“Mommy, it’s the guy with the blue mask.”
I walk into the room, and I’m thinking about ignoring laundry, ignoring the stack of dishes in the sink, or ignoring the equally looming stack of pre and post-knee medical bills. I walk into the room, mind occupied, and focus on what he’s saying. He’s holding a red robot. Nothing with a blue mask is anywhere in sight. All I can think, as I gaze at my expectant child is, What?
So I say, “What?” I’m staring down at my green-eyed child, confused. I’m sure the confusion is just as prevalent on my face. I may need to work on that.
“He shoots ice instead of fire, but he still protects the gold mask,” Tiny continues, voice conversational.
Ice, fire, and masks? What? I’m giving him a strange look. I know I’m giving him a strange look, and I can’t help it.
“Huh? You are holding a red robot,” I announce, in case he’s not sure what toy he’s holding.
“The guy with the blue mask, Mommy,” Tiny responds, exasperated. “The blue mask. Bah Bah Bah el el el oo oo oo. Blue. Bl-ue. Bl-uuuuuue. The Blue mask, Mommy. Get it, now?”
At this point, I seriously want to throw my hands in the air, and declare defeat. My child sees me walking into the room, pulls me into the middle of whatever internal dialogue is happening in his head, and I’m flipping clueless. What makes the situation worse is that he’s learning how to spell. I teach him by sounding out one letter at a time, pronouncing the sound the letter makes in groups of three.
“Big,” I announce, calling out a spelling word. “First letter: buh buh buh. Second letter, short vowel sound: /i/ /i/ /i/. Third letter: guh guh guh.”
I am creating this new desire for him to, in turn, spell words out to me, for clarification. But, when he sounds words out to me, I feel like a halfwit, in need of a brain transplant. Maybe I need to lug my leg behind me, hunch my back, and declare, “Yessss, Master.”
“Okay,” I say, agreeing. I nod as a nonverbal sign of understanding, even though I don’t know what I’m supposed to be discussing. “The blue mask guy.”
Tiny frowns. “No, Mommy. The blue mask guy is not okay.”
Oh M my G, save me from this discussion, I think. I take a deep breath, temper my emotions, and wait for an explanation.
“See this? This green mask? It’s a spider.”
The mask doesn’t look like a spider. It has four legs, not eight. The face on the mask looks like the universal warning sign for poison. Right here, I should probably nod and walk away, but I don’t. Not to mention, where is this blue mask he keeps talking about?
I try agreeing, again. “Oh, yeah. Cool mask, Dude.”
I’m a simpleton. I’m a simpleton, and I don’t know it. That much is clear, as I look into Tiny’s eyes. “No, Mommy. This mask is not a good mask. This is a bad guy. It’s a bad mask. He tries to steal the golden mask from the blue masked guy.”
The fact that I know that my child is not trying to cop an attitude with me is what saves him from a punishment. He’s trying to explain his world to me, and I’m not getting it. So, I stop what I am doing–the process of thinking of what not to do–and I try to put this story together, starting at the beginning. There’s a bad green mask, a good blue mask, and a prized gold mask. Got it.
That’s pretty much the gist of every fairy tale ever created, right?
I nod again, assured that I’m somehow understanding this discombobulated conversation I’m holding with my five and a half year old. “So, the blue mask guy keeps the green spider from getting the gold mask?”
“And then the fire comes out, and burns up all the water!” Tiny announces, finally pleased that I may not be a halfwit, after all.
“Um, no,” I comment. I know I should let this comment slide, but I can’t. I’m thinking logistically through his last sentence, and it makes absolutely no sense. I can’t just blatantly agree to his statement.
I just can’t.
This, in turn, probably makes me hardheaded. I know I’m hardheaded, which is where my child gets his own stubborn streak. Still, I need him to understand the way fire and water work, because that is a valuable life lesson. “Water cannot be burned by fire, Tiny. When you put water on fire, the fire goes away.”
“No,” Tiny asserts. He shakes his head, vehement. “No. The water gets burned by the fire, Mommy. The fire eats up everything, even the water. That’s how it goes. See?”
No, I don’t see. I don’t know if we’re talking lands of make believe, or growing imaginations, or repeating an event from a TV show, but I’m not going to allow a five year old to tell me that fire can “eat up” water.
“Son Son, water puts out fire. Fire needs to “eat” things like wood in order to burn and create light. But, if it doesn’t have enough objects, like wood, to eat, and water gets thrown on it, the fire will die out. Water puts out fire.”
“No, Mommy. That’s not the way it happens.” He’s dead set against believing me. I’m wrong, he’s right–that much is clear. “The fire gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and then it burns up everything!”
Now we’ve entered the land of crazy. This conversation is completely over-the-top weird, and I’m being dragged along for the ride. All aboard!
Tiny is still talking, gesturing with wild enthusiasm. “But, when the fire does goes away, the big, bad, red-eyed coyotes come out.”
Oh, Dear, Lord. Make it stop. Just make it stop.
Everything comes back to the coyotes. Tiny has never seen a coyote, but Grandpa and Sally Francis tell him stories about the coyotes living near their home. It’s a conversation that never ends. I hear it five to ten times a week, and I don’t want to have it, again.
“So, what’s so important about the gold mask?” I ask, trying to move back to the less crazy subject.
“Sally Francis saw a coyote come out of the woods. It was big, big, giant, huge! It growled at her. She screamed, and then she ran up the driveway! She ran all the way up the driveway until she reached the gate, and then she slammed it closed! She beat the coyotes, Mommy! I’m going to run fast and beat those coyotes, too!”
Okay, none of that happened. Like, none of it. I know I should really stop thinking through these stories that my son tells, but I can’t. Because I know this did not happen, just like fire cannot “eat” water. Which is why I open my big, fat mouth, and say, “Tiny Tot, Sally Francis has never been outside when a coyote was in the woods. She was always inside the house. Not to mention, it is never a good idea to run away from a coyote.”
“She did! Sally did run from a coyote!” he insisted.
I ignore that comment, continuing, “Coyotes are predators. That means they hunt for other animals to eat as food. You and Sally are tiny people, and if you run away from them, they will chase you. If you ever see a coyote near Grandpa’s house, I want you to make loud noises, walk away slowly, and do not run. Running will make them chase you.”
Crap, now I’m feeding into the coyote obsession. Still, this part is important, because there are actual coyotes living in the woods by my parents’ house.
“No. If you run fast enough, you can get to the gate, and lock them out,” Tiny Tot says, arguing against his mother’s wisdom. He’s right, I’m wrong.
Except, I’m not wrong, and I’m getting thoroughly annoyed at being the hunchbacked, halfwitted, simpleton known as Mom.
I breathe. Then I breathe again. Finally, I reiterate, “You should not run away from coyotes, Son Son.”
“But, Mommy!” he says, adamant about explaining how much about the world I don’t understand.
Knowing that is the direction he’s planning to take, I cut him off. “Son Son,” I command, using my Queen Mother voice, “stop talking about coyotes. This discussion is over. I don’t want to hear another word about it. Do you understand me?”
Silence. Thirty minutes after walking into a discussion in which I know I’m never going to win, I am rewarded with quiet. Now I can go back to thinking about ignoring the laundry, or ignoring the dishes, or ignoring the medical bills.
“Mommy?” Tiny Tot asks, peeking up at me with those brilliant, green eyes.
I sigh. He’s resilient, I’ll give him that. “Yes, Son Son?”
“Can I just ask one more question?”
No. No. No. No. No. “Sure.”
“If I get to the gate, and lock the coyotes out, they can’t get me, right?”
I just want to bang my head into the wall. Just once. “Yes, Son Son, if you lock the gate, the coyotes can’t get you.”
He smiles, happy that I agreed with him. He’s happy to have mentally locked himself away from the red-eyed coyotes. “Oh, Mommy?” he asks, looking up at me again.
“What, Son Son?” My mind feels like it’s been put through the wash cycle. I really want to lie down, or have a glass of wine. I also think about blogging the entire discussion, and titling it, Conversations With My Child.
“The next time we go to the store, can we buy that blue masked guy?”
When it comes to holding a conversation with my child, I feel like I’m never on the same page. He pulls me into the middle of a story, needing me to understand, agree, and actively participate. What it turns into is this disjointed back-and-forth game, where I don’t understand the rules, and both of us end up frustrated.
My child and I are not, as of right now, speaking the same language. I’m hoping that will change, some day soon, but until then, at least I know his imagination is working.
Now, time for that nap.