Cai and Cael, age 4, are honing their “don’t let Mom leave” skills. It’s a virtual rite of passage in childhood, employed most typically at bedtime.
Previous attempts have included the usual childhood gambits. The desperate thirst for water. The unbearable urge to pee. The terror of the dark.
All of these worked for a while. Mostly because I’m kind of a sucker as a parent. I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if my children really are terribly thirsty, parched like a veritable desert, wasting away from dehydration as their callous mother reclines negligently on her chaise sipping wine and eating cheese.
Inevitably, I get the kid water.
However, like the best circus dogs, I can be trained. Eventually, I remember to get those wily kids a drink of water before they go to bed. I know… clever, right?
So, kids being kids, they adjust. They learn new skills and new techniques. Privately, they draw up their strategic plans complete with objectives, action items and success indicators.
Their latest plan?
It goes something like this:
Sing the Nite Nite Song.
Me: “Nite nite, boys. Mommy loves you, loves you.”
Now, of course I know there’s going to be a conversational breakout attempt here. So I say this as I’m walking to the door to leave, trying to give myself a leg up on getting to the hall-side of their closed door.
It’s really more like: “Nite nite,” …walking to the door… “boys.” …standing in the doorway… “Mommy loves you,”…. scooching my rear out into the hall… “loves you.”… and, if I did it just right, I barely get my toes and lips out of the way of a closing door.
Sadly, the boys have caught on. So right when I’m to the word “Mommy” they start in.
Cai: “Hey, Mom? Um, um, um, …”
And this is my favorite part because I love to hear what comes next.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out from their perspective.
Like earlier this week when Cael said: “Hey, Mom?”
And I said: “Yes, Cael?”
And he said: “Your lips smell nice.”
And I laughed. Funny, yes. Sweet, definitely… I mean, I know enough to treasure comments about my lips from my little boy because I realize that when he’s 14 he’ll rather die than acknowledge that his mom even has lips. But an actual success in the Delay Mommy column? Not so much.
Me: “Thank you, Cael. Good night.” The door closes.
Nevertheless, sometimes they are successful.
Like last night.
Cai: “Hey, Mom? Um, um, um, … your grandma died. But, but, but, um, not my grandma because she’s regular.”
You didn’t seriously expect me, the mom who falls repeatedly for “I’m thirsty,” to walk away from my child’s attempts to understand death, did you?
I walked back in the room and sat on the boys’ bed. (I bet this is a success indicator on their strategic plan.)
Me: “Yes, Cai Cai, my grandma died. But not yours. Do you have questions about that?”
Thus ensued a long conversation about death, particularly about when it happens (“we don’t know the timing, but we hope to live until we’re very, very old”) and to whom (“everyone will die someday, but hopefully not for a long time, so let’s try not to worry about that”).
At the end of our discussion, Cael summed it all up as follows:
- We die when we’re very, very old. (So much for my “we don’t know the timing” explanation, but I do like his version better than mine.)
- Mommy’s grandma died because she was very, very old. (Not really, but whatever.)
- Daddy’s grandma is still living because she’s only a little, tiny bit old. (She’ll be 90 next week, so again with the whatever).
- Cael’s and Cai’s grandma isn’t at all old. (Congratulations, Judy!) So she’s just regular. (Regular apparently being the opposite of old).
(And I loved every minute of it. Shhhhh…)