Sam was having trouble settling down last night, as he sometimes does as his off switch is a bit faulty, so I went in to rock him for a moment. As I tucked him back into bed he held up the small white bear he had chosen as Most Valuable Snuggly for the evening.

“Where’s his momma?” he asked.

I glanced around his room and located a polar bear at the foot of his bed. “Here’s the momma,” I said and tucked it in next to him.

“No,” he said. “That’s the brother.”

“Oh.” I looked around the room for the other white teddy bear I know exists in our house.  I didn’t see it. “The momma must be in Annabel’s room. Do you really need it?”

He nodded solemnly. “Yes.”

I slipped out of his room and into Annabel’s. Luckily, she has always had a highly reliable nighttime off switch and she was already asleep.  I located the desired bear and carried it next door.

“Here she is.” I snugged this bear in next to the other two.

“No,” he said. “That’s the dad.”

Now, you are reading this and thinking, “Wow. What a complex family dynamic this little boy has created using just his powers of imagination! Childhood is so magical!” But that’s just because you don’t know Sam as I do. I knew that what he was really doing was messing with me.

[Sam is my apple-tree child, in case you were wondering, and could have sprung Athena-like from my own, messing-with-people head so I know these things.]

I folded my lips and looked around the room.

“I’ve got to have the momma,” he said, with a tinge of petulance in his voice. “I can’t go to bed without the momma.” I looked into his eyes and saw that, messing with me or not, he was ready to escalate this to meltdown should I fail. I kept looking.

Finally, half-hidden under a pile of books because Sam always sleeps with a pile of books [see above apple-tree commentary], I found a medium-sized brown bear.

“Is this the momma?” I asked, holding her up.

“Yep,” he said, satisfied and triumphant. I handed him the animal, hauled the blankets up over the giant pile of bears, kissed him on the head, told him to go to sleep, and made a mental note to record this here as a sign that all our lessons about families coming in all sorts of combinations are working.

Or that my boy has a really sick sense of humor.

Either would be fine with me, really.