Me: Okay, it's time to go, so let's—
Henry [throwing himself to the ground]: WHAAAAAaaagh oof!
Henry: I really fell! That wasn't a trick!
Me: Yeah. Anyway, as I was saying—
Henry [careening toward the wall]: Oh nooooooo the house is sliding to one side!
Me: Henry, we're late for—
Henry: Oof! Oh, man, I hit that wall hard.
Me: I recommend you stop throwing yourself against hard surfaces. So as I was say—
Henry [his body sliding across the parquet]: HEHHHHHHHHFFFFfff.
Me: Oh, sweet baby Jesus, enough with the wacky pratfalls.
Henry: Now I'm going to hit the couch really hard with my face.
Me: No you're not. No, you're not NO YOU'RE NOT aaand you just did.
Henry: WHAT? That was an accident.
Me: You kind of gave yourself away when you announced it beforehand. Can you just put your socks on OH MY GOD GET UP.
Henry [face down in front of me]: I'M DOING IT. Why are you so grumpy all the time?
Me: Here. Your socks. HERE.
Henry [putting on one sock and then falling over]: WAAAIIIIOOOOOOooough.
Me: You're trying to kill me, aren't you.
Entries in six-year-olds (8)
Me: Okay, it's time to go, so let's—
I was really sort of hoping something would go wrong.
Okay, not really. But when Henry asked for a sleepover party for his sixth birthday, and I agreed to it, part of me thought, at least it will make a good blog post. This is how I survive the bad days, my friends. I mine my own suffering for content opportunities. This is how I get by.
We invited four boys to his party—that's four sets of parents who all thought I was clinically insane. I know they thought I was insane because they told me. "Good luck, but you're completely nuts," they said, in one form or another. One parent told me (after accepting the invite) that her son was prone to night terrors. Another told me (also, before I could rescind the offer) that her son tended to "wander" in the night. I had some second thoughts. As the night approached, I began to dread, a little, the idea of one child screaming bloody murder at 4 a.m., waking up the other kids, except for the one who had already gone missing. Surely no blog post can be worth this, I thought.
I know, can you imagine? I thought that. I am so sorry.
A few days before the party Scott insisted that he was going to initiate some kind of pumpkin-carving activity with all the kids. He would have them all design jack o' lanterns, and then he would carve the pumpkins. Five pumpkins. I pictured the children designing impossibly complex faces for their jack o'lanterns; Scott surrounded by pumpkin gore and weeping in frustration. Now that's something to write about. "Go for it," I told him. "But don't hack a thumb off, or anything. That wouldn't be funny."
So. Saturday night was the party, and you know what? The whole damn thing went just fine.
There were no night terrors. No one walked anywhere in their sleep. No one soaked their sleeping bags after finishing one juice box too many. No one got hurt, or cried for their parents. No one had to be driven home before dawn. Everyone got along, slept for a decent amount of time, and kept their hands to themselves.
As for Scott's insane pumpkin project, I am sorry to say that it, too, went without a hitch. Apparently Scott has superhuman forearms and can tolerate gutting one pumpkin after another—or maybe he was soaking his arms in ice water and downing black-market oxycontin when I wasn't looking. The children were a little confused about what they had to do. Scott had provided them with each with a template, and they had to draw faces inside the templates, and they couldn't wrap their minds around this. "I'm not allowed to carve pumpkins," they told Scott, "that's too dangerous." No, he explained, you're not carving, you're just going to draw. "How do I draw on a pumpkin?" they asked. No, he explained, you draw on—"When do you give us the knives?" Eventually he repeated himself enough times and they understood, drew their designs, and had their pumpkins carved to order. The End.
The night was not entirely conflict-free. Henry wanted to watch a movie, but it turns out he is the only child in his group capable of sitting and watching something for more than seventeen seconds. Within moments they were all bouncing around, throwing popcorn and loudly discussing the wonderfulness of the movie they weren't watching. Henry kept shushing them, and then finally declared that he was the BIRTHDAY BOY and needed to be OBEYED. He said it so many times that his friends, who still wouldn't shut up, began addressing him as "Birthday Boy." I don't think they were being sarcastic. I was pretty syre he was going to lose it, but then after a while he just gave up, chatted and bounced along with his friends, and peace was restored. And that was that.
I can't say I would have preferred to suffer for your benefit, but surely something could have happened. One episode of puking, SOMETHING. Instead they were all just adorable. Jerks.
Henry is shocked—SHOCKED!—that I dare move around in space and talk to him and have the gall to ask him questions. He learned from someone (I'm still searching for the source, and I will find it, oh, and how that person will rue the day) to answer every question with the handy phrase "Of course I (fill in the blank)." The above should be stated in weary indignation, as if the questioner should really know better by now. "Did you have a good day at school?" I might ask. "OF COURSE I didn't!" This is usually followed by violent eye-rolling and the occasional drop to the floor. His horror that I would dare ask such a question renders him incapable of bearing his own weight. His legs have simply given out from the shock. And yet here she comes again, with more questions! "Did you have gym today?" The eyes roll around and around. "OF COURSE. And it was BORING. All we did was WALK in CIRCLES."
Even if the response is positive, the affect is the same. "OF COURSE I had a good day at school. I only had the BEST DAY EVER. AAAAAAH." "And what made it the best day ever?" I might ask. "Obviously, that I WAS THE BEST KID," he booms, "And of course I ANSWERED EVERY QUESTION RIGHT." Then he throws himself to the ground because he can't believe he has to WALK with ME. GOD.
On the other hand, he's answering my questions this year. He can act as tough as he likes, but I'm still getting the precious, precious info. I realize that being excited to hear that "Nicholas STEPPED on my FOOT during LINE-UP" is pretty pathetic. But seriously, it's the most he's told me since the day he entered preschool, all those many years ago, when he wanted to marry me but didn't want to tell me what they ate during snack time.
I'm walking Henry and his friend Luca to Luca's house. They've been playdating over at our place for the past two hours, but I managed to bore them until they decided that Luca's was more fun. "If you say so," I sighed, and cackled silently to myself.
On the way to Luca's we're talking about the dead squirrel. The dead squirrel has been a topic of conversation for the past week or so. It's lying at the bottom of a sewer grate next to Luca's house, and Henry and his friends can't get enough of it. There can never been too much dead squirrel, apparently, in the mind of the almost-six-year-old. I have not seen the dead squirrel yet, and Henry is talking it up.
"Mom, you finally get to see the dead squirrel," Henry tells me. It's like Christmas in September!
"Henry, I don’t want to see the dead squirrel," I say. Luca stares at me in amazement. Not want to see a dead squirrel? What kind of machine am I?
"It's been dead for a while," Henry says. "It's not like a squirrel anymore, but like the outline of a squirrel."
"Wow, that's really not making me want to see it."
"No, it's cool. It's all sort of curled up."
"It doesn't look dead," Luca observes, and Henry agrees. "It looks like it's pretending to be dead."
"I'm just not into seeing dead things, is all."
"It just has this cut on it, and these swipes of white across it." The way Henry says "swipes" while sweeping his hand across his body is both sort of adorable and also really gruesome. I hope he's talking about the squirrel's fur, and not some kind of putrefaction.
"Mom, really, it's no problem. Just look at it."
We are now on top of the sewer grate. The kids peer in. I can't see anything. The way the light is angled so that I can pretend to look, but in fact I can see nothing.
"Was that cool?" Henry asks me, once we're done.
"I don't know, Henry, I like squirrels," I say, which isn't exactly true, "I don't want to see one that's dead."
"Mom, you don't have to worry about that squirrel." He pauses. "You should worry about all the other squirrels."
Luca asks, "Why does your mom have to worry about the squirrels?" Now Luca's looking a tad concerned.
Henry looks at his friend. "Luca. The world is going to end. Did you know that?" Uh-oh. Poor Luca, I think.
Luca is now gaping at Henry.
"The world had a beginning, so it has to have an end. Everything with a beginning has to end."
He got this from his father, by the way. Or possibly me. At any rate he didn't come up with it on his own. Just so you know.
"Everything has a beginning and an end," Henry says, "Unless it's infinity."
"What's infinity?" Luca asks. Henry tells him, in great (and somewhat incoherent) detail. Luca looks around him, as if the world doesn't make any sense anymore. You think you're just going to enjoy a little dead squirrel, and the next thing you know your entire worldview is being shattered. The poor kid had no idea what he was getting himself into, asking for a playdate with my son.