I got to sleep in this Black Friday. It was a bit of a surprise. I expected to get up as usual. My wife unexpectedly had to work this morning, so I figured I would get up also. I have her back that way. But this morning she sat up, leaned over Eli who was wedged into his normal H position. She kissed me on the cheek, carefully avoiding my morning mouth and said, “You and the boys stay in bed. I’ll see you later.” I like her a lot.
I awoke a while later in the middle of a peculiar dream. I dreamed I was consumed alive by a giant larva of some kind. I opened my eyes and felt a warm stickiness oozing down my cheek onto my neck. I could feel it coming from a heavy, soggy, respiring mass pressing on my head. Eli had rolled over and was sleeping with his semi-open mouth pressed on my cheek just in front of my ear. Great.
This position is the result of his affection for us and his ability to fall asleep in mid-motion. He wakes up, loves his mommy or daddy, decides to give kisses and falls asleep mid-kiss. I’ve seen it happen. The result is a drool bath and something that looks like a cross between and hickey and a hive. Hivey?
I detached myself from Eli and wiped myself off in the bathroom. I looked into my bedroom. Eli was sleeping peacefully stretched across the bed and Charlie was next to it in a pile of blankets and aggression. That kid sleeps hard.
I slipped back into the bed and watched Eli wake up. Basically he sat up and said “E awake.” He is still speaking in the third person. I asked him if he wanted TV. He agreed. I asked him to give me the remote. It was on my wife’s side of the bed on the night stand.
“E can’t reach,” he said.
“Yes you can. Just reach over and get it.”
“E can’t,” he moaned. He reached out feebly to reinforce his point.
Most mornings he grabs the remote and runs around with it over his head like some kind of trophy. This morning he couldn’t crawl three feet. Next to the bed Charlie began moaning his way into consciousness.
“Charlie can you hand me the remote?”
“Make Eli do it!”
“E can’t reach,” Eli moaned.
“Why do I have to get the remote every single time?” Charlie griped. I checked the statistics. He was right. Every single time anybody in my home has ever needed the remote, Charlie had to get it. Ever.
I decided that we, apparently, didn’t want TV. We made beds then got dressed. Charlie grumped himself into his jeans. “Why do I have to wear jeans every single time?” I checked the stats. You guessed it.
All dressed, the boys rushed downstairs. I grabbed the hampers and went downstairs. The boys were fully awake and running around the kitchen. “Who’s hungry?” I asked. Two hands shot up to a chorus of “Me, Me, Me!”
“Who wants waffles?” This is the day after Thanksgiving and our kitchen is awash in yumminess. I knew the answer would be no waffles. I anticipated pulling them off the lemon bars and pies.
“No waffles,” the chorus answered.
“Then what do you want?” As if I didn’t know. Here it comes. I would no longer be “Daddy”. I would be known ever after as “He Who Gave Us No Pie”.
Charlie looked around and pointed at the kitchen counter. I looked. There was no pie or chocolate cake there. Not even behind the bag of bread and rolls. “What are you pointing at?”
Charlie reached over and touched the bag of bread.
“Really? You want bread for breakfast?”
There was a chorus of yeses and a howl of glee thrown in for good measure. Eli lifted his hands over his head and shouted. “Yeah!” I had to believe he had no idea what he was voting for.
I tried to find a reason they couldn’t have bread. It just didn’t seem right. I couldn’t think of one. If I rolled the bread in a highly caloric mixture of egg, cream, sugar and spices then fried it in oil and topped it with syrup nobody would question it. As it stood they just wanted some bread. I opened the bag and gave them each a wheat roll. A white roll would be wrong.
“OK, who wants juice?” No takers. “Juice? Milk?” Nothing. “Chocolate Milk?” I said enticingly. Still nothing.
“So what do you want to drink?”
Charlie shrugged. “I don’t know. Water maybe?”
“Yeah!” Eli cheered. “Water!” he couldn’t be serious. The kid hasn’t had a sip of water willingly since conception. Now he wanted water to go with his bread.
“You seriously want bread and water for breakfast?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Charlie. He was impressed with my ability to grasp the obvious. “Yes, bread and water would be good.”
I always believed Charlie had seen prison movies because his use of jail house terms like “shank”. Maybe he didn’t pay attention to culinary references in prison movies. Or maybe his use of the word “shank” didn’t come from prison movies. I made a mental not to talk to his big brother.
I wasn’t sure I could let this happen. I envisioned Charlie and his fellow second-graders discussing their Holiday. “For Thanksgiving we had turkey and dressing and lots of people came over,” he would tell his teacher. “And in the morning Daddy gave us bread and water.” I could almost hear the knock on my door.
“You keep telling me to drink more water,” Charlie reasoned. “So give me some water.”
“Water!” Eli cheered.
I filled Eli’e sippy cup with water and poured a glass for Charlie. I went to the table. “Daddy?” Charlie asked. “Can we have breakfast downstairs?”
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” Charlie would tell his teacher and classmates. “Daddy made us have our bread and water in the basement.” I could feel the PTA presidency slipping through my fingers.
“Why do you want to be downstairs?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“We want to play football on the XBox.”
“XBox!” Eli was starting to get annoying.
Of course they did. They wanted to do that because they were very concerned that I would not ever get to tell their mother, “The kids are having bread and water and playing a video game in the basement,” when she called to see how things are going.
We’ve had an XBox forever. I play it occasionally and Parker plays it when he is home. Charlie never thought much about it. We were joined for Thanksgiving by good friends who have a 9-year-old son. He and Charlie are great friends and play football together. They discovered the XBox and my college football game while exploring and spent a good part of the evening playing. Charlie is now hooked.
“Sure,” I said. “Why not?” I took Eli and Charlie and their prison breakfast down stairs. I could feel judgement oozing from the walls. “Go ahead Dad of the Year,” the walls said. “Fire up the video games. Make sure they have enough bread and water. Video games work up an appetite.”
I stood there for a moment. I seriously contemplated making them eat something they didn’t want that was possibly not as good for them and making them do something that they would not enjoy nearly as much so I would feel better about myself as a parent.
Charlie squinted at the screen. He looked thoughtful. He picked up the instructions and started looking at them. “What are doing?” I asked.
Charlie looked around. “Reading the instructions?” He sounded like he was guessing. If I couldn’t figure it out by watching him, he wasn’t sure his answer would satisfy my curiosity.
Charlie has struggled with reading and math because of some processing issues. Until the beginning of this year his ability, and therefore his inclination, to read had been minimal. Now he was reading video game instructions. I take my victories where I could get them. I turned to go upstairs.
“Hey guys?” I asked. “Anybody want a banana?”
“Sure,” Charlie said. He looked up from explaining the game to Eli and looked at me. “And maybe an orange?”
I smiled. That’s my boy.
“Nana!” Eli cheered. “Urrrange!”
I went upstairs to fetch the fruit. I smiled. Once again, I had been led outside the box by my sons. A counselor had suggested that we give Charlie things to do that require him to ponder and basically “figure it out.” I don’t know if the counselor meant video games but he was in the basement pondering and processing. He was reading and “figuring it out.” Soon he would be eating oranges and bananas with his bread and water. He had turned prison food into a continental breakfast.
I laughed at that thought. I should be used to what happens when I let the boys take me outside the box. Usually I learn something. It was going to be one of those days, but that isn’t always bad. I would just let my boys take me outside the box.
Thanks for reading and I will see you soon on This Side of The Diaper.