By Patricia Darak
It was just another beautiful morning at our house.
“MOM! I’m HUNGRY!” My son was rummaging in our pantry five minutes after he finished breakfast. “I’m STARVING!”
I smiled at him and pulled him close for a hug. Looking down at the top of his little head, I asked him if he wanted another plate of breakfast.
“Okay. Can you please . . .” Before I had even finished my request, he had gotten out not only the package of noodles, but also his bowl and fork. I raised my eyebrows at his speed. Impressive.
“Good job, Son. Thank you. Please go ask your sisters if they want some noodles, too.” I was speaking to the empty air because he had already dashed into the other room where the girls were.
In a flash, he had returned. “No, Mommy. They’re still eating their pancakes. They said that they’re full.” He smiled, then pointedly looked at his bowl sitting on the counter. His expression changed to one of confusion. “Where’s my noodles? I’m still starving, you know.” His lower lip started to tremble and he wrapped his arms tightly around himself. He shuddered. “Sometimes, if people are starving for too long, they die. What if I die?”
“Oh, sweetie. You won’t starve. You just finished four pancakes and two big glasses of water. You should be good for a little while, okay?” I kneeled down and placed my hands on his shoulders. “I won’t let you starve, Son. It’s my job to protect you, and letting you starve wouldn’t be protecting you, would it?” I kissed his forehead and gave him another hug. “I’m really good at my job.”
“Why? Why are you good at your job? Do you get paid lots of money?” He turned his questioning gaze upon me.
I tilted my head and pursed my lips. “No, I don’t get paid lots of money. But, I earn something way more important than money. Do you know what I’m describing?” I watched his face carefully. “Can you guess?”
“Is it gold? Do you get gold?” He waited for my answer. “I bet it’s gold.”
I sighed, then sat down cross-legged on the tile floor. “Nope. Sorry, it’s not gold. Try again.” I smiled at him, then kissed his forehead again.
“Is it diamonds and crystals? Like a pirate’s treasure? Maybe it’s treasure.” He nodded his head. “Probably treasure.”
“Uh uh. Not pirate’s treasure, but it’s something that I treasure very much.”
“No diamonds? Or crystals? Or even pirates? Nothing?” He looked distraught. “Nothing?”
“My treasure is something that you and your sisters give me for taking care of you, something that I also give to all of you and Daddy, too.”
“So, no money or gold or pirate booty? What’s left, Mommy?” He thought for a moment. “Candy?” His eyes lit up at the thought of earning massive amounts of candy. “I love candy!”
“I know you do, but it’s not candy.”
His older sister walked into the kitchen carrying her syrup-dotted empty plate. “What’s not candy? He’s not getting candy, is he? He already had sugar this morning.” She rinsed off her plate in the sink.
Her brother scowled at her. “I didn’t! I didn’t have any sugar today. Even ask Mom!” He crossed his arms across his chest. “Go ahead! Ask her!” He looked from me to his sister and back.
His sister looked at me. “Mom, why are you sitting on the floor? Did you fall?”
“No, honey, I didn’t fall. I sat down here so that your brother and I could have a serious discussion about jobs.” I looked up at the two of them, she reaching down to help me up and he still crossing his arms and scowling. I let her help me up, and I walked over to wash my hands in the sink.
She looked at us. “Why were you talking about candy?”
I laughed. “We weren’t, not really. We were talking about . . .”
Her brother, still quite put out, repeated that he most certainly DID NOT have any candy or sugar or anything of the sort. His sister explained that even though he didn’t have any candy, he already had sugar in the pancake syrup, some of which was still clumped on his cheek and in his hair.
He looked at his sister. “Oh.” That small quiet acknowledgement of the invalidity of his assumption helped us to love him a little extra just then. His sister held out her hand and asked him if he would like to go play cards. He agreed and explained to her our discussion of how I got paid for my job. She smiled at me because she knew the answer. “Love. You get paid in love. Right, Mom?”
“That’s right, sweetie. Love.” Just then, my youngest daughter called out from the dining room. “MOM! Can I have some more pancakes? I want about three hundred more, okay?”
My son’s gaze returned to his still-empty bowl on the counter. Before I could say anything, he gently patted my arm.
“It’s alright if you want to wait a little bit before you make my noodles. It’ll take you all day to make three hundred pancakes!”