Jake is getting used to a nightly chat with Daddy post-bathtime. Mommy gets ready for bed and Jake comes into my office (where I am usually working on something useless) then announces he wants to play, or talk or roll around on the floor.
Tonight, he came in and toll me we should get down on the floor and play. So I stumble down to the carpet and Jake announces "Daddy, I want a skateboard."
I've learned never to be shocked by anything, it only encourages him. "A skateboard?" I ponder. "Did you see somebody on a skateboard?"
Yes he did. In the parking lot at Chuckie Cheese, next to where he was playing miniature golf this afternoon. Big boys, he says, were riding their skateboards.
"Do you know what happens when you fall off a skateboard?," I ask. He, as always, immediately says Yes but doesn't really know. "You get hurt," I say. "You hurt you knees and your head and your arms and elbows. And then you cry a lot because hitting the concrete hurts." I bang my hand against the carpet for emphasis and go on a bit longer about how snowboarding is a lot more fun and less painful when you fall.
I can tell when Jake is absorbing an idea - he starts repeating it back to me reworked into declarative sentences and accompanied by facial grimaces.
"Big boys get hurt skating," he says with a deep frown. "It hurts when I fall off a skateboard. I've got to be seven before I fall off a skateboard. I need elbow pads before I ride a skateboard. We can go real fast on the snow."
At this point, I'm kind of satisfied with myself, feeling I've communicated the dangers of without yelling or discouraging him. It's such a different experience when you can communicate with your child and he understands and even appreciates what you're saying. Natalie calls Jake to bed and he stands up. Just before leaving the room, he turns to me as if his mind is finally made up.
"Daddy, you get me a skateboard tomorrow, okay?"