9 - The Worrier




May 2, 2016
In my original description of Actual Conversations With My Sons, I wrote that because these comics are verbatim transcripts, "they don't always have the setup-punchline rhythm of regular comic strips." Here's an example of one such conversation, which doesn't so much have a punchline as a bittersweet coda.

This conversation, which occurred when Otter was five, was indicative of an overwhelming anxiety that had overtaken him at the time. ("The worrier" in the title of today's comic is Otter, but it's also me.) Around that same time, I had to take him to the doctor because he'd been peeing a lot — like every 15 minutes or so. We had to go into the bathroom to collect a urine sample. Above the sink, there was a cabinet and Otter was curious what was in it. So I opened the cabinet to reveal shelf after shelf of empty specimen cups. Mystery solved.

Later, as we waited in the examination room for the doctor, Otter became increasingly agitated about the fact that we had looked in the cabinet, afraid that the staff would be angry at him. "Can you just tell the doctor we did that," he begged me. "I don't want them to be mad at me." I kept trying to calm him down, to assure him that no one would care if we had looked in the cabinet, that everything was okay.

Finally, in exasperation, Otter said (and I quote): "Look, Dad. Maybe when I'm older, I won't have these issues. But for right now, I do. So can you please just tell the doctor we looked in the cabinet?"

Troubling, yes. But I also couldn't help but marvel at the sophistication of his syntax and thought processes. For a 5-year-old, he sure as heck didn't always sound like a 5-year-old.