Thursday, September 16, 2004

Kid Talk

“You better get rid of your dogs” , says Billy earnestly to a neighbor from down the street who is strolling her two large Siberian Huskies by our house, “we have a kid that’s allergic to dem.” How Billy came to share parenting duties at a level where he can claim Joey is one of his kids is still a mystery, although he often speaks to his brothers as if he has parental authority over them, and strangely that often works. If only he could channel his bossiness into saying things like “clean up your room”, rather than issuing commands that his brothers drop their current toys and play superheroes with him immediately. Billy has two very different responses to Joey’s allergies: one is to make sure Joey steers clear of contact with them, and the other is to rub in the fact that he can eat things Joey cannot eat.

One recent night close to bedtime, Billy called to Joey from another room:

“Joey, come here.”

No response from Joey, and he stays put.

“Joey, I’m warnin ya!”, with the last two words drawn out for emphasis.

“Bill, why you say dat, why you say I’m warnin ya?” asks Joey, playing the perfect straight guy in their two-man comedy routine, as he walks toward Billy.

“Cause, when I call, and people don’t listen, I say ‘I’m warnin ya’”.

End of conversation. No idea what “warnin you” means, but he has the context down cold.

“Mom, you know what? Sometimes when I am up in my room I think about batgirl”, says Joey from the back row of the van, as Mom and the boys are headed for school.

“What do you think about her, Joe?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she fight crime with the rest of the superheroes?”

“No,” says Billy, “girls don’t fight crime, dey stay at home and cook.”

There will probably come a day in some town filled with liberal lunatics where this innocent observation of the division of labor within his parent’s household will find a four year old boy like Billy forced to go through some type of gender sensitivity training. Fortunately that day is not today, and that town is not Arlington.

“Michael’s House,” says Jake, apropos of nothing. Michael is his first true friend, the younger brother of Peter, who takes gymnastics with the twins. Jake and Michael would cavort about while their mom’s watched and waited for gymnastics to end.

Several weeks prior to the end of the gymnastics schedule, Jake had learned Michael’s name and would constantly say it to show everyone he had a friend. Once Mom and Dad picked up on his affinity for Michael, we started pumping him up on Tuesday mornings, telling him that he would get to play with Michael at gymnastics today. An enthusiastic “Yeah” followed with a big grin. For three Tuesdays in a row we did this, only to have him disappointed by Michael being a no-show for various reasons.

But since those disappointing days in December, Jake has gone over to Michael’s house several times. Dad has instructed Mom to not be overzealous in scheduling play dates with Michael, lest we appear too desperate and scare Michael and his Mom away. You think such concerns vanish when you settle down and marry and you are no longer dating (which hopefully follows from settling down and marrying), but then you find yourself trying to play it cool for the sake of your kids.

“Jake, please stop saying Michael’s house,” Joey complains, “That’s all you ever say.” I took Joey to get his allergy shots one day, the first time he went without Jake, and he was very pleased to tell the receptionist that she didn’t need to play the movie Nemo in the waiting room because Jake wasn’t with us. Jake is a one tune singer – Michael as his only friend, Nemo as the only acceptable movie. Never gets sick of either. I think he would be in pure heaven if he ever got to watch Nemo with Michael.


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