Just saying

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 15, 2015 8:30 PM

When Justin was little, we had several rituals we developed in order to avoid what we called “the meltdown.” During the summer months especially he would run himself ragged, literally, playing outside with his friends. They’d start early and race around the yard, or go to the park and race around there. They’d ride their bikes, build forts, go to the moon, and that was just before lunch.

We’d have him come in around six, for dinner. Sometimes a buddy would come with him, but usually it was just him. To take a bath, to relax a little, maybe just veg in front of a Disney movie, eat his mac n’ cheese or cheese burger or cheese pizza; chicken fingers or corn dogs and fries, washed down with milk. Or Justin’s wine. We never wanted him to feel like he was less than we were, just because he was little. He always sat at the table with us when we entertained. He was always part of the conversation. All of our friends always included him, talked to him. Most importantly, listened to him. Kevin and I always have wine with dinner. Naturally, he couldn’t have wine, so we bought him sparkling cider. Justin’s wine. There were always several bottles in the wine rack. When he had a friend sleep over, they always had Justin’s wine with dinner.

After a hard day of playing, he would need a bath or a shower. We could never just spring the concept of bedtime on him because that would lead to shrieks and wailing. After he got himself clean and into his pajamas, he always came back downstairs to watch a little more TV. He’d bring his pillows and his Simba blanket and curl up on the floor next to Maguire. Sometimes Maguire was the pillow. About 30 minutes before bedtime, we’d start a countdown. If we eased into when it was time for him to go to bed, it was easier. We avoided meltdown.

“Thirty minutes, buddy,” was the first announcement.

“Next commercial, brush and flush,” was the next announcement.

Brush and flush became the mantra for years. It’s all we’d have to say to make sure that he brushed his teeth and went to the bathroom before bed. Then he could come back downstairs after brush and flush and watch a little more TV. We had it down to a science. We also used it before he went off to school or whenever we were going on a trip so that we knew he had clean teeth and an empty bladder. It worked for years. Occasionally when he’s home now, we’ll joke and say the same thing. It always gets a big laugh.

We have a new mantra now for our new ginger boy, Riley.

Riley is an odd duck. We love him to pieces, but he’s weird. He loves to go on walks but he never goes to the bathroom during the walk. It’s very un-dog-like. We have an area off the garage that’s fenced in. It’s not very big and it’s not very finished – it’s still dirt and enclosed with chicken-wire fence – but it’s where he has learned to go. In the morning, it’s the first place we visit. Throughout the day, whenever he leaps the steps and sits on the landing by the garage door, we know we need to visit the Cooper Area, so named because it was originally envisioned for Cooper.

Whenever Riley uses his outside time to pee and poop, we are delighted to announce P–squared. We do it with flourish. We’re like proud parents whose kid has learned to use the toilet.

We all develop little sayings that keep us functioning, shorthand sayings that allow us to communicate quickly and succinctly. Brush and flush. P–squared. I do find it interesting that the sayings we’ve developed have to do with our boys’ toilet habits.

But I guess we need to go with the flow.

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