Saturday morning was crisp. The skies were blue and the sun had already dried the dew from the grass where Arlo and I sat to watch Silas’ T-ball game. On our walk from the car to the field, Arlo had collected two small rocks, which, in case you didn’t know, are religious artifacts to three year-old boys. They’re worshipped, clutched and squeezed like a rosary in the hand of a dying Saint. But the toddler is also easily distracted by birds, the position of his shirt, and interesting leaves. As we watched the five year-old boys of summer fiddle with their giant mitts and fastidiously untuck their jerseys, I heard that phrase which every parent fears,
“Daddy, I dwopped my wock!”
I tried to remain calm. I didn’t want to contribute any further emotion to a situation destined to escalate exponentially until the “wock” was located. “OK, let’s find your rock.” His voice became agitated as he pointed to a section of over-grown grass next to my foot. “I dwopped it wight heuw!” He showed me the other rock in his hand, “still have one wock, but other wock disapeuw!”
I quickly ran my hand through the section of grass but the longer I searched, the more anxious be became. “Wight heuw!” There was no rock “heuw.”
I started to search more feverishly, imagining that those watching us in their peripheral vision thought I’d lost my wedding ring. I stood up and brushed myself off, hoping that the small rock had simply fallen on me and become lodged somewhere in my pants. I encouraged Arlo to do the same. Nothing. The rock was gone. I finger-combed the adjacent yard of grass and felt something hard and solid–the rock! “Oh, I found it!” I proclaimed victoriously. When I showed him my discovery, all hell broke lose. He began weep-screaming, “Dat’s not da wight wock! Dat’s not da wight wock.” Then I made a rookie mistake. I asked, “Well, can you use this rock instead?” and henceforth unleashed the fury of one million rabid bats. “NO DADDY DAT’S A DIFFUENT WOCK!”
I maintained my composure. People were watching now. The show on the sidelines had suddenly become more interesting than the one on the field. I made one more sweep of the area and found a contact lens, a Skittle, a dozen pieces of bark and something that might have been poop, but no rock.
“Well, let’s go look around for a rock that’s just like the rock you lost.” It was a Hail Mary of parenting for sure, but luckily, he agreed. And then, as if things couldn’t get worse, he announced, “I peed a widdle bit in my underweuwr, daddy.” “Ok, let me check.” I felt his pants and found them to be only a little damp. No big deal. “Do you have to pee?” I asked. “NO!” But his constant disco dance suggested otherwise. “There’s a bathroom right over there we can go to.” “I DONT HAVE TO PEE. FIND WOCK DEN PEE.”
As we continued our vision quest for the perfect rock, it became clear to me that we were looking for something very specific. Each one I offered him was either “too dawk” or “not da wight sape!” “Well, what did the rock look like, exactly?” I asked. “Wike a tiny hot dog. It wood wike a tiny hot dog daddy!” (everything is about the Mickey Mouse Club House hot dog dance these days.)
I was looking for a rock–the shape and color of a hot dog–with a child who was doing some combination of the Electric Slide and a hip hop pop ‘n lock. Did you know that no rocks look like a hot dog? They simply don’t exist–this was nature’s fault. I offered him rocks that looked like hamburgers, oatmeal and even one that looked like “the top of a lollipop.” Then I heard my other son’s coach yell, “Silas’ daddy, do you have water?” Damn, I had another kid there I’d forgotten about. So I ran back over to the field, leaving Arlo to dance alone while chanting “hot dog wock.” While I was gone, Arlo had apparently been visited by the Rock Gods who told him to “chill about the rock, bro.” In my absence, he’d found a suitable replacement relic and all was now calm except for his desperate need to pee.
Despite promising that he’d go pee after finding a rock, he insisted on returning home after the game. He told his mom that he didn’t want to pee with me because his underwear was wet. I know that doesn’t make sense because he had no further intentions to pee in his underwear, but maybe it’s kind of like not wanting to sleep in jeans. I don’t know. When he showed his mom the rocks, I said, “Check it out, one of them looks like a hot dog!” to which responded he with a look of wisdom (and slight annoyance) beyond his years. Then he disappeared to pee.
Parenting: it’s difficult and awesome.