I was driving the Roc to horseback riding lessons on Tuesday night, we had the sun roof and windows open, letting the unseasonably warm fall air glide in and around us. The stable is less than 5 miles from our house and we take a “back road” route over a narrow little bridge continuing through fields and farmland to get there. When the Roc was younger, all of our car rides were silent on his end. I talked and talked, pointing things out to him in the hopes that he was listening and that he would one day reciprocate. Over time he has and our car rides are no longer silent.
“Mommy, is that a forest?”
“Yes Roc, that’s a forest, isn’t it pretty? All the leaves are changing colors,” I say trying to expand his thinking and shift our conversation away from what I know is inevitably coming, talk about deer. Over a year ago we were driving through a hilly forest up north and a deer ran out in front of our car as we rounded a curve, GC slammed on the brakes and we narrowly missed taking the deer out. Ever since then the Roc has a running script of questions regarding deer. Where they live – in the forest, when they come out – at night, where they are going – to look for food, etc. I answer them dutifully each time they are asked, but I do admit to growing tired of the same question and answer game. Even though I tried to get him to notice and comment on the fall leaves he asks,
“Are there deer in that forest Mommy?”
“Yup, there are,” I answer.
“Are there deer on the ground?”
“Yes, there are deer in the forest Roc,” I say, thinking that maybe my “Yup” wasn’t the answer he was looking for.
“And in the trees too?” he asks.
“No Roc, the deer are on the ground, they don’t go in trees,” I say to him, glancing in the review mirror. Where would he get the idea that deer can climb trees? In all the books we’ve read depicting animals, the deer are never in the trees. I wonder what he is thinking. I stifle a giggle while imagining a deer struggling to climb a tree.
“YES THEY ARE! They go in the trees!!!” he insists forcefully, and I can sense this rising into an argument I don’t want to have.
“No buddy, how would they climb a tree? They don’t have hands or claws to grab the tree trunk. The deer stay on the ground,” I explain to him.
“In the TRREEEEEEES Mommy,” he shoots back.
“No honey,” I respond.
“YES MOMMY!” he yells passionately from the back seat. He is getting squirming in his seat, his face is red with frustration. I wonder why he’s fighting me on this issue and I try to divert his attention,
“Look Roc, we’re going over the lake now!” As always, he asks me what lake it is and we are off onto another topic. Later on down the road we go through another forested area and I know what is coming,
“Mommy, I hope we don’t almost hit a deer,” he says from the back.
“That won’t happen Roc, remember the deer come out at nighttime, when the sun is going down. That’s when they move around the most. Right now the deer are in the trees.” In the trees, oh my gosh! I literally smack myself on the forehead and let out a chuckle. How long have I been saying “the deer are in the trees” to him? Duh, Kim! Did you forget just how literal this child is?
I go on to explain that the what I meant was the deer are on the ground walking around and between the trees, that they don’t go up in the trees. I talk faster than I mean to and I think I might be making him more confused. I sneak a look in the rear view mirror. He is completely blank faced, which I know doesn’t mean he’s tuned me out and is not listening, it means he’s processing. I stop talking and let him process. I wonder when we will revisit this particular fact about deer and if it will be added to our running script of deer questions and answers on the way to horseback riding next week.
I stifle another giggle as I imagine him all this time imagining that deer can climb into trees, and then I remind myself yet again that I need to watch what I say, in more ways than one!