Pineapple weed

“Look,” Rowan says, dropping to his knees on the sidewalk: “pineapple weed.”

He plucks a sprig of the ubiquitous small plant that grows through cracks in the summer pavements: green stalk and leaves, topped with a golden helmet of a blossom. It’s never occurred to me to look at it.

“If you rub the yellow part with your finger and smell it, it smells like pineapple,” he says, and does, holding his thumbnail to my nose. And he’s right: there it is, the smell of pineapple, lingering on his fingers. (Later, on a walk around the block to clear my head, I perform the same magic trick for Rachel. She is suitably impressed.)

I hold onto this moment — this moment of my son teaching me something interesting, something I don’t know already, something quirky and cool; this example of his ability to pay attention — and return to it a few days later as I sulk in the corner of the kids’ pool at the Sports Complex, fed up with Rowan’s refusal to go to his swimming lesson, at his ability to confound me in public, at the fact that he has deprived me of a much-needed half-hour swim.

It’s only later that I realize that he doesn’t actually get the concepts of “late” and “on time,” that much of him believes that the lesson will be there when he is done in the kiddie pool. “But I just got in,” he keeps saying. “I’m not ready to get out yet.”

He knows so much. Like the pig Olivia, he is good at lots of things, including — especially — wearing people out. Without even really trying, he has started to read. Recently, he showed a friend of ours how to work a program on her Mac. But there’s still so much to learn, like how to dunk your head underwater without the water going up your nose, or that Isaac will hand him almost anything if he only asks nicely.

“You’re having a hard time listening when I ask you to do something these days,” I said to him a few bedtimes ago.

“Yes,” he said, after a pensive silence. “Yes, I am having a hard time with that.” He placed his palm on my cheek.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because,” he said, after another moment. “Because my body doesn’t know so much things yet. My brain doesn’t know so much things yet.”

Mine neither, I think. But you’re teaching me.