Today my husband and my four-year-old grandson built an elaborate tower of blocks. Their building was many stories tall, and on it they perched hard rubber farm “amals,” matchbox cars and a couple of old Fisher-Price Little People. It was an impressive structure and they delighted in its construction.
After completing it, my grandson picked up one of his small, metal, toy airplanes and “flew” it into the building, knocking blocks, amals, cars and people asunder. He laughed with childish pleasure at the destruction, obviously thinking it was a pretty good joke on Grandpa (and that they could now repeat the shared enjoyment of creation).
Stunned, I asked him if he thought that airplanes ever really fly into buildings. “Yes,” he said, “in New York City.”
So many of us once thought we could make the world a better place. So many magnanimous speeches contain the words, “so that our children’s children may have…” I am now one of those who knows a child’s child, and this is his milieu: a world where hatred and mass murder (although not yet understood for that) has become the play of pre-school children.
Have you noticed what animists young kids are?
When I was little, there were mice and ducks and dogs that talked. We took for granted that a certain yellow canary was verbally sassy: “I tawt I taw a puddy tat! I did! I did taw a puddy tat! Bad old puddy tat! ” and that Sylvester would answer with a salivating, “Sufferin’ succotash!” These days, cars are anthropomorphic.
And so it is that my four-year-old grandson is terrified of … THE BOILER… The boiler “lives” in our mudroom, making vague firing noises when water needs to be heated or if the woodstove goes out. Grandson is absolutely scared to death of the thing. Luckily, there is a door between the “play room” and that mudroom, apparently making the play space safe for four-year-olds (when the door is closed).
Saturday the little guy was here and headed for the play room when he saw that someone had left the protective boiler shield open. I was busy in the kitchen and didn’t notice his distress as he asked – more than once – “Gramma, will you shut the door?”
Finally, in desperation he yelled, “Shut the damned door!!!” which launched me to explain to him that “shut the damned door” isn’t a good way for little boys to talk. He listened, looked at me sweetly and said, “Gramma, please shut the damned door.”
It’s almost dark, which, if you’re barely 12 years old and have new bicycle lights, is the best time to test them. “Gramma and Grampa, you bring the dog and I’ll ride my bike around the block.”
The block is ever expanding in scope as we walk, and the two-wheeler with a laser-beam headlight and a light that circles the rear hub causing flashing red illumination of the rider’s backside eventually finds the home stretch. With less than a block to go, Matthew hollers, “I want to be in the 3rd person!” … ? ? ? Huh? “I want to be in the 3rd person!” I ask him what on earth he means, and he replies that he wants to WATCH Grampa ride the bike so he can see the red flashing light on HIS behind!