“… but explain it to him.”
This is what Keaton now says as the denouement to the most recent incarnation of her borderline-OCD bedtime routine.
How did we get here? Well, a few months ago Keaton began wanting to tell mom, on night when I put her to bed, just how much she loved her. She’d emphasize the reaaallly in her, “Tell her I really love her, OK dad?” Over a few nights, this turned into multiple “reallys,” as in, “Tell mom I really really really love her, OK dad?” One night I made the mistake of proclaiming a really-count after she’s conveyed the magnitude of her love for mom: “Wow, you love mom thirteen times! That’s a lot!” This, of course, turned into a “really” arms race… each night’s count bidding to outdo the night’s before. For a while it was fun… until we got up into the 100+, 150+, and edging-at 200 marks. By that time, I was tired of counting reallys… and I decided to figure a way out.
That’s when I decided to teach our four and a half year old daughter the concept of infinity. Nevermind that she won’t be properly introduced to it until algebra, and even then won’t appreciate its peculiarities unless she takes a higher math like calculus or set theory or whatever. I just explained it thusly, “You know Keaton, there is a thing called ‘infinity.’ It means the biggest number ever. No number can be bigger than it. It’s the most; always.” And then, “So, if you reaaally want to tell mom how much you love her, and it’s reaallyy the most ever, you can just say you love her ‘infinity times’ and it’s the biggest, most, highest number of all.” So what had become a multiple-minute string of “reallyreallyreallyreally” became a much more managable, “Tell mom I love her infinity times.”
Then came Cohen, and of course he got added to Keaton’s love-list. But after a couple nights of, “Tell mom I love her infinity times, and tell Cohen I love him infinity times too,” she asked, “Dad, does Cohen know what ‘infinity times’ means like I do? Does he know it’s the biggest, the most?” I had to be straight with my little thinker, “No, he doesn’t. He can’t understand that kind of thing right now… but he definitely knows you love him by the way you play with him and talk to him and treat him nice.” (Not a bad answer, if I don’t say so myself). And so she changed her wording to account for poor Cohen’s unenlightened mind:
“Tell mom I love her infinity times, and tell Cohen I love him infinity times but explain it to him, OK dad?”
To which I reply, “I will babe.” And she’s not happy until I kiss her, leave the room, and she can hear me in the distance say, “Cohen, Keaton loves you infinity times, and that means she loves you the most anyone can ever love anyone.”