’s your coat. Put it on.”
“What if I wear… a jacket?”
“You’ll actually wear a jacket?”
“Fine. There’s your jacket.”
(I point to her coat. She puts it on.)
“Great. Now let’s talk about gloves.”
This weekend, we took the kids to see a Thomas the Train live stage show. “Daddy?” Bennett asked me on the way there. “Will Thomas be real?”
“No,” I said.
Drew practically swerved off the road. “What?!”
“He’ll be a character,” I explained, “like when we saw SpongeBob in Times Square.”
“Yes, Bennett,” Drew emphatically corrected me. “Thomas will be real!”
It was like I’d blown the whole Santa thing or something. I mean yes, Thomas is real in our hearts, kid, but you’ve been on “real” trains. Are they rendered with pen and ink? Do they have expressive faces and buddies like George Carlin? I didn’t want to set the boy up for disappointment. The Times Square SpongeBob spoke with a thick Mexican accent and practically grabbed his tip right out of my pocket after we snapped his picture. Instead of a pineapple under the sea, he smelled like he lived in a box under the Queensboro Bridge. I wasn’t expecting much more from this show.
We filed into a theater with the barest of backdrops on stage. It was basically a green door and the Thomas logo. Even next to Times Square SpongeBob, this seemed bush league. Bennett was silent as he waited for the show to start. And waited. And waited.
This is a kid who gets antsy waiting for me to spread peanut butter on a mini bagel. He just stared at the stage for half an hour, barely making a peep.
“When Thomas comes out,” Bennett announced at one point, “I’m going to dance with him.”
Eventually, a woman with a microphone took the stage and told us that after the show we’d have an opportunity to get our picture taken with Thomas. I thought Bennett might explode. “When it’s your turn, please move quickly across the stage,” she implored us. “Also, Thomas asked that you not touch his face.”
Then, another two-legged, zero-engined character took the stage. He introduced himself as Driver Sam, and he wore an engineer’s overalls and hat. This is where having gay dads colors your perspective on things, because other parents probably thought Sam was just a delightful, enthusiastic young man belting out the Thomas theme song. As for my partner and me, our gaydars started to overheat. His go-go boy good looks and overinflated biceps could not go unacknowledged. We quietly whispered jokes about Driver Sam checking his Grindr backstage.
Driver Sam instructed the crowd to sing along with him, and we did… for maybe the first 3 times he ran through the theme song. Then he did it about 8 more times, repeating the same lame choreography over and over. “One more time!” he shouted, long after he’d lost us all. That’s when it became clear. Driver Sam’s job was to fill time.
Enough, Driver Sam! Bring on the Beatles!
Driver Sam coached us on how to properly greet Thomas when he arrived (i.e., give a big wave and shout, ” Helloooooooo, Thomas!”). We practiced it about 14 times.
Then, finally, the green doors we’d been staring at for the last 45 minutes opened. Behind the scenes, a couple of stagehands gave a push, and Thomas’ familiar face poked out about two and a half feet from Tidmouth Sheds, then came to a stop. Thomas was as tall as Driver Sam, yet despite his cartoonish appearance, he was far, far less animated than his human co-star.
I realized this was all the Thomas we’d be getting. He wouldn’t be venturing into the audience or moving across the stage. He wouldn’t be joined by any of his train friends, and he sure wouldn’t be dancing with my son.
“Helloooooooo, Thomas!” we all cheered, dutifully. I glanced over at Bennett, to see if he was as unimpressed as I was. Instead, he looked like he’d just seen Elvis.
“He’s real!” Bennett shouted. He turned to me and said it again. “Daddy, he’s real!”
At that moment, I simultaneously felt like the world’s biggest jerk and the luckiest man alive. I knew instantly that I’d be reliving that experience, that pure, perfect little chirp of “He’s real!” over and over for the rest of my life. I’ve replayed it in my head about a thousand times in just the last two days.
I’d forgotten that at my son’s age, your ability to buy into fantasy is incredibly high, while your taste in live theater is incredibly low. This was the most thrilling moment of his young life, and that made it one of mine, too, because the way Bennett feels about Thomas is the way I feel about Bennett.
Sometimes I can’t believe he’s real myself.
… and boy, do we have one kid who knows how to take advantage of that. So I wasn’t surprised when Sutton showed up at my bedside at 3:03am this morning. Who knows how long she’d been standing there, because she does this a lot, and like the possessed woman in Paranormal Activity, she just stands there perfectly still and quiet until the force of her gaze bearing down on me shudders me awake.
Despite the fact that she’s been hovering there for who knows how long, she never has much to say when I do wake up. She usually shuffles back and forth, drops her head and asks with the sweetest little face you’ve ever seen, “Daddy, will you tuck me in again?”
“NO!” I shout… sometimes.
She knows she’s not supposed to get out of bed, and she’s definitely not supposed to wake me up at 3:03am, so we have a strict no re-tuck policy, which she nonetheless tests every chance she gets. Sometimes I’m too tired for the fight, so I cave.
Like I said, though, this time is special, because we sent her to bed with a fever and a lung-busting category 5 cough. Honestly, I’m surprised she made it that late before wandering down the hall, even more surprised that this time she had a good reason for getting out of bed.
“I’m wet,” she announces, matter-of-factly. I feel her pants and sure enough, she peed through her pull-up.
I drag myself out from under the loving warmth of my winter blankets and dig out a new pair of pants and a dry pull-up for her. “There you go,” I say, and I give her a gentle pat on her tush to signify, “G’bye!”.
“No, Daddy,” she replies. “Tuck me in.”
I walk her back to the bedroom she shares with her brother. He’s sick, too, so I really don’t want to wake him up. “Climb in, and I’ll tuck you,” I whisper.
“Where’s Mrs. Bunny?” she shouts. I shush her. Miraculously, Bennett sleeps through her outburst.
“Quiet,” I remind her. “Bennett’s sleeping.” I start feeling around in the dark for her beloved bunny-headed blankie, who she can’t sleep without. It’s not easy to find her, because there are at least six dozen plush toys on her bed at any given time. I pick up Miss Piggy. Nope. Then Punaniñas, this weird pink leopard-skinned hamster-like creature who’s been her absolute favorite for about the last two days. Nope. Then Mrs. O’Bunny, the green bunny I brought her back from Ireland. Nope.
Finally, I find Mrs. B in the crack between the bed and the wall. I’m pretty sure this is how Indiana Jones felt when he placed his hands on the Holy Grail. Sigh. “Here you go. C’mon, I’ll tuck you in.”
“No, Daddy,” she says. “The sheets are wet!”
“The sheets aren’t wet, Honey. They’re –” I feel the sheets. The sheets are wet. Sigh. “Okay, I’ll get you a new blanket.”
I grab a blanket from her bedside. It’s covering up another six dozen or so plush toys who wouldn’t fit in her bed, so she’s created this odd co-sleeping arrangement for them instead. “No, Daddy,” she says. “I want Tiana!”
A minute later, I’m back, and she’s waiting patiently at her bedside, enjoying this late-night edition of “The Daddy Show” she’s quietly scripting as she goes along. She waits until I have the blanket positioned and tucked before she adds, “Daddy… The bottom sheet, too.”
She’s sick, I tell myself. The rules are different when your kid is sick. “I’ll be right back,” I say. I grab the flashlight again.
The next thing I know, I’ve stripped the entire bed, taken out the mattress in order to get the fitted sheet on, and now I’m on my hands and knees, painstakingly tucking the corners of the top sheet.
This is it, I decide. This is the last demand I give into. I don’t care if she’s sick or not. I just want to go back to sleep. That’s when I hear her voice again.
“Daddy?” she whispers.
I try to ignore her, but she says it again, more urgently this time. “Daddy!”
“You’re doing a really good job.”
That’s when I give her a big hug and a kiss and tuck her in two times, as requested. “Good night, Honey,” I whisper in her ear. “Feel better.”
“Oh no! What happened?”
“Well, Sutton bit Bennett. They were just playing around, but then she asked him to bite her back, and he broke the skin.”
“Oh, whew! So they only hurt each other, not anyone else’s kid?”
“Oh yes. They’ve never hurt the other kids, though Sutton has a habit of tackling all the boys and kissing them.”
“Great, so I have nothing to worry about then.”