He wants cheese toast for dinner.
My plan was baked potatoes and beans and cheese, but he wants cheese toast. We are talking around in circles as he keeps telling me what he wants and I keep telling him why I don’t think it’s a very good meal and the Girl is cranky and yelling over imagined insults in a bossy little voice would make anyone, let alone a 6 year old boy, find it hard not to smack her after a while. Everything is his fault it seems, and she will not stop shrieking at him. And he will not stop teasing her. I am trying to motivate them to return the living room to some kind of order, the Baby does not want to be put down, and over it all the hungry Boy keeps whining, “I want cheese toast.”
I send the Girl to bed. If she’s too tired and sick to help clean up she’s too tired and sick to be out here making the rest of us miserable as well. She lays herself down in bed and falls asleep. The Baby joins her shortly thereafter and suddenly it is just me and him and dinner to get ready. He lets me talk him into accepting my dinner plan, and I change it a little just to suit him. I work on dinner and ask him if he would help me unload the dishwasher. He is happy to help and the two of us move around each other in the kitchen. He says excuse me when he needs to put something away and I am in the way, and I say excuse me to him when I need to get something out. He sets the table without my asking. He organizes all of the dishes as he removes them, stacking them on counters and waiting until they are all in the same place before climbing atop a stool and putting them away in the cupboard. I still marvel at how grown up he seems. Six is so mature compared to five.
We talk about the little inconsequential things that made up our day. And we sit down to eat together. Just the two of us. My long limbed, knobby kneed, skinny little boy, with a new gap in his smile, and me, sit and eat our meal together, smiling at each other the whole time.
Just once he leans in toward me and lays his head against my shoulder. “I love you mom,” he says as he smiles up at me. I put my arm around his shoulder and draw him closer, holding him for a second longer as he is ready to pull away and sit up again. “I love you too.”
And then I lean down and kiss his forehead, right at the hair line, before finally letting go. He doesn’t protest.