China is a popular topic with Ethan these days. No, he's not getting political or even geographical. I'm not even sure when he first heard of China -- mostly likely during all of our Olympic talk, when I took the dusty globe down from a high shelf.
So Ethan has started talking about China, and his ruminations relate to the yin and yang, back and forth fact that, as we have told him, China has the day when we have the night, and China has the night when we have the day.
Ethan sees this as either incredibly awesome or terribly frustrating.
In the morning, as we eat breakfast, a sly smile will form on his face. "In China it's nighttime now," he will say. "All of the kids have to go to bed. It's darkness." Then he looks outside and basks in the sunlight, glows with the power of the light.
The evenings are another story. I will see Ethan glance out at the darkness. He will look back at me, eyes big. "In China it's day now. The kids are having breakfast." His lower lip will start to tremble. "I want it to be daytime here," he'll say, tears threatening.
This China talk has less to do with the country on the other side of the world than with Ethan's sudden leeriness of the dark -- and realization that not all of the world gets the dark at the same time.
Lately he has to make sure his closet door is shut. Tight. He wants his bedroom door wide open after we tuck him in. The other night he woke up and began crying. "What is it?" I asked him blearily.
"The darkness is still here!" he wailed.
The other day I was thrilled to find a picture book in the library about what kindergarten is like for kids in China and kids in America. The book is written both ways, with one country on one side and the other country on the flip side. When I showed it to Ethan, his eyes lit up like I was presenting him with a candy bar.
To Ethan, China has nothing at all to do with rivalling the U.S. as the world's superpower. China represents a place that alternately steals his sunshine and then obligingly turns it back over.
In these days when everything to Ethan is about winning and losing, give and take, up and down, strongest and weakest, China is something worth getting worked up about.
All of this talk about China and time zones and the other side of the world has reawakened an old habit. I used to lie in bed, and when I'd have trouble falling asleep, I'd imagine the world, time zone by time zone, and what people in different places were doing at that very moment. I'd see the Eiffel Tower shrouded in darkness, or the streets of Jerusalem coming to life, or Tokyo sitting down to dinner.
Some days you just have to remember the world is so much bigger than where you are and the moment you are in. I pray Ethan will begin to see this, when he's "cursing" the darkness, forgetting that light will soon be on its way.