Children Say the Darndest Things

Richard McGuire is the nom de guerre of a father who is trying to document the crimes of his four children for a hearing at the human-rights tribunal of The Hague. These are some of the lighter moments he captured over seven years — with no help from the NSA — that can be revealed without compromising the trial evidence. Patrick is eleven; Theresa, eight; Matthew, six; and Maria, two. 

*   *   *

Patrick — then four years old — after his mother asks him for a kiss: “Mama, you don’t understand. I’m a soldier. I’m very busy. I’m running with the horses all day. I don’t have time to give you a kiss!”

 

 



*   *   *

In the evening, with the magazines and papers in the family room strewn all about the floor:

McGuire: “Patrick, get in here. Who did this?”

Patrick: “I don’t know.” 

McGuire: “Patrick, remember: The truth first, foremost, and above all.”

Patrick: “Okay, I did it.”

McGuire: “Why did you do it?”

Patrick: “Because I’m a troublemaker, and this is what boys do.”

*   *   *

Theresa, at the age of two, maintains that the Hail Mary reads: “The Lord is with me!”

*   *   *

Theresa insists on taking straws when leaving a restaurant, saying loudly: “We’re poor. We have no straws at home.”

*   *   *

On the way back from Mass in the car, Patrick’s young friend Jack informs Patrick that everyone is going to die. Patrick asks, “Jack, are you going to die?” Jack, five and a half, responds: “No, I’m not big enough.”

*   *   *

I find Theresa up at 9:00 p.m. She says she is hungry and I offer her salad. She answers: “No thanks, I don’t eat grass.”

*   *   *

Patrick announces that he is in charge and will give the orders.

I ask: “What are the orders?”

Patrick replies: “No peace and harmony! Clean up this dirty place. I’m not Patrick; I’m the dad. You guys behave. This house should be done.”

*   *   *

After prayers, we recap the relative powers of baby Jesus and St. Michael. When informed of the power of Jesus as the Creator of us all, Patrick asks, “How did He make Himself?” When I explain that He didn’t have to because He always existed, Patrick counters with, “If Jesus was so strong, why did He let those men put Him on the cross?” There being no going back at this point, I explain, as best I can to a five-year-old, everything through to the Resurrection.

McGuire: “And after three days, He rose from the dead.”

Patrick: “You’re kidding, right?”

*   *   *

Patrick, hearing a helicopter overhead, announces he wants to be a soldier. Theresa says she wants to be one, too.

Patrick replies: “No, Theresa. The ladies are not allowed. The ladies take care of the children and the boys fight in the war.”

Theresa is desolate, and is comforted by her mother who tells her that there are other ways of fighting, with powerful weapons like the Rosary.

Patrick’s reaction: “Mom, what do you do with the Rosary? Do you hit people with it?”

*   *   *

Patrick comes home from school reporting on the Trinity — God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Patrick: “They are connected, Mom, and there is no boss.”

*   *   *

Theresa: “Dad, I’m sorry for what I did tomorrow.”

*   *   *

Theresa is cleaning up Patrick’s room after having made a mess. Mom asks Patrick to help her because “that’s how you show her that you love her and Jesus.” “Okay, Mom,” Patrick says, and then goes to Theresa and tells her: “Theresa, clean up, and do it for the love of God.”

*   *   *

In my study, Patrick surveys all the books and CDs.

Patrick: “All these books, CDs, and more CDs. There are no CDs for the poor. It’s ridiculous. All you do is get more CDs. You’re out of control.”

McGuire “How many toys do you have?”

Patrick: “Just a few.”

*   *   *

After leaving the pew at the end of Mass, Theresa turns and waves at the tabernacle. I ask, “Whom are you waving at, Theresa?” “God,” she responds.

*   *   *

Patrick: “Mama, Daddy lived years ago. He was in the Cold War.”

*   *   *

After saying grace at dinner, Theresa asks: “How do you know we are praying to the right God?”

*   *   *

I am reading some music reviews and Patrick approaches me: “I guess music is your hobby, huh?”;

“Yes,” I answer.

Patrick says: “My hobby is hanging around and bothering people.”

*   *   *

Matthew asks, “Why does the earth spin?” Not knowing why, I give it a try: “Well, the earth rotates around the sun, and the moon around the earth.”

Matthew says, “No, Dad, the full story.”

*   *   *

We walk around the property and stop at the statue of Our Lady in the garden, where a four-year-old Matthew says, “Let’s kneel down.”

We say a Hail Mary. I thank Mary for interceding so that I have two wonderful sons.

Matthew prays, “I thank God for myself.”

*   *   *

Matthew discovers that his dad was once a little boy. “You were four?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Where was I?”

I answer: “You were not even a twinkle in God’s eye.”

Matthew: “You mean I was in God’s tummy?”

*   *   *

In the car, Mathew asks Theresa how much one plus one equals. Theresa says: “Two.”

Matthew: “No, it isn’t.”

Theresa: “It is, too.”

Matthew: “No, I’m going to ask a lawyer.”

*   *   *

Theresa says to me: “May I call you Grandpa?”

I answer: “Theresa, why would you want to do something like that?”

Theresa: “Because your hair is all gray.”

Patrick: “But Theresa, Daddy’s hair has been gray since we’ve known him.”

*   *   *

We are discussing possible names for the new baby. Matthew insists on calling the new baby Jesus. Theresa is upset and says: “We can’t do that; what if the baby goes to hell?”

*   *   *

We are discussing the Crusades. Theresa asks if Americans were in the Crusades.

Patrick: “No, America was not discovered yet.”

Theresa: “I’m glad I live in a discovered country.”

*   *   *

Patrick: “Fathers always forget everything, so their sons are there to remind them.”

*   *   *

On the way back from Mass, Patrick chastises Theresa: “When you grow up, you’ll say, ‘I wish I had listened to Patrick.'”

Theresa replies, “I’ll be dead before that.”

*   *   *

Theresa: “Girls are smarter and live longer than boys.”

Patrick: “Well, boys go to heaven first.”

Theresa: “But the boys have to invite the girls.”

*   *   *

In the car, Patrick is tugging on my hat. When I tell him to stop, he asks, “How did you know?”

I say: “Daddy knows all.”

Theresa responds: “You don’t know all. You don’t know what Jesus did in His 20s.”

*   *   *

Patrick asks me if it’s worse to kill people in the daytime or at night. I say that I don’t like the idea of killing people at all. Patrick responds: “I know. It’s vulgar.”

*   *   *

Matthew complains that there is no holy water in the hall font upstairs. I refill it, and later discover Matthew with his whole face wet.

I say: “Matthew, you are not supposed to take a bath in it.”

Matthew responds: “Dad, Dad, I was just protecting myself.”

*   *   *

Matthew calls down from upstairs at night: “Dad, when are you going to check on me?” I answer: “Matthew, I am not going to check on you now because you are still awake.”

Matthew: “How do you know?”

*   *   *

Patrick, remarking on the effects of rock music, to which he was subjected when riding with a friend in his family’s car: “It is irritating to the mind.”

*   *   *

Theresa is telling me that Protestants, in celebrating their versions of the Mass, do not really have the Body and Blood of Our Lord, “so they’re just having a nice snack.”

*   *   *

Patrick asks me how long I lived in the old house on Capitol Hill. I respond, “Sixteen years.” He says: “Boy, that’s a lot of suffering.”

*   *   *

On hearing of the engagement of his much older cousin to be married, Patrick (age eleven) exclaims: “This is terrible. They will stop thinking of us and start thinking 
of themselves.”

*   *   *

At dinner, I say to Matthew: “Don’t put a knife in your mouth. Only barbarians do that.”

Matthew: “I wish I could be a barbarian.”

McGuire: “Why?”

Matthew: “So I could put a knife in my mouth.”

*   *   *

Telling the children what a privilege it is to be parents, as God’s instruments in bringing into being children who did not exist before, Patrick reacts: “That frightens me. It’s impossible not to have me. There must be a me.”

*   *   *

Before Theresa’s first confession, she asks: “Dad, do you know where I can hide my sins? You know, so I can remember them.”

Matthew: “I know. The laundry room!”

*   *   *

Theresa is attending her first concert, a performance of William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast at the Kennedy Center. She avidly follows the text from the Old Testament. About the depiction of the handwriting on the wall, warning of Belshazzar’s demise, she says, “I thought there was a rule about not writing on walls.”

*   *   *

I am reading Knowing the Enemy. Theresa says: “Dad, why are you reading that book? You already know your enemy. Us.”

*   *   *

At dinner, I ask Theresa, “Do you know what people have been desperate enough to eat when they are starving?”

She answers, “Yes, leftovers.”

*   *   *

Theresa, at dinner: “The worst barbarians are the cannibals. They eat with their fingers.”

*   *   *

Patrick and I are discussing which movies are too frightening for him to watch. He dismisses any such fears, saying: “The only thing that scares me is reality.”

*   *   *

Patrick: “Dad, when you were alive, things were better.”

*   *   *

I mention to Patrick that Crisis Magazine might be interested in publishing some sayings of the children. He says: “There’s got to be some money in hand.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Crisis Magazine.

By

Richard McGuire is the pen name for a writer in Northern Virginia.

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