I woke Rollie up this morning. (After Todd woke me up; I almost never hear the alarm. He usually has to nudge me awake.) Rollie is having trouble waking up in the mornings, after a summer of sleeping later and waking with the sun. It is still dark at 6:45 and he usually mumbles something like, “I want to stay under the covers,” and I kiss him on the forehead and whisper, “I do too.”
I made sure he was awake and then went down to start coffee, make oatmeal, and fix his lunch. He came down, sleepy-eyed, and hair sticking up in a thousand different directions. (I call him, “Little Cecil,” because his hair is just like my dad’s – thick, slightly curly, and sticks up when he’s been sleeping on it.) I told him to put on his shoes, and then he came into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I am going to tell you a joke.” I turned around from my coffee, ready for the laughs.
Now, any parent of a preschooler or young elementary-age kid will understand that this means you will probably get a Knock Knock joke that makes absolutely zero sense. For instance, Todd told Rollie and Tiller the old Knock Knock joke that ends in “Orange you glad . . . .” They have improvised on this theme and will say, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t say Banana?” Or “Knock Knock. Who’s there? Table!” And then they explode into laughter, thinking they made a joke. You laugh, too, because otherwise you would be crying.
It is possibly one of the most torturous parts of parenting, being stuck at a dinner table with young Knock Knock joke comedians.
So, I really wasn’t expecting this joke to be unusual, and definitely wasn’t expecting it to be funny. I really wasn’t expecting this:
Me: “Okay, let’s hear it.”
Rollie: “Forget about me, God!” [He twists his face into a goofy expression, one that indicates that he is trying to be funny.]
I stare at him.
Me: “Rollie, that’s not funny.”
Rollie: “Well, I think it’s funny!” [Runs off into the den, balls up on the couch and wails and cries.]
I stand there thinking, “Well, shit.” I guess he expected me to laugh. We always laugh.
Now, I am not the most religious person in the world. I would say I am not religious at all. But I do think about God, I think there might be a God, but I am not sure.Â Because sometimes I also think that we are all just millions of ants in a huge anthill, waiting to get stomped on, or have a huge Dixie Cup of Kool Aid dumped over our hill, washing us all away in a red typhoon. But I was raised to believe in God, and so i have a great respect for that belief (which I think is sorely missing in our society today) and I would be mortified if my child ever said that to a believer.
I took a deep breath. Looked longingly at the coffee just starting to trickle it’s way into the pot. Thought, once again, that some mornings there just isn’t enough coffee in the world. Went in and sat on the couch next to Rollie.
I asked if he knew why his joke wasn’t funny. He protested that his joke was funny. I finally had to tell him that he would lose privileges if he kept using the joke, because the joke might be offensive to other people. I then had to try to explain the word, “offensive,” which just came off as “might hurt someone’s feelings.” I explained that it would hurt his Grandparents’ feelings to hear that joke. That one of his friends might really have their feelings hurt if he said it to them. He said, “okay,” all the while still claiming that it was funny. (No idea where he gets this stubborn streak from.)
I asked where he heard this joke.
He replied that he made it up.
I am going to need a whole bunch more coffee to ponder how on earth my son came up with this in the first place, and what it might mean to him. Should I be glad that he has a concept of a higher being, and that somehow he is thinking about his place in the world? Is he thinking about his place in the world? Maybe he just liked the way it sounded.
It was only 7:15 a.m. when I finished this conversation with him. Have you ever seen me in the morning before coffee?
Parenting is fucking hard.