“I can’t see. He’s blocking my view,” Sebastian pronounced while we were gathered around the ceremonious table at a friend’s newborn’s Bris. I lifted him up high and prepared to deal with his inexorable questions in the most passable and cursory manner possible. “What is he doing to the baby?” “I want to see.”
This is a kid who wants to observe and comprehend everything.
It’s a ceremony that welcomes the new baby to the world. The rabbi just needs to give him a little injection (incision, same thing) to make him healthy. Kind of like a flu shot or a blood test. Just a little “pique” and it’s over. Now he’s putting sweet juice (wine, same thing) in his mouth to make him feel better.
Whew. I figure the flu shot/blood test analogy will go over well enough. We have just emerged from a week of getting the kids’ blood tests done; two separate heavily involved events that included lots of waiting, counting numbers (of people ahead of us), indulging complimentary neighbors with small talk, tight holding, hugging, and caressing, and tall tales of bravery. By and large, the most mundane events involving the kids are… involved.
After a couple faint wails, the baby was placed in his crib. I watched Sebastian and Liliana join hands and dance joyously with the happy families of the newborn and sighed. This parenting thing is becoming an ongoing exercise in improvisation.
“What does the pee-pee fairy look like?”
pee-pee fairy, for those uninitiated, is a kindred sister to the poo-poo fairy, guiding the night-time transition to dryness:
long wavy purple hair, a pink and green dress with flowers, and green sparkly shoes.
“Why does the picture of the flower not have a stem?”
maybe it’s just a decoration, like a symbol, like sometimes we draw a face without the
“Why do dead people not have to breathe?”
they’re in a place where they can just rest
Questions on the dead invariably come in clusters. Death is a subject of immense fascination as of late. Not because of any real-life personal experience with the matter, mercifully. It all began with reading the poet biographies in Sebastian’s Hebrew children’s poetry anthology. Once he understood that not ALL poets are dead, he started orchestrating a head count of living vs. dead poets (brimming with enthusiasm: “Meir Shalev is alive? יואו! “Yo (Hebrew equivalent of “Yay”,) nine living authors, what fun!!” איזה כייף!
“What airplane do the dead people take to get to their special place?”
Um… well, you know, when they die, they grow wings and fly!
Put on the spot, in the spur of the moment, I make shit up. Moments later, I find myself disparaging myself: Really? What in the world did I just say? Jesus, I can’t believe I’m lying to my kid.
The spiral effect that twists through the arena of lies takes all prisoner; white, black, and floral patterned rainbow colored lies get tangled in its coiled web.
We can’t maintain this “special surprise from the pee-pee fairy thing every night,” Lance and I concur. Alright, what new lie can we make up about the protocols of the enigmatic pee-pee fairy? And so it goes: on and on, around and around.
With the passage of time, I imagine, we will negotiate the path of rapprochement –dusting off the lies, sharpening their round edges, and joining them with the truth. Time, I expect, will guide us as we — at turns hesitantly, at turns bravely – wet our feet in this ongoing game of improv, this enduring puzzle of parenting.
The passage of time is something our pensive four year-old seems to grasp keenly; he no longer asks how old will you be when I’m eighty, but how old will I be when you’re dead?” (A lump lodges in my throat and sinks into my heart). To boot: “Aba is almost dead because he’s already forty.”
The other morning I went to get my own blood tests done. A short wait, no conversation strikers, no constant chatter, no one fastened to my body. I have to admit I felt rather alone when I sat on the chair in the clinic, a Russian nurse drawing her needle in front of me, with no child to hold me.
That afternoon, I picked Sebastian up from gan at 1:30 pm as usual, took him home as usual, served him lunch as usual, and then, instead of quickly gathering his (stuffed animal) “friends”, dropping him on the couch (his day bed), uttering the word “schlaffstunde” (naptime), and rushing out of the room to get to the computer, I brought him into my bed, lay next to him, and snuggled.
My dad said to me the other night that the most precious and important thing in life is time. I think he’s right. Time-outs have their place in the practice of parenting. I’d like to usher in the time-ins.