I generally enjoy talking with other people. I’m social, and I like chatting. I trust that conversation will flow in a reasonably coherent manner, full of funny stories, empathetic nods and reassuring chuckles. That is, until I had kids. The number of completely baffling, litigious, confusing conversations I’ve had with my older child (the younger one isn’t really talking yet) must be in the hundreds at this point. Below, 10 totally nonsensical arguments I’ve had with my 5-year-old.
1. Whether it’s Sunday or not. On Sundays, my son gets his allowance, part of which he must save and part of which he can spend as he likes. He’s saving up for a $3 squishy toy pumpkin that inexplicably wears a witch’s hat. (I think at the toy factory someone got high and was just like, “Eh, throw that on there too. Kids like weird shit.”) So he often will ask me what day it is. I don’t claim to be the most organized person in the world, but I’m usually rock solid on the day of the week. But any day that isn’t Sunday is cause for argument that it is, in fact, Sunday. He is persistent enough that I sometimes end up doubting myself. Maybe it is Sunday, I think, as we walk to school and I dart my eyes around looking for other parents and kids.
2. Whether it’s morning or not. More than once, I’ve crouched over his bed in the middle of the night hissing, “It’s still dark out! Go back to sleep!” while a determined child tells me that he can see “glimmers of light” and he’d “like some cereal please.”
3. Whether his brother is touching him or not. The brother is sound asleep in the car seat. The only thing he is touching is a pool of drool. “No one is touching you,” I yell from the front seat, for the 30th time in an hour.
4. Whether a shirt is totally necessary or not. It’s 34 degrees out, and my son is eager to exit the house in shorts and nothing else. After the 10th time I’ve said, “No, because it’s too cold,” I just let him step outside half naked and see for himself.
5. How much toilet paper you really need to wipe your butt. I say, “a small handful.” Evidently, this translates to the whole roll, but not even wadded up—just a long streamer of paper that he will inefficiently wave near his heinie.
6. What “washing your hands” means, exactly. Does it mean dipping the tips of your fingers in the running water for a split second? Does it mean playing in the running water until the sink overflows? These are the questions we are grappling with, dude.
7. What his brother’s name is. To be fair, this was a conversation we had when he was 3 and we were newly home from the hospital with No. 2. I told my son the lovely name we had picked out. He shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “It’s Allie.” “Sorry, buddy,” I said. “It’s not.” He wouldn’t back down, to the point where I wondered if destiny was dictating that we change No. 2’s name to Allie.
8. What “quiet time” means. Does it mean loud singing? How soft is soft singing? Does it mean jumping off the furniture? I never thought I’d be rules-lawyering the definition of “thump.”
9. How urgent is urgent. I’ve sped off the highway at 60 mph, screeched into a rest stop and dragged both kids into the bathroom at high speed, only to watch the 5-year-old walk leisurely to the hand dryer, experiment with the controls, and flip the changing table up and down. Only when I say sharply, “Buddy, you said it was urgent,” will he say, “Oh, yeah,” and amble into a stall.
10. What counts as a bite. “Try a bite of casserole or roasted broccoli,” I’d suggest when he was younger. He would lift a forkful and touch it to his lips. “Um, that’s not a bite,” I’d say, and he’d reply, “Oh, yes it is.” Then I’d find myself defining the word “bite” for him like I’m in some kind of crazy political debate with Donald Trump. And then I’d give up. “Just wave the broccoli near your mouth,” I’d nod. “Totally good enough.”
Maybe when they’re older, we’ll manage to get back to coherent conversations, though my friends with teens tell me that the conversations will shift to arguing about curfew. I can just see it now, but with me arguing that 4 a.m. is not a “reasonable” hour. “There are glimmers of light!” I’ll say, and fix him a bowl of cereal.