A 4-year-old has the unique ability to draw you into a conversation that seems perfectly normal at the beginning, but quickly degenerates into an "Alice in Wonderland" dialogue that resembles part fantasy, part reality.
My grandson, Cayden, is a master. When he is in the mood to chat, I find myself trapped by my own driving curiosity — after all, what is he gonna say next and what words will he slaughter? But it's a trap.
This usually happens on the drive to daycare. He is sitting in his car seat, so besides dramatic gestures, his mouth is about the only thing he can move. Last week the conversation went something like this.
It began with "Mamaw?" While it sounded innocent enough in his little munchkin voice, it's really his bait voice.
"What honey?" I answered attentively, like a good grandma. I am actually an idiot.
"I thirsty. Can I have juice?" He asked this question when we were exactly halfway to daycare, driving through acres of dry Indiana cornfields.
"I don't have any juice in this car. You can have water at school. And come to think of it, we are out of juice at home. But I'll put it on my shopping list," I assured him.
"What is a shopping wist?" He is still hit and miss on his R's and L's.
I thought for a minute. "Well, .a shopping list is a piece of paper where I write down all the things I want to remember to buy at the grocery store."
He paused to digest my definition of shopping list. "Mamaw?"
"Dowa the Expworer has a shopping wist."
This is the part where I get sucked into the world of Looney Toons, SpongeBob, and Bernstein Bears. But I have to ask the question because of my own obsessive curiosity.
"What does Dora the Explorer have on her shopping list?"
I could see his eyes in my rearview mirror. He frowned, and seemed to be thinking hard. "Well, she has noculars. And snacks. And a map. Mamaw ... are you Dowa?"
I tried to regain my grip on reality, while wallowing in my enjoyment of his version of "binoculars."
"No I am not Dora. Dora is a cartoon."
"NO SHE NOT!! Dowa is weal!"
I argued. "Dora IS a cartoon."
"She weal. ... Mamaw?"
"Pwetend you Dowa."
I have pretended to be a fish. I have pretended to be an umpire and shouted "He's SAFE" when he slid into the couch in our living room. I have been Captain Hook, SpongeBob and Patrick, a martial arts expert, a monkey, Kermit the Frog, a snake, a pizza delivery guy, his commanding army officer, and had a recurring role of a Nighlok monster from The Power Rangers. I have also pretended to be an astronaut - this part included a countdown and rocket blast off, as well as walking in slow motion while making heavy breathing sounds, collecting moon rocks and reporting back to Houston - and all of this in front of other parents who were also visiting Elwood Park with their children that day. (My husband Seth pretended that day too - he pretended he didn't know me.
But I did not want to pretend to be Dora the Explorer while driving my car at 8 a.m. I didn't want to say "hola" or "Swiper no swiping!" I just didn't.
"I don't know Dora that well. I can't be Dora."
He kicked his legs in disgust, but kept the mini-tantrum under the five-second tantrum rule. After a minute he got the faraway look in his eyes that children get when their imagination is running rampant. Again.
"Mamaw..." he began.
But we had arrived at daycare. I was safe in reality. Until the drive home.
Theresa Timmons’ column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at email@example.com.