There are a few conversations that I have had with my boy Alex over the years that just must be written and remembered.
When Alex was three years old, he wanted to be on a soccer team so badly that I relented and signed him up for a season at The YMCA. It turned out to not be fun for him at all – he liked practicing, but hated anything like an actual game, where people try to take the ball away from you (how rude!). But it did get us this great story:
There was a boy on the team who had long hair. Beautiful, wavy long hair. He wore it in a ponytail way high up near the top of his head. I have had plenty of male friends with long hair, but even I totally thought there was a girl on the team until I heard his parents referring to “him”.
Well, over the month or so that Alex was on the soccer team, I absolutely could not convince him that this other kid was a boy. I’d tell him “He’s a boy, but he has long hair.” “NO, he’s a girl.” “His parents told me he’s a boy.” “NO, he’s a girl.” “Some girls have short hair, some boys have long hair – he is a boy.” “NO, he’s a girl!”
Finally, I gave what I thought was a fool-proof argument: “Alex, that kid has a PENIS. He is a BOY.”
Alex cocked his head at me and walked away. Five minutes later, he came back to me, put his hands on his hips, and said:
“It’s a GIRL penis!”
I remember when Alex was learning to use the toilet on his own, and he would always come running out of the bathroom to proudly announce what he had done.
One day he came running out into the dining room and yelled “I have a HUGE penis!”, so full of pride.
Then he looked over at me. I must have had an odd look on my face (really it was me trying not to laugh hysterically, and thinking about what to say next), because suddenly he looked sorry and sad.
He walked over and gently touched my arm, and said in a comforting tone, “Mommy, your penis is a little bit big.”
It’s not always about penises, really.
There was a period of time when Alex was about three when his favorite game to play with me was for him to lie on the livingroom floor and wiggle around and say “I’m a worm! I’m a worm and I’m HUNGRY!”, and my job was to throw pretend food to him.
“Here’s a rotten peach!”
“Ooh, yummy! Num, num, num, num…”
“Here’s some moldy bread!”
“Yay! Num, num, num, num…”
“Here’s some squishy old fish meat!”
“Oh, boy! Num, num, num, num…”
Then occasionally there is the conversation that is memorable, not for being funny, but for being a little disturbing:
Sometimes Alex likes to sit on the toilet and have long conversations with me while I lay in the bathtub. I guess I’m kind of a captive audience then.
One day as I bathed, he asked me for the hundredth time why I don’t want to have any more babies, and I explained for the hundredth time that he and his brother are enough kids for me, and I’m just done with babies.
“Well, Mom, what if I marry someone and she doesn’t want to have babies?”
“That can be a big problem. Before you get married, you have to talk a lot about these things, and if you still really want babies you shouldn’t marry someone who really doesn’t. But of course, sometimes people change their minds later.”
[long, thoughtful silence]
“Sometimes does a man try to MAKE a woman have a baby? And then they fight? And the man says ‘You will HAVE a BABY!’ and men are usually stronger than women, aren’t they?”
Wow, I thought, did that all just come out of my four year old’s brain from scatch, or has someone been telling him stories? Either way, it’s creepy.
“Sometimes, Alex – but that’s really bad. Don’t do it.”
And then, there are the one-liners that just have me laughing out loud every time I remember them:
When a house plant was leaking water – “Oh, no. Mom, you better call a plumber.”
“I love you, Mom. I’ll even love you when I’m a man and you’re dead.”
When he sees kids misbehaving and he says “Mommy, you should spank them.”
When he walked up to a little girl on the sidewalk and sang to her, loudly: “All I know is that to me, you look like a lot of fun, open up your loving arms, WATCH OUT, here I come!”
One day when I was washing dishes, he said that someone had told him there was a machine that washes dishes. “But that’s just silly.” I told him there really are such machines, and we actually have one down in the basement that we have never used. His eyes got huge, and he glanced at the door to the basement. “In the BASEMENT? Really?!? It’s like a ROBOT?”
And the very rebellious “When I grow up, and I’m a man, I’m going to have kids, and WE are going to go to CHURCH!”
Before I had them around, I just had no idea how funny kids are. Sure, I’d seen them say funny things to Bill Cosby on the tv… but I didn’t know they were so hysterical in real life.