“I want to run something by you,” I told G. before bed the other night. “Thomas the Tank Engine, Curious George, and Cookie Monster, OK?”
G. rubbed his eyes and shut his laptop, obviously thinking this conversation might require his full attention.
I repeated the three characters. They were all in the running for J.’s next birthday party theme, and I couldn’t stop imagining them in some kind of Pokemon-like battle for dominance. “It’s Rock-Paper-Scissors, only with Thomas, George, and Cookie. Here’s what I’m thinking: Thomas could easily run over George. He could run over Cookie too, but Cookie would probably eat him first.”
“Yes. He eats non-food items all the time. He’s a crazy bastard. He would just break Thomas up into bits and nom nom nom him. So that leaves Cookie and George. Being a wily little monkey, I’m pretty sure George could elude Cookie.”
“Or distract him with cookies, or bananas or something,” suggested G.
“Yeah. So that works, right? It’s kind of lame, though, just eluding somebody. It seems like a monkey should be able to do something cooler.”
I love that my husband doesn’t bat an eye during these forays into the hypothetical. Quite the opposite: he loves them. I have heard him and his best friend discuss many hypotheticals of the nerd universe, including what they would do if they had superpowers, or what would happen if Batman and Superman were lovers. Usually I scoff, but I’ve recently realized that fleshing out the “what ifs” is actually a problem-solving strategy.
For example, now that J. is almost two, I’ve started to think about whether we should have another child, and I’m divided. On one hand, I’m barely handling all my responsibilities as it is, and I want to make sure I can meet all of J.’s needs. Both G. and I were only children, and we never suffered for it; we enjoyed the advantages. However, I don’t want to regret having only one after the opportunity has passed. And what I’m most worried I’ll regret is depriving J. of a brother or sister. Even though I’m old enough now to appreciate having been the only child, I always wished, and still wish on some level, for a sibling.
“OK, let’s imagine we both have siblings,” G. says in response to my argument. “I was supposed to have an older sister, so let’s say I have an older sister. Katherine.”
“Are you close to her?” I ask.
“Not really,” he says. “I mean, she’s OK, but she’s annoying because she was older when our parents divorced so she’s always on her high horse about our real dad, saying, ‘No, you don’t understand because you weren’t old enough…’ blah blah blah.”
I nod thoughtfully. “I always wished I had an older brother. My parents would have named him Jeremy,” I said.
“All right, so you’ve got Jeremy. You’re constantly being compared to him.”
“Don’t we like each other?” I ask, anguished.
“Yeah, you like each other, but you’re just not close anymore. You see each other for family events, and he’s got Zachary and Joshua, who are older than J., so by the time J. gets here, the novelty of grandchildren has already worn off.”
I bite my lip, not liking this situation at all. “Does J. play with them, at least? Are they close, for cousins?”
“Yeah, they play together, but remember, they’re older. And your brother’s always like, ‘Zachary, tell Grammy and Pappy about your latest chess game.’”
“You’re making Zachary and Joshua sound like dicks!” I protest.
G. shrugs. “I’m just telling you how it is with people and their siblings. Imagine if you had a younger sister, how that would be.”
I brighten a little, thinking of us being BFFs, going on wild adventures and sharing clothes and being maids of honor in each other’s weddings.
“That younger sister you have?” G. says. “Your parents have let up, since she’s the second girl, so she’s allowed to do everything you weren’t. Remember how your mom wouldn’t let you go out with J—– G—– in high school?”
I narrow my eyes threateningly. This is still a tender subject between me and my mother, even though it happened over twenty years ago.
G. says, nailing the final blow, “Your little sister is allowed to date his little brother.”
“That bitch!” I exclaim, shaking my head in disbelief. “That’s it,” I declare. “I hate our family. Our siblings are assholes.”
G. can’t help smiling. He pats my hand. “I know, honey.”