Family Dynamic

John John is still very much in the inquisitive “why” stage, and it seems like the questions often come at inopportune times for me, like when I’m trying to merge on a crowded freeway, or we are trying to finish getting dinner on the table.  But instead of setting a boundary to get some space, I often just give in to answering these questions – it’s like some part of me truly believes that if I answer, then the subject will be closed and the questions will stop.  Of course, they never do.

It drives John nuts, all the back and forth that happens with John John and me.  He can’t understand why I let myself get sucked in.  Frankly, neither do I.  Which brings me to this story.


Yesterday, John John uncovered this plate I’d gotten from a thrift store when he was littler and never found useful as an actual plate, and so relegated it to the toy area.  I also did not understand the plate, and something about that disturbed me and made me uncomfortable using it. For example, if the little one is the baby, then the Salt and Pepper shakers are the parents.  What was the baby condiment supposed to be? And, why was the partition at the left so small?  “The baby condiment is red, and the partitioned area is small.  Maybe it is supposed to be for ketchup and the baby is ketchup,” you might logically think.  Except that there are holes in the baby’s lid.  You may not be able to see it in this picture, but there they are.  Also, why would salt and pepper’s child be ketchup?  The lack of logic of this plate bothered me, and these thoughts would run through my head every time I saw the plate, and I was relieved to relegate it to the toy drawer.

But here it was, out, and John John asking to use it on the alternate days from when he wanted to use the other plate I got at the same time, from the same thrift store, that also bothers me (it appears to be a cute plate with the alphabet running around the edge, but upon closer inspection it had only ABCABCABCABCABC printed around the border, teaching nobody anything, and just looking like it says CAB CAB CAB at each and every glance…TOY DRAWER).

So, John John brought the dog plate out.  I was preparing dinner.  He began coming at me from all angles.  I’m deflecting, trying to get food done.  John is sitting at the counter, deftly ignoring us both and playing chess with someone online.

“What are those black and white containers, Mama?”

“Salt and Pepper”

“How do you know?”

“Because they are in shakers that we use for salt and pepper.  Also, salt is white.  Pepper is black.”

“What’s in that little one?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do!”

“No, I don’t.”

“YES, you do!”

“Maybe it’s, like, chili pepper flakes or something.”


“Because it’s red, and chili pepper flakes are red.”


“Yes, John John.”

“What’s a flake?”

I’m trying to think of how to describe the chili pepper that we’ve seen in shakers at pizza parlors, despite the fact that those shakers are always larger than the salt or pepper shaker; my mind’s a torrent as I also try to finish the salad dressing.  At this very moment, John (who I thought was ignoring our ricochet conversation altogether), piped up:

“It’s someone who says they’ll do something, but doesn’t.”

I just about plotzed.

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