The conversation seemed straight forward enough.
Christmas is coming, and not only do we need to consider the all-important LIST for Santa we also have to consider making room in Ittybit's room for the things she hopes he'll bring.
In the past I've waited until the dark of night when she's soundly asleep to spirit away all the toys she appears to have abandoned.
The act, in preschooler terms, is eerily similar to an alien abduction. If she notices the disappearance during the next few days, the hapless toy returns. If it goes undetected, the toy disappears forever.
This time, however, I thought I'd make an attempt at including her in the process. Together, I imagined, we’d cull her collection, and she'd get a chance see what how good toy donation philanthropy can feel.
But for one little notation — the potential of sending the toys in the best condition to children in Iraq, children with nothing not even mommies and daddies — the exercise might have ended in buckets of tears over having to relinquish so many never-loved trinkets in order get The Jolly Old Elf to procure some new baubles, which will undoubtedly face the very same fate.
"What do you mean 'NO mommies?'," she asked with alarm.
"Well, honey. There are all different kinds of families," taking a deep breath and preparing to list all the types of families there are in the world.
I didn't expect her to be terribly surprised. She's got friends who don't have daddies. She knows others who have two mommies. She has dipped a toe in discussions of divorce and death, and, though she doesn’t have an adult's understanding of either concept, she seems comfortable with our repeated explanations.
But what she wasn't prepared to discuss was an inevitability most all families face — a time in the foreseeable future when our kids move out.
"What do you mean, Move Away?"
"One day, when you’re all grown, you will probably move away and want to start a family of your own."
"But you are my family. I want to stay with you."
How do you explain to a tiny tot that there will come a time when they will fight tooth and nail to get away? That there will come a time when they will load that 'stupid chest of drawers' — the one that pinched their fingers when they were trying to get at their jammies — onto a truck and haul it away to a new apartment? The day is coming when they will beg to take the small TV, or a pot and pan, or maybe we’ll go shopping for a set they can call their own. How do you explain to a tot that all this parenting stuff is supposed to lead just that, an empty nest?
"But I don't want to go to another family. I. Want. To. Stay. With. You."
How do I explain that what she loves and can't be separated from today will drive her crazy and require gaining freedom from only a few years down the road?
I suppose I can't.
"You are not going anywhere for a long time. You are stuck with us until you don't want to be. ... How's that?"
"Good! I want to stay with you and daddy and baby Champ forever and ever and ever. ... Now can you ask Santa to bring me a REAL KITTY?"