October 13, 2010
“You’re a square, Daddy” says my youngest son from the bathtub, just prior to gleefully pouring a bucket of soapy water on his oldest brother’s already clean head. Jeff and I look at each other in surprise, because really, he’s worked so hard to be cool, and it’s disconcerting to be found out by a three-year-old.
“If Daddy’s a square, what’s Mommy, Zach?” I follow up as I hold my breath, hoping for a nice, thin, elegantly shaped oval, but am immediately disappointed. “Mommy, you are a triangle!” he shouts. An equilateral one I am sure, with a skinny head and, despite my religious adherence to my P90X tapes the last three months (I have an imminent reunion after all), an accompanying broad, wide base. Damn that prematurely purchased Halloween candy.
Jeff, feeling somewhat redeemed, jumps in the game and asks “What are you, Zachy?”, and my soapy gamine responds “A rectangle, Dad!”, with just a touch of annoyance at how obvious this should have been to him. There’s only one family member left to go, so I finish up with “And what’s Justin?”, and am rewarded with silence. I’m not sure if he’s stumped, or is simply three years old and has just run out of shapes.
Zach takes a deep breath, and with impressive authority replies “Justin’s an octagon”, then grabs both wash cloths and vigorously scrubs his brother’s back. Apparently, eight-sided figures are dirty creatures. I can tell my husband is impressed he knows this word, but he’s been singing it out at every stop sign he’s encountered for the past year, so I take it in stride. Any son of mine should at least have a good vocabulary.
Of course, being a former educator, there’s not a chance in hell I can let this teachable moment go, and I am compelled to comment “So Zach, we’re a family, and we’re all different shapes, but that’s okay, right?” He looks at me with what appears to be a greatly diminished level of tolerance and says “Yes Mom, they’re different, it’s okay”, and promptly starts a game that looks like he’s drowning his rubber duck family. Maybe we’re literally not out of the water yet.
And that’s it, in a nutshell. No great treatises on the wonders of diversity needed, no calls for tolerance requested. Just this tiny, brief sentence from the mouth of a pre-schooler, incorrect usage of pronouns and all. If parenting licenses were mandatory before conception (and they should be), my wish would be that instilling this concept in our children at birth would be legally required. It simply says everything.
We’re all different, and it’s okay.