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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture

NOT REALLY UPSIDE DOWN

Monday, March 19, 2007















Seven-thirty marks the beginning of bedtime in the Seeling home - all three kids protest the announcement that the time has come to get ready for bed. The girls are easily talked into it with the promise of nursing and their tearful whining is replaced by big smiles, waves, and "Nah nah! Nah nah!" Sometimes I get hugs - Ameena always more willing to dispense these than Acacia who usually runs away until she sees Ameena giving hugs. Malachi however always gets his hugs and he happily gives them back in good brotherly form.

After the girls disappear with Angela upstairs, Malachi usually plays another quarter hour before I insist that he brushes his teeth. He has a motorized toothbrush in the shape of a car that he likes to use these days (he has three others to choose from). When Angela first gave it to him as a present, he was excited until we turned it on and stuck it in his mouth. Malachi hates loud noises and has always been a little skittish when it comes to new, strange things. He pulled back immediately and refused to use the new toothbrush, prefering his old, reliable, manual green Oral brush. He finally realized how cool his car toothbrush was when Isabella came over to spend the night. She had a motorized pink Disney Princesses toothbrush over which she globbed toothpaste, turned the noisy motor on, and nonchalantly stuck it in her mouth - a stubbornly confident Princess of Cool. Malachi wanted to show her how cool he was with his own motorized car toothbrush and followed her lead. The deal was clinched when she spit into the sink, a line of goopy white dripping from her lips, down her chin, barely making it into the sink before creeping down the white bowl. If there is anything more built into the Y chromosome it is the need to spit, and here Malachi saw an opportunity to spit in the house in an approved way. Toothbrushing before bed has never been an issue since.

Once in bed, if it's not too late, Malachi and I read The Next Chapter in whatever "Chapter book" we're reading at the time. Our first book was one of my favorites The House at Pooh Corner. Our second was The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Malachi loved both, so then followed the adventures of Ralph the mouse in the sequel Runaway Ralph, a theme I thought twice about introducing to my three year old. It is decidedly slower than the first book and deals with older themes, but Malachi still seems interested in listening to it. When we're done reading, I turn off the lights and lay next to him to chat and doze until he finally drops off to sleep.

I usually take this time of chatting and dozing to reaffirm my love to Malachi, to apologize for anything mean I did or for the time we didn't get to play that day, and to tell him what I am proud of him for. He sometimes responds with a simple "thanks, daddy" and sometimes he engages and provides thoughts of his own. The last few nights have been full of the latter.

A couple nights ago, Malachi was singing softly to himself a song about a volcano under the ocean that "blows and blows and blows." I had never heard that song before and I had no idea Malachi knew anything about volcanos, much less submarine ones that blow and blow and blow. After a few rounds of this chorus, Mo' turned to me and said, "Daddy, there are volcanos under the ocean."

"You're right, buddy."

"And sleeping volcanos are called 'dormance.'"

I propped my head up on my hand and looked at him through the red glow of the string of chili pepper lights we use for a nightlight. I still have no idea where he learned about this - maybe from school, or maybe from a show he watched on NickJr.com - the volcano song he has associated with Diego, but I've never heard a preschool show talk about dormant volcanos. The next day during dinner, we munched on sandwiches and watched "blowing" volcanos on Google video and saw what sleeping, dormant volcanos looked like (he was a little disappointed in the dormant ones: "But those have snow on them").

The next night I told Malachi how proud I was of him and how big he was getting. "Yeah, I can ride my bike now," he said.

"Yup, and you're a good bike rider too."

"Yeah. And I can climb good...because I'm not little anymore," he said thoughtfully.

"Yup."

"And...I can run...and I can ride my scooter..." He paused and thought a little longer. "And I am almost good at driving."

Last night, in his final quarter hour of playing before bed, I was checking email and listening to him play and sing to himself. He was playing with one of those bead rollercoasters - he had it on its side and was making up a story full of danger and adventure for the beads. At the same time he sang:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are great
You'll never know dear (giggle) how much I love you
... when skies are great
You'll never know dear...never know I love you
When skies are great...
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
When skies are great...

He was silent for a moment and then he said, "Daddy, sometimes people kill."

I swiveled around in my office chair to face him. "Yes they do, buddy. Sometimes people do kill."

"And sometimes animals die."

"Yes, sometimes they do. "

He turned back to his toy and ran the beads around their metal tracks. "What do you think about that?" I asked him.

He waved at his toy, still on its side and said, "The world is upside down. But not really upside down, just a little."

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