“Let’s talk about what is likely and unlikely,” two words that have worked their way into our family dialogue, thanks to the beginning principles of probability in second grade math.

“Everybody take a turn. Tyler, you’re first.”

He spins some fettuccine on his fork. “It is likely I will be bored at school tomorrow.”

“Maybe you won’t be bored, though.”

“You asked me to say what is likely.”

“True enough.”

“And it is unlikely that my teacher will go crazy and start screaming about toilets.”

“I should hope. Tucker?”

“It is likely that I will play football at recess. It is unlikely that I will eat cheese.” He gestures to me with his fork and adds, “It is unlikely that I will even want to look at cheese.”

(He dislikes cheese with great disdain, and somehow this fact bounces off my forehead instead of absorbing into my knowledge of my son. I am forever offering him cheese, the poor kid.)

“Your turn, Mom.”

“Okay. It is likely that I will write something tomorrow.”

“Duh. You do that every day.”

“Right. That’s why I said it’s likely. It is unlikely that I will go on a date.”

“Of course that’s unlikely.”

Hey, now.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you never go on dates. You haven’t gone on a date in years.”

“Actually, that’s not true. I go on dates fairly frequently.”

One boy set down his fork. The other one let his fork linger mid-bite.

“You said you wouldn’t marry someone without telling us.”

“Guys, I said ‘I go on dates.’ I didn’t say ‘I get married.'”

“Well, who are you dating?”

“You don’t know him. Or them.”

This whole idea has turned their world a few degrees on its axis. “When do you do this? When do you date?”

“Oh, sometimes you’re at school, sometimes you’re with a babysitter… just different times.”

“You tell us his name right this minute.”

“I won’t, but you don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Why don’t we know him? Or ‘them’?”  So help me, he used air quotes.

“Because I’m protecting all of our hearts, and I won’t introduce you to someone unless I’m sure it’s a good idea.” And this is why I haven’t introduced them to anyone as of yet.

They each return to their food, quite tentatively. One finishes the mid-bite, the other swirls his fork in his food.

“Guys, just to be clear, the reason I said it is unlikely is because I don’t have a plan for tomorrow. When you ask a girl out, you might say, ‘Hey, I’d really like to talk more with you. Could we have a cup of coffee? Or could I take you out for dinner?’ And if she says yes, then you ask her when she’s available, and you make a plan together. I’m not going on a date tomorrow because I know tonight that I don’t have a plan for tomorrow.”

The tall one looks at me. “So you’d say it’s unlikely, then?”

“I’d say it’s unlikely.”

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