There really are no limits on the thoughtfulness of children.
“Dad, I burned my bagel. You want it?”
My wife and I had just been discussing adding a moat around the house to keep the kids away. I mean, we’re redoing the front yard anyway, and it’s always nice to include some sort of water feature.
Posh said she thought a moat might work. I argued that the kids would just download some new app that turned their smartphones into ski boats.
“Honestly, we won’t be rid of them for some time,” I warned her, at which point Posh started to cry a little.
“But if we added gators!!!” she pleaded.
Then, the little guy offers me his burned bagel. “How burned is it?” I ask. “Is it black like a Bible? Or is it more like a really rusted-out car?”
“What’s a Bible?” he asks.
“Don’t be such a wise guy,” I say.
Obviously, this is more than a bagel. It’s a beacon, a blossom. It represents a boy on the cusp, a selfless and discerning spirit. Used to be, he burned stuff and ate it anyway.
I take a big bite out of the burned bagel. The bagel appears to be smirking at me.
I’m so done with kids. Then I’m not. As my buddy Paul says: “All kids are gifts.”
“Really?” I say.
“You just can’t return them,” he explains.
Kids are, I remind my wife, the most expensive present you could ever give a person. Over the years, I’ll bet we’ve spent a million bucks to raise our four kids. Think of the baseball cards I could’ve bought with that, the condos, the bonds, the booze, the trips to Prague or Portugal.
What do I get instead? Burned bagels. Hey, it’s something.
The other night, Posh and I were on the couch waiting for the little guy to come home from the football game. He’s a ninth-grader now, and our nights of waiting up for him have just begun.
We watch a Kevin Costner flick, and then a terrific John Cusack movie in which he plays a dispirited L.A. assassin who returns to the Midwest for his high school reunion.
The parallels are obvious.
“I don’t think you’re broken,” Minnie Driver tells him. “I think you’re mildly sprained.”
I suck the vodka off my ice cubes and look over at my wife. She is falling asleep on our third son, the 300-pound beagle.
“If we added dragons, the moat would maybe work,” she mumbles.
Makes me sorry I even suggested it.
Look, moat or not, kids will always find a way into your house. Rapunzel, the second daughter, often insists that her Uber driver carry her from the car to the porch so she won’t get her feet wet in the sprinklers.
Point is, they are resourceful, these kids. Survivors. As I often tell Posh: “Even the difficulties of living in suburban America doesn’t get them down.”
The older boy is living with us too these days, as young adults often must. In his favor, he brought home the beautiful, blue-eyed husky.
I call her White Fang, as per the Jack London book — not fully a dog, not fully a wolf. But a wonderful companion when I need someone to chew up my headphones, or maybe my best leather belt. Just depends on what she’s craving.
“Look, you go to bed,” I finally tell Posh. “Dream of dragons.”
“I think I will,” she says, and shuffles off in slippers that look like baby possums.
Hours pass. The vodka vanishes.
By 11 p.m., I’m watching ESPN47, which is replaying a field hockey game in Connecticut. I notice that, despite the significance of the game, the stands are almost completely empty.
“What else could they be doing in Connecticut?” I ask the dogs.
I dish out ice cream with syrup that’s probably been in the fridge for 11 years, then give White Fang the bowl to lick. She’d prefer a nice squirrel, as wolves do, but makes this concession to a softer suburban life.
“You should have kids some day,” I say as she finishes her dessert.
“Why?” she wonders.
“Every once in a while, they’ll burn you a nice bagel,” I explain.
Not every day. Just sometimes.
Chris Erskine is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @erskinetimes.