by jkatejohnston

27 August 2013

Dear Max,

“I am never taking a bath again.” Then a few minutes later you see him zooming by naked, putting his new school shoes away by the front door and then back and into the bathroom. Small splash. He has remembered that he actually likes taking a bath.

Later the same evening:

“I am never picking up toys again. Isaac doesn’t have to pick up toys. Cuixli doesn’t have to pick up toys.”

“Not when you’re there. They probably have to do it after you leave.”

“I am not doing it.”

“Come on, do you want to pick up Beyblades or stuffed animals and dinosaurs?” (And I could have added: Or Legos, cars, scraps of paper, cards.)

No answer. He’s lying on the couch with his arms folded.

“Okay, you pick up Beyblades.”

“I might pick them up. But I’m not putting them where they belong.”

I start picking up everything but Beyblades, and when I have an armful I set off to his room to put them away. He follows me, empty-handed and flops down on his bed.

“Come on. You need to help. I’m sick of this. 1…2…” He jumps up and runs to the living room, flings a few Beyblades into his Beyblade arena, runs back into his room and shoves it under the bed, which is where it belongs. Back on the bottom bunk, face down, then he lifts his head so I can see the tears. “What about all these fossils up on your top bunk? Let’s work together. You climb up and hand them down to me.” He doesn’t move. “All right, I’ll hand them down to you.” I climb up and gather real fossils and red plastic Tyrannosaurus bones into a bin. “Okay, here they come.” Still lying on the bottom bunk he lifts his legs up so that his shins make a shelf.

“I don’t think that’s going to work.” The legs remain. “Okay, we can try it.” I balance some red plastic bones on his shins and they clatter to the floor. “Come on.” He gets up and I hand him the bin of fossils. He shoves it onto the shelf. The rest of the red bones clatter to the floor. I leave the bedroom saying, “All those things need to be put away and then you can pick out your candy for reading books.” In the kitchen I pour cold milk and get out his large selection of sweets and a little bowl. He appears and cheerfully starts choosing. I check the bedroom. Everything is off the floor. The dinosaurs bones are in the Lego bin.

Later in bed I asked Teresa if he’s defiant like that with her. “Sometimes. Not that much.”

“I had to count to three. I haven’t done that in a long time.”

“And what were you planning to do if you got to three?”

“I don’t know. Kill myself.”

Can it really be true that kids used to be free labor for families? Lots of kids, lots of workers? A few days ago I reminded him to clear the table and he lay on his back, limp on the dirty kitchen floor. “I’m just so tired.”