The first time our three-year-old Drew said it, my brain shot into immediate rationalization mode.
In line, I convinced myself. She means, “I’m gonna cut you IN LINE.”
Because, really, what could be a worse offense to a three-year-old? There she is, at daycare, waiting by the door to march to her classroom, beaming because she’s the “line leader” (which is akin to being God), and then...some other three year old cuts in front of her, dashing her hopes, her dreams, her chances of sitting on the all-coveted “rainbow square with the pink stripe” on the circle-time carpet.
Of course, I decided. That explains it. That explains why, moments ago, when I told her that we had to turn off The Fresh Beat Band because it was time to eat dinner, she said, “If you turn it off, I’m gonna cut you!”
I decided this in the roughly 20 minutes that Thad and I stood there in the family room with our mouths hanging open, not breathing, picturing ourselves in 10 years visiting Drew on Saturday mornings at Juvy.
I leaned towards Thad and whispered, “She means ‘in line,’ right?”
“Right,” he answered in his “no, your butt doesn’t look big in those pants” tone.
What else could it be? As far as we know, there isn’t a gang problem at Tiny Treasures Learning Academy. We don’t sit down as a family, with popcorn and Capri Suns, and watch reruns of Prison Break. We don’t even let the kids hold the plastic knives in silverware packets from fast food restaurants, which themselves are barely capable of cutting a McDonalds pancake, much less a mother who has wielded control of a TV remote.
Then it happened again: “If you don’t get me chocolate milk, I’m going to cut you!”
And again: “If you don’t read me six more books, I’m going to cut you.”
And again: “If you don’t get me a face-to-face with Justin Bieber and his people, I’m going to cut you.”
Friends came over for dinner. Because they don’t have children, they laughed very, very, very hard as we told them about Drew’s threat du jour.
“We think she means ‘in line,’” I told them. They looked at me as if I was suggesting that the only thing wrong with Linda Blair was that she had a touch of flu.
We sat down to dinner. It was just after New Year’s, so we were eating pork and sauerkraut--“Nature’s broom,” as my grandmother used to say. That meant that the adults had knives on their very festive New Year’s napkins. I walked in from the kitchen with the kids’ plates in my hand to find Drew sitting in her booster chair, holding one of the serrated knives, waving it in the air as if she were a Ginsu salesman. Or a serial killer. One of the two.
I grabbed the knife out of her hand and started to laugh in that exaggerated way parents do when their kids do something terribly unexpected and terribly bad, like threaten to stab dinner guests.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha!” I said. “Ha, ha, ha...she’s so...I just don’t...I mean…ha, ha, ha!”
The next morning, I asked Drew. Finally.
“When you say, ‘I’m gonna cut you,’” what do you mean?”
“With a knife,” she said, then paused before she smiled in her “silly mommy” way. “Nooooo. Not a knife,” she corrected. I felt relieved. We wouldn’t have to buy her a straightjacket after all.
Then, she clarified: “With scissors.”