the little one plays a never-ending game of dot-to-dot all day long. he changes socks, he drops them. he yanks off his shorts, he leaves them puddled on the rug. you could trace his every move, his every change of clothes and plaything, walking room to room, plucking from the floor, where he has deposited all the evidence.
we are trying to change that. we are in week three of pick-up therapy.
thus, when i wandered in his room the other night, en route to his least desired destination–bed–i was a.) not so surprised to see the detritus of a busy day strewn around the rug, and b.) insistent that it return to whence it came, the basement.
he truly is a good little boy, but this night my pointing down the stairs was met with unblinking resistance.
“it’s for fighting monsters,” he informed. “i’m wearing it to bed.”
it seems that while i was wiping out the sink one last time for the evening, tucking ice cream spoons away, he was carefully, premeditatedly, scouring the basement for the very tools i had thought were mere droppings from the day.
he had climbed up stairs with hockey stick and batting helmet, swimming goggles, and, of course, his trusty saber. the one that glows and makes a throaty roar. more like a gargle, really, but don’t tell that to a 5-year-old monster warrior.
and so, after brushing all those teeny-tiny baby teeth, not a one of which is even wiggly, he pulled off the ordinary clothes of ordinary mortal, and, like superman inside the phone booth, became the monster fighter boy.
the goggles went on first. “monsters poke your eyes out,” he once again informed, matter-of-factly, as if he’d been reading monster manuals and i had not.
step two, according to those manuals, i suppose, the batting helmet. backwards, apparently. giving the monster warrior a darth vader sort of style. perhaps he’d been preening before the mirror, trying it front and back. or perhaps these things just happen. perhaps little boys just know. what it takes to trounce a scary thing in bed.
the light saber, curiously, wisely, was tucked on the elastic waist of the undies he’d decided gave him maximum monster-battling maneuverability.
and then, the hockey stick. this, oddly (as if all the rest wasn’t odd enough), he threaded through the undies, on a fierce diagonal, wholly crossing his little body. he slid one end, the end that doesn’t slap the puck, down behind the waist band on the left, poked it out the leg hole on his right. hmm.
somehow, carefully, i assure you–boys, again, know instinctively to be careful of these parts–he climbed abed.
and there he lay, armed and very ready for whatever purple hairy, green-fanged thing dared to come across his threshold.
so fierce he was, lying there, eyes like frog, head in turtle shell, sticks at the criss-crossed ready, any monster who came his way would simply have to be a fool.
this monster gear has been a part of bedtime for the whole last week. every night there is the slightest tweak in the armament. the helmet and the sticks, though: indispensable.
it didn’t take me long to connect the dots, to draw the line, between monster fighting nights and end of kindergarten days.
aha, i said, as i played assistant to the ever-delicate ascent to bed, a climb that could, with just a single sorry twist, impair his future. if you catch my drift.
of course i said in passing what i always say of monsters: they aren’t real, sweetheart. they are pretend. monsters live in books, and on the tv screen.
i said it sort of like a band-aid. sort of in the way a doctor used to say, take an aspirin, call me in the morning.
i did not press the point because surely there is something he thinks he needs to fight. and i’ll always honor that. honor the existence of whatever unnamed hairy monster lurks inside his head.
if only you and i could so simply fight our demons. if only sliding on a hard-shelled helmet, squeezing on the safety goggles could shield us from our fears.
i am thinking that the end of school is feeling a bit like walking off a cliff, or into a big dark cave. it is a darkness, an unknown, that we step into every day. but we aren’t 5. so we hide our safety goggles. keep the helmet under our hat.
when you’re 5, though, you hide little. you strut your safety gear. it’s just the monster outlines that remain a little fuzzy.
in fact, my monster fighter is not saying much about these monsters. he is keeping the enemy rather under wraps, close to the vest. a good monster warrior is like that. he can’t disclose too much about the enemy.
all we know is that the enemy is there. and the monster warrior is armed and ready. and being very brave. he’ll not slip blindly into the night. he is safe, i know and he knows, behind his sword and goggles.
whatever is the danger. whatever is the bother, he quite foxily figured out a plot to keep the upper hand.
i’ll not take that away. i will assist in any way the growing monster fighter who is figuring out a way to take on the evils of the world.
but i will, for now, always tiptoe back to make sure the little goggles are not squeezing his little sleeping eyeballs.
once again, i stand back and marvel at the growing human mind. little people’s ways are uncanny. have you a tale to tell of a little person who took on the shadows, armed in no uncertain terms? how did you learn to fend for yourself from what might be lurking ’round a corner? or are you, like me, still thick in the middle of the learning. and eager to try on the nearest batting helmet?