Charlie looked up from his spaghetti and asked, “How tall will I be when I grow up?”
Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest. He smiled at Charlie. “It’s hard to say. You’ll probably be somewhere around the height of your mom and I. Why do you ask?”
“I was wondering if I got too tall for this house, if I could go and live at that store with the really tall doors. I think I’d like that. How do I get to be tall?”
Marianne shrugged. “I don’t think you get to pick how tall you are. Just eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. That’s pretty much all you can do.”
“Unless you end up in some sort of magical dimension and eat the wrong sort of thing,” Isaac added.
“Like Alice in Wonderland?” Charlie grinned. “I like that. It would be nice to be able to be short and tall whenever you want. And her clothes grew with her! That would be good. I’m not sure if there are clothes for really, really tall people in the stores. If I was really small, we could buy a doll house for me to live in.”
“Well, there aren’t any magical dimensions, so you need to eat your vegetables and go to bed on time.” Marianne pointed to his plate and Charlie started eating his peas.
“And the dollhouse?” Charlie asked, his mouth half full of chewed peas.
“Wait to finish eating what’s in your mouth before you talk.”
Charlie closed his mouth, and Isaac nodded approvingly. “If you were small enough to live in a dollhouse, we’d get you one.”
Charlie finished chewing. “I think I need a little brother or sister.”
“Why?” Marianne frowned.
“Then I wouldn’t be the littlest one in the house. I’d be really big, but I wouldn’t be the biggest one, either. I’d be big and small at the same time. So?”
“So, what?” Isaac asked.
“When can I have a little brother or sister?”
Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest again. He really needed to practice, or he was going to be stuck answering all the difficult questions. He didn’t mind really, except that Marianne usually gave better answers.
“That probably won’t happen,” Isaac said. “But we’ll let you know if that changes. I think you’re overlooking one obvious solution to your problem.”
Charlie frowned at first, but his frown fell as he began to think. “What solution? Can we get a dog?”
“I’m still allergic to dogs, sadly,” Isaac said.
Charlie thought a little longer. “I still don’t know.”
“If what you really want is to be short and tall, the solution isn’t to find some one younger than you. If you had a little brother or sister, they would grow too. They might even end up taller than you. Also, you are already shorter than us, but as you get older, that will change. We won’t be a lot taller than you any more. However, there are things that you are always going to be taller than or shorter than.”
“Think of the plants and animals that are taller and shorter than you.”
Isaac nodded. “Yup. Always taller.”
“But who is always shorter?”
“Goldfish, petunias, flower fairies, leprechauns, ants…” Isaac started counting things off on his fingers.
“I still kind of want a little brother or sister. And a big brother or sister. And a dog.” Charlie pushed the peas around on his plate.
Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Marianne smiled and let Isaac win the staring contest. She put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Do you remember the story of the three bears? Each of the bears had something different, but it was just right for them. Do you think Mama bear who liked soft chairs would have been comfortable in Papa bear’s chair?”
“Do you think that Papa Bear liked his porridge the same way as Mama bear?”
“I guess not. I don’t know.”
Marianne patted Charlie’s shoulder and let go. “Just right is different for different people and different families. I think our family is just right for us. I’m glad we have each other.”
Charlie nodded slowly. “Okay. But can we get a bird? Or a goldfish? Dad isn’t allergic to those.”
Marianne looked at Isaac and he shrugged. “We’ll see,” she said.
The next week, they bought a goldfish. It was much shorter than Charlie. “Now I just need to find a dinosaur,” he said.