Noah is on the line with me. He called from daycare at the end of his school day.
“I’ll explain when I pick you up in an hour or so.”
“But dad, you could pick me up at Stelios’ house instead.”
“No. Now hang up, Noah. We’ll talk about it when we’re together.”
“It sucks, I really wanted to…”
“Noah! Hang up. See you later.”
I can hear him muttering as the line goes dead. I hate arguments, of any kind, but the one’s with Noah get every scale of my reptilian brain going crazy. I get angry, sad, authoritarian and whiny all at once.
I go all PMS.
I have nothing against Noah’s friend, Stelios: he’s a good kid with a great single mom. But he walks home from school, a long walk. And Noah is never-ever-ever without adult supervision. Particularly walking to somebody’s house that he doesn’t know the way to, without a phone, without a penny in his pocket and without my having had a conversation with the other kid’s mom.
Funny how this subjecthas come up repeatedly over the last little while. A friend, a guy without kids, marveled that I would not leave Noah on his own at home when I went out Friday nights.
“But he’ s just ten….” I protest.
“Exactly, he’s already ten. And he’s mature.”
My friend grew up in a Tunisian village where everybody was constantly aware of everybody else. Hardly our situation in an apartment in a densely populated neighborhood of a big city.
When I finally get to Noah’s school he’s got a dark brooding look. The kind that scales my reptilian scales. I fight my baser instincts and smile at him.
“Hi kid. How was your day?” I sparkle with determined good humor.
He shrugs. “Okay, I guess.”
We step out in the -20 Celsius winter.
“Dad, can we get a taxi?”
“But dad, I’m too cold like to walk all the way home.”
But it wasn’t too cold to walk to your buddy’s house now was it? That’s what goes through my mind and bangs against the inside of my teeth. I tighten my lips to hold back the words.
“Walk quicker, move your arms and breathe through your nose. It’ll help.”
“Tsk tsk…. keep your mouth closed, or your teeth will freeze.”
He throws me a suspicious look.
“Seriously, and the cold air goes straight into your lungs without being warmed by your nose… it can hurt your chest so bad that it feels like a heart attack.”
Now he’s interested. Sweet. Something else I learned raising a small kid. Change the subject, show them a shiny new object and suddenly the most important thing in the world is forgotten.
“Yeah, it’s happened to me before in winter. Scary, man. Even when you’re young it freaks you out.”
“Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh.” He clutches his chest and simulates a cardiac incident.
“That’s pretty much what it looks like.”
Damn it’s cold!
“Dad? About Stelios.”
Here we go again. I restrain the urge to preemptively silence him.
“Yeah, you know…I hate to say this…”
He looks up at me…. I frown down at him.
“… but I know why you said no and like I’m sorry I called you when you were like working.”
I grab his shoulders and give him a quick hug.
“You’re a great kid.”
And mature, too.