Convo With My (then) 5-year-old Sons,
Illustrated with Otter Socks
Once upon a time, I took my twins to the zoo.
We saw otters.
Otters are cute.
Otters are playful.
Otters are funny.
My boys LOVED the otters.
My boys wanted to take the otters home.
We looked at the otters along with lots of other families, moms and dads laughing at the otters’ antics and then at their kids as the little ones tried to copy their furry mentors.
“Look, Mom! I’m rolling around like an otter!”
“Look, Dad! I’m breaking open a shell like an otter!”
“Aw, Mom! I’m not HURTING my brother; I was just playing like an otter!”
We families were together.
We were Nodding and Smiling , a beautiful example of strangers becoming friends in an instant of shared joy.
We were a Community of Otter Watchers!
You know; except for the scary looking, leather-and-metal-stud-clad biker dude who was also watching the otters and definitely Not Laughing at anyone’s antics. But whatever.
We were Mostly a Community of Otter Watchers! Good enough!
And then the otters had an idea.
An awful idea.
The otters had a wonderful, awful idea!
They looked down at themselves, contemplated, and then bent all the way over, curled in impossible balls.
Bent in half!
And stayed that way a long time.
A LONG time.
Sort of… rocking.
“Mama? Mom? Mom? Mom?” asked my son. “What is that otter doing?” he said.
And I said, “He’s… um… cleaning himself.”
All of the parents looked at me with gratitude.
I was the Experienced Parent!
I had Answers to These Things!
I was an Honored Member of Our Community!
And my son said, “Mama? Mom? Mom? Mom?”
And, still high from my last answer, I said aloud for all the parents to hear, “What, baby? How can I help you?”
And my son said, “That otter is cleaning himself a long time, Mom. A long, LONG time, Mom. Why is he cleaning himself THAT LONG, Mom?”
And I said, “Yes. Yes, he is. Because he’s.. Well, he’s… Maybe he’s… really… dirty. He’s a… dirty… dirty… otter.”
Some of the parents stopped making You’re a Genius Eye Contact and started looking Anywhere Else.
And my son said, “Yes, Mom! That’s it! He’s a very dirty otter. Very, very, very dirty, Mom.”
And some of the families started to drift away from the otters.
But not fast enough for my other son who said, “THAT makes sense. He’s a very dirty otter, Mama, and so is his penis. That’s why he has to suck on his penis. And suck and suck and suck and SUCK. And just keep on sucking. On his penis.”
“Yeah!” exclaimed his brother. “He is very best Otter Penis Cleaner I EVER SAW, Mom! He is really washing the heck out of that thing.”
I stood watching my Community of Otter Watchers beat their retreat as fast as that little otter could clean himself.
Which is exactly the moment the enormous, fierce, neck-tattooed biker dude burst out laughing and kept going ’til he cried, wiping occasionally at the rivers of tears falling into his scruffy beard.
And it was exactly the moment, too, I realized my Community was still there. 100% in tact — the biker dude, the 5-year-old boys, the otters, and me — Otter Admirers, every one.