"You don't want any of your birthday cake?"
Granted, the cake was an oddly shaped remnant of a chocolate volcano leftover from yesterday's party, impaled with a blue candle that Jules had just extinguished and a icing smeared "flame" that, in its prime, flared from the top of the volcano.
"Nah... I ate too many sweets yesterday. It wouldn't be good for my tummy."
And with that, he headed into the other end of the room and started paging through the instructions of his new Hobbit Lego set, the one designed for 9-13-year-olds. Skipping the fruit all together. He zoned into his building, while the rest of us dug into messy, second-day sweets.
"Do you think he's sick?" I ask Jon. I'm not kidding. Earlier in the evening, when Kai—newly four and newly obstinate—had whined and banged and yelled that HE wanted to help excavate the triceratops from Julian's new dinosaur dig set, Jules invitingly offered, "sure, I think I need some help brushing right here." He'd sounded more like a parent—or a patient preschool teacher—than a big brother. Minutes later, when Kai tossed the tiny Ikea table to the floor, sending the plastic (or clay) ball flying across the room (in a crazy-angry-entitled way that made me think of Leonardo DiCaprio in Celebrity) Jules calmly looked at me and said, "did you see what he did?"
I did not remain calm. I raised my voice into an almost-yell and I told Kai... well, I told him that he could not have any cake later. (Which turned out to be a total lie. But this blog post is not about my bad, weak, parenting choices; it's about Jules—and the maturity he's seemed to have developed overnight—so never mind.)
Fast-forward past the dinosaur-dig-ransack, past dinner and no-cake, past the Lego-making and the showers. Now Jules decides that he would, indeed, like some birthday cake—a bit of chocolate and a bit of vanilla. "Tiny, tiny," he says, like a 40-year-old woman. I serve it up, set it on the table and sit across from him. With my phone. Because I'm going to interview him. On his 6th birthday. Because that's what a whole bunch of posts on Pinterest suggest that a good parent should do. And conducting interviews is something in my wheelhouse, unlike most other things suggested on Pinterest.
"Can I interview you?"
"Because it's annoying." And so it begins... But he doesn't actually sound annoyed—just honest, and mostly kind. And so I keep going.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"A dinosaur digger," he tells me.
"You don't want to be a cake maker?" It's my attempt at a lame joke because I can't think of a next question. And because I'm looking at him eating cake.
"Mom. That's called a baker."
"What do you want to be when you grow up, Mom?"
"Um, a mom?"
"No, what do you want to BE?"
I tell him that a mom is most definitely a thing to be, all by itself, but that I guess I could also say a writer. He likes that answer. So then I go on to tell him that this is what writers do—or what some writers, the ones who are also called journalists, do. They interview people.
"What if you don't want to be interviewed?" he asks.
"Well you just decline. You say, no thank you."
Julian nods and continues to savor his cake, silently, while watch him—so big and so little and, to me, so beautiful—silently. Olin comes around the corner. "Julian just declined an interview," I tell him. "Oh, I always decline her interviews," Jon tells him, laughing.
"Well some people find my interviews charming." I say this feigning that I am offended—and am pleased that Jules picks up on this nuance. He knows I'm kidding. As for the charming part, I'm not actually sure this is true.
I love that he asks when he doesn't know the meaning of the word. Every time.
"It means nice... fun." I'm not actually even sure if this is the most accurate definition.
"Oh, I think they're fun. But sometimes I just don't feel like talking, Mom."
Well played, Jules. Well played. You're growing into a pretty cool little-big dude, my boy.