Today, Nehemiah pointed to a thicket of garbage-looking weeds and minor trees that we have in our side yard, and said he wanted to build a laboratory. Georgie and I have done that half-hack semi-clearing of the space that you do when your daughter no longer has the decency to wet her own bed and has been waking you up every night at uneven intervals for–how old is she?–three years.
And no, grammar snobs, I don’t have the energy to edit in punctuation. FOCUS.
If there were indeed a garbage monster, as I sometimes insist to Nehemiah when I’m scaring him into clearing his plate (he will HAUNT you, frail one), then the clearing I’m talking about would be the garbage monster’s ominous, festering wound, the kind that communicates to the audience that the monster may have had some horrible wrong done to him/her/zir in the past. Weeds hanging like torn muscle sinew, red stalks sticking up and torn diagonally like broken teeth, everything black and saturated, Sci-Fi shit. It’s the type of muck that you’d find a severed limb in and not be very surprised.
So anyway, he points to this thing and starts telling me his plans for it. “A bwick building wight thay-aw” (he can’t say his r’s and G won’t let me teach him yet because she thinks it’s cute) “and a chimney day-aw (?), and wight he-ew (still cute?) we can put like…” (here he shrugs like he’s actually blueprinting in his head and has run up against a logistical concern) “science stuff aw something.”
He’s been taking a science class with some fellow homeschoolers. Basically, his brain just entered the Enlightenment (guess it’s time to throw out all of mom’s homeopathic “medicine”!).
Whenever he gets into this stuff his imagination explodes and he starts making wild requests. He has asked to raise chickens in the living room on multiple occasions. And to build a treehouse in multiple dangerous places, including our roof.
Apparently it is my job as an adult, or at least it felt that way today, to step in and limit his perception of what is possible. This is a sad and necessary duty that makes me hate the world. “No, Nehemiah, the moon is actually just infertile, dead rock and will likely destroy the earth one day.” “No, actually most animals are very defensive and will hurt and possibly eat you.”
I see many Dads revel in this duty. Stoic men like my father, who are sensible and rational and bloodless, who read books about the days when men made things with their own two hands and died from diarrhea at 30 years old. You know, wonderful times, when men were men–or dead.
Hard truths. Men that could take hard truths! The world isn’t what you might think boy. It’s gritty and hard and cold and many other masculine-sounding adjectives.
Well and fine. Dads need to teach their sons that they can’t build a brick science building on a sliding hill of mud and weeds. Fair.
But who’s to keep you from going too far? What if you’re so used to teaching your children what is impossible to do in the world that you never consider the danger of forgetting what surprising possibility the world holds.
Children might be on the other end of the possibility spectrum from adults. Children imagine too many possibilities. Adults imagine way too few. What would it mean to meet them in the middle?
Adulting might be described as the process of discovering all the things that are impossible to do in this world. One enters old age on this trajectory when one can imagine only his own current reality as a possibility. Hello politics!
But why the hell would anyone encourage us to do anything other than get a steady paycheck, a fair mortgage, a sensible diet? It’s the responsible thing! Especially when we have children.
Who was it that drilled it in my head that children need stability? It’s adults that want the stability. Children are crazy as hell, especially mine.
God I need to listen to them more.