"Tyler, tell me something you learned about at school today."
"We learned about toilets and eyeballs."
"We really did. For real. In real life." He smiles with that twinkle in his eye, the one that's pressing to see how much I'll believe.
In Tyler's mind, the question, "What did you learn in school today?" translates to, "Please make up a pretend story about anything in the world."
His other answers have included:
"We ate mosquito soup."
"We learned about worms on spaceships. They went to see God. He was wearing a red vest."
And he always caps it off with, "For real. In real life."
I said, "Tyler, let me tell you a story about a boy named... um, what was his name..."
Tucker says, "Tucker? Or Tyler? Did he have our names?"
"No," since I think it's better if they learn a fable about someone else now and then. "His name was Peter. And Peter lived on a farm with many sheep, and it was his job to protect the sheep from the wolves that wanted to eat them. If a wolf came nearby, he could shout, 'Wolf! Wolf!' and his family would come running from everywhere to help him protect the sheep."
The boys listened with rapt attention.
"Well, one day Peter was out in the pasture, and he felt lonely and bored. He remembered the plan that would bring all of his family to him, so he decided to pretend there was a wolf. He cried, 'Wolf! Wolf!' And sure enough, his family came running. They said, 'Peter, Peter! What's happening? Are you safe? Where is the wolf?'
"And Peter laughed and said, 'Just kidding. I was just kidding. There's really no wolf.' And his family went back to what they were doing, but they asked him to only call him if there was really, truly a wolf."
They were listening. They barely even blinked. I continued the traditional story, with round two of the boy's joke, when he cries wolf yet again.
The boys cast knowing glances to each other. Surely nobody in our family would be so foolish.
"Well then, a few minutes later, a real wolf came! And he was growling and snarling and showing his sharp teeth, and Peter became very afraid. He cried, 'Wolf! Wolf!' But because he had not been telling the truth the other times, his family thought he was teasing them again. They didn't believe what he said, and they didn't come to help Peter. And the wolf gobbled up all the sheep."
I pause for dramatic effect.
"Tyler, what do you think we can learn from this story?"
He pauses. For dramatic effect.
"Who's there?" I ask, thinking he may come out with something profound, masked as amateur standup comedy.
"Aren't you glad I didn't cry 'wolf'?"
Oh, my word.