F (whispering in the dark house through a crack in his bedroom door): I’ll check, Cory.
C: Be very quiet. Do you see a leprechaun?
Daddy, still in bed, thinks, “Oh, no.” After a bit more whispering and exploring a house sporting only their decorations, they crawl into bed with Daddy and Papa.
F: Daddy, do leprechauns only come at night?
C: Shhhh, Fisher, maybe they could still come if we just fall asleep for a little while.
P: That’s right.
D: Some leprechauns come during the day, Fisher. They are called “day leprechauns.”
F: Will day leprechauns come during this day?
D: They might. We’ll see. Sometimes leprechauns come at night, and sometimes they come during the day.
C (later in the morning): Can you please work from San Francisco or a coffee shop so that the day leprechauns will come today?
F: I hope some day leprechauns come today.
C: Me, too.
Day leprechauns? Really? Necessity is the mother of invention.
D (at bedtime): One thing I did this weekend to make my mind stronger is to watch that video about our ears and how they turn air vibrations into sound.
C: I watched that video, too!
D: Wasn’t that cool?
C: Your ear has that brain in it that moves when it hears sounds.
D: Yah, that kind of thing is called a membrane, but the one in your ear people just call an eardrum. It…
C: It just moves when sound comes on it, and then there is that twisty thing, I don’t know what it’s called, it goes in a circle, like a shell, and did you know what? It has hairs in it!
D: I know. Crazy, right? And those hairs help turn the movement of your eardrum into little beats that your brain can understand. All of those things in your ear make it possible for you to hear.
C: I liked that movie.
D: Me, too.
F: Daddy, how does your nose tell your eh, uh, um brain that there is a smell? Do the hairs in your nose help like the hairs in your ears?
D: Well, you know what, I don’t know as much about the sense of smell. I don’t think your nose hairs have much to do with it, though. But, that’s a very good question. I didn’t see a section at the Exploratorium about the sense of smell. Let’s look next time, okay?
F: Okay. (Pause.) But, how does your nose tell your brain there is a smell?
D: Well, I would bet there are special cells in your nose that know when something is drifting up from, let’s say a flower, that those cells turn into signals that your brain knows are certain smells.
F: A part of the flower goes in your nose?
D: A teeny weeny part, yes. Otherwise, your nose wouldn’t be able to smell it.
F: So, something goes from the flower up into your nose and then you smell it?
D: Basically, yes.
F: Does that mean that when you smell dog poop, some of the dog poop is in your nose?
D (knew it): Yes, yes it does.
F: I don’t want dog poop in my nose!
D: Nobody does. But, that might be how you know dog poop is around. Because it smells. Would you rather have a lot of dog poop on your foot or a teeny weeny bit of dog poop in your nose?
F/C (grossed out but laughing): On my foot!
This year, Daddy has tried to mix up the “lay down two minutes” discussion before bedtime, maybe once a week or so.
The first few times, they needed a lot of prompting to understand. In particular, they asked why doing something nice or generous had anything to do with the heart. Daddy explained that people are a little silly: “They just say that being nice has to with your heart, but it really all happens in your brain, everything you think and everything you feel happens in your brain, but people just say that things that you feel happen in your heart. That’s just what people say. So, let’s go with it, okay?” “Okay, Daddy.”
D (at bedtime): But before we go to bed, I do have something to tell you. There is something that I do want to tell you. Today I did something that made me strong in my body.
F: What, Daddy?
D: I ran almost three miles. That’s pretty good for me right now. That helped my body get a little stronger. Fisher, did you do something to make yourself strong in your body?
F: Yes. I ran three laps around the blacktop, and I did PE.
D: That’s awesome. Did that make you feel strong in your body?
F: Um, I think so.
D: Cool. Cory, did you do something today to make your body strong?
C: Well, I sat out at PE because my tummy was hurting, so, and I didn’t run three laps at the Y, so…
D: Did you eat something that’s really good for your body?
C: Broccoli at dinner.
D: That’s a good answer. Broccoli is very good for your body.
D: I did something today that helped make me strong in my mind. I wrote a few things. They weren’t long pieces, but I wrote a few stories. Writing down stories helps you to be strong in your mind. It does for me at least.
C: But, Daddy, I can’t write stories yet.
D: Oh, yes, you can, you goose. I’ve read your stories. Your stories aren’t as long as Daddy’s yet, but they will be. Fisher, did you do something today that made you strong in your mind?
F: Yes. I did some math. I did a lot of math today. Did you know that…what is 110 minus 1, Daddy? It’s 109!
D: You did that math problem today?
F: Yes! It made me very strong in my mind.
D: So, so awesome, Fisher. Now, Cory, what did you do to make yourself strong in your mind today?
C: I did a lot of math today, too.
D: What kind?
C: I did a lot of pluses and minuses. I’m getting better at it, but I still use my fingers.
D: That’s okay. You won’t have to use your fingers eventually. You just have to practice.
D: I also did something today that made me stronger. Someone at work wrote something for her job, and even though it isn’t my job to help her make what she wrote better, I did. She is a pretty good writer, but she hasn’t practiced writing about the law as much as I have. So, I helped her with that. Being nice to her and helping her out like that made me strong in my heart today. That felt good. Cory, did you do something that made you strong in your heart today?
C: Yes. When Fisher made some oopsie-do’s on his paper and scribbled on his legs and lost his chocolate chips, I gave him mine. I got three chocolate chips, and I gave him two. So, Fisher had more than I did. He had two from me, and I only had one left.
D: You know what, Cory? Giving Fisher your chocolate chips after the writing exercise made you super strong in your heart. I was so proud of you for doing that. (Squeezing her.) And, Fisher, did you do…
F: Yes. After Cory lost her um, er, uh chocolate chips for answering my questions for me when we were reading The Magic Faraway Tree, I gave her some of my chocolate chips just like she did for me.
C: Thanks, Fisher.
D (squeezing him): That made you very strong in your heart, Fisher.
F: That was so good to give my sister chocolate chips because she was sad, right, Daddy? And I don’t want my sister to be sad.
C: And, I don’t want my brother to be sad, either.
D: If you make each of your heart, your mind, and your body a little bit stronger every day, you will be a better, happier, more balanced person. I’m glad that I did something today to make me stronger in my body, stronger in my mind, and stronger in my heart. That means it was probably a good day.
C: I had a good day, too, Daddy.
F: Me, too!
D: That’s great, guys. That’s great.
They are getting the hang of it. Daddy launches into the last song of the night.
Daddy heads over to catch some of the twins’ after-school soccer practice.
First, Fisher, then Cory, stands smiling and waving to the sideline. Coach Danielle calls out, “Cory, pay attention! Your daddy is here to watch soccer, but you have to pay attention to play soccer.” She starts explaining rules to the Swiper game. One kid has the ball and has to move it around within an area marked off by blue “cones.” Cory starts mugging to Daddy. The other kid tries to get the ball away. Fisher keeps glancing between Daddy and Coach Danielle, occasionally waving over. The object is for the person with the ball to keep her or his body between the ball and the “swiper,” which is apparently a character from Dora the Explorer.
As Coach Danielle finishes up the explanation, Cory starts attempting cartwheels. Daddy points sternly toward Coach Danielle, keeping his surprise at the improvements in her cartwheel off his face. She just smiles and keeps cartwheeling.
CD: Cory, pay attention! You won’t be able to play this game well if you don’t listen.
After a few minutes, the kids’ roles in the game will switch. Cory plays Swiper well enough, although she’s a better swiper than defender, probably because defense requires constant attention, and her attention is split between the ball she’s protecting and Daddy. Fisher is better focused. The kid he’s paired with can’t get close to that ball.
Coach Danielle ends that game and starts explaining Musical Soccer Balls. Cory runs over for a kiss.
D: You need to pay attention, Cory. Coach Danielle is explaining the new game.
C: Hi, Daddy!
One fewer balls than people will be in the center of the circular area inside the blue cones. When Coach Danielle yells “go!”, everyone will race to get a ball. The odd person out will have to swipe a ball to get one. Whoever has no ball after ten seconds (counted aloud) is out. Whoever wins every round will be crowned king or queen.
The first round starts. Cory is mugging to Daddy as she runs around the circle of blue cones, brimming with overconfidence. “Go!” Because she’s not paying close attention, she’s the last to get a ball, but a particularly aggressive little boy immediately takes it away from her. Her face falls. She tries to tell Coach Danielle that the kid didn’t play fair, but Danielle’s too busy counting to judge fair (which his steal was). She runs around crestfallen trying to get a ball away from anyone. Fisher and the others fend her off. Ten seconds pass.
CD: Cory, you’re out.
Cory runs over to the side where Daddy is sitting. The next round starts.
C (tearing up): But, Daddy, that wasn’t fair! Rostic just took that ball away from me before she started to count. It was my ball.
D: Cory, the whole point of the game is to get a ball and block the swiper from taking it from you.
C: But, the swiper part didn’t start yet. He just took my ball before…
D: Cory, that’s the point of the game. You have to keep your ball and not let the others get it.
C (tearing up more): But, that wasn’t fair…
D (arm snaking around her): Cory, there are no tears in soccer. (As if Daddy would know.) Did Rostic hurt you? (She shakes her head, against Daddy’s shoulder, “no”.) Did you hurt yourself? (More “no” shaking.) Then, there is no cause for tears.
C (hiding her face behind hair and against Daddy’s shoulder): But, I really wanted to…
D: I know, Bee Girl. Next time. But, you know what, if someone takes the ball away from you in soccer, you can’t just cry, no, no. Because the person who took the ball away from you will know, aha!, if I just get that ball away from Cory, she’ll start crying and I’ll be the winner. Do you want them to think that?
C: But, he wasn’t playing fair, Daddy.
D: I kind of think he was, but even if he wasn’t, you can’t get upset. You have to keep going.
C: Can I tell the coach?
D: I wouldn’t, not unless you are hurt. I would just keep trying. Sometimes things aren’t fair in soccer, and it’s probably better not to tell the coach about every little thing.
C: But, that wasn’t fair.
D: Not everything in soccer is fair, but there’s no crying in soccer just the same, Cory Bee, not unless you are truly hurt. Are you truly hurt?
C (quietly): No.
D: Then, if you can, try to let some things just be unfair. Let them roll off your back. (Walking fingers down her back.) And instead of crying, just smile and soccer on. Okay?
She stares off, thinking. During this whole back and forth, Daddy watches Fisher concentrate, get a ball every time, and protect it like a dog with a bone. He’s declared the King of Swiper, standing there awkwardly, looking at Daddy, while everyone claps for and looks at him. Daddy smiles over.
Coach Danielle grants a water break, calls everyone back together, and starts explaining the next game. Cory and Fisher stand staring over at Daddy. Cory picks her lip, while Fisher waves again. Cory throws in another cartwheel.
CD: Cory! Fisher! Pay attention.
Clearly messing with their soccer mojo, Daddy packs up and waves as he heads out. Later that night, they report that the subsequent soccer match ended in 2-2, with Cory scoring both of the goals for her team and Fisher scoring one of his team’s two. Daddy suspects that had he stayed, none of that would have happened, although there would have been a few more cartwheels.
A neighbor, who took the kids to Science Night at their school with her own daughter, should either be profusely thanked for a resounding success of an evening or arrested for doing lines of coke with two small children.
C: …and there was a sheep’s or a lamb’s tongue and it was long. It was from here to here. (Gesturing.) And it was really long. I don’t know whether it was a sheep’s tongue or a lamb’s tongue, but it was this big. And, we touched it. I think it was a lamb’s tongue, Daddy, but maybe it was a sheep’s tongue. I don’t know. We had gloves on, but we touched it. It has taste buds on the top and on the sides…(more gesturing)…but it doesn’t have taste buds on the bottom when we touched it. And…
C: …can I tell you something? We touched a lamb’s heart! It was a heart. It was all red and disgusting and it didn’t look like a heart because…
F: Cory’s right, Daddy…
C: …it was like this (gesturing) and this (more gesturing), but not…
F: …it didn’t look like a heart, and it was…
C: …like this. And we put our…
F: …red. It was very red. I didn’t want to…
C: …our hands inside the heart! Inside it, Daddy, and…
F: …touch it, but I did touch it.
C: …and we touched where the blood pumps out…
F: The lamb already died.
C: …when it was pumping, but it wasn’t pumping when we touched it…
F: Yah, because the lamb already died when we touched that heart.
C (patting her side): …and we touched the thing right here…
F: Oh, yah, we touched a lamb’s…
C: …it’s the thing right here…
C: …the lamb’s kitney. It wasn’t red like the heart was. It was brownish or something, but it was kind of gooey and we touched an eyeball! And the parent just…
F: There were lots of eyeballs, Daddy, and the parent…
F/C: Cut it open!
C: And stuff like water, but kind of not like water, just poured out, and…
F: It kind of felt like a grape, Daddy. But, the heart…
C: …the sheep’s tongue had taste buds on the top and on the sides, but not on the bottom. It wasn’t rough on the bottom…
F: …didn’t feel like the kitney. The kitney was…
D (smiling, emphasizing the “d”): Kidney.
C: Because it didn’t have taste buds on the bottom, Daddy, and…
F: The kidney wasn’t as bumpy.
C: …it was this long, I didn’t know a tongue could be that long. It was really long. Are our tongues that long, Daddy? (Another breath.) And when…