Lately, whenever I ask my son a question like, “How did the [busted item of the day] get broken?” he heaves a big sigh and replies, “It’s a long story.”
He does not attempt to relate that long story, because it is clear that a father with such a short attention span would not be interested in the burdensome details.
“It’s a long story,” is not at all an introduction to an informative tale. Rather, it is the boy’s way of telling me that a lot of unnecessary information will not fix [busted item of the day]. It is his counsel to not cry over spilled milk and just get on with the business of living life. What’s done is done.
I could not figure out where the boy picked up such an evasive strategy, until I recalled a conversation we had at a restaurant a while ago.
Out of the blue, and just as I was about to shovel the first forkful into my mouth, the boy asked me, “When I was a baby, how did I get into Mommy’s belly?”
Why do they always pounce when I’m weak from hunger?
Put on the spot, my panicked mind bounced between two options. “You see, son, when a man loves a woman . . .” was the option from which my mind ran screaming.
“It’s a long story,” was the defense mechanism for which my mind leapt. It worked, or so I thought at the time.
Before the boy could renew his assault, a man wearing an Air Force uniform was seated nearby. My son, who is going through a period of fascination with all things military, forgot about the origins of his species. “Is that man in the Army?” he asked.
I explained that he was in the Air Force, which was like the Army, but with jets. My son soaked it all in. “Why don’t you go in the Army, Daddy?” he asked.
“I’m not so good at following orders,” I replied.
“You could be the boss of the Army. Then you could give all the orders.”
“But I’m too old. They wouldn’t even take me.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have to be in the battle,” he assured me, as if the Army has a row of rocking chairs ringing the combat area for its aged recruits.
We then went on to discuss related topics. The subject of where babies come from was forgotten. I congratulated myself for dodging a bullet, for the time being anyway.
Well, maybe he forgot about the topic of the conversation, but he did not forget about the device Daddy used to steer the conversation elsewhere. He remembered that all too well. Now I have a house full of broken stuff and a child full of long stories that are too cumbersome for Daddy’s simple mind.
You reap what you sow.
And that baby question will come up again anyway. How will I handle it next time? Well, that’s a long story.