Photo: Joy is one full hour of raucous laughter from two little boys thanks to a shadow-puppet theater given by a dear friend. Their first play was dedicated to rear-ends and pantaloons, with most of the dialogue consisting of one word of “forbidden” potty-talk and then both boys cracking up for a good 30 seconds. I firmly believe that the theater is sacred and not to be censored (but how could they know that? Did they know that?) so I blithely ignored the content of the play, instead simply enjoying their joy. I’m not really into the whole “#childhoodunplugged” thing, as I find it problematic and judgmental, but I will say that I’m always delightfully surprised by what low-tech things still connect with kids. This didn’t take much. Two folds and a flashlight and suddenly their minds were engaged for an entire hour. I told you this was the week for unexpected Christmas miracles!
Ursa Minor is notorious for getting off the bus in the afternoon and, before I even get a “hello mommy” out of him, he starts right in on the “I wants” and the “Why didn’t yous” and the “but can we please haves” and the “but why can’t we justs.” It’s maddening. And seeing as they are about to enjoy an extravagant Christmas, it’s especially annoying for this Mommy. Yesterday, after a pretty frustrating day of short-notice freelancing, I was particularly grumpy in the face of the onslaught. I withstood it for my daily allotted amount of patience and we settled into the afternoon no worse for the wear. But then Minor toddled into the kitchen with this daily ritual:
“What are we having for dinner tonight, Mommy?”
“Well, baby bear, I’m punting. It’s gonna be rice and barbecue chicken and… I don’t know… chickpeas… and maybe some edamame? Just a hodgepodge tonight.”
“And, um… can we have roti, too?”
“Boy! No, we can’t have roti tonight. Mommy has no time for roti right now.”
“But we haven’t had roti in forever!” He whined.
This is not an untrue statement. I haven’t made roti in a while. Partially because we could all stand to cut back on the carbs around here, but also because roti done well is actually an all-day affair. It’s a good Sunday item for me. Or one of those “I know I’ll be home all day and will have time this afternoon” sort of things. I use the recipe from a wonderful Caribbean cookbook called Tastes Like Home, which seems to be out of print (super sad!). Her recipe is actually on her website, right here.
Anyway, I was in no mood for whining about roti. Think about all the really good food we’re gonna eat over the next week!
“Little boy, are you seriously whining about roti this close to Christmas? Really? Right in front of Richard I [our Elf of the Shelf], too? This is why you are straight-up on The Naughty List!”
Here is why I love Ursa Minor: Ursa Minor is an old soul, smarter than all of us. Any other child (including my eldest) would have been appalled, cowed, probably crying. I would be apologizing and giving comforting hugs and kisses and having to explain myself.
But not this child. No, not this child. This child took a step back, weighing the words as he thoughtfully looked down at the floor for a moment. When he raised his eyes back to meet mine, he had that signature sly smile on his face. “No I’m not,” he declared. “No way!”
Now I write those words, but I don’t want you to hear defiance and accusation. I want you to hear confidence instead. An assertion of “I know who I am. I know I’m not naughty.” Which is true, he’s not. He’s a delightful child. I’m extraordinarily lucky.
Nevertheless, I was shocked at his display. “Oh yes you are! Mommy knows and I can assure you that you and your brother are absolutely on The Naughty List! Coal for everyone! The coal comes from the South Pole, I’ll have you know. Imported fresh for The Naughty Children!”
Minor just giggled. He looked up at me and kept smiling. “I’m not on The Naughty List. You’re on The Naughty List because you’re yelling. You probably shouldn’t do that. That puts mommies on The Naughty List.”
“If yelling gets mommies on The Naughty List, ain’t none of us getting any gifts this year,” I mumbled under my breath. Then I decided that mommies on The Naughty List get wine instead of coal. Not the good stuff for polite and proper sipping, just the stuff that gets you drunk. You know, the best sort of wine.
The argument about who is named on which list raged on all evening and into this morning. What I like about this is that both boys are very firm believers in the man named Santa and his dueling lists of separate but equal behaviors. Little boys were patient and non-squirmy while I did their hair this morning. They got dressed without a single reminder. Lord, they even cleared their bowls from the table after breakfast! So though Ursa Minor put up a great front last night, words are wind and action tells all.
Childhood is magic.
Motherhood is, too.
I am 35 inches into this 70-inch scarf for my mom, which must be done by Christmas Day. Lord, please pray for me, because I just have no idea how I’m going to make it. So, I’m signing off. I’ve got mad work to do!
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Ok, sorry for all the shameless plugs. Thanks for your patience and care, Dear Reader!
See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.