Planet Jupiter / by Vanessa Fiola

**The next 29 days I'll be posting 500 words a day here as part of a creative writing challenge. Join the FB group. Some days I phone it in.**

This is my son*. This week his name is Jupiter, the largest gas giant planet in our solar system. Prior names have included, “Luke Skywalker,” “Chewbacca,” and “I Love You.” The latter was the name he gave himself after a trip to the CA Science Museum and he decided he wanted to be a girl astronaut.

He is supposed to get an AT-AT walker if he sleeps in his own bed by himself for 7 consecutive nights. He's 3 1/2 and our bed barely fits Ryan and me, so really it's time for him to move on. Yet his breath hasn’t matured to the point where it stinks in the morning, so I believe that we can still do things like co-sleep with impunity.

Last night as he was snuggling into bed, he pulled up his shirt, exposing his soft little tummy. "Mommy," he said, tugging at the bottom of my tshirt, "can you lift up your shirt so we can touch belly buttons? I want to feel connected to you." 

I thought about not posting that because we live in a puritanical society and the internet is a swift and critical place, but his ask rang so innocent and earnest and sweet I am choosing to put my faith in that truth instead. 

Someday I will stop writing about my precocious little boy. I suppose some day he will no longer be precocious and instead just boy. I'll gaze back at photos and remember his -isms, longing to hear the clunky cadence of his young voice. Strangers tell you when you have a newborn and then an infant and then a toddler to enjoy every minute. They say this with that hint of regret that only retrospection offers.  For my part I've tried. 

I mean, save the times that I've hated him.

On Valentine's Day, Ryan and I picked him up from school. He ran to us, hugging us both in tight embrace. We typically trade off who picks him up. I’m lying—Ryan picks him up 99% of the time—so this time his squeal revealed genuine surprise. 

"Mommy and Daddy, Mommy and Daddy!" he screamed. We lifted him up and huddled into a family hug in the middle of his classroom surrounded by clusters of tiny tables and chairs and construction paper-planets. His teacher looked at us with her wide, beautiful smile, delighting in Jonah’s obvious joy. 

"Mommy and Daddy," he paused, "no fighting tonight." 

I once listened to a This American Life podcast about getting busted. They described the moment of being caught as a point forever frozen in time.

We looked over to his teacher whose smile had morphed into an awkward half-smirk. I panicked. It's amazing how an entire story can transpire and dissolve in one’s head in less than a second’s time. I thought about making an excuse. Instead, I looked into his deep black eyes and said that we'd try but I really couldn't promise anything. 

I like to be realistic about these things, so that at the very least he's not disappointed when he finds himself in therapy at 20. "What did you expect," I'll tell him. "You were raised by West Coast liberals. Repressed anger is in our DNA.” 

*I asked him to put on his pajamas. Jonah: 1; me: 0

*I asked him to put on his pajamas. Jonah: 1; me: 0