There are moments in parenting when all the rules go out the window and only pure instinct remains. This was one of those moments.
My son Dalen climbed into bed with me, his long lanky body curling into a ball of elbows and knees that jabbed into my stomach every time he sobbed.
“Charlie said he’s never going to play ‘Crazy World’ again!” The words bubbled up with each wave of tears and got stuck in his throat.
His older brother stormed up the stairs behind him. “Mom, you can’t make me play that game. I’m too old. It’s for babies! It’s boring!”
“Get out of here! I’m talking to your brother!” I shouted.
Charlie’s eyes opened wide. This was not the voice he was accustomed to. It was the one reserved exclusively for snarling dogs and threatening strangers. Never, never for my precious children.
He mumbled a few more protests, then slumped out of my room, banging the door behind him.
When he was gone, I lifted Dalen’s chin up towards me. A lock of his too-long hair clung wetly to his face.
“We’ve been playing ‘Crazy World’ since we were babies, Mom. It’s the only thing we have in common. If he stops playing that, he’ll grow up and leave me behind.”
My boys. Two years, two months, two days, and two worlds apart.
When Charlie was 3 years old he told me that God didn’t make sense. And the part of me that agreed with him smiled and said, “I understand why you feel that way.”
When Dalen was 3 years old he told me that he could feel God all around him. And the part of me that agreed with him smiled and said, “I understand why you feel that way.”
Charlie believes in all things tangible. He views life through a lens of math and science. Dalen lives in a world of spirituality and magic. They are two boys whose only obvious bonds are the twinkles in their eyes and the freckles that pepper their cheeks.
“Crazy World” was the place where they met. In “Crazy World,” Charlie didn’t have to worry about things making any sense. Dalen could let go of the heavy weights of death and global warming for a while. In “Crazy World,” nonsense was the currency and laughter the profits.
After a long while, Dalen stopped sobbing. He lifted his head and smiled weakly. “I know, Mom! You can force him to play! Tell him that you’ll take away his Android until he promises to do ‘Crazy World’ with me.”
I thought about it for a moment. Could I? I am the mom after all. As much as I like to let my kids make their own choices, there are certainly times when it’s necessary to play my trump card. Game over. I win. Was this one of them?
“Do you think it would still be fun to play ‘Crazy World’ with Charlie if I made him play?”
He shook his head.
The door rattled and Charlie came banging back up the stairs.
“Are you guys done talking yet? The bus is going to be here any minute. I don’t want to miss it!”
He tapped his watch and grabbed his jacket from off my floor.
Dalen wiped his eyes and slumped along behind him.
I watched them from the window as they walked to the bus. Charlie moved quickly, his face firmly focused on the end of the driveway. Dalen weaved in and out of the trees, his head tilted towards the sky. The bus came squealing into the stop and both boys took off running. Suddenly, Dalen tripped on a rock and went sprawling forward. I heard him cry out. Charlie heard him too. He stopped for a moment and turned around. I saw that look on his face, the one he makes when he’s disgusted with the rest of us for being so inadequate.
He stood looking at Dalen for a moment, then turned back towards the bus. Still his feet stayed planted.
My heart pounded. Suddenly everything was riding on this moment. If he got on that bus and left his brother crying on the ground, Dalen’s already aching heart would shatter.
If I would have waited, I might have seen Charlie stop in his tracks. He might have ran back to his brother and made sure he was all right. He might have even held his hand all the way home.
But, I didn’t wait. I opened the door and yelled, “Come on, boys, I’ll drive you to school!” and they both came loping up the driveway, shoulder to shoulder, their freckles lined up in solidarity.
It was time to play the trump card. Game over. I won.