My four-year-old son, Leo, likes it when I leave the house because I designate him as man-of-the-house before I leave. In his world, being man-of-the-house means getting to have hot cocoa and watch Dog the Bounty Hunter cuddled up with his mom under the blankets. Not exactly Braveheart material, but it works for him. (Presumably though, he could scald an intruder with the hot cocoa)
But occasionally, he thinks he’s going to be man-of-the-house but for some reason my plans fall through and I end up staying home. This happened this afternoon and he was greatly disappointed, so I tried to console him as we were driving back to our house.
“I’m staying home, buddy, but you can be my special assistant man-of-the-house,” I said. “How does that sound?”
“Assistant man-of the-house?” he said, not very impressed with the idea.
“You’ll still get cocoa,” my wife reassured him.
But he still didn’t sound like he was sold on the idea.
“Here’s what I’m going to do,” I said. “You can either be the assistant man-of-the-house, or you can be my associate man-of-the-house, how does that sound?”
He wanted to be the associate man-of-the-house but wasn’t sure what the word “associate” meant.
“It’s kind of like someone who helps the man-of-the house,” I explained.
My normal routine when driving is to loudly curse the existence of all the other bad drivers and Leo often likes to chime in with words of encouragement. In this case, he hollered from the back seat at a contemptible woman who puttered along in front of us, unsure of what her purpose in life was.
“Get out of our way!” he said. “Just don’t even be here! Is that how an associate helps?”
“Absolutely,” I said.
Moments later, my two year old, James, said he wanted to be a man-of-the-house too, so I named him my assistant man-of-the-house.
“Leo, you have a little more experience than your little brother, so you’re the associate and James is the assistant,” I said, puffing up Leo’s ego. “And when James gets a little older, and has more experience, then he’ll be an associate man-of-the-house, like you.”
“Well then I want to be the super-associate man-of-the-house,” he said.