Do As I Say

“Mom, can we walk up to Brookside?”

You have to stop. You have to stop and think right there before you answer.  Seemingly innocent you can say,  “Yes, fine, you can just have Czechoslovakia,” and the next thing you know all of Europe is Hell and gone and you know you have no one to blame but yourself.

Swiveling in my chair to face him, “Um. I don’t know. What do you have in mind?”

“You know, it’s a nice day. I just thought it would be fun to walk up there. You know, our whole family.”

I know what you’re thinking. “So dear.” You can’t even see him so you don’t know how charming the freckles, how endearing the stock of hair so like his father’s but still wearing childhood’s golden glaze and the magic sparkle of his blue eyes. All this, combined with the query posed so sweetly would make you want to say, “Say yes! Why wouldn’t you? He’s adorable and is just asking for a little unstructured time with his family!”

But what you also don’t know is that it’s not particularly a nice day. Cool and rainy on and off, it’s not the best day to commit to a fifteen-minute walk both ways if things take a turn for the worse. And he’s smart. And savvy. He knows that both the walking and the family part are sure to get me.

“Is there something, perhaps, that you want in Brookside? A particular reason you would like to walk up today?”

“Oh. Well, no, not really,” says he as he averts his eyes.


“Well, I do have some money…..”

So here I go, the mental dance, the pas de deux of good mother/bad mother bouncing around in my head. It is his money. But there is a trunk size box of Legos upstairs, oh, yes, more Legos is what he is after, that are not interesting as they are not part of a kit. And he just received new Legos from the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny whom he knows does not exist, but we are all, the four of us, complicit in the lie in order to let the youngest have some glimpse of the comforting myths of childhood.

“Darling, really, there must be two million Lego pieces upstairs. Wouldn’t it be better to make something of your own? Use your imagination! And, really, there cannot be something new all the time. What about the Legos you just received? We need to find joy in what we have.  We can’t always be looking to the next new thing. We have everything we need.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” as he turns away, head bowed, and angle of his shoulders drop twenty degrees. And I turn back to my desk, eyes just sweeping the new lamps awaiting the new shades across from the new basalt bowl.

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25 thoughts on “Do As I Say

  1. There’s no ceiling on the amount of Legos a boy should have as I well remember. But if the Easter Bunny just delivered some, holding off isn’t the worst thing.

    You waited a bit on that bowl if I remember correctly.

  2. Brilliant Patricia. You really kept me engaged, not sure where this was headed until the last line. The talent of a skilled writer. (I found myself saying something similar last night to someone who was just published in Oxford American.)

  3. That reminds me of something that happened to me recently. My husband mentioned to me that he needed a new bike tire. Immediately, and despite being in constant home-aquisition mode myself, I started questioning as to how much he really needs another bike tire. He answered, “um, mine is flat.”

  4. Emil Coue’ said it best–sort of:

    “Every day, in every way, I am becoming [a] better and better [mother].” Start practicing that phrase now. At least it was you who ended the exchange with a lingering sidelong glance at the lamps, and not him.

    In a few years, your eloquent reminders to not be materialistic will be acknowledged with a pause, then “Nice lamps, Mom…New?”

  5. What if you suggest that if he uses all the Legos up in one enormous creative sculpture that maybe you’ll change your mind. Keep him busy…
    We’re all guilty of this aren’t we.

  6. Buy that darling creature some new legos. Before you know it he will be out the door for good!
    How’s that for guilt? LOL

  7. David – Ah! A good perspective – that did help. And, yes, I waited ages for the bowl. Talked about it a lot, too, so he likely gets it from me.

  8. balsamfir – if he used all the Legos we would have a cabana on the patio and I would gleefully buy him more by the bushel. Seriously, wouldn’t that be something?

  9. …’childhood’s golden glaze…’

    I love the way you write! Beautiful… every mother can relate, however you put these ‘little’ moments into poetry.
    -Linda, NY

  10. That sort of thing has a way of snapping us right back. Very clever, and loveable little boy-pull at your heart strings!

  11. * G' morning Patricia~ I was enjoying SUCH a great, morning chuckle, w/ your FAB wit, that I just didn't want it to end (I could SOO PICTURE the whole scene & that precious lil' one just watching you)! Knew it WOULD, of course, but we never WANT it to, even when we're aware of a good "lesson" for us to absorb… point made, brilliantly & without great fanfare, and in such a subtle way!
    MANY THANKS, Linda in AZ *

  12. Mrs. B that one hit a bit close to home 🙂 in a good way! Good to know you can still figure out the motivation, how long until they outsmart us??

  13. I absolutely adore your writing — and your stories always have such thought-provoking lessons. You’re a good Mom, Mrs. Blandings!

  14. magnaverde is almost right, but fast forward even more time. “Mom, you’re not using those old lamps or that basalt bowl anymore, are you?”

  15. lol, love the story! You are a great writer! And so funny about your clever boy and the “go on a walk with the whole family,” knowing exactly how to get to you! Hilarious.

  16. Very nice Mrs. B. Our children do have a way of getting to us and then we feel the slight pang of guilt no matter what the decision.

  17. You could say, Oh “yes” – because you just confiscated all the legos in the Blanding’s residence to a third world country to provide housing. I do get a rise out of my sons when they ask for more. More than most have in many other worlds.
    I do feel your pain over having new old things. Suddenly those old legos are looking like rare items.

    Often I hide things to make the suddenly appear all the more worthy. Like an antique.

  18. You are an awfully fine writer – it would have been good without the last two sentences, but with them, it is perfection.

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