“When I grow up I’m going to be a police officer. But you won’t have to come and visit me because I’ll come home when it’s time for dinner.”
“But how will I know when dinner is ready?”
There’s only one clear answer here, and it has nothing to do with whether or not he will still live with us when he’s old enough to be a police officer.
“You could phone us…” I offer.
“Police officers don’t have phones!” he admonishes. (Moms are so silly.) “I’m not going to live at the police station.”
I get a glimpse of what he imagines for his grown-up life – the excitement of a career based on what he’s gleaned from LEGO videos and the hint of his small-boy brain imagining himself always living with mom and dad.
I suggest an alternative: “You could have a mobile phone like mine and like Daddy’s that you could take with you.”
I could explain about growing up and moving out, but I don’t want to burst the protective bubble of his imaginary adulthood. I don’t want to push away the world in which I get to be the mama to this little boy.
A mobile phone sounds like an acceptable option. He mumbles in agreement, but he’s not done thinking it through.
“Actually, I guess I’m going to have to live at the police station.”
He’s sitting behind me as I drive out to my parents’ place, where he’s going for a sleepover. I catch pieces of him in the rearview mirror – pensive eyes as he’s thinking, his hair framed by the top of his booster seat. Only pieces, but in this moment I see him clearly.
“Why’s that?” I ask.
“How else am I going to know when there are bad guys to catch?”
I follow his train of thought and picture him in a police uniform sitting by a phone waiting for the call.
Officer Connor, there’s a bad guy out there. You need to go get him.
“Is that how you’ll know there are bad guys out there? Someone will phone and tell you?”
Of course it is. He doesn’t question this as proper protocol; he has no reason to see my question as an indication that perhaps that might not be how it works.
I let it be, of course. He lives in a world where things will be as he imagines them, and I live in a world where I get to see beauty and innocence by not suggesting otherwise.