"You are a knight. I dub you Knight Without a Penis," I heard my 10-year-old say to my four-year-old one afternoon in our TV-less and (at that time) relatively computer-free apartment.
"Okay!" I heard my younger son exclaim. I glanced over at them.
My four-year-old wore a crown made out of pieces of white printing paper with squares cut out around the top. It fit on his head like a baker's cap. My 10-year-old knelt in front of him.
My kids were talking about their male organs a lot. That same day, I'd seen my younger son stretch his penis out like a piece of double bubble gum, and cry, "Look at me!"
I'd heard them exclaim over "Pookie's penis." (Pookie is our badly named dog. She's a girl.) I'd heard my preschooler say, "I see your penis, Mommy."
That's why, "I dub you Knight Without A Penis" was no big deal.
But then I heard, "And now I will castrate you."
I whipped around to see my younger son lying down on the living room floor with a gleeful expression plastered across his face. My older son bore a pair of sewing scissors above the family jewels.
"I'm just castrating him," the elder commented.
"It's really okay," the younger asserted.
I confiscated the scissors and explained that they were to used for cutting paper and not organs. I asked them not even to pretend to do something like that again. As the words left my mouth they laughed hysterically and said, "penis, penis, PENIS..." I wanted to make them stop before I went insane, but curiosity got the better of me. How many times could they say it if no adult intervened? Hundreds? Millions? I decided to find out.
Carols and cajoling
I cooked dinner and heard my younger son scream shut up at my older son at the top of his lungs because my older son was annoying him by singing stupidly on top of the Christmas carol album I had just purchased from Starbucks. They got into one of those, "You shut up," "No, you," NO YOU," kind of arguments that inevitably left the little one overpowered, and therefore searching the extremities of his imaginations for tactics to regain mastery over his brother and his life.
I put dinner on the table. As my older son and I sat down to eat, my younger son flung himself petulantly on the floor under the table withholding his usually charming and very entertaining company. I asked him to come back to the table many times, but the usual herding of cats resulted in the usual poor results in the cats going anywhere. I gave up and ate.
But my older son began to miss his brother's company. "Come to dinner," he said, "I don't bite."
My younger son held back for better persuasions. The Christmas carols played on.
"If you don't come and eat dinner, I'm going to cut off your penis with a kitchen knife," my 10-year-old said in his kindest voice.