A little beastie visited my apartment last night.
He showed up just before dinner, and refused to sit down. "I don't like it," he said, when I showed him the hot veggies and rice.
"You've never even tried it. You don't know what it is." I encouraged him to try by holding out a small mouthful, but the beastie would not try it.
I coaxed and cajoled. I changed the subject, then tried to engage. The beastie relaxed and came closer, but would not sit down. I did not force it, but tried to stay open. I know beasties get hungry, and want to be included.
"Tell me what you did at school today," I said.
He held up a book they had made. I raised my eyebrows, nodded yes - I would love to see the book. He drew in closer, became a part of our conversation while we ate, and we talked about the day. He started to look less like a beastie and more like a little boy, but still he refused to sit.
After dinner, the beastie was back. "Where's my treat?" he said.
"You don't get a treat, you didn't have dinner."
"I want my treat!"
"Eat dinner, and you'll get a treat."
"But I don't like it!"
"And that's fine, you don't have to eat it. But you're not getting a treat."
Oh, the beastie was angry. He screamed and he whined. He sat on the floor and begged, please, please, please can I have a treat. He laid on his back and kicked his legs in the air. He put his feet on the wall.
I cleaned up the dishes and tended to his sister. She was used to being visited by beasties and coped with it marvelously - she took her bath, played with her toys, and stepped carefully over the wailing beastie in the living room when she had to pass over him to get her drink.
The beastie was outraged to be so ignored. "Look at me!" the beastie shrieked. "Look at me on the floor!"
I examined the beastie. "Yes, I see you," I said.
The beastie looked aghast. "Don't you care? You're the parent, you are supposed to care! You don't care about me!"
I told the beastie I loved him very much, along with his sister, more than anything else in the world. And I wanted to help, if he wanted. But he could not have a treat.
The beastie howled.
This went on for the next two hours. The beastie wanted a treat. He wanted noodles. He wanted a bowl, then a bigger bowl, then a smaller bowl, then a spoon. I told him he could get these things himself. The beastie wailed.
"You don't love me! Everyone in this family hates me!"
I told the beastie the opposite was true.
"I hate you! I don't want you in my family!"
I said that was too bad because I wanted the beastie in my family always.
The beastie called me a maniac. I wondered where he got that word from, and tried to hide my smile.
In between cleaning up I tried to make the beastie laugh, to hug him, to distract him, to be casual. The beastie's sister tried to make him laugh as well and was successful for a while, until the beastie remembered that he was not done being beastly, and he screamed "I don't like funny things!"
The beastie's sister shrugged and decided to go to bed after that. She went graciously and happily and decided to read to herself for twenty minutes before turning out the light.
The beastie was exhausted but not finished. He rolled on my bed. "I - want - a - treat. I - want - a - treat." I folded laundry and waited for the beastie to fall asleep. He was out by the time I got halfway through the socks.
I snuck quietly into his sister's bedroom. She was still reading, The Magic Finger, by Roald Dahl. She was on the very last page.
I kissed her forehead and lay down beside her as she read me the last line of the book - "They'll be sleeping in the trees tonight, every one of them!" This line always makes her chuckle. We put the book away and I tucked her in and kissed her again.
"This is my favorite part of the day," she said.
I smiled and said good night, then went over to the other room.
The beastie was no longer a beastie but had transformed into a small boy. His hair was golden in the light cast by the bedside lamp, and his face was at peace. He would not wake until morning. I gave him a pillow, then covered him with a blanket. I kissed the small boy, then crept away.