“For Me” by Stephanie Laterza
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Stephanie Laterza teaches her son a lesson in semantics.
My son Martin is still learning to grasp the concepts of you and me. Adding to the confusion is the fact that I, like many parents, often refer to myself in the third person—for example, when I say, “Mommy loves you very much,” or, “Mommy’s not happy you pushed Jamie at school.” And Martin often refers to himself in the third person, like when I tell him the Dora the Explorer guitar I’m wrapping in the den isn’t for him.
“That’s for Marty,” he says, flattened palm to his chest.
“No, it’s for Nina. Her birthday’s on Saturday. We’re going to her party with games and cake and treats.”
“I want treats,” he says, lowering his sweet round chin and raising his coy blue eyes. He points to himself again. “I want treats.”
“Okay, then let Mommy finish wrapping the present for Nina’s party.”
“That’s for Marty,” he reminds me.
I sigh. I’ll just keep the guitar in the den till Saturday.
Then there’s the matter of sharing. On the train ride home, Marty eats his raisins for about three quiet minutes. At some point, he reaches into the box and sticks a raisin to the tip of his index finger.
“For me,” he says, offering me the raisin.
“For Mommy?” I ask. “Thank you!”
He reaches into the box again.
“You can say for you when you give it to Mommy, honey.”
“For me, for me!” he insists, balancing the raisin on his fingertip until I take it.
I smile. I suppose he’ll learn the difference eventually. Day care isn’t for nothing, after all.
Then there’s the morning routine. I get Marty ready for his commute to day care with my husband. After changing Marty’s training pants, finding matching socks, and pulling on his least tight jeans with a matching shirt, I turn on Sesame Street in the living room. In the meantime, I fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my husband to share with Marty on the train. After a few minutes, Marty, like his mother, grows tired of Elmo. (I was a child of the ’80s, when Elmo was only a minor character and the rest of the Muppets rode the subway and jammed in nightclubs with Hoots the Owl.) Marty wanders over to the windowsill facing the alleyway where we hear the whistle of our neighbor’s tea kettle and our basement neighbor practicing scales on his trumpet. Marty finds an old silver sugar bowl that was a wedding gift from my husband’s aunt in Germany. It appears the last time I used it was during my in-laws’ visit last winter because the remaining sugar has crystallized and turned green. I can’t remember if I had made green sugar for cookies around that time or whether the sugar turned green because of a chemical reaction in the silver bowl. Either way, the discolored sugar makes me nervous, and it is at this moment, of course, that Marty insists on stirring it and trying to feed it to himself and to me.
“For me,” he says, holding up the little silver spoon containing a chunk of emerald sugar.
“Honey, no,” I start to say. I am careful not to say for you—not only because I don’t want to eat the green sugar, but more importantly because I don’t want to risk giving Marty the impression that I want him to eat it.
“For me,” he repeats, a cry in his voice now as he continues holding up the spoon.
I bend down and make chewing chipmunk sounds as I pretend to eat from the spoon. Marty laughs.
“Thank you,” I say.
“For you,” he says, lifting the spoon to his mouth.
“No!” I say, grabbing the spoon just as he is about to put it on his lips.
“Honey, you didn’t eat the green sugar, did you?”
“No,” he says.
Just to be sure, I wipe his mouth with my sleeve cuff.
“Why don’t we finish watching Sesame Street?” I ask, motioning toward the couch.
“For me,” he says, returning to the game. Again he reaches into the bowl and lifts the spoon to my face. The trumpet shrieks from the alley.
I sigh and hold him close. Again I make the chipmunk chewing noises and pretend to eat the emerald sugar from the spoon. Marty giggles.
For you, I think.
STEPHANIE LATERZA’s poetry is currently featured in Literary Mama and San Francisco Peace and Hope and has appeared in Meniscus Magazine. She lives in New York with her husband and son. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @Stefani1218.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jan 6, 2015
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