“No, Buddy, I just told you, your sister is reading that,” I said, prying the coveted Elmo’s ABC Book from his hand, prompting an eloquent baby cuss reply.
Sighing heavily, I returned the pillaged book to my daughter, who kicked jubilantly, as the plot was really heating up around “Q is for quilt” and she was on the edge of her seat on the playroom floor, just dying to see what letter was next.
I turned back to my thieving son. “Buddy, you have five books already. Why don’t we read one of those?”
My son approaches playtime the same way I envision Napoleon Bonaparte would at one year old. Whenever he’s decided what to play with, he desperately needs that toy genre’s entire collection. If it’s blocks, they all simply must encircle him. If it’s books, he needs a shelf-full at his disposal. I’m quite certain that if he were aware of Pokemon, he would not rest until adequately “catching ’em all.”
Thus, if the parent-on-duty does not facilitate total toy acquisition, we can expect a fiery rage turning his skin green and inflating his muscles to three times their normal size, ironically tearing his Incredible Hulk t-shirt to shreds.
According to my parents, I had the exact same playtime disposition at his age, so with that in mind it seems I have been bitten by a Karma Chameleon. However, as the eldest child in my family (and rightful heir to my father’s throne), all toys in the immediate vicinity could feasibly be mine because at that point I was an only child. The added challenge with my son is that he has a twin sister who wants these toys just as much.
However, because she isn’t the toy imperialist that her brother is and has a more passive personality, my daughter often falls victim to my son’s hoarding habit. He sees what he wants and takes it, leaving her despondently flailing her empty hands and calling upon my wife and me for justice. Of course, we’re happy to oblige, but we’d like her to defend herself more–to not always play the victim. If she shows her brother she’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, you bet your sweet little Goldfish crackers he’ll think twice before channeling his inner klepto. I will say that on a few occasions we’ve caught her shoving him back and reclaiming her stolen property, but these moments are few and far between.
. . .
I attempted to engage my son in Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, the literary classic already in his pile, but not a single Dr.-Seuss-penned onomatopoeia could dissuade him from that unsettling feeling that his sister still had Elmo’s ABC Book. And he didn’t.
There she was, just sitting there, finding out what starts with “R.” How was that okay? Why was Daddy allowing this injustice?
In fact, he reasoned, he was infinitely better at finding out what starts with “R” than she would ever be. She was just embarrassing herself over there.
And poor Elmo! What about Elmo, one of the great monstertainers of our time, having to settle for a less-than-optimal audience?
No. This just couldn’t happen.
She was a sitting duck. All he had to do was reach out and grab it.
Don’t worry, Elmo! I’m coming!
His tiny fingers shot for the book, but at the last possible moment my daughter turned away, throwing her back at him.
“Nice block, Baby Girl!” I cheered. She shot me a knowing smirk as she babbled happily, flipping cardboard pages and “Oooh-ing” intently at the pictures.
My son was shaken, but not defeated. Having honed his craft for months, he knew he had to keep his cool. If he let her get in his head, he’d get stupid and reckless and blow the whole operation.
No, he thought, steadying himself. Do it for Elmo.
He army-crept around her, positioning himself just within reach, and glanced in my direction.
“No,” I persisted.
His face flashed from inquisitive to a squinty, baby-toothed sneer–an expression I’ve come to understand as “Whatever, Dad”–and then…he struck.
But my daughter was ready.
And she was pissed.
He grappled thin air as she yanked the book away, closed it, took it in one hand as if to say, “You want the book? HERE! Here’s the book!” and clocked him square on the forehead.
There are times as a parent when you know you need to be a disciplinarian, to force an ice-cold demeanor, even in the face of hilarity.
My daughter did, in fact, violate society’s time-honored courtesy of not bludgeoning one another with reading material, and for the record, my disciplinary neurons were activated.
However, these impulses were overruled by my ROFL and LMAO (rolling over f*cking Legos and letting my amusement out) reflexes. Once I’d finally stopped laughing and wiped the tears from my eyes, the window for meaningful correction was long gone.
Catching my breath, I noticed my son was no longer interested in Elmo’s ABC Book and had moved on to bigger, better things–stacking cups.
And as he began to gather every last one, my daughter crawled over and took one for herself.
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