These kids, they are like people.
Nick is away for the weekend pretending to make sacrifices for our family by procuring a few months’ worth of rainbow trout. Hunting is work – there is no beer-drinking during the day because of all the guns and wolves and potential death/dismemberment – but fishing is primarily beer drinking in boats on quiet lakes and it will be at least 30 degrees Celsius this weekend and he packed the strongest sunblock I have because he will really suffer under all that sunlight, his dry, paper-white skin just searing in the heat while he gives his all for future fish dinners I will have to cook.
To say that I begrudge him his leisure time would be … well, I begrudge him his leisure time. But he did clean the apartment before he left. But he didn’t wash the floors. Marriage is like this, always weighing but trying not to, always wanting the best for the other person but not really.
So the little one and I are together all weekend, for four days and four bedtimes, and he has already cried for Daddy three times since Nick left at 4:00, twice after falling down at the park and once more at bedtime, when I told him he would not get away with lying about things Daddy would never have promised and he broke down. “Daddy wouldn’t be mean to me,” he whimpered into his pillow. “Yes he would,” I said, because I don’t know. I forgot to brush his teeth.
But in the moments when we find ourselves in harmony, this kid and I, we are a team. “I will help you cook dinner,” he said as I pushed him in a shopping cart past the packaged meats at Buy Low. “You like hot dogs, mum?”
“We should get the chocolate chip ice cream,” he said as we passed the frozen treats. “I have been pretty good today I think.”
Sometimes having a preschool aged child is like being buckled into a windowless cargo van that’s hurtling over a cliff while a rabid chimpanzee screams in your ear about all the times you have ever been wrong, but sometimes there are flickers of humanity in these little primates. Sometimes, you see in him an ally. And you know you have to do better with him – you have to remember to brush his teeth, even when he’s being a bit of a shit – but sometimes, you let him do what he needs to do, and you see yourself in him, and it is kind of fun.
I do like hot dogs. He helped me make dinner tonight, standing on a chair in front of the stove and offering to stir noodles and then dropping stuff all over the floor but meaning so well. And we had Kraft Dinner and hot dogs and ketchup and chocolate chip mint ice cream and it was filled with sodium and we all probably have heart disease now or at least hypertension but he picked a meal and he helped put it together and it didn’t involve toast or Nutella or crying.
This is a level of progress that was unimaginable even three months ago. There’s no baby left in him.
We ate dinner together while he told me about his day, chattering on about all the ways he was very helpful and very good. He asked me about my day, and if I had been good and if the scientists had been helpful and if I was tired.
“We work very hard, mum.”
“Yes we do, monkey.”
“I like making dinner with you,” he said, and for a moment I forgot about the screeching chimp and everything I did wrong and hoped that maybe we’re onto something.
We’re off to a good start, at least.