It started when I saw my son and his friend tip up the top of the sandbox and look into it. K was perched on the edge while Phoenix looked on. They were scooping sand but clearly not playing in the actual box itself. When I arrived on the scene, they both gave me a look as though they had been caught in the act of doing something.
Hey guys, what are you doing?
Just getting sand out of the sandbox, my son said. I appreciated how he kept his answers short, without enough information to incriminate.
Where’s it going after that, I asked.
We’re making special mud, he explained. K nodded enthusiastically, hopefully.
Well . . . the thing is, I said, once the sand is out of the box, it won’t go back in. I hesitated. I was assessing how much harm a few bucketfuls of sand would do. Really, not much. At the same time, I didn’t want a pile of sand outside behind the shed.
Okay, just one more bucketful I said. They nodded and got back to work.
Later that night, Phoenix told me more about the “special sand.” We mixed sand and dirt, he said. And . . . can I say a bathroom word?
We were in the bathroom, so it seemed appropriate. Sure, I said.
And pee. He stopped and looked at my face. K and I peed into it. He studied my face.
Ok, I said. No big deal. And then I thought, kids will be kids. Peeing into some mud seems pretty much like exactly the right thing kids should be doing.
At one point, Phoenix continued. I accidentally touched K’s pee. But it was my fault. AND, I washed my hands right after.
Okay, I said. But you know. K’s father, A, he might not be okay with this. I’m just letting you know.
K’s father tended to be a bit more squeamish and had a different sense of propriety than I did. He was bigger on nicer table manner, not as comfortable with bodily fluids, that sort of thing.
I mean, I don’t think it’s a big deal . . . but just know he might.
I wasn’t trying to build a mean guy out of K’s father, but I also wanted Phoenix to know that not all parents would view this sort of thing kindly. Perhaps it was why he very tentatively felt out the situation when telling me about the special ingredient.
But I felt good. I felt that Phoenix had sussed out the situation, took a risk to tell me something, and the risk had paid off. And this meant he might take future risks, share future scary things.
After all, pee wasn’t the worst. In fact, it was pretty funny.