Hank: (indistinct crying sounds coming from the bathroom)
Pai: Henrique, Estás bem? (Hank, you alright?)
Hank: Sim (yes)
Pai: (walking away)
Hank: (indistinct speech in a depressed tone evolving into crying)
Me: Are you alright?
Me: (unconvinced I stay by the door)
Hank: (bemoaning, dramatic fits and sob)
Me: (knocking, opening the bathroom door)
Hank: (totally fine brushing his teeth)
Me: What do you mean, what? I keep hearing crying.
Hank: (exasperated) Mama, I am practicing my faces in front of the mirror.
Me: OH! You’re acting.
Hank: Yes, now I need space.
Me: Well, I need you to make a sign and hang it on the bathroom door to let me know you are honing your craft. You gotta let your mama know so she doesn’t think you have an acute case of melancholia. Off you go, Lee Strasberg, you work on The Method.
Hank: I don’t understand you, but thanks. Shut the door, please.
Me: I made the five-spice pasta that you normally say you don’t like.
Me: BUT I have changed the recipe up a bit and I would very much like you to try it.
Hank: (inspecting my work)
Me: When you try it if you still do not like it I am willing to make you a peanut butter sandwich.
Hank: Can it be peanut butter toast?
Me: Sure. I just do not have the energy to make two meals tonight.
Hank: I understand.
Me: Wonderful, help me set the table.
Hank: (getting the silverware) I can also make the peanut butter toast all by myself.
Me: (filling the plates with pasta) Let’s not get the cart before the horse. I still want you to try the pasta. You know you have to try something 10 full times to know if you don’t like it.
Hank: (getting cups from the dishwasher) Like you and arugula.
Me: (taking the plates to the table) Yuck. Tastes like feet.
Hank: And it smells like guacamole.
Me: (cutting up some pasta and veg into microscopic pieces for Molly) Arugula?
Hank: No, the pasta. When you were cooking I thought you were making guacamole.
Me: (putting Molly’s pasta on her highchair tray) Well, that bodes well for your taste test. I really want you to get used to strong spices because if you want to travel the world you need to be flexible with what you eat.
Hank: I like this pasta just plain with tofu.
Pai: (coming to the table with Molly)
Me: I understand, but when you are on the streets of mainland China and do not speak Mandarin you will have to eat what is in front of you, because you will not have the words for, “may I please have just pasta and tofu with no seasoning and no sauce.”
Hank: (sitting down to the table) Mama, do you put guacamole on your face?
Molly: (pinching tiny pieces of pasta into her extremely open month)
Me: Do you mean avocado?
Hank: Yes, do you ever do that?
Me: No, because I prefer to eat my avocados, but it is very good for your skin.
Hank: What does it do? (trying the pasta)
Me: It makes you skin soft, but it needs to be just plain avocados not mixed with salt and lime juice and onions…
Hank: (taking his third bite of pasta) ewwwww.
Pai: What are you two talking about? I cannot keep up.
Me: (smiling into his hair) Did the glass slippers pinch your feet?
Hank: No. I wasn’t Cinderella. I was me, but I had to live with Cinderella’s cruel family. They were so mean to me.
Me: That is a bad dream.
Hank: And even now that I am awake I close my eyes and I can still be in the dream.
Me: (hugging him close) I am so sorry, Hank. The worst dreams are the truest.
Me: You know, I think you are a lot like Cinderella.
Hank: (giving me a questioning look)
Me: Accept for the princess/girl part. Your hearts are alike. You are also truly kind and brave and it is a sad truth that you will meet cruel people in your life. Not everyone in the world is like you. You will know people who are mean to you, who don’t like you simply because you are lovely. This will happen and that scares me a bit too. The key is to be brave, to know who you are and to stay true to yourself and not let cruelty change you.
Me: Cinderella’s family were abusive and awful to her and she could have been changed by that. She could have either become cruel like them, or to become a victim and let their cruelty break her spirit, but instead she fought them with the strength to not let them change her and in the end she with a little help, because there is nothing wrong with accepting help, was able to live her best life and be happy.
Hank: And become a queen.
Me: Added bonus, but I have a feeling that even if she were to leave their abuse and work in the kitchen of another house she would have made her life happy. When people are mean to you you need to understand that it isn’t about you, it is about them, but you should never let someone abuse you. Never think you need to change because of what cruel people do or say.
Hank: In my head I am still stuck in the dream. I close my eyes and the meanness… It breaks my heart.
Me: (hugging him tight) The world is not kind or fair. It is not the world’s job to give you a good life. You make your life. YOU have to choose to be kind and you have the power to surround yourself with kindness and to promote kindness. My wish is for you to grow up, turn your back on cruelty, and make your personal world a lovely, happy place and to help others where your can. It takes bravery to tell cruel people that they have no power over you and it takes kindness to know you deserve better. You have to know that you also deserve kindness. You must also be kind to yourself.
Me: Most people who watch Cinderella focus on the princessieness, or the fact that she is (air-quotes) “rescued” by a prince, or the magical fairy godmother, but you saw the truth of the story. You saw the sadness, but what you need to remember is sadness is a part of life, but brave people escape sadness where as weak people are made cruel by it.
Hank: She… The Stepmother, her heart was broken and she never worked hard to fix it, did she?
Hank: (deep sigh) I am going to try to sleep again, but this time think of happier things.