Our friend N and her son B visited with us this month. N is one of my wife’s oldest friends, one of those people (like my own best friend) that we just don’t get to see often enough. Full disclosure: my wife and I are jealous of N and her husband, partly because their son actually goes to sleep at a normal toddler hour, unlike Ryan, who keeps the kind of hours you’d expect from a night watchman. Naptime? N told us that B is like clockwork. Ryan? Maybe, maybe not – and if not, be prepared for the tantrum fireworks later. Eating? Maybe B was on his best behavior around us, maybe he really does eat what his mother gives him – without the whining-crying-screaming, steadfast refusal to cooperate despite my best authoritative Stern Appa tone, back talk, and other histrionics my wife and I have long since gotten used to.
Ryan, surprisingly, didn’t hog his toys or become overly protective of them when B came to our place. We’re still not sure about what inspired him to share, and also to morph into a solicitous host (Ryan even asked B if he wanted chocolate milk instead of regular milk), but we’re not complaining, either. If anything, Ryan went so far as to show off to everyone how well he was sharing, but the adults were too busy catching up to do anything besides give him a cursory “oh, that’s nice” wave. Since he wasn’t going to get good-behavior extra credit, Ryan took great care to introduce B to any of the dozens of different Thomas trains he has, and to show B how the wooden tracks can be disassembled, then hidden in awesome spots like between (or under) couch cushions – you could almost hear the toddler mind meld: you gotta try this, dude, it’s great fun if you want to tick off your dad, trust me.
B was a bit tentative around Ryan, but B is a year younger; even though both are in the 90th percentile for height, that age gap can be steep when toddlers are with each other, so B deferred to the larger Ryan. They played with the toys Ryan wanted to play with, but then took turns with the Little Tikes car because B wanted to. B, however, had one monster of an ace up his sleeve: he’d brought Trevor, which Ryan didn’t have but now wanted with all his being, the same way I once coveted a friend’s Reggie Jackson rookie card. B knew he had something valuable, and like my friend with the baseball card almost 35 years ago, wasn’t going to trade it cheaply. Ryan tried to grab it, but B basically cross-checked him (thank God the mothers didn’t see that, but now that they’re reading this… oh well). Both (sons, not moms) started to get a little whiny because they each wanted to play with Trevor. Our compromise for the boys was to let Ryan “hold on to Trevor for a little while,” which seemed to satisfy B, who didn’t want his toy to go unattended. Thankfully, this didn’t last long, since lunch and the playground beckoned.
The boys had a bit of excitement at the deli during lunch, as the movie theater down the street caught fire, necessitating a street closure by no less than three police cars, and reaction from what looked like half of Long Island’s volunteer fire departments. With all the hardware and flashing lights directly outside, B and Ryan were glued to the floor-to-ceiling windows in front. B tried climbing onto a chair to get a better view, which my wife and N put a quick stop to. Ryan tried to hold B’s hand while B climbed down from the chair. B yanked his hand back as if Ryan’s were scalding hot. B ran back to N, cried “Mama!” and hugged her leg. Ryan took umbrage, simply complaining to his Omma that “B won’t let me hold his hand,” but like a summer thunderstorm it passed quickly.
On their way to the park, we told the boys to hold their mom’s and each other’s hands when crossing the street. The mother part they got, but again, B didn’t want to hold Ryan’s hand. It was like he didn’t want to appear uncool in front of any other two-year-olds who might be watching. Ryan just shrugged and led the way to the park where, to both boys’ thrill, there was fresh mulch on the ground. Well, maybe not the boys’ thrill, but it had been a while since the town’s park department had changed it out. You get the idea. B held a dandelion in his fist for so long that it disintegrated into a green-yellow mess, but he was still loathe to let it go, even while climbing up the slide. Ryan, for his part, tried to blow a white dandelion, but wound up just crushing it when the seeds wouldn’t float away the way he wanted. He was more fascinated by maple tree seeds and odd pieces of mulch anyway. An impromptu game of tag ensued, with Ryan doing most of the chasing, but the boys decided that the swings would be a lot more fun.
On Friday, after N and B had flown home, what did I find on our coffee table after finishing an earlier draft of this post? This: