Even then

Arlo had been acting more tired than usual, and he looked a little wan, so I decided to keep him home from school out of an abundance of caution and made a virtual doctor’s appointment so he could get cleared to go back to school the next day. An hour later, he started running a low fever, so I called Brian and the other kids home per school pandemic policy. I took him for a covid test, which came back negative, so everyone else returned to school the day after the results came back, but Arlo needed one more day to recover from whatever had been afflicting him. That morning, he ate a bowl of cereal after taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach, having eaten very little of anything for almost a whole day. This resulted in the poor kid not being able to keep down the cereal, and unfortunately he was on the sofa at the time, so that meant a lot of cleanup and laundry on my part. The remainder of the day, however, was really pretty enjoyable, and it had been a very long time since I’d had that much time with just him. That night, as I was saying goodnight to him, I mentioned this.

Alison: “I really enjoyed spending time with you today.”

Arlo: “Even when I throwed up?”

Alison: “Even then.”

Arlo: “But I throwed up on me! And then I smelled like dead frogs! But I don’t anymore.”

Alison: “Yes, we cleaned you up. You don’t smell like dead frogs anymore.”

Arlo: “But you do!”

Alison: “No, you do!”

It’s amazing how quickly a Kindergartener can take the sublime and transform it so deftly into the ridiculous. It’s a special kind of genius that’s at once juvenile and rarefied, and it slips away, little by little, as they themselves undergo the inexorable metamorphosis that will eventually yield their adult selves. All parents feel that “nudge and tug” of watching their children grow: the longing for them to age into certain phases and out of others coexisting with our reluctance for time to pass and, with it, the youthful stages that our children possess at each selfsame point in their lives. It’s why we don’t correct Arlo when he still says “pupcake” for “cupcake”, why we were sad when he started referring to his favorite lunch as “pizza” instead of “eepza”, why we all fondly call the card game “Exploding Kittens” by the moniker he gave it: “Boom Cat”. I know someday we’ll reminisce about the magic that accompanies this age: a propensity for injecting the absurd into elevated moments, to color conversations with inanity, to doodle in the margins of life. I try to hold on to moments like this because I know there will come a day when I’ll miss them, when I’ll think back on this day–the day that my kid vomited directly onto the white Pottery Barn sofa, begged me all day for a pet tarantula, refused to eat anything except the inside of a piece of baguette for dinner, used a Sharpie to color straight through a piece of paper onto the hardwood floor, and told I me I smell like dead frogs–with a wistful smile in my mind.

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