This past Sunday noon, Rose and I finished attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference in Irvine, and on impulse decided to drive south to see Christina and John and our grandsons in San Diego. They weren’t away and were happy we could come down. Sometimes we just have to grab the moments for the important things in life.

So, with a podcast inspiring us we headed out onto that river of steel, the 5 Freeway. When we got to the house we had a nice time visiting and playing with Jack and Bennett and holding 2 month old Henrik. Jack is 5, and in kindergarten, and Bennett is a threenager. At 3 and a half he knows exactly what he wants, and Christina and John are patient with his incessant questions and requests and strong will. The observations the boys make are often surprising and funny.

Before dinner we all went for a drive to downtown SD to go to visit Warehouse church. We had 3 kids and 4 adults in their Sienna Minivan, which has a nice sound system. That is important. We couldn’t find parking because there was a baseball game on and that ate up every space except the manicured spaces in the $45 lot, so we ended up driving in circles in traffic and finally heading home. Along the way, Christina let us all listen to the Moana soundtrack at Bennett’s request. Then, when a couple of conversations were going while the music was playing, Bennett announced that he wanted us all to stop talking because he couldn’t hear the music. John and Christina told him, gently and clearly, the he could not control whether others talked in the car. He just said “OK” and kept quiet. I think he realized that his request had bumped into the wall of order and parental reason, so he backed off. He just needed to know where the boundary was.

After dinner, the boys got ready for bed, and said their goodnights and I went to tell Jack and Bennett a bedtime story. For the past year I have been telling them the ongoing adventures of a character I have made up named Rusty Jones. The boys have both been enthusiastic to hear his adventures. One time when we were not there, John said he’d tell them a Rusty Jones story and the Threenager said “NO! You don’t know that! Only Grandpa Bill can tell Rusty Jones!”  Last night Bennett, who sleeps on the bottom bunk, said, when John left their room and I stayed to tell a story, “NO! I don’t want a Rusty Jones story!” So I told him that was fine, and that I’d just tell it to Jack.

So I stood leaning against the bunk bed, and started spinning the new tale for Jack, who was laying on the top bunk in the dim light with his eyes wide, waiting for the world of Rusty to open up, this time about Rusty discovering the giant watermelon that had grown on the backside of the compost pile. As I started, Bennett complained loudly from below, “I CAN STILL HEAR YOU.” I looked down, and he was holding his hands tightly over his ears.

I just smiled to myself and kept talking to Jack, spinning a yarn that started with Rusty shoveling manure and hay out onto the compost heap and ending up with him and his father winning the blue ribbon at the County fair for the unexpected watermelon. Story finished, I just said to Jack, “so that’s what happened,” and then, “Goodnight!”

Immediately Bennett piped up from the darkness below, “You didn’t say THE END!”

So I did. Just goes to show that the best approach to the defiance of a three and a half year old may be to just move forward and respond to willful with winsome. Redirection is a gentle and powerful tool. Also, the reason they say no may have nothing to do with what is being offered. In the end, I think Threenagers don’t like being left behind.