Thing 3: the Operator

Standard

i’m sitting watching Thing 3 use the “treadmail” as he calls it. there are some things in this world that i hold very dear — the most sacred is the supposed mispronunciation of words by my children in their youngest years. it’s simply adorable. don’t mess with “headfore” — (forehead).

he’s taken the treadmail up to 2.8 mph (“28” to him ) and is at a light bobbing swaying jog due to his consistent inconsistency in his stride, his knobby legs and his utter lack of experience. in his double-white stripes on navy blue shirt, sneakers from kohls and khaki shorts, he is the model of a suburban american boy.  did i mention that he is wearing the clip to the safety lanyard on his fly? he is. it’s there because a moment ago it was on his collar but he kept hitting it with his hands and shutting down the treadmail, so we moved it. i’m sure the next time he gets on the treadmail, it will be put back there.

“a kid at school is faster than me, even though his name is junior,” he says. this stuff is priceless. i should literally attach an mp3 voice recorder to him (maybe to his fly). “mom, do you think he works out on the treadmail too? probably not, his hair is too short — about 2 centimeters…” hair length definitely affects aerobic ability.

“do you think i still have to do my homework?” he just asked, seven minutes into his… trot-stagger… somehow figuring that doing this work will excuse him or maybe cancel out his need to do his other work.  this is typical of Thing 3. he is an Operator. he sees around corners, ever the strategist. what’s the angle, what is in it for him…

case in point…

the other day, Thing 2, who’s in 5th grade and is a safety patrol at school announced over cheerios at breakfast that he was thinking about retiring already from his 2-week stint on post. he misses me and Thing 3 and our walks to school with The Murph. this news visibly disturbed Thing 3 as his posture made an immediate correction and he dropped some milky cheerios on his lap. being all of seven years old, he’s got his priorities and well, they’re … extremely entertaining.

so, after much deliberation by Thing 2 and a discussion with both me and his father on separate occasions and then an in-house safety patrol weekend summit that proved to dominate all our discussions, albeit without any resolution, dad and i decided that Thing 2 would absolutely have to finish out the calendar year at the duty. Thing 2 bugged us a lot to get approval for the position and he had to write an essay and learn to walk on water, so for all that water-walking training, at the dinner table before CCD one night, we demurred his request for retirement. oh, and because other kids were not selected because he wanted it. oh, one more, and because we’re not quitters.

“you wanted it then, when you wanted it. what’s the big change?” asks Thing 3.

“stay out of this! it’s none of your business!” shouts Thing 2. “now i have to go to stupid CCD…” he adds.

… he … “wanted it when [he] wanted it…” echoes in my mind.

the next morning after breakfast of eggos, veggie sausages and oj, it’s time for Thing 2 to grumble to his post.

“you know,” starts Thing 3 to Thing 2, “you should stay on as patrol. you could be captain soon.” knowing that Thing 2’s current obsession is popularity and rank and place (ever the middle child, i’m afraid). i see the wheels turning in Thing 2, but i hear the gears churning in Thing 3.

“i dunno, i don’t care. i just want to be with you and mom…” says Thing 2 wistfully.

expertly snapping at Thing 2’s other achilles heel, sugar, Thing 3 adds, “you know… they have hot chocolate on wednesdays, too… wouldn’t you miss that? better get your stuff, your patrol belt is over there…” as he gestures to the playroom door.

and i’m thinking, “what is going on? Thing 3 never cares about this stuff… unless….”

so as Thing 2 goes to get his gear near the front hall, about 20 feet away from the kitchen table, Thing 3 leans into me and says to me, in a whisper with all the confidence of a man who sells ice cream to eskimos, “he can’t leave safety patrol.” squinting my eyes, i look at him and say, “what do you care?” and he says without missing a beat, “he gets me out of school 10 minutes earlier than everyone else. i get to leave early. he has to stay a patrol.” (“here’s your ice cream ms. nanuk”)

inhaling with eyebrows aloft, i had to suppress my laughter and my awe.

right now, he’s at “31” on the treadmail. “i bet junior can’t keep up,” he says between breaths.

and Thing 2 is still a patrol.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

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