get your chocolate milk in a big boy cup,” I tell Henry as I hand him the
half-full piece of pink plastic that has been through the washing machine so
many times it could probably pass for leather.
“A big boy
cup?” he says, grinning the grin of a proud young fella'. “I’m havin’ my chocwit
milk in a big boy cup?”
down into it, probably to make sure that I didn’t cheat him (which, to be fair, I
only do when we are really low on milk and I am in one of my funks, too lazy to
hit the mini-market for like three days running), and then he looks at me and
smiles and I smile at him and our eyes collide and we are father and son
slipping into slow-motion, our hearts telegraphing each the messages of unspeakable
I tell him, in drawn-out deep slow-motion talk, “Make sure you don’t spill it.
You have to be careful not to...”
At the exact
moment I am saying all this stuff, I am also watching like a helpless fool as
Henry’s tiny elbow cuts through the morning ether a few inches away from his
older sister who is gobbling her Honey Nut Cheerios as if she is seconds away
from taking the crown at some insane Coney Island eating contest.
outside of myself, as I tend to do when I get lucky enough to think about doing
it. It’s an amazing thing really, to be able to stand there in the middle of
your own life and have a whole side conversation with yourself in your head as
you watch some small stretch of your life play out like it’s on TV:
“Hey, would ya’ look at that?! Old Hank is
about to waffle that big boy cup of chocolate milk with his arm!”
“Oh boy, this is going to be a damn
fine mess, huh!? Hahahaha! LOL!”
“...Wait! Wha? OH NO!
“Awwwwwww, man. WTF!?”
I want to spring into action and do something, but the truth is I am too floored by what has just happened.
My son’s 2-and-a-half-year-old smile doesn’t waver, either; his eyes never unhook from
mine as I watch the birth of a reservoir
on the kitchen island, the brown milk spreading itself out far and wide. It
pools around the bottom of the vase of the dead-for-a-week-now flowers and curls
up around the bottom of Fishley’s fishbowl.
over toward Violet’s area, but she never looks up from her cereal. It could be
steaming lava and she wouldn’t give a crap.
I want to
spring into action and do something, but the truth is I am too floored by what
has just happened. It’s as if I have stepped onto some set, some movie being
filmed, and just in time, too. Because Central Casting has sent over this little
kid from Pennsylvania whom all of Hollywood is going bananas over because of the
way that he can spill a cup of chocolate milk with the adorable menacing eyes
of an Old West outlaw, and the knockout beaming smile of a real heartbreaker
in the making.
So yeah, I
just stand there in disbelief, staring at this freaking ridiculous disaster
that is the last thing that anyone anywhere on the planet would feel like
dealing with first thing on a stupid Tuesday morning.
at me now, his smile a little shakier than it was 20 seconds ago. “Sorry,
dad!” he says with his tiny voice that is all brittle backyard sparrow bones
and Santa Claus letters and baby dinosaur growls.
Here I am
50/50. Half the time when something like this unfolds, something innocuous and
goofy and totally expected even when it’s unexpected, I end up trying to react
with some kind of weird disciplinary I-told-you-so crap that is, I know, my
desperate attempt to use words to change the future of things that are already
written in ancient stone.
And I lose
that battle every single time.
I guess what
I’m trying to say is that, as parents, no matter how much we want to take
little chunks of our knowledge and our common sense and smear it all over our
kids' morning bedheads so that some of it—just a teeny tiny bit of it might seep into their brains, we’re still
pretty much wasting our energy about nine times out of 10.
for whatever reason, I catch myself before I can open my trap and tell Henry
something so dumb, like he needs to be more careful when it comes to hanging
around a cup of milk. I catch myself and I just stand there looking at the
chocolate ocean down below me. I am on a high cliff over by the coffee maker
and the winds of microwave oatmeal are blowing through my hair and I can see my
two kids down there, one of them swimming through a swamp of Cheerios, the
other one smiling at me because he just isn’t sure what the hell he is supposed
to be doing right now.
I make the
sound of a pirate, “Arrrrrrrgh!”
It is a
sound we usually make when we are happy together. And it shatters the ice in
the room like a hot hammer.
I say as I reach for the paper towels.
“Can I have
some more chocwit milk, because ... because ... because I spilled the cup!”
around and look at him, and, in the spirit of things going right where they
could have easily gone wrong, I consider the billions of cups of chocolate milk
out there riding around on the winds of fate, just waiting for their chance to
get tagged by the young and the clumsy and flow across the kitchen tables of
our world, free at last.
And I tell
him to his precious face, “You’re damn right you can have some more, my man. You’re damn
right you can.”