Zachary slips in and out of babyhood. He is trying on his grown-up wings, stretching them out, seeing how they feel, and every now and then walloping someone on the head with them. His verbal ability is far beyond his three and a half years, but emotionally he is still a tiny little person, overwhelmed by the enormity of the things he knows how to express.
Sometimes this makes us so frustrated we want to reach deep inside his little throat and gently remove his vocal chords. Sometimes we are more understanding, appreciating how hard it is to be small and unable to control major aspects of your life – like, say, moving 1/3 of the way around the world – and confused by your own ability to manipulate other aspects of your universe. And sometimes, in his earnestness, the boy just makes us laugh.
On our way home from swimming class, Zachary declared that he did not want grilled cheese for lunch. We always have grilled cheese on Sundays, as this is a Daddy delicacy. Zach loves grilled cheese, which is a good thing, because if he did not we would be down to four and a half things he likes to eat. But, this particular Sunday, Zach insisted he did not want grilled cheese for lunch.
That’s because he wanted cupcakes, instead.
“I want cupcakes,” he informed me.
“I know, baby. I want cupcakes, too. But we are having grilled cheese.”
“I want cupcakes with pink cream,” he repeated, perhaps under the conviction that the pink frosting had redeeming nutritional value.
“Zachary, we do not have any cupcakes. We only have cupcakes on special occasions.”
“When we move to Los Angeles, I want you to get me a cupcake.” This seemed a reasonable request, because I imagine there will be some occasion at some point when we are in LA on which the child will be given a cupcake. We assented, hoping this would stop the discussion. We should only be so lucky.
All the way home, every time any one of the other three people in the car tried to talk about anything, Zachary would sullenly interpose, “I want pink cream for lunch.” Since our new policy is that we do not hear him when he is acting like a fourteen-year-old boy, we ignored him.
Finally, unable to take it anymore, he let loose with all the frustration, all the confusion, all the defiance that comes from knowing he can affect his life and yet cannot control it. “I want everything,” he suddenly and emphatically declared. “I want everything,” he repeated, voice so strong and sure while at the same time mired in bewilderment at the intense desires that he could not name because maybe they have no names. “And I don’t want houses outside. I don’t want there to be trees outside. I want cupcakes. I want Grandma and Grandpa. And I want pink cream!”
Forty-five minutes later found him sitting prim as you please at the lunch table, chewing on a grilled cheese sandwich.