Child: Hey, Mom. It looks like we’re almost out of toilet paper.
Me: Oh, hey. Look at that. You’re right.
Child: I guess that means you need to go to the store.
Me: Yes, I suppose. I’ll stop at Family Fare on my way home today.
Child: Family Fare? Why not Target?
Child: Don’t they have toilet paper at Target?
Me: Yeeaahhh . . .
Child: Great! I’ll come with you and help you push the cart!
Me: Ummmm . . .
Child: And can we buy a new Lego set while we’re there?
And there it is: the unlooked-for but inevitable ulterior motive lurking at the end of a child’s artful non sequitur.
I’m talking, here, about the kind of dialogue that begins with, “Mom, you look like you’ve had a long day. Would you like the last cookie?” and ends with, “Well, if you’re not hungry, do you mind if I eat it?”
Someday, they’ll be master manipulators. Right now, though, they’re bumbling amateurs — sometimes hilariously bumbling amateurs.
Author Sabine Lipan seems to understand and even delight in this. Her book Mom, There’s a Bear at the Door follows one child’s very artful non sequitur:
Mom, there’s a bear at the door!
But we live on the eleventh floor!
That’s why he’s here.
How did the bear get up here?
He took the elevator.
It goes on from there: the mom, with her friendly-yet-knowing smile, asks deadpan follow-up questions one after another as her son weaves a more and more elaborate account of the visiting bear — an account that seems quite innocent and pointless until, all of a sudden, it isn’t:
And when he’s seen the sea, he’ll leave?
Not until he’s had lunch.
What does the bear eat, exactly?
Black Forest cake. And honey cake.
And there it is: the unlooked-for but inevitable ulterior motive lurking at the end of this clever child’s artful non sequitur.
Lipan lays the conversation out simply but in a way that is so absolutely true to life that, as I read this book, I hear my own voice and that of my son narrating the text.
This is how real children talk. This is how real parents egg them on:
And then when he has seen the sea and eaten the Black Forest cake and the honey cake, then he will go back to the forest?
About Rachel in Review:
Life for this kid lit enthusiast and working mother of four can be messy. Confusing. Painful. Funny. Breathtakingly beautiful.
Enter the Eerdmans books. So, so many of our books, whether they’re bedtime books for babies or coming-of-age novels for young adults, seem to have a single uncannily common quality about them: they just fit. These wise, wonderful books somehow manage to tie into — and by so doing, help me sort out — the knotty complexities of life as I actually experience them.