We often call the baby of our family our “Caboose.” We ought to call him Mr. Stealth because he gets away with all kinds of stuff. And how is that? Well, number one, he’s on the cute side. Even back when I was pregnant with him, the tech who read my first ultrasound kept exclaiming over him. “He’s a beauty!” she said. “Really?” I wondered. I mean, how could you tell that just by looking at the baby parts swimming in and out of focus on her screen? “No, really!” she assured me. “He’s beautiful!”


Number two, he was wanted. Badly. Especially by my oldest, who felt outnumbered and outchromosomed. When I returned home after my ultrasound and announced to my almost ten-year-old son that he had gotten his wish, that he was going to have a baby brother, he burst into motion, running around and around (and around) the house until he finally got so tired out he plopped down on the couch and sat there in a state of ecstatic bewilderment, contemplating his grand future as a Big Brother.


As a result of One and Two, this boy gets away with things. Example. A few days ago, Mr. Caboose said to my older daughter, in a voice all honied up, “You could be the daughter of Aphrodite.” And when she pulled him over next to her for a cuddle and replied, “Ohhhh, that is the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me!” he added, “No, it’s because you always think you have to look perfect.” All at once she shoved him away and started laughing. We all did. He is the master of what I call Sugar Snark.


And the rules? Take bed time, for instance. Since he has older siblings who stay up later, he finds ways to stall. “I just have to . . .” (fill in the blank).   Finish the chapter he’s reading.  Get a snack (because he can’t be sent to bed starving, right?).  Find his pajamas.  Hunt down a pair of socks to keep his feet from freezing during the night.  Attend to a bit of unfinished homework.  Download the next book in the Rick Riordan series.  Collect another hug.


Last night, I agreed to lie down with him, something I’ve often done with my kids to get them into bed. A complicated practice, as many of you well know. And we’re lying there, he and I, and it’s late, and I’m eager to get things locked up so I can get to bed, and he turns to me and says in his Sweet Baby voice, “Sing to me.”  I feel myself smile.  He knows I’m not going to get up and leave when he says that.  So I start singing “Getting to Know You,” one of his favorites. Then he wants another, so I sing “My Favorite Things,” and he sings along. Finally, sensing that I’m about to be done, he calls my attention to the night sky, which we can both see through the sky light above us. “Oh!” he says. “Look how bright that star is!  Right there! Do you see it?”

Do I see it, he wants to know. This is how Mr. Caboose operates.  He maneuvers you right around to whatever happens to be the most urgent, even beautiful, thing on the radar. Then, once he gets you to stop and look, he’s home free. Because you can’t resist the urge to stay right there so you can say, “I do! I see!”  His modus operandi should be required reading for sales people everywhere.  If they get you to look at that star, you’re a goner.


It’s no wonder he falls asleep every night with a big smile on his face. Rest well, Little Caboose.  You’ll need it.  Getting away with murder is full-time work.

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