My husband, Justin, and our four-year-old son, Evan, share a special bedtime ritual. This smart, or perhaps lazy, mommy outsourced the nightly bathing routine that precedes bedtime to dear ol’ dad early on in the parenthood days. After the bath, complete with teeth brushed and hair blow-dried, our son likes to get his remaining energy out by dancing around his room and singing at the top of his lungs. It is after this spectacle that I enter stage right and we say his night-night prayers. Not the “now I lay me down to sleep” variety, but real prayers where we ask God to bless our family and friends and all those suffering in the world. I also ask God, perhaps a little too emphatically, to please let us sleep all night long with no interruptions-please, please, please.
After this, I exit stage left and Justin and Evan have about 10-15 minutes of time where they lay in the dark and hash out the day’s events. I take Evan to preschool and pick him up at the end of the day to come home, so these few moments of father-son time before bed are special to them both. It usually produces funny little gems about the happenings of Evan’s day and some new expression he picked up from a knowledgeable child at preschool. One recent night’s conversation produced the mother of all gemstones, which shall become legend in our family and discussed for all of eternity.
After saying Evan’s prayers and kissing him goodnight, I flopped on my bed and crashed for the evening. I knew I had only a few precious hours until my son inevitably woke me up in the middle of the night. Excuses include his leg hurting, being too cold or too hot, being thirsty, wondering what kind of cake he will have for his birthday and wanting to tell me that his pillow smells good. Justin and I would think his various excuses for waking us up were humorous if we weren’t so sleep deprived.
This particular evening, after 20 minutes or so had passed, I began to wonder what was taking Justin so long to end his and Evan’s nightly conversation/sing-along. I hoped he had not fallen asleep in our son’s twin size bed, because the extraction process would be Mission Impossible level difficult.
A few minutes later, Justin came barreling through our bedroom door bent over double from laughing so hard. Tears ran down his face and he could barely catch his breath as I sat there incredulous, just waiting for him to fill me in. I love a good soul-cleansing laugh more than just about anything in the world, so I waited with much anticipation.
Justin finally caught his breath enough to tell me in gasps that in the quiet darkness of his bedroom, our four-year-old had mustered up the courage to ask his daddy a big boy question-why do women have breasts? My eyes flew open and I was surprised by the question and also impressed that he felt it important to wait to have father-son time to have that discussion. I chuckled and asked Justin how he responded. He said, “I answered him truthfully. I said, son, back in the days of Jesus they didn’t have grocery stores, so women had to make milk in their breasts to feed their babies.”
Now, there are few times in my life where I have laughed so hard that I have peed a little in my pants. This was one of those rare moments. He hadn’t finished saying “back in the days of Jesus” before I lost it. This caused Justin to go into another round of hysterics and we sat on the bed for several minutes with tears running down our faces and our stomach muscles screaming for us to stop. Every time we looked at the other, we would start again. Finally, we both calmed down and took deep breaths. Well, I said, what was his response to that? Justin replied that Evan nodded his head knowingly, as if that all made perfect sense. Evan then asked, “Does Mommy still have milk in her breasts?” This caused another round of hysterics as that well had run dry years ago. Justin told Evan that I didn’t need to feed him that way anymore, so the milk had dried up. Evan then smiled knowingly, grinned and said “No more milk in breasts now that there are grocery stores on every corner.” How much more laughing could our poor bodies take before they shut down?
For the first time in a while, we all slept well that night. Evan’s curiosity was sated and the laughter had served as a much-needed stress relief for me and Justin. It was bittersweet to realize that our son was growing up and starting to question the way bodies work. It was also touching to know that he was starting to realize there are certain conversations that may be best for a boy to have with his father.
If you missed the passage in the Bible about breasts and lack of grocery stores, don’t worry. Some things are just supposed to be inferred!