Life with Liz: Mom’s the word
Last weekend, the kids were put to work deep cleaning the house. First up was cleaning out the cupboard that houses their extra art and school supplies. Since this cupboard is also in the breakfast nook, it does tend to become the catch-all for a lot of family detritus. On top of finding a stash of school supplies that should carry them through the rest of the year, and a mountain of spare change that they immediately squirreled into their piggy banks, they also uncovered some long-forgotten treasures.
Somewhere in our travels, the kids picked up these little conversation starter cards. I think they may have been part of a kid’s meal at some restaurant. At any rate, each card has a question like “What are your three favorite foods?” or “If you could be a superhero for a day, which one would you be?” Unlike most of the junk that they acquire in happy meals, these actually had some staying power, but after having run their initial course, had drifted to the bottom of the junk drawer.
It’s been a good many months, if not a year or two since we last ran through the questions, and some of their answers have changed. The release of a few more Avengers and Justice League movies drastically altered who wants to be what superhero, for example. Their increased awareness of geography and the world at large has changed the answer to the question if you could go anywhere in the world has expanded from places they go almost every day to places like Australia and Disney World.
Some things didn’t change at all. For example, if I had a super power, it would most likely be the ability to clean the house in an instant or cook a dinner that everyone liked every night of the week. My kids would want the ability to do their homework in an instant or have the robot do it for them. They still don’t have an answer for how they’re going to take tests when the robot is the one who did all the learning for them, but it hasn’t stopped them from wanting a homework robot.
My favorite question is the one about what three things you would take with you if you were stranded on a desert island. The first thing that intrigues me is how my kids read the question. The actual question is “what three things would you take with you to a desert island?”
G accepts the situation as a chance for adventure. He’s taking his fishing pole and camping stuff. If he does take a boat, it’s only so that he can travel easily all around the island and out to sea to catch more fish. Don’t expect him to make any effort to return to civilization, unless he runs out of bait.
A, the practical one, reads this question as if it’s an unexpected accident and his main goal is survival and getting off the island and back to civilization. The first thing he takes is a seaworthy boat. The next thing he takes is food and water and finally, either a satellite phone or fire building materials so that he can make smoke signals to attract a rescue.
A has also heard the joke that the three things you need on a deserted island are Michael Phelps, a stick and a gold medal, so to counter his very serious escape plan, he throws this in as a punchline.
E hasn’t quite watched the same genre of action/adventure/escape movies that the boys have, so her understanding of a “deserted island” isn’t quite what they understand it to be. First up are some questions, like how did we get to this island? How far is this island from the next closest island? Are we stranded on this island or did we plan to go this island, and is someone coming to get us? Is there already food on the island or does that count as one of the things we have to bring? At first the boys argue with her that she “just has to answer the question” but as she continues to try to make sense of this situation, I can tell that they’re starting to think about the answers to her questions and starting to ask some of their own.
Before we know it, dinner is long over, and we are still debating the difference between a tropical island vacation and being stranded on a round mound of sand with a lone palm tree on it. A is taking a “survival kit” which will have everything from a phone to an inflatable dinghy in it, but since it’s a kit, it still only counts as one thing. G is still wondering if a tackle box should be one of his “things” and if A’s kit counts as only one thing, he can fill his tackle box with everything he could possibly need and that will also only count as one thing.
Finally, E has finally decided on the first thing she will take with her: Mom. While I find her answer heartwarming, I am also a little sad to realize that it hadn’t even crossed the boys’ minds that I’d be part of their mishap/adventure, but I’m glad to see them embrace their independence, even if it’s only theoretical.
E has decided that we are having a mother/daughter vacation on the island, which I am happy to hear, and we are taking our swimsuits, sunglasses and books to read on the beach.
Also, by taking me, between the two of us, we can now take six things, or five, since she’s already used one thing up by taking me. For once, she readily agrees with the boys’ argument that Mom isn’t a “thing,” and she happily increased the list back to six.
Then the boys turn to the practical. How would we get off the island? What would we eat? Where would we sleep? E just says, “That’s why I’m taking Mom, she’ll take care of that.”
And for once, the boys also agree with her.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.