I know exactly where he gets it from.
When I was six years old, my dad got a job transfer from New Jersey to Georgia. We left behind all of our extended family and our tiny dollhouse in Woodbridge to venture to this land called “the South.” As part of the preparation for our move, my parents informed me that I would need to learn to talk Southern. I was six. How would I learn a foreign language that quickly?!
I have heard the story many times (and if you hang around my family, you’ve probably heard the story many times, too. Sorry.), how Mom and Dad were interrupted by this meek, little girl coming out of her room late at night.
“Jennifer, what’s wrong?” one of them asked.
Huge tears began to run down my face.
“I don’t know how to talk Southern,” I cried.
As a child, I carried worry around with me like my daughter carries around her baby doll, always tucked under my arm, accompanying me wherever I went. To this day, I worry; although, I am getting better. As I’ve grown in my relationship with the Lord, I’ve learned that worrying is pointless; however, it’s hard to get rid of those innate parts of me.
And, unfortunately, those innate parts of me didn’t stay with just me.
So I wasn’t surprised the other day when my son and I had an unusual conversation at the breakfast table.
“I don’t want to leave this house when I get married,” my four-year-old stated completely out of the blue.
Since our house is up for sale, I didn’t really catch the last part of Caleb’s statement. I assumed he was just telling me he didn’t want to move. As he had told me before, if we moved closer to Daddy’s work, the cute eight-year-old girl in our neighborhood wouldn’t know where to find us.
“Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going to move–wait, you don’t want to move when you get married?” I suddenly realized what my son had said.
Caleb shook his head.
“Well, I guess you’ll have to check with your new wife first,” I informed Caleb. “She might want her own house for the two of you to live in. When you grow up, you’ll probably want to get your own house so you can have a place for your own family and kids to play.”
Wrong answer. Sometimes I’m so stupid.
I continued eating my breakfast, feeding the baby, when I looked over at Caleb’s spot. His face was red, shoulders slumped forward, head hanging down. Tears were welling up in his eyes.
“Caleb?” I started. “Oh, come here, baby!”
And the tears flowed. “I don’t want to leave!” he sobbed uncontrollably.
And in that moment, I was faced with a dilemma. If I told Caleb that he never had to leave, would I end up like Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show? Would I forever have little children running amuck in my home while I yearned for a quiet retirement with my husband? Would Caleb remember this promise someday and really not leave, content with his mother, not needing a wife? Or worse yet–would Caleb become a professional student?!!
So I chose my words carefully.
“Caleb, it’s a long time before you’ll ever get married.”
“I don’t want to get married,” chimed in my two-year-old.
“Okay, you don’t have to get married, Hannah Grace.”
“I’m going to get big, and I’ll have my own cups made of glass, and my own big sporks, and my own plates.”
“Umm…okay,” I agreed with my daughter.
Caleb was still crying and looked more concerned. I should’ve known my little Romeo would not be content staying single. He wanted to get married; he just didn’t want to leave home.
As I rubbed Caleb’s back, I let go of my Cliff Huxtable fears.
“Caleb,” I started, “You don’t have to leave sweetheart.” The crying continued, so I went further. “You don’t ever have to move. I don’t want you to leave, either.”
Those were the magic words he needed to hear, that his mommy forever wanted him close. And truth be told, I don’t want the little guy to ever leave–as long as he learns to do his own laundry.