Conversations with a kid whose toe is in my nose

To the child who has mysteriously appeared in my bed and is presently sleeping sideways with his feet in my face: I specifically recall tucking you into your own bed last night, reading you two books about a cat and his infernal hat, and activating your Sleep Sheep to make the soothing sounds of the Pacific Ocean. Now, you are here, in my bed, kicking me in the head like an object lesson in Freudian psychology.

Either you levitated here sometime in the night, or your mother or I were stirred by your cries and sleepwalked to your rescue. I suppose the “big bed” is a more substantial bulwark against whatever nightmare is loose in your room. It’s also not much of big bed when we’re all on it, despite how comparatively little you are, though, as you frequently point out, you are neither “little” nor, god forbid, a “baby.” You agree that perhaps you once were a baby, possibly, a long, long time ago, but those days are behind you now, like bottles and diapers. Mostly.

You are now 3, which means, so far as you’re concerned, you’re a grown up. Happy birthday. Welcome to the world of adult responsibility. You can put away your childish things over there — all over the living room floor. Be sure to leave out something with a good edge on it and invisible to old, weary eyes. So I can step on it and feel vaguely alive from the pain. It helps me remember that I’m not a zombie but somebody’s dad. Your dad, in fact, who’s been pondering replies to some of your queries and observations from this week, you know, since you became an adult.

You will eventually discover that the “Willogen,” that I’ve occasionally threatened to release from its lair in the hall closet, doesn’t actually exist. You will come to learn that the creature, with a purported sweet-tooth for naughty children, is merely the invention of a tired father who was simply trying to get you to go to bed. Of course, the exact opposite has occurred and my circadian rhythms have skipped more than a few beats in karmic payback. And now your toe is in my nostril. That I’ve permitted the Willogen to become real to you, I realize, was a huge mistake — ditto Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I suspect, though neither are coming to eat you. At least not yet.

You don’t like my beard. You tell me this at least once an hour. I’m not sure if I like it either. I grew it because most of the dudes in our neighborhood have beards and I thought it would make me feel youthful since the’re all 15 years younger than me. The irony is my beard makes me look 15 years older than I am. You’re still in the period of life when youth is measured by size. As you’ve pointed out, you’ve gone from little to big this week.

I, on the other hand, have gone from young to old this week. I suspect you might be a Time Lord. Since you’ve come around, it has definitely sped up. Please stop.

Also, I don’t know where or how you acquired those army men, but you should probably know that the little plastic platforms molded to their boots are not actually surfboards. I let you believe this because a world where children play “ocean” rather than “war” is, in my opinion, a much better world. You don’t know what war is yet. I hope you never do. On that note, eventually, you will learn what happened to the singer of your beloved Beatles. I’m so sorry, man. I wish I could better explain why these things happen but I can’t.

You see, kiddo, you’ll find that your old man knows a lot of whats, hows, whens and wheres, but not a lot of whys. At least when it comes to why some people do what they do, especially grown ups. A 3-year-old grown up like you, however, I think I understand. You are a magical person who can be simultaneously big and little, wrong and right, silly and profound, yours and mine.