Wilson was not expecting to get bagels. He protested as we pulled out of the driveway, having assumed that we would all be getting out after coming home from church. But I love Anna, and I know that putting a Eve down with Wilson around is a team sport.
As we waited for our order, Wilson peeled open a copy of the Daily Reflector that was on the table. I pointed him towards the comics. There were Woodstock and Snoopy’s familiar faces. So was some non-plussed cat named Garfield and an unintelligible Dagwood comic.
On the short drive home, I didn’t put any music on, not really thinking. Wilson gazed in silence at the passing trees and office parks.
A mile down the road, he said, “Can you play that song please, Daddy?”
“The Charlie Brown song.”
“The one with the voices?”
“Of course, buddy.”
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
The song ended as we pulled in.
If I were to describe Wilson’s mood recently, it would be “hangry.” He is amidst a peak in his use of angry, provocative words. If your baby sister is gaining even more attention as a result of her own milestones, your brain is nearly always on overdrive, and you’re hungry AND very opinionated about what you like, out might come some dire language and gestures. And they do.
Which is why his question made me stop. Though he’d had his first seasonal viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas the previous afternoon, I didn’t see the request coming. A part of me imagines it’s tough for him to decipher Vince Guaraldi’s masterpiece as a three year old. It’s a mostly lyric-free conveyance of mood. An upbeat Christmas. A pensive Christmas. A bossa nova Christmas(!). Only two songs on the album have vocals, and two aren’t even about Christmas. (Three if you count “Linus & Lucy.”)
A flowing, easy sense of love and peace and shared experiences is what the album brings up for me. I now wonder if the same is true for him. Maybe it isn’t tough at all.
Tonight we ate, again, with our hangry Wilson. Even chicken nuggets were a real effort. I am working on my reaction in those moments. It is deeply personal work.
What does he need? In addition to eating that nugget, he needs a father who’ll bring joy, peace, and sense of wholeness—not someone who will simply transpose their stress or rigid expectations onto him. But how?
Our dinner ended abruptly, as they seem to do more frequently these days. I thought about it more upstairs as he yelled “LUNCH BREAK! LUNCH BREAK!” (origin unknown) from the toilet. What was I going to bring when it was time to get him changed and in bed?
I had no idea. In the moment, I opted to defuse with tickling and then sit on his bed. Having not thought out my plan past then, I spied his Mr. Rogers book of poetry and picked it up.
“No Daddy. I do not want you to read that.”
I thumbed “It’s You I Like.” I don’t know all the words, but there they were! I SANG that song. That made me feel so good that I went ahead and SANG It’s a “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and then I took a risk and SANG “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?”
In the meantime, our son who told me today that “I’m thankful for Mommy and Daddy and Eve. And I’m thankful for fireworks, fire trucks, and ambulances” put his PJs on with zero fuss.
Then he came and joined me. “Is there music in that book?”
“Well, there are words to the music from Mr. Rogers’s TV show.”
“Well, someone watched the shows and wrote all the words down so people could remember them.”
“How about we sing one more?”
It's such a good feeling
To know you're alive.
It's such a happy feeling:
You're growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
"I think I'll make a snappy new day." (snap snap)
It's such a good feeling,
A very good feeling,
The feeling you know