My mom and I sit in stunned silence for a moment, as the weight of Captain AmeriCute’s latest proclamation settles in like a heavy blanket of snow.
Thirty seconds before, the scene had been a normal sleepover at “Gra and Dadat’s” (my parents, Brady’s Grandparents). Whenever I come over to join the festivities on sleepover night, Brady gets to pick two bedtime stories – one for Gra to read, and one for Auntie Kimberly to read. Gra read Richard Scarry’s Goodnight Little Bear, a classic in which Father Bear can’t find Little Bear at bedtime. In an unexpected twist ending worthy of M. Night Shyamalan, it turns out that Little Bear has been sitting on Father Bear’s shoulders the whole time. For the Auntie Kimberly selection, I lobbied hard for The Monster at the End of This Book, but Brady instead wanted me to read, The Monsters on the Bus, another classic in which a hapless public transit passenger looks on in growing astonishment and aggravation as his bus is invaded by monsters, grouches, a marching band, and even aliens.
Normally, the conclusion of these two stories means bedtime. But since Gra and Dadat’s house exists in a strange corner of the space-time continuum where natural and parental laws don’t always apply, Gra offered to do an extra reading that would have delayed bedtime by another few minutes. She held up “I Love You Through And Through,” a small book with thick pages for tiny hands to grab onto.
But instead of settling in for the reading of his bonus book, Brady slowly and clearly announced, “I don’t want to read it. That book is for babies.”
After the previously noted period of stunned silence, Gra recovered first. She asked, “So you want to go to bed?”
Brady quickly responded that yes, he did indeed want to go to bed.
More stunned silence. Seriously? This little guy knows every trick in the book about stalling at bedtime. In fact, I think he wrote several chapters himself. He’s hungry. He’s thirsty. He needs to pee. He wants the door open. No, shut. No, open. He has burning questions that must be resolved before he can rest, such as, “Is it just dark here, or is it dark everywhere?” (Dadat’s response that it was dark everywhere – although technically incorrect – was the option least likely to generate follow-up questions.) But now he’d rather go to bed than listen to a “book for babies”?
But this wasn’t the very first time Brady had asserted his evolving grown-up-ness by letting go of things he’d previously embraced, so it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Captain AmeriCute’s Mommy and Daddy took him to Disneyland this year, where he got to meet Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Olaf, and Chewbacca. But one of his more memorable encounters was when Brady asked a Stormtrooper if he was there when Han Solo got frozen in carbonite. “Affirmative,” the Stormtrooper replied. After Brady returned home, this conversation turned into a game where I would ask him questions (ones that I thought I knew the answers to) and he would reply with “Affirmative” or “Negative”.
“Do you like ice cream?” “Affirmative”.
“Do you like spinach?” “Negative.”
“Do you like cheese pizza?” “Affirmative.”
“Do you like pepperoni pizza?” “Negative.” (This one makes me slightly question whether we are actually related.)
“Do you like Shrek?” “Negative.”
I thought he was teasing me. This is a kid who loved Shrek and Donkey and had a huge crush on Princess Fiona. I gave him a “whaaaaaaaaaat?” That usually gets a laugh. But instead, he looked at me solemnly and said, “I don’t like Shrek anymore.”
Around the same time, my Mom and I took Brady to a local park where kids and grownups can ride a tiny train. On the way, I asked if he was excited to ride the train, and he replied, “That’s not fun for little boys.” He did change his mind by the time we arrived and ended up having a blast, but clearly, the seeds of childish discontent had been planted.
I could deal with Brady letting go of a few imaginary characters – even though I think Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots are hilarious. And I could handle knowing that there might not be a ton more tiny train rides in our future. But then it started to get personal.
I have a yellow beanbag frog – cleverly named “Frog” – that dates back to my own childhood. I used to have a routine where I would put Frog on my head and then pretend that I’d lost him. (OK, yeah, this was pretty much a blatant rip-off of Goodnight, Little Bear, but isn’t all great art derivative?) “Brady, I can’t find Frog,” I would say, acting panicked. At first, this made Brady laugh hysterically. I was Lucille Ball! I was Tina Fey! I was Melissa McCarthy! But eventually, the day arrived when Brady wouldn’t even turn around to look when I announced that Frog was missing. Instead, he gave an exasperated sigh and said, “He’s on your head.”
And then it got really personal with the Book for Babies episode. Yep, Captain AmeriCute is growing up.
He’ll be starting kindergarten in the fall. He’s getting funnier. And smarter. And sneakier. His Mommy and Daddy bought him a sleep trainer clock that shows (depending on which section of the clock lights up) whether it’s Sleeping Time or Get Up Time. The theory was that this would keep Captain AmeriCute from bounding of bed at 4:00 a.m., ready to save the world. Except now he’s figured out how to reset the clock so that Get Up Time is pretty much whenever he feels like jumping out of bed. Again, this makes me slightly question whether we are related. But I guess if you’re a pint-sized Superhero and the world needs saving at 4:00 a.m., you can’t hit the snooze button.
Brady is getting really good at swimming. He’s showing an affinity for Spanish. He loves to create his own books, consisting of several pages of narrated drawings stapled together. His favorite subject is (surprise) Star Wars. His work often includes characters and scenes from the three prequels, and I’m still scratching my head as to exactly how he acquired this particular knowledge. It definitely did NOT come from his Auntie Kimberly.
Captain AmeriCute loves to build stuff. I arrived at his home for a recent play date to find that he had constructed “heaven” out of an Amazon Prime box, with a fully functioning front door. Brady didn’t get why his Mommy and I though it was funny that you could “knock, knock, knock on heaven’s door”, but I did make him laugh by pretending to be a doorbell-ditching Jesus. Hopefully, this wasn’t enough of a sin to get me in serious trouble. I’m counting on the fact that the Supreme Being is currently far too busy handing out demerits to pretty much everyone involved in the 2016 presidential campaign to notice this type of tiny indiscretion.
But it’s only natural that as Brady’s knowledge, skills, and interests blossom, he’ll be leaving his baby stuff behind.
Although I’ve hung on to a few things from my own childhood (including Frog and two Snoopy dolls, one that that is almost as old as I am), there are plenty of other things that I’ve let go of and never looked back. For example, my pogo stick. Hmmm. I wonder what happened to that old thing? And do they still even make pogo sticks in our lawsuit-obsessed society? Out of curiosity, I just Googled “Pogo Stick”, and it turns out they do. But I’m guessing the package includes a warning label booklet approximately the size of a California king mattress:
“Do not use product to bonk your siblings on the head.”
“Do not use product on an ice-covered driveway, on the edge of a cliff, on a diving board, or in the middle of the freeway during rush hour.”
“Utilizing product to re-create the Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader lightsaber battle from ‘Return of the Jedi’ within 50 feet of your mom’s Precious Moments figurines could result in severe injury or death.”
In addition to the pogo stick (which I was never really that good at anyway), other things that I’ve left behind include black patent leather shoes, peanut butter and ketchup sandwiches (which were primarily a ploy to annoy one particular babysitter), and afternoon naps (although ooooooh, how I do cherish them now).
As Captain AmeriCute goes through this letting-go process, some of the stuff he leaves behind won’t be missed. Brady’s Mommy and Daddy are quite happy that he hasn’t mentioned the Wiggles in several months. And I won’t be super sad when he’s ready to say sayonara to the Wonderpets. I can’t quite put my finger on why I find the Wonderpets so annoying, but they make me long for the children’s TV characters of old, such as Barney or the Teletubbies or Pee-wee Herman. Well, OK. Maybe not Pee-wee Herman.
But I need to prepare myself for the fact that Brady is the Boss of the letting-go process and that some stuff he chooses to leave behind will make me a little sad. Like Shrek. Or a bonus bedtime story from Gra. And I will probably need a truckload of tissues when it comes time to send Snoopy and Frog back to the stuffed animal retirement home.
A few weeks ago, I was at the airport leaving for a work trip. When I heard a boarding announcement for a flight to Zihuatanejo, I had to smile. (If you didn’t catch the reference, give yourself a gift and read Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Or pick up the DVD – it’s one of those rare cases where the movie really IS as good as the book.) At the mention of Zihuatanejo, I immediately heard Morgan Freeman’s voice inside my head saying, “I hope”.
I hope I can always find stuff to make Brady laugh. (Although I should probably remove religious slapstick from my repertoire, particularly once the presidential election is over).
I hope that Captain AmeriCute holds those things that bring him joy close to his heart, letting go only when HE is ready, and not because of peer pressure to move on.
I hope that Brady remembers that he is loved by SO many people…even if he is now too grown up for his Gra to read him a “book for babies” that tells him so.