The boys and I have been spending a lot of time in the fields behind our house. The weather has been picture perfect, and our two new dogs, Huck and Rosie, are frolicking like young pups should. There are moments of pure joy–like when I watch the boys smiling as they race the dogs in the tall grass–and there are moments of pure annoyance–like when the boys want to play Simon Says. There’s so much I love about being a dad, but I really can’t stand children’s games: “Simon says, leave me alone!”
The highlight of these walks involves little pockets of conversation we have between picking up dog poop and wiping away tears because someone got attacked by a thorny branch. Take this conversation from earlier in the week:
Owen (8): Dad, when I grow up, maybe I’ll work for the LEGO company and I’ll design LEGO lands and stuff.
Me (43 for one more day): That would be so cool, O.
Owen: Yeah, and, and like maybe I’ll be in charge of making LEGO minifigures, and I’ll make one of you.
My heart swells with pride. My boy wants to make a LEGO figure out of me! This is the epitome of love and respect coming from a third-grader.
Owen: And I’ll make him have glasses, and bald on top with a patch of hair under his chin like you have, and he’ll be holding a cup of coffee.
MY BOY. I can see the figure now, sitting on my desk, inspiring me as I write another one of my best-selling books. But wait, what’s this? I’m awakened from my daydream as I hear Hayden calling out something a few feet behind.
Hayden (7): Yeah, and we’ll bury the minifigure with you because you’ll be dead by then.
I envision my gravesite, on a similarly beautiful afternoon, with mourners tossing in LEGO figures the way others would flowers.
Hayden: Yeah, you’ll be dead by then, right? Well, wait, when do people die again? Seventy? Eighty?
Me: Well, it depends. You have to take care of yourself so you can live longer. That’s why you shouldn’t smoke, or lecture-lecture-lecture, blah-blah-blah…
Owen: Yeah, Hayden, look at Pop‘s dad. He’s still alive and he’s 98! That means he took care of himself.
At this point I make some lame attempt to explain to the boys the theory of “everything in moderation.” I tell them how too much of anything is bad for them, and then I give some terrible analogy about ice cream. How they eat ice cream most nights, but if they ate an entire container every night, they’d probably be unhealthy. I mean this from a cholesterol standpoint, but I miss the mark.
Owen: Then you’d be so fat, you wouldn’t be able to leave the house.
Me: Well…here I try to defend overweight people but the moment is lost…
Owen: Dad, how DOES Santa get down the chimney? I mean, he’s fat. Really fat, right? How does he do it?
And hear we go again–Santa! Everything comes back to Santa Claus.
Me: I think he uses a magic dust made out of snowflakes (Oh, God. am I encouraging drug use for them down the road? I wonder.)
Owen: I KNOW Santa’s real, because we get gifts on Christmas that are signed From: Santa.
He reaches out to hold my hand, wanting me to reassure him that Santa does exist. I think, yeah, third grade, that’s when the doubt reaches its highpoint. I hold his hand firmly. I watch his little brother bounce ahead of us with the dogs. I breathe in the fresh air and then it dawns on me that there are three topics my sons never tire of: LEGOS, Death, and Santa.
This conversation has become the most exhausting thing about my day. I go from being immortalized as a LEGO, to my untimely death, topped off by the reminder that Santa’s days are numbered, too.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll walk the dogs after bedtime. Alone.
Image 1,2,and 4 courtesy of Johnson Cameraman
Image 3 courtesy of Lego-wiki