When J is in a mischievous mood, he asks, “Do people like it when I tow their car with a tow truck while they’re sitting in it? Do they?” He cracks himself up with: “Spanks-a-dang-dang birds spank themselves on the beak!” And “Mister T (our cat) farts in his glitter box!”
He sincerely wants to know, “How does a street cleaner clean itself?” And we have very strange conversations that go like this:
- Him: What are those things you wear on your body to help you swim in the water?
- Me: A swimsuit?
- Him: No, on your feet.
- Me: Flippers?
- Him: Yeah, what are those things that help you see in the water?
- Me: Goggles?
- Him: I’m thinking of that stick that goes up.
- Me: Oh, a snorkel?
- Him: Yeah, a snorful.
He asks, “What’s a stethoscope” and “What’s Pooh Bear?” and on the way to preschool, wants to talk about all of the different types of donuts. For several weeks, he asks me, “What’s a babysitter?” and then, surprises me one day with: “I want to be a babysitter and watch kiddos.” I feel touched by this and thankful that his teachers and babysitter are treating him well. The same week, he also says, “I want to be a grown-up so I can help kids out of the water. I want to help kids swim in the water.” He is not even close to being able to swim himself, which makes this statement all the sweeter in my mind, and I feel suddenly, ridiculously proud of this little soul we are raising.
One Saturday morning, we go for a drive to the mountains and he starts getting sleepy and incredibly grumpy. I ask him, “Do you see the beautiful trees?” and he responds indignantly, “There are NO trees!”
Sometimes I have a hard time seeing the trees, too, like Friday morning when the little guy woke me up before 6am because he had peed the bed—I helped him into fresh clothes, stripped the bed, started the laundry, made his breakfast, made my coffee, made his lunch, made my lunch, got myself ready, read him a book, switched the laundry, picked up the house, put on his jacket, gathered our stuff, holding my wits about me like a rubber band ball, until—the last straw when he decided to make a game out of refusing his shoes—him jerking his legs all about, me crouched down grabbing at his little sock feet, him finding this hilarious, me not finding it funny at all—and finally, snap! “J!” I yell, startling us both. Then he’s crying, I’m giving up, daddy’s taking him to school, I’m driving to work, tears running down my cheek at the red light because mornings are supposed to be our special time together. It’s hard to see the trees in these moments—just ugly street signs and never-ending rows of cement sidewalks outside my car window, like the standards I set for myself that no matter how hard I try, can never be achieved—knowing they are illogical, yet unable to shake them—like ants that keep coming back no matter how clean you keep your house.
Thankfully, I get to the office and am reminded that everyone else has their stories too—doesn’t matter if you have a toddler who refuses shoes or unpacked moving boxes or strep throat or a bad breakup, there’s always something—a momentary stumbling, an aching, a failing, connecting us all, in our everyday lives, to our humanness—those messy, fragile, unpredictable, uncontrollable, moments of life that leave us humbled, spinning and exhausted. So I take refuge in not being the only one and the idea that the bad mornings are what really connect us, helping us understand and forgive each other and appreciate all those other moments—together and alone—when we sit in awe of trees and donuts and snorkels and the so many other wonderful and mysterious things of the world.