I was feeling kind of sorry for my boy as he got dressed this morning and prepared to get into the car with his sisters and mother so they could all attend a home-school convention in town today. I knew he had no idea what he was getting into. He had no concept of how long he was going to have to sit, patiently waiting through boring lectures, or how many miles he would walk holding onto the loop of his mother’s purse as they wandered through aisles of booths filled with curriculum books and plastic coated flash cards. Kind women with their hair done up in buns would spend the day leaning down to adjust his collar and smile about how cute he was.
I pictured him leaning dazed against the wall, sometime mid afternoon, under a drinking fountain, getting some brief moment of hope as a young boy in cowboy boots walks up. Gideon would introduce himself, they would talk about boots for a moment. Things would start to look bright. “Would you like to play?” But no. A few seconds later the boy in boots would be pulled away to join his thirteen older brothers and sisters in a lecture titled something like “Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day: Why the first ten things your children learn each morning are the only things they will ever remember, so don’t mess this up”.
I was a little sad, just thinking about him having to endure it all. But, now he was only a little boy giggling on the couch and asking again if I was going with them.
“Sorry, I can’t do that,” I told him with a frown. “I have to go to work today. But I don’t have to work tomorrow and maybe we can do something fun together.”
He stretched his mouth into a straight-lipped understanding smile.
“Anyway, do you have a toy you are going to take with you to the conference today? I heard mom say she would let you bring one thing to play with while you are there.”
“Oh, Yes!” he launched himself into the air and when he came back down he pushed his fist deep into the pocket of his pants. “I am taking THIS!”
He held out his hand. In his palm was a small plastic egg, one half of it was pink and the other half blue and it had a seam around the center where it could be pressed open.
“What?” I asked, obviously unimpressed.
“It’s an egg container.”
“Uh huh… I see.”
“And inside, there is THIS!” He popped the egg in half and shook out a purple stone about the size of his thumb.
“Yeah!” and he leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “It’s a rock, but also it is gum.”
I stared down at the collection of items in his hand and then back up at him. His face was frozen in a look of genuine pride. “Yes. That’s very nice, but… Okay, little man, you are going to be at this place with Mom for a very long time today. Like, all day long. It’s going to be like being in church, except probably even more boring. Don’t you want a transformer or something?”
His face changed into confusion as if I weren’t completely paying attention. “No. Did you know about this though?” He carefully placed the purple piece of bubble gum back inside the egg and pressed it closed. Then he held it up by his ear. “If you shake it, it does this.” He rattled it around a few times to demonstrate. “You hear it?”
“… neat.” I pat him on the shoulder. “So, um, you’re sure you don’t want to take one of your little cars or something maybe?”
He shrugged. “Nah, I’m fine.” He held up the egg. “I’ve got this.”
I pulled him in for a hug. “Well, good luck, little man.”
He stuffed his prize back into his pocket and rocketed out the door behind his sisters.