Here’s what we’ve been watching:
- Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
- Inside Out
- Secret Life of Pets
- Lilo and Stitch 2
- Finding Nemo
I sit in a red lawn chair,
across the street from D
and his friend C playing.
I rub sun screen all
over my arms as they
take turns spraying each
other with the water hose.
Doing the same thing
as the past couple days,
when I’d joined them.
Come play with us,
I come up with some
I watch them
for a while
on the sideline,
I am letting go,
I tell myself,
I have to let
my son grow up,
on his own, talk
with his friends,
respond to their
it is his turn on
the water hose.
He isn’t chatty…
but I hear talking.
He is doing fine.
There are no fights
or arguments – they
act like brothers.
Pushing and shoving.
But they’re kids
having fun getting wet.
So I join them.
I run on the sidewalk.
I get sprayed with water.
I point the hose to heaven
and I make raindrops fall
from the sky. I become part
of my son’s world, taking
turns shooting each other
with water. I am a runner
on first base leading off
before stealing second base,
safe if no water hits me.
I let no one pass by me
when it is my turn on the
hose. I torture prisoners
waterboarding their back
or the back of their head.
The tip of my thumb on
the hose. I teach my son
to do the same with his
I am having fun, doing
things D likes to do.
I am thankful for water,
its cold wet caress on my
skin. I am amazed how
the simple act of water
being shot into the air,
these micro-size packets
of joy, makes my son
smile, dance, laugh,
be happy, connected
I think I accidentally started it all.
D and C were swinging from the monkey bars, a few hours before Fourth of July fireworks, when D wrapped his legs around C’s waist, trying to pull him down.
“Chicken fight,” I said, giving a name to it.
We’d been searching for something to do, and I was thankful we’d found it, when D accidentally pulled C’s shorts half way down.
Hello, Captain America.
So they took turns trying to pull each other down and Skyler (C’s mom’s friend’s tween daughter) video recorded them and we watched the chicken fights.
C made loud wailing noises in the first few videos before realizing he didn’t need to be a passive victim and then the chicken fights became more competitive.
It was two boys having fun, and it was very good entertainment, and it was exactly what I imagine it would be like if D were to have a brother.
This is how D and I like to spend our Saturdays, and if climbing stair railings ever becomes an Olympic sport, D will definitely become a gold medal winner.
“That’s dangerous,” the Wife said, flipping through pictures on my phone and finding this one.
She doesn’t realize this is D’s way of navigating every environment: Find the closest obstacle–railing, fence, tree, trash can, sculpture–and scale it.
At the top of the stairs is a small park, and D met a girl with a wonderful imagination. The girl was six years old, and just like D, pretending her native language.
After we climbed up a tree, the girl asked if we wanted to play Girls of the Jungle, a game she plays with her friends. Then she realized we were not girls.
“Why don’t we be a brother and sister who are lost in the jungle?” she asked D. And then to me: “You can become our dad. Do you want to be our dad?”
She told us each come up with a new name, and after a tiger growled at us at the bottom of the tree, she told us to give ourselves special powers.
Thus, the tiger was killed, I believe, by fire breath, and we added layer after layer, D and I following her lead and cues.
It was awesome. Improv in a tree. Giving and receiving. And then the girl asked D to sit next to her on a branch, as they’d become buddies in just twenty minutes.
Times like this don’t happen enough.
D signed up for the summer reading program at the local library. It will be his first time reading and monitoring the number of minutes he reads to earn prizes.
This feels so contrary to the joy of reading itself—reading to earn a prize. Isn’t the real joy of reading being engrossed in a story and the world of its characters?
Reading to earn a prize may appeal to some kids’ sensibility. But I know D won’t read just to earn a prize, unless we’re talking a candy bar or ice-cream.
I think the prize is…a book. Ha, ha.
D likes to read, but knows he can check out a book at the library or, as we frequently like to do, go to our favorite hangout–Barnes and Nobles–to read books.
(He likes making ice-coffee with a mix of mocha, vanilla, and cinnamon, and to try to persuade me to buy him a Mini Munny, but that’s getting off my point.)
Anyways, I don’t think you can say to any kid, “Read for 20 minutes and I am going to ask you what you read.” This is what the Wife said to D the other day.
Maybe, this will work on kids with certain personalities, but not with D. He is too independent. Also, I’ve always felt reading is so much about interest and mood.
You have to want to read—not be told to read.
Nevertheless, per the Wife’s request, I tried the “read for 20 minutes” with D. He spent the next five minutes telling me “don’t touch my books” and trying to scratch my arm.
Then, he grabbed his school yearbook, looking at kids’ pictures and reminiscing on events from the just-completed school year, and sharing them with me.
They were like “snap chap” moments:
I met Lily when I got into this school…
I didn’t like it when everyone said yesssssssss when Mrs. S said T wasn’t going to be in our class anymore.
You want to know what Tyler did? He covered his ears when Ms. Nicole was talking to him.
So I didn’t make him read a book. I figured he would pick up a book and start reading when he felt like it later in the day.
Sure enough, a half hour later, he asked to go to Barnes and Nobles, and on two or three different times, he spent at least 15 to 20 minutes reading books.
Without me telling him to read.
I didn’t feel like calculating minutes or writing book titles for his summer reading sheet. The Wife got upset when I told her this story.
“You could have just taken a picture of the book cover,” she said. “It would have been so easy.”
Except I was enjoying reading a book myself.
What I had in mind was, first,
the bird poop being washed off
the front hood (the car was due
for a wash), and then, I got an
ambitious idea, taping a cardboard
sign with the words”car wash”
to a street parking sign, and me,
D and his friend C hosing down
cars. They were excited, too.
I swear, Tom Sawyer didn’t enter
my mind. You know, the time he
tricked his friends to paint a fence,
one he was supposed to paint as
punishment. Really, it didn’t.
What I had in mind was D learning,
developing entrepreneurial skills,
spraying and scrubbing down cars,
removing grime with grit and a sponge,
drying off cars with microfiber towels,
staying focused on the task at hand,
soliciting business from neighbors,
learning professional (soft) skills.
Ok so. I didn’t see cars lining up,
but I could see us doing a few cars,
and then moving on to something else.
But what happened is another story.
It started well. D got started spraying
down the car (while C went inside his
apartment) and, I thought, our first car
would soon be done and the next car
on the way. C came out and got busy
scrubbing dirt with a sponge, and then,
it all started to fall apart. D poured more
soap in the bucket (“that’s wasting soap,”
I yelled) and he sprayed C with the hose,
and the microfiber towels got wet, and I
started to lose my patience, and the gardener
asked if we could stop for five minutes
so he could mow the yard, and that
was the end of our car wash.
Here’s what happens when the Wife leaves the apartment:
D pours in the flour, the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, spoons in two sticks of butter and cracks his first egg on a measuring cup.
And then after we stir the ingredients his fingers go straight for the cookie dough. Again and again. Despite me saying that’s enough.
“You’re going to get sick and not be able to eat the cookies,” I tell him.
But it fell on deaf ears, and I was okay with it. We’d found an activity to be a common focus, and the cookie dough had definitely become his main focus.
So I sped up the mixing and made sure he shared in the responsibility. This way, there would actually be some dough left to put on the cookie sheet.
And the first batch made it into the oven.
It was his idea to bake cookies. I think he remembered the last time we made cookies, a year ago, that I was lax on him eating the cookie dough.
In fact, I stuck my hands in the bowl–to help mix the dough–because the cookie dough was dry. And then his hands followed mine into the bowl.
So I was the one to introduce him to cookie dough. Needless to say, there were no salmonella warnings and, two days later, the cookies were all eaten.
And we’re doing just fine.
A bike whizzed by D and me on the strand at the beach. D was standing in the middle of the bike lane. “Watch out!” the female bike rider yelled at D.
“You watch out!” D yelled back after she was a few feet away. And then he said to himself, “I forgot my plan to ignore.”
“What did you forget?” I said, before he took off running for the shoreline.
“I forgot my plan to ignore the librarian…when she told me to stop running.”
I like the free association of his mind connecting the lady on the bike with the librarian, both of whom represent his dislike of adults telling him what to do.
I was preparing to tell him it’s the librarian’s job to enforce the rules, and lady on the bike only wanted to make sure he didn’t get hurt.
But then he said, “God laughs at my rules.”
The lady on the bike, the librarian and…God…laughing at his rules. I tried to see the pattern in his thinking between the bicyclist, librarian and God.
And I came up with this: I think D is forming his world-view, which is to say, that he’s deciding between obeying adults and making himself be the rule-maker.
It is beautiful to watch.
This is why I love Saturday mornings. It is not just a chance to spend time with my son, it is time to see what he is thinking and how he is growing.
I chimed in my two cents. Then we ran away from waves at the shoreline and built volcanoes in the sand and looked for Uncle Ian’s duck prints.
This mom had her feet kicked up
on the chair at the donut shop
as she listened to her daughter:
“My donut laid two eggs,
my donut likes laying eggs,
I don’t know why my donut
likes laying eggs, it never told
me why it likes laying eggs.”
I want the girl to keep talking,
but her mom tells her to hurry up
and eat her donut. A church lady
says, “The elderly go crazy over
the maple bars. Woe be it to us
if we don’t have the maple bars.”
And I like the image of elderly
men and women going crazy
over a maple frosted donut.
Later, in the day, the Wife
wants us to see Fantastic Patrick
at the library except it turns out
to be the next day. So we end up
eating ice cream and watching
a movie (and she asks me if
she’s going crazy) and I like
the circuitous nature of how
the day started one way and
ended up going another way.
A day later…
We see Fantastic Patrick
juggling balls and bowling pins,
balancing a baseball cap on
his nose, chasing a mom
on a unicycle with a sword,
telling a woman in the front row
not to post his picture on Facebook
because his mom still thinks
he is a lawyer. What I remember
the most is when one of his balls
nearly knocked down a ceiling
light pane — that was funny
Oh, and I felt my sadness
slip away with each new trick
or joke: Smiling and clapping,
thinking how cool it was
he was doing what he loved
and making others laugh.