“Hey, Daddy!” called my son, strutting into the kitchen while I was stirring a pot of pasta on the stove for dinner. “Do you want to play a game wiff me?”
“Sure, Buddy,” I replied, putting down the spoon. “What game should we play?”
Lately everything I play with him is a “game.” My personal favorite is “Which One Is Loud?”—a game in which Daddy is presented with a host of toy animals and must choose which of the animals is the loudest. Once a champion is named, next comes the second loudest, the third loudest, and so on, until all animals have been properly ranked in decreasing decibel order. In the early rounds, I always find it particularly challenging to decide between a lion’s roar or tiger’s roar, and then later, between a sea turtle and a goldfish. (I guess the turtle splashes louder?) As the Final Judge of Loudness, my son often illogically overrules my decisions—sometimes claiming a shark is louder than an elephant—but as he is the creator of “Which One Is Loud?” I must respect his authority.
Yeah, I choose my battles.
. . .
My son wasted no time and gave me my first game instruction.
“Roar like a lion!”
I happily and enthusiastically obliged. “Raaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwhhh!” Was this game a derivative of “Which One Is Loud?”
“Okay, Buddy,” I said. “Now what?”
“Zoom like a car!”
“Vvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooommmmm!” I was actually pretty proud of this one. I even did a little vibrato at the end to create an idling engine effect. Surely I was winning the game. “Okay, what’s next?”
My family’s kajillionth listen of Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone on the car’s Bluetooth. This did not faze the Twins, who just kept on singing, reminding their audience that the cold never bothered them anyway. My wife and I had just picked them up from school, and like most school days, they’d gotten a fresh jolt of energy during the drive home, proceeding to uncontrollably kick the front seats and belt out lyrics with absolutely no regard for the melody or their mother’s migraine.
Without even looking at the caller ID, I answered. Typically my mother calls us on our drive home to see how the Twins’ day at school was. They’ve been attending semi-sporadically since the summer of last year, but as my PhD work has gotten increasingly demanding with each passing semester, we’ve slowly been increasing their weekly amount of school days. (And yes, I’m calling it “school” for a reason. This place has a big-kid curriculum, individualized learning goals for each kid, and even parent-teacher conferences. It is decidedly not a “daycare.”)
As you may remember, for most of the time I’ve spent on campus to do my doctoral work, my mother has very graciously taken care of the Dynamic Duo. However, due to some other important family commitments (which are beyond the scope of this Twincident), she’s been in and out of town, prompting us to seek other (tragically not-for-free) care options for the kids. The transition hasn’t always been easy, with several month-long plagues of sickness throwing off any weekly routine we hoped to establish, sometimes resulting in tearful toddlers at the morning drop-off, but lately, we’ve finally, finally, FINALLY found a groove.
And so whether she’s here in town, hunting Chupacabras in the Mexican wilderness, or scaling Mt. Everest to destroy the Eighth Horcrux, my mom calls us nearly every school day on our way home to see how the Twins’ day was, partly because she really and truly wants them to do well and partly (I’m guessing) because she misses them and wishes she could see them more often.
But when I answered the phone, I found that it wasn’t my mom after all.
“Hello?” I barked casually.
“Hi, I’m looking for John?” said an unfamiliar female voice, cranked to 11 on the car stereo while the kids were still screaming Frozen lyrics.
“Yes,” I called, clawing for my phone in my pocket to turn off the Bluetooth. “This is John.”
“Hi John, I’m calling about the position you interviewed for yesterday.” She hesitated for a moment, assumedly due to the stereophonic pixie voices booming, “I don’t caaaaare what they’re goooing to saaaaay!” Then, she continued. “Is this a good time to talk?”
Son: “Where’s my cuppy? Where’s my cuppy? Where. Is. My. Cuppy?!”
Me: “It’s right over here, Buddy. See? It has Lightning McQueen on it.”
Son: (beside himself) “No, not THAT one! I don’t LIKE Lightning The Queen!”
His camera bag full of miniature superheroes securely stowed on his shoulder, my son marched up to me in the kitchen and proclaimed: “Daddy, I’m going to college now. Bye!”
“College, huh?” I replied. “Okay, Buddy. Have fun!”
He gave me a nod and strode into the other room, college bound.
I’m not sure where he got this from–perhaps his Nina (my sister-in-law) who just started her second semester as an undergrad. Whatever the source, it was both hilarious and adorable at first. But then a poignant new layer seeped in.
I was reminded that this stage doesn’t last forever–that someday he actually will be leaving for college. In fact, because our family embarks on all great milestones in twos, my wife and I have been quietly dreading the emotional double-whammy of his sister and him both graduating high school, moving out, and starting college at the same time.
Believe me, the liquor cabinet will be more than adequately stocked.