Bedtime with our children used to be heavy on stories. As they get older, our rituals inevitably change. They still like it when we read to them, but it’s not a big deal if we skip it. Eldest often prefers a chat instead. He sometimes shares more about his day, when turning in for the night.
We have a good chat one evening, talking about life, school, friends. A mature, almost adult-like conversation.
“Do you ever wonder about life?" I ask. "Why we’re here?”
“I was just thinking that tonight,” he replies. “Like, it’s hard to explain, but …”
“I know what you mean – like, what is the point of life?”
“Yeah,” he says, “ 'cause if there was no life, there’d be like – nothing.”
I often contemplate life. The bigger picture. What is life? Why are we here? The big questions. I feel a measure of pride knowing that my son shares this wonder.
“Why is there life,” I add, “if we’re just gonna die?”
“Well, life is fun,” he says.
“I agree it’s fun. I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad to be your dad and that you’re my son. Life is fun. But I still wonder why we’re here.”
We discuss how school is going, what’s up with his friends. He shares how a classmate claimed he was going to invent a shrink ray. “Like, that’s impossible,” eldest says. “That won’t happen until like, the year 3000.”
“Yeah, that’s crazy,” I quip.
“You know what else? He said he was going to make a flying car. That’ll probably be the year 4000. And he also said he’d be a professional soccer player. At the same time he invents the shrink ray!”
“Sounds like he’s got a lot of plans.”
“He can’t do all that, Dad – there’s no way. The only thing he could do is be a professional soccer player.”
“Even that’s almost impossible – for anyone,” I add.
“And guess what? He said he was going to make a sex machine. Like, what is that, Dad? I don’t even wanna know what that is.”
“I don’t wanna know either,” I concur.
“Like, what would you do with that, Dad?”
Some thoughts cross my mind, but I choose not to share them, obviously. “I have no idea,” I answer.
“I don’t even wanna know,” eldest reiterates, laughing.
A brief pause. We stare at the ceiling.
“Hey – do you like having these talks at bedtime?”
He puts his hand on my chest. “Yeah, Dad, I really do.”
“Would you like to chat like this every time I put you to bed?”
“Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah!” he says, excitedly.
“We’ll have to make sure you get to bed on time though, okay?”
“Thanks, bud,” I say, feeling our bond strengthening. I then broach a subject I had been avoiding.
“Hey, do you feel that I favour your brother more – like I take his side more often?”
“Well,” he says, pausing. “Sometimes.”
“You know it’s not because I like him more.”
“He’s younger and complains more when he doesn’t get his way. So sometimes, I might let him have his way more than I should. But I know it’s not fair to you.”
“I know, Dad. But it’s okay – cause Mom takes my side more.”
“Yeah,” I laugh, “I guess that’s true.” We both chuckle.
“You know, I take it for granted that you’re so mature now and I appreciate how good you are. But I want you to know I realize it’s not fair that I take his side more than I should.”
“That’s why this morning, when you took his gloves without asking, I didn’t make you give them back. That’s why I said you two had to work it out. Even though maybe it wasn’t right what you did, I didn’t force you.”
He thanks me again.
We chat some more – silly stuff, mostly, like trying to master the tongue twister “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”
After, we enjoy a bit of silence.
“I really enjoyed this chat, buddy.”
“Me too, Dad.”
“I’m gonna go soon, ’kay?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
I give him a big hug and a goodnight kiss.
My beautiful son – my eldest, my sweet.